Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Obama And Wright

Barack Obama talks about the way things could be. Jeremiah Wright talks about the way things are and the way things used to be. Both are right to talk about these things. Are our brains so tiny that we can’t hold both viewpoints in our head at the same time?

Wright says some things that are correct and some things that are incorrect. His incorrect statements do not make the correct ones any less true. Wright can be odd and flamboyant. His behavior does not make his correct statements any less true. Are our brains so tiny that we can’t sort out the difference?

Obama is a politician, Wright is a preacher; I don’t trust either of them. However, I think that my brain is big enough to sort out the truth from the bullshit. If you’d like help with the sorting, here’s a suggestion: go to Bill Moyers for the truth on Wright, go to Sean Hannity for the bullshit.

Dave Winer On Moyers-Wright

From Why Is It So Quiet After the Moyers-Wright Interview? by Dave Winer:

I expected a roaring debate in the political blogosphere this morning, and on cable news after the Friday night Bill Moyers interview with Rev. Jeremiah Wright. Instead, there's eerie quiet.

The most I could find was this post on Protein Wisdom saying that Moyers didn't play hardball with Wright. It's true, he didn't. Instead he did what I wish more journalists would, he interviewed him in a way that helped us get to know the person. He let him speak his piece, so we could listen.

There's so much to admire about Rev. Wright, but first, the shame of the professional media, who hounded not only Wright, but members of his congregation, including a woman in a hospice, to try to uncover more dirt about Wright and thereby embarrass Barack Obama.

How Many Years Did Cheney Serve?

From Stuffing Wright Vs. The Right Stuff:

With Reverend Wright's mug curently blanketing the media, one picture I don't expect to see making the rounds is this one.

Presented by Bill Moyers during his extended interview with the Reverend earlier this week, the photo shows six-year veteran and Naval cardiopulmonary technician, Jeremiah Wright (beyond the I.V. stand), monitoring President Johnson's heart as he recovers from gall bladder surgery at Bethesda.

Sorry if I'm unable to join the media parade, impugning Wright as an angry black malcontent in a daishikis, or just completely tossing him in a more "pragmatic" way, as simply a hopeless egomaniac or a strategic liability to the Obama campaign.
The photograph referred to above is here.

The Secret Black Radical Trojan Horse Agenda

From Rev. Wright: 15 minutes of illuminating fame by Pam Spaulding:

Wright’s litany of grievances — including a perceived attack on the black church, the conspiracy theories about the government and 9/11, or inflicting AIDS on blacks (referencing the Tuskegee experiment) — reveal a very real thread of beliefs in a segment of the black community of a certain generation who lived under the thumb of Jim Crow and in-your-face bluntly institutionalized white privilege.

Making light of this kind of thinking diminishes the fact that it comes from an element of truth, and that white privilege, though not as boldly naked as in generations past, is alive and well. It also illuminates the lack of black cultural competence in the dominant culture. This is exemplified by those disturbed by Wright’s earlier remarks (and delivery) in the first place — and generated the fear of what I call the Secret Black Radical Trojan Horse Agenda entering the White House through the vessel of the pleasant, benign Barack Obama. You could read between the lines in the commentary — people were musing, wondering how prevalent is Wright’s belief - the bizarre mix of fact and fiction — in the black community.

This is all crazy making? Not really. Our desperate need to discuss race honestly and openly (and SANELY), is not simply a difficult exercise. Remember, we have people who will not vote for Barack Obama under any circumstances because he is black. No one wants to really discuss those conservative white blue collar workers who fall into this category — the current demo prized by Senator Clinton. They see a “Rev. Wright eruption” and automatically see the Secret Black Radical Trojan Horse Agenda.

Bribing Congress Should Be Against The Law

From K Street Remains an Easy Street in Hard Times by Shawn Zeller:

Some clients might shy away from the idea of paying people to advocate to a Democratic congressional majority that continues to fight the perception that it’s more hostile than the Republicans to business interests. The National Association of Home Builders announced in February, for example, that it was temporarily suspending donations from its political action committee since Congress was neglecting the issues it deemed most important. Still, plenty of others are holding fast, pointing to various successes for their pro-business agendas with the Democrats during the past 15 months.

