Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Imperial Presidency...

Federal judge rules Bush's aides can be subpoenaed - Yahoo! News
A federal judge on Thursday rejected President Bush's contention that senior White House advisers are immune from subpoenas, siding with Congress' power to investigate the executive branch...
The ruling comes from a Bush judicial appointee... who further said "there's no legal basis for Bush's argument"...
He said the executive branch could not point to a single case in
which courts held that White House aides were immune from congressional

"That simple yet critical fact bears repeating: The asserted
absolute immunity claim here is entirely unsupported by existing case
law," Bates wrote.

It would seem that the imperial presidency is finally on the way out: both literally and operationally.

How a group of elected officials considers themselves so far above the law is amazing to me... I only hope they are compelled to testify before Bush leaves office -- even if nothing significant comes of it, at least more information on the politicalization of this administration will come to the light of day.

Friday, July 25, 2008

The Nixon Range...

New Low for Bush Approval - Behind the Numbers
New Low for Bush Approval

Another month, another new low for George W. Bush: Just 28 percent in the new Post-ABC poll approve of the way the president is handling his job. This marks a new career low in Post polling, and is the 40th consecutive month his ratings have been under 50 percent.

His negative rating has also hit a record, with 69 percent saying they disapprove of his job performance. And the percentage holding "strongly" negative views is up to 56 percent, another new high, and nearly fives time the number who "strongly approve."

I think the Fox News poll even had him around 27% ... I wonder what it would be without 911? Of course, he wouldn't have had the chance to screw up as magnificently as he has if it wasn't for the 01 terrorist attacks.

The truly amazing stat is that about 25% of of the populace still thinks he's doing ok

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Way of The Decider

Detainees’ rights debated as Guantanamo trial begins |

Chock it up to the "Decider" once again:
The first war crimes trial to be held by the United States since World War II began on Monday... After one day of trial proceedings, the defense was handed an important victory when the judge refused to allow the prosecution to enter evidence that was obtained under duress in Afghanistan.

...the judge declined to suppress admissions made by Hamdan after he arrived at the U.S. military prison here, ruling that the Fifth Amendment did not apply to Hamdan and that "no coercive techniques influenced" what he said. Allred ruled, however, that to use the admissions, prosecutors must produce Hamdan's interrogators to explain the conditions under which the questioning took place.
And rightly so... I believe all prisoners should be treated ethically and fairly. Regardless of their crimes. Our morality shouldn't depend on the actions of others and that's exactly what you have with this administration: some crimes just warrant 'enhanced interrogations -- bull shit.

And while we know that there are many people interred at Gito that need to be released -- having been transformed into ready-recruits for radical fundamentalists after their multi-year 'vacations' -- I don't doubt there are many dangerous people being held there. The problem is, this administration has likely made their continued detainment and/or punishment highly improbably. The insane policy of not only locking up people indefinitely without charge or hearing... or torturing them for information... all of it again points to the Decider's lack of understand of any of the values enshrined in the Constitution -- or even basic law.

It short, we have a leader who’s legacy includes being asleep at the wheel on both 9/11 and in the aftermath of Katrina… who started a war in a country that wasn’t a threat… who instituted policies that 1- make it almost impossible to bring those who have & would do us harm to justice and 2- ensures that those who may not like us but haven't done anything are likely to take up arms against us.

I simply can't imagine a more inept leader -- he could not do more damage if he tried.

Can’t you just wait for the lecture tour to start?

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Dogma and Reason...

As the result of some comments on my last post I think its time for a lecture on religion vs reason.

It seems that many people accuse folks who espouse rational secularism as being as dogmatic as religionists. While it is true that I put my "faith" in reason, it is a completely different animal.

Religion derives its authority from revelation: usually an interpretation of ancient scripture or teachings. While most will argue that there are some lessons to be learned from these sources, most religionists assume that the text is somehow "inspired" and that we can not only learn from them, but that we should organize our life around them as the foundation of such things as morality, ethics and "right vs wrong".

The rationalist takes a different approach to life; in a phrase: "where's the data". I want to know why a course of action is right/wrong (beneficial/harmful)... I am skeptical: I at least need a credible line of reasoning.