Sleepwalking Into A Transportation Crisis

From Blind Spot by Jim Kunstler:

The airline industry is dying and absolutely no thought is being given to how people will get around this big country -- except to make the stupid assumption that we can just drive our cars instead. Even during the several days I was around Minneapolis, no news media or politician raised the subject of reviving passenger railroad service.

In point of fact, these are exactly the kind of trips that would be better served by rail, anyway -- the towns that are less than five hundred miles apart. The travel time between trains and planes would be comparable, considering the two hours or so that you have to add to every airplane trip because of all the security crap, not to mention the delays. As a matter of fact, USA today ran a front page story two days after the Delta / Northwest announcement saying "Air Trips Slowest [now than] in Past 20 Years." Subhead: "Trend likely to persist as congestion worsens."

One big reason for the airport congestion, of course, is that the runways are cluttered up with planes making trips of only a few hundred miles. This has been a problem for quite a while. Periodically, it gets so bad that the media gets all excited and sometimes (last summer, for instance) the President makes a statement deploring it. Since the current president is a knucklehead, it apparently hasn't occurred to him to get behind a revival of the passenger rail system. But Mr. Bush is apparently not the only elected knucklehead in this country, because absolutely nobody is talking about this.

Ginger And Mary Ann And The Cognitive Surplus

From Gin, Television, and Social Surplus by Clay Shirky:

Did you ever see that episode of Gilligan's Island where they almost get off the island and then Gilligan messes up and then they don't? I saw that one. I saw that one a lot when I was growing up. And every half-hour that I watched that was a half an hour I wasn't posting at my blog or editing Wikipedia or contributing to a mailing list. Now I had an ironclad excuse for not doing those things, which is none of those things existed then. I was forced into the channel of media the way it was because it was the only option. Now it's not, and that's the big surprise. However lousy it is to sit in your basement and pretend to be an elf, I can tell you from personal experience it's worse to sit in your basement and try to figure if Ginger or Mary Ann is cuter.

We Often Screw It Up

Boston Legal:

Robert Ingersoll

From "Man is indebted to man" by Evolved Rationalist:

From Robert Ingersoll’s ‘God in the Constitution’:

When the theologian governed the world, it was covered with huts and hovels for the many, palaces and cathedrals for the few. To nearly all the children of men, reading and writing were unknown arts. The poor were clad in rags and skins — they devoured crusts, and gnawed bones. The day of Science dawned, and the luxuries of a century ago are the necessities of to-day. Men in the middle ranks of life have more of the conveniences and elegancies than the princes and kings of the theological times. But above and over all this, is the development of mind. There is more of value in the brain of an average man of to-day — of a master-mechanic, of a chemist, of a naturalist, of an inventor, than there was in the brain of the world four hundred years ago.

These blessings did not fall from the skies. These benefits did not drop from the outstretched hands of priests. They were not found in cathedrals or behind altars — neither were they searched for with holy candles. They were not discovered by the closed eyes of prayer, nor did they come in answer to superstitious supplication. They are the children of freedom, the gifts of reason, observation and experience — and for them all, man is indebted to man.

Bush Catapults The Tax Cut Propaganda Again

From Nothing to fear but nonsense itself by Steve Benen:

To hear Bush tell it, the economic anxiety Americans feel right now is somehow related to tax cuts that expire in 2011 — tax cuts that primarily don’t help the middle class or low-income families anyway.

In all seriousness, how many people who are worried about their families’ finances right now are going to say, “I’ve been really worried, but now that I know my tax rate will remain the same in 2011 as it is 2010, I’m feeling better again”? That, in essence, is what the president argued with a straight face this morning. The answer for economic angst now is maintenance of existing tax cuts three years from now.

Partners In The Pentagon’s Mission

From Military Propaganda Pushed Me Off TV by Jeff Cohen:

The biggest villain here is not Rumsfeld or the Pentagon. It’s the TV networks. In the land of the First Amendment, it was their choice to shut down debate and journalism.

No government agency forced MSNBC to repeatedly feature the hawkish generals unopposed. Or fire Phil Donahue. Or smear weapons expert Scott Ritter. Or blacklist former attorney general Ramsey Clark. It was top NBC/MSNBC execs, not the Feds, who imposed a quota system on the Donahue staff requiring two pro-war guests if we booked one anti-war advocate — affirmative action for hawks.

Betting With Lots And Lots Of Money

From The Financial Crisis: An Interview with George Soros by George Soros, Judy Woodruff:

There are now, for example, complex forms of investment such as credit-default swaps that make it possible for investors to bet on the possibility that companies will default on repaying loans. Such bets on credit defaults now make up a $45 trillion market that is entirely unregulated. It amounts to more than five times the total of the US government bond market. The large potential risks of such investments are not being acknowledged.

Does Bush Have A Sex Life?

The news media loved to give us all the latest on Bill Clinton’s libido. Why the double standard when it comes to Dubya?

Inquiring minds want to know.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Tim "Know-It-All" Russert Talks About Obama And Wright

The question about Jeremiah Wright should be: Why has he struck a nerve in the American psyche?” There must be some substance to what he has said. Why are we and Obama ignoring the substance of what Wright has said? Why are we just talking about the horse race again and how Wrightgate affects Obama’s campaign.

Racism is ugly and we would rather just ignore it and hope that it goes away. It will never go away unless we confront it. This is what Wright is doing. Obama refuses to do so. He is pretending it doesn’t exist.

Believe it or not, as long as I don’t have to listen to Jeremiah Wright preach about religion, I would rather listen to him than to Tim Russert. At least Wright isn’t a corporate and political shill.

Windsurfing And Playing Cowboy

Isn’t John Kerry windsurfing more honest than Bush and Reagan playing cowboy? It seems to me that we really don’t want our politicians to be honest.

What Is Wrong With This Wright?

I saw a video clip on last Fridays Bill Moyers Journal of Jeremiah Wright saying this during one of his sermons:

We have no right to take a life whether as a gang banger living the thug life, or as a President lying about leading a nation into war. We have no right to take a life! Whether through the immorality of a slave trade, or the immorality of refusing HIV/AIDS money to countries or agencies who do not tow your political line! We have no right to take a life! Turn to your neighbors and say we have no right to take a life!
Why isn’t Sean Hannity playing this particular video clip over and over and over…?

Requiescat In Pace, Checks And Balances

What happens in the United States when the system of checks and balances fails? Apparently, nothing happens.

If both the President and the Congress violate the United States Constitution, shouldn’t something be done about it? Apparently not.

Isn’t the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002, a law passed by the United States Congress in October 2002 unconstitutional? The Constitution states that “Congress shall have power to declare war.” It does not say that the President shall have power to declare war. How is it possible that Congress has written a law that goes against the Constitution? Doesn’t that require an amendment?

Who could have imagined that all three branches of the Federal government would fail us by violating one of the main purposes of our Constitution? This is why the American Revolution was fought. To get us away from the rule of kings. Now look at where we are. All hail King George. All hail King Barack, or King John, or King Hillary. Let’s remember that both John McCain and Hillary Clinton voted against the Constitution and for monarchy when they voted aye in 2002.

It’s too bad that there isn’t a three strikes and you’re out law concerning the Federal Government. All three branches have failed us, and they all should be tossed out of the game. First Congress passes an unconstitutional law, then the President abides by it, and then the Courts uphold it. And the Constitution is flushed down the toilet.

Throw the bums out!

Monday, April 28, 2008

Why Don't Many Working Americans Make Enough To Support Themselves?

Charlie and George only care about religion and flag pins, so it’s up to me to ask the question.

From Inspired by their peers, Washington ESPs fight for living wages by John Rosales:

What's the recipe for a successful living wage campaign? A dollop of funding, a dash of leadership, and lots of willing members. In 2002, the Ithaca Paraprofessionals Association in New York made bargaining history when they combined these ingredients to launch a wage campaign that ultimately gave paras on the low end of the pay scale an immediate 38 percent increase, raised starting pay by 50 percent by the end of the three-year contract, and increased membership in their bargaining unit to 100 percent.

Since Ithaca, public school employees across the country have scraped together funding, sponsored leadership training, and inspired members to start living wage campaigns. From Atlanta and Birmingham to Seneca Valley, Pennsylvania; Oshkosh, Wisconsin; Fayette County, Kentucky; and Burlington, Vermont—education support professionals (ESPs) have launched campaigns.

Generally, a living wage means sufficient compensation to pay for basic necessities without government, community, or other financial assistance. A living wage campaign is a grassroots effort by employees to win enough pay to cover basic items such as rent, food, utilities, taxes, and transportation.
"We already knew ESPs weren't making a living wage because so many are on food stamps," Wahlquist says. "We have members who work a second job to make ends meet, and ESP parents whose kids are on the free and reduced lunch program."

Quote Of Note - Emile Zola

It is a crime to play on patriotism to further the aims of hatred. And it is a crime to worship the sabre as a modern god when all of human science is labouring to hasten the triumph of truth and justice.

Truth and justice—how ardently we have striven for them! And how distressing it is to see them slapped in the face, overlooked, forced to retreat!


From Only in America By Evan Thomas, Holly Bailey and Richard Wolffe:

Americans do not like to talk about class, and they want to believe racism is a thing of the past. Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt, paragons of the people, were decidedly upper class in background, style and habit, and no one seemed to mind (except some other members of the upper class, who regarded the Roosevelts as "traitors" for wanting to tax and regulate the rich). JFK and Ronald Reagan were princely in their own ways (of Camelot and Hollywood) and yet could touch the hearts of common men and women. We want our presidents to be everyman (or every woman), of the people for all the people. When Richard Nixon dressed the White House guards in uniforms more appropriate to the late Austro-Hungarian Empire, everyone hooted.
What is just weird is this: how can it be that a black man running for president is accused of being too elitist? For the first century of the nation's existence, blacks were kept in chains. For the next century, they were sent to the back of the bus and kept away from whites-only lunch counters and restrooms throughout the South—much less allowed to join the white elite in their schools and clubs and prestigious institutions. Then, starting in the 1960s, American society began to make a concerted effort to open up those doors. Barack Obama is not so much the beneficiary of that effort as the proof that blacks can make it on their own, if given the chance. He was, despite a modest upbringing, elected editor of the Harvard Law Review, a position at the very tip of the meritocratic ziggurat.

All Bubbles Must Pop

From Food, Fuel & Finances For Thought by Todd Buchholz:

More important though, we are suffering from a commodities bubble. Speculators, even ma and pop investors have been pouring their savings into easy-to-buy commodity funds. These didn't exist in past cycles. Since stocks, bonds and property investments have stumbled, commodities have become not just the flavor of the month, but the flavor of the decade.

Remember, though, all bubbles must pop. Hyperactive investors in tech in 2000 told us the NASDAQ would never pop. Realtors said the same thing about housing prices. Now those realtors are waving their arms in the streets, desperately trying to get you to attend an open house, open house indeed. When will the commodities bubble pop? Well not until just about everyone is convinced it's not a bubble. Bubbles like to inflict pain and burn investors. It could be a searing summer ahead.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Margaret Atwood

Jim Culleny shares a Sunday Poem.

Nero Fiddled, Bush Jokes

From Bush Tweaks Candidates at Media Dinner by Christine Simmons:

President Bush poked fun at his potential successors Saturday night, expressing surprise that none of them were in the audience at the White House Correspondents' Association annual dinner.

"Senator McCain's not here," Bush said of GOP nominee-in-waiting John McCain. "He probably wanted to distance himself from me a little bit. You know, he's not alone. Jenna's moving out too."

Bush then referred to scandals that have dogged the campaigns of the two remaining Democratic candidates, Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama, in explaining their absence: "Hillary Clinton couldn't get in because of sniper fire and Senator Obama's at church."
For some reason, I’m not laughing.

Bill Moyers Must Be Doing Something Right

Since it seems that Bill Moyers has pissed off the political right with his interview of the religious Wright, I conclude that Bill Moyers must be doing something right.

From O’Reilly Attacks Moyers For Interviewing Rev. Wright: They Should ‘Take A Long Vacation, Perhaps In Iran’ by Matt:

On PBS’s Bill Moyers Journal last night, Moyers interviewed Sen. Barack Obama’s (D-IL) former pastor, Jeremiah Wright, whose controversial remarks created a political storm last month.

Reacting to advance excerpts of the interview, Fox News’s Bill O’Reilly attacked Moyers on his show last night, calling him a “far left PBS guy” who is “extreme” and “pathetic.” At the end of his Talking Points Memo segment, O’Reilly suggested that Moyers and Wright should “take a long vacation, perhaps in Iran.”
Later in the show, when O’Reilly asked former House Speaker Newt Gingrich if he could “figure” Moyers out, Gingrich called Moyers “a hard left sympathizer for anybody who dislikes America”.

James Dobson Welcomes Atheists To The National Day Of Prayer

From Holy Wars: Evangelicals Attempt to Exclude Non-Christians From National Day of Prayer by Bruce Falconer:

In 1952, when Harry Truman called for a National Day of Prayer, now celebrated annually on the first Thursday of May, it was meant to encourage Americans of all faiths to pray with one another in whatever way felt best to them. It would be an ecumenical celebration of faith that would draw people together in common religious and spiritual contemplation. One can only imagine what Truman would think of this year's event, the planning for which has been marred by bitter squabbling over who should be allowed to participate.

Shirley Dobson, wife of James Dobson, the conservative founder of Focus on the Family, is this year's chairperson of the National Day of Prayer Task Force, a non-governmental organization based in Focus on the Family's offices in Colorado Springs and charged with organizing various events. According to Jay Keller, national field director of the Interfaith Alliance, Dobson has made a point of "excluding Jews, Muslims, Catholics, Buddhists, and even mainline Christians" from the National Day of Prayer.
If you exclude Jews, Muslims, Catholics, Buddhists, and mainline Christians from the National Day of Prayer, then who’s left? Fundamentalists, Bahaists, Wiccans, agnostics, and atheists?

Bible Verse For Sunday 04-27-08

And thou shalt take the other ram; and Aaron and his sons shall put their hands upon the head of the ram.

Then shalt thou kill the ram, and take of his blood, and put it upon the tip of the right ear of Aaron, and upon the tip of the right ear of his sons, and upon the thumb of their right hand, and upon the great toe of their right foot, and sprinkle the blood upon the altar round about.

And thou shalt take of the blood that is upon the altar, and of the anointing oil, and sprinkle it upon Aaron, and upon his garments, and upon his sons, and upon the garments of his sons with him: and he shall be hallowed, and his garments, and his sons, and his sons' garments with him.
What the hell?

Manufactured Controversy

From Today, Early Show covered Wright interview, but didn't ask McCain about Hagee:

The April 25 editions of NBC's Today and CBS' The Early Show both aired interviews with Sen. John McCain while the candidate was in New Orleans, but in neither case did they ask McCain about controversial comments that one of his endorsers, Pastor John Hagee, recently made about Hurricane Katrina. By contrast, on the same day, both programs discussed controversial comments made by Sen. Barack Obama's former pastor, Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr. As Media Matters for America noted, Hagee said in 2006: "I believe that New Orleans had a level of sin that was offensive to God, and they are -- were recipients of the judgment of God for that." As the blog Think Progress noted, on the April 22 edition of Salem Radio Network's The Dennis Prager Show, televangelist John Hagee affirmed his 2006 comment about Hurricane Katrina; host Dennis Prager asked Hagee: "[I]n the case of New Orleans, you do feel that God's hand was in it because of a sinful city?" Hagee responded, "That it was a city that was planning a sinful conduct, yes."
It’s one thing to believe that people have the freedom to hold racist beliefs, it’s a whole ‘nother thing to believe that it’s OK for the rich and powerful (and religious) to promote racist beliefs.

Musicians Of Note - The Allman Brothers Band

The Allman Brothers Band - Soulshine:

Whew, what can I say? Such a great song. Great lyrics, great chord changes, great melody, two great singers, nice vocal harmonies, and Warren Haynes sure can make a guitar sing.

I was looking for Instrumental Illness on because listening to it makes me happy, but a little Soulshine is just as good.

Both songs are on the DVD The Allman Brothers Band - Live at the Beacon Theatre.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Your Playboy Cushions Or Your Life!

From Playboy cushion robbery in France:

A goods train in southern France has been attacked by robbers who made off with cushions bearing the Playboy logo.

The attack happened in the northern suburbs of Marseille, the regional newspaper La Provence reports.

Hallucinogenic Fungi

From Dutch bill to ban magic mushrooms:

The Dutch cabinet has proposed a bill to ban the sale of hallucinogenic or so-called "magic mushrooms".

A majority of MPs is expected to back the proposal, which comes after a number of accidents, mostly involving tourists.

The health ministry said the number of incidents linked with the use of magic mushrooms had almost doubled in the last four years, mainly in Amsterdam.

A Civilian Court Would Never Admit Evidence Gained Through A Coerced Statement

From Lawyer fears 9/11 mastermind trial will be 'insanity' By Kelli Arena and Carol Cratty:

Prescott Prince is a small-town lawyer who has never taken a death penalty case to trial. Yet he finds himself involved in one of the biggest capital punishment cases this century: He's defending the alleged mastermind of the September 11 terror attacks, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

He readily acknowledges how his client is perceived as "one of the most reviled people" in the world. But he says it's imperative that America give Mohammed a fair trial, just like anyone else accused of a crime.

No civilian court, he says, would accept confessions obtained after a defendant was mistreated. But the CIA admits Mohammed was waterboarded, a controversial interrogation technique that involves simulated drowning.

"I take the position that this is mock execution. ... Colloquially speaking, at least it's torture," Prince said.

The fact that whatever Mohammed said during such duress could be used at trial is alarming to Prince.

"That's not the rule of law. That's just insanity."

Parroting A Political Catchphrase

From Before Reagan, Only Nixon Said "God Bless America" by Matthew C. Nisbet:

In an op-ed at the Seattle Times, communication scholars Dave Domke and Kevin Coe note the absurd God & Country tests that have been applied to Barack Obama, ranging from the "Give Praise to God" test to the "Flag Lapel Pin" test and most recently the "God Bless America" test.

As it turns out, the tradition of saying "God Bless America" by political leaders is a manufactured illusion that has been turned into a patriotic sales pitch, only dating to Ronald Reagan and applied strategically in the post-9/11 Bush presidency.
Isn’t it in the Bible someplace that the parrots shall lead the sheep?

Imagine No Bumper Stickers

From Julia Sweeney’s blog:

I went to Café Press and I ordered an Obama sticker for my car. I guess that’s it. I’m in for Obama. I actually loved what he said about bitter people turning to religion and guns. Of course, I see it the same way. Oh I hope he wins, I really, really do.

I decided to take off the bumper sticker that I have had on my car for a long, long time now. It says, “Imagine no religion” with a rainbow on it. Before Mulan even knew what that meant she knew our car amongst all the other white ones by the rainbow on the back.

Once I got my car serviced and the mechanic gestured towards my bumper sticker and said, “You know some people could take that the wrong way.” I said, “No, I that’s the way I mean it.” He squinted his eyes at me. I was glad my car had already been fixed.

The only thing bad with having an anti-religion sticker on your bumper is when you intentionally or even inadvertently slide in front of someone a wee bit too close or you are speeding ahead or getting around someone and I think they must think, “See, no religion, what a jerk.” But mostly I get positive feedback. I have several times had people gesture to me to get me to roll down my window so they can tell me they feel the same way about religion. Sometimes I am not sure if they are actually taking it the other way, like, how awful would it be with no religion. Anyway, I liked it's abiguity and I liked it's reference to John Lennon too.

Now I say good-bye to it. I loved my rainbow and my “Imagine No Religion.” ( I got it from the Freedom From Religion Foundation at a conference.)

I could have both bumper stickers.

I guess I just want one bumper sticker on my car. When I see people with lots of bumper stickers, I think the stickers better be REALLY funny ones, or they’re nuts.
I will assume that Julia Sweeney meant ambiguity, not abiguity. "Imagine no religion" does not seem ambiguous to me.

Friday, April 25, 2008

The Craziest Thing About Jeremiah Wright

Many Americans seem to think that Jeremiah Wright is crazy, or at least a little nuts. Many Americans seem to be upset because Jeremiah Wright said “God damn America.” I do think that Wright is crazy, but not for the reasons that most Americans do. Most of the things that I have heard Wright say have some basis in reason. Even what he has said about AIDS is based on logic. Flawed logic, yes, but still logic. I can see how he went from Tuskegee syphilis experimentation on blacks to thinking that the AIDS epidemic was started as an experiment on blacks.

So, why do I think Jeremiah Wright is crazy? Because he believes in God. There is no logical reason to, no proof that God exists. He believes for the same reason so many others do, just because. That’s all. Just because. “God damn America” doesn’t bother me at all. Partly because I agree with him. America really sucks right now. Thank you very much Georgie the Dubya. Partly because I don’t believe in God. No God. No hell. They don’t exist. There is not much to upset me in “God damning” anything. It’s basically a meaningless phrase. Millions of Americans are upset with Jeremiah Wright for all the wrong reasons. They should be upset that God and religion are being dragged into our political election process where they don’t belong. They should be upset that all three presidential candidates are guilty of doing this, especially since Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and John McCain should all know better. After all, they are all members of Congress and should at least know a little bit of what the Constitution says.

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech…”

“…but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States."

I’m still waiting for an atheist presidential candidate who has at least read the Constitution. That’s someone I would happily vote for. I wouldn’t care at all what her reverend had said.

Wrightgate Refuses To Go Away

From Does Barack Have The Wright Stuff? by Norm Jenson:

I think Barack has to make a total break from this nut. Perhaps a speech where he once again makes the case that this is not politics as usual. The problem is that there are so many of his statements that are clearly political, views he's tweaked to be more electable, that he'll have trouble selling it. I don't think he believes what his reverend believes, but I'm not sure he can convince the average voter. If he doesn't do a good job of addressing issues like this one, he'll lose. Step up Barack or you really will be unelectable.
I usually am in agreement with Mr. Jenson, but not this time. A lot of what Jeremiah Wright has said is not nutty. I also think that it is unfair to take twenty years of sermons and distill them down to a few sound bites. I seem to be in the minority, but I actually wish that Barack Obama was defending Jeremiah Wright’s right to freedom of speech. I am not happy that Obama has been distancing himself from Wright. He should show more backbone, especially against the likes of Sean Hannity (the source of all of this media crap about Wright in the first place). I am in agreement with Adam’s comment on Mr. Jenson’s site (the blog Adam refers to is Mr. Jenson’s
He gave a 45 minute speech on this issue, one compared by many respectably commentators with speeches by JFK and MLK. You may not agree with those assessments, but whatever that speech was, it challenged the American voter to deal with an issue in terms of a nuanced argument.

I am shocked by the willingness of the left to deal in this kind of petty bullshit--and it is, petty bullshit. And not just to deal in it--to drag it on, through the shit. A pastor of McCain can apparently say bat-shit-crazy stuff about the end of the world, Israel, New Orleans being flooded because the wrath of the Good Lord, whatever.

Look, most of the things Wright said are, in fact, when placed in context of his sermons, things that have been said on this blog repeatedly, such as that U.S. foreign policy plays some role in fueling terrorism, and much else.

Moreover, everyone is willing to condemn Wright about his injudicious AIDS comment--and it was, I agree, injudicious--but NO ONE--NO ONE--has mentioned the Tuskegee Experiments. (My source here is NPR, but this is all well-documented, historical fact). Question: Question: Why would a well-educated black person who came of age during this period believe the U.S. government wanted black people to suffer debilitating and ultimately fatal diseases? Because through the 1970's, the U.S. government conducted studies on syphilis to learn about its effects if left untreated; the way they did this by letting infected black men enroll in their study, not letting them know their diagnosis, and leaving the disease untreated in order to study it's effects (among which, in late stages, are massive neurological damage and eventually death).

Again, I ask: Why would a well-educated black person who came of age during this period believe the U.S. government wanted black people to suffer debilitating and ultimately fatal diseases? Because--although his accusations are false about AIDS--they had done so before.

So we can talk about how nutty his remarks are; we can ignore that something exactly like what he says about AIDS, while false about AIDS, has indeed and in fact happened before in recent U.S. history; we on the left make our criticisms that current U.S. foreign policy is in part a cause of terrorism against us, but smugly condemn it when other-- black people, a black preacher says that: then it's "Anti-American" obviously!

Race is the one issue we don't want to touch in this country. So let me say it--what is the main reason why many white, rural, uneducated, lower class voters don't want to vote for Barack?--it's because the dude is BLACK.
I do know of one person who has mentioned the Tuskegee Experiments. That person is Kevin T. Keith over at I previously blogged about his excellent article about Jeremiah Wright and healthcare among African-Americans a short time ago.

I am looking forward to Bill Moyers Journal tonight on PBS. Jeremiah Wright is scheduled to appear.

Earlier this week Mr. Jenson linked to my site and increased my traffic quite a bit, and this is how I pay him back. Sorry Norm, but I gotta call 'em the way I see 'em. No hard feelings I hope.

Bad Apples And Big News

A great This Modern World cartoon by Tom Tomorrow here.

Thursday, April 24, 2008 Gets Religion

At least for today, seems to have found religion. While browsing their home page this morning I noticed something I haven’t seen before on the site, a prevalence of religious news.

From Director's book disputes birth of Jesus:

Film director Paul Verhoeven has written a book that contradicts the Bible by suggesting that Jesus might have been fathered by a Roman soldier who raped Mary.

An Amsterdam publishing house said Wednesday it would publish the Dutch filmmaker's biography of Jesus, "Jesus of Nazareth: A Realistic Portrait" in September.

Verhoeven is best known as the director of blockbuster films including "Basic Instinct" and "RoboCop," but he is also a member of "Jesus Seminar," a group of scholars and authors that seeks to establish historical facts about Jesus.
RoboJesus, coming soon to a theatre near you.

From Florida considers Christian license plate:
Florida drivers can order more than 100 specialty license plates celebrating everything from manatees to the Miami Heat, but one now under consideration would be the first in the nation to explicitly promote a specific religion.

The Florida Legislature is considering a specialty plate with a design that includes a Christian cross, a stained-glass window and the words "I Believe."

Rep. Edward Bullard, the plate's sponsor, said people who "believe in their college or university" or "believe in their football team" already have license plates they can buy. The new design is a chance for others to put a tag on their cars with "something they believe in," he said.
Those poor Floridians. Now they have to choose, God or football.

From Exhumed body of saint goes on display:
The body of Padre Pio, a hugely popular 20th century Italian saint, went on public display Thursday in a southern Italian town where thousands gathered to pray.

Padre Pio, who died in 1968 at age 81, was a mystic monk who many Catholic faithful believe bore "stigmata," or wounds like those Jesus suffered at his crucifixion, on his hands and feet. He was made a saint in 2002.

Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins, head of the Vatican's sainthood office, lead an open-air Mass for thousands of faithful before the unveiling of the saint's body in a church in San Giovanni Rotondo, where