As a rationalist, if new evidence comes to light... if a new argument is presented, well -- a previously held opinion should change.

One of the common arguments I encounter is the idea that rationalism isn't any better than religion: especially when you are talking about it's implications to society and politics. The old arguments about Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot immediately come up. I think I'll just quote Sam Harris here since he is far more eloquent than I:

People of faith regularly claim that atheism is responsible for some of the most appalling crimes of the 20th century. Although it is true that the regimes of Hitler, Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot were irreligious to varying degrees, they were not especially rational. In fact, their public pronouncements were little more than litanies of delusion--delusions about race, economics, national identity, the march of history or the moral dangers of intellectualism. ...

Auschwitz, the gulag and the killing fields are not examples of what happens when people become too critical of unjustified beliefs; to the contrary, these horrors testify to the dangers of not thinking critically enough about specific secular ideologies. Needless to say, a rational argument against religious faith is not an argument for the blind embrace of atheism as a dogma. The problem that the atheist exposes is none other than the problem of dogma itself--of which every religion has more than its fair share. There is no society in recorded history that ever suffered because its people became too reasonable.

That is what I advocate: reasoned, skeptical thinking -- on any subject. In a word, science. If being "dogmatic" about that makes me equivalent to the religionist, well -- pass the wine and gimme an Amen.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The best blog going...

If you haven't found it, you need to check out Kafir Girl's blog... Raised a Muslim, she's making her way thru the Quran and blogging about the "experience" ... Hilarious.

Needless to say she finds the religion and book completely ridiculous: and she says so in terms that might make a sailor blush...

Her latest post is about an aunt who got possessed by a jinn: people actually believe this stuff!! Hypothyroidism be damned!! It was a jinn in a tree!!!

Check it out:

Monday, July 14, 2008

Holy inquisition batman!

Catholic League: For Religious and Civil Rights
To protest student fees for religious services at the University of Central Florida (UCF), a student walked out of a campus Mass on June 29 with the Eucharist. Webster Cook, a student senator, finally returned the Host this past weekend.

Catholic League president Bill Donohue offered the following remarks today:

“For a student to disrupt Mass by taking the Body of Christ hostage—regardless of the alleged nature of his grievance—is beyond hate speech. That is why the UCF administration needs to act swiftly and decisively in seeing that justice is done. All options should be on the table, including expulsion.”
Holy shit batman!! Possible expulsion. "Justice"? Are you kidding me?

Just because a group of people believe this biscuit is sacred or something doesn't mean a CRIME was committed. The biscuit was given to him ... and there are no laws against offending someone based on their religious beliefs are there?

This country is built on free speech... even speech that infuriates others. If talking about "desecrating a cracker" can get you expelled we have truly lost our way.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

More of the myth...

Tablet Ignites Debate on Messiah and Resurrection -
JERUSALEM — A three-foot-tall tablet with 87 lines of Hebrew that scholars believe dates from the decades just before the birth of Jesus is causing a quiet stir in biblical and archaeological circles, especially because it may speak of a messiah who will rise from the dead after three days.
Skip to next paragraph
Enlarge This Image
Dominic Buettner for The New York Times

When David Jeselsohn bought an ancient tablet, above, he was unaware of its significance.

If such a messianic description really is there, it will contribute to a developing re-evaluation of both popular and scholarly views of Jesus, since it suggests that the story of his death and resurrection was not unique but part of a recognized Jewish tradition at the time.

The tablet, probably found near the Dead Sea in Jordan according to some scholars who have studied it, is a rare example of a stone with ink writings from that era — in essence, a Dead Sea Scroll on stone.

It is written, not engraved, across two neat columns, similar to columns in a Torah. But the stone is broken, and some of the text is faded, meaning that much of what it says is open to debate.

Still, its authenticity has so far faced no challenge, so its role in helping to understand the roots of Christianity in the devastating political crisis faced by the Jews of the time seems likely to increase.
Even if this and other archeological and historical finds demonstrate that the story of Jesus is a myth, the faithful will find a way to turn this into further 'proof' of the mythical character's god-hood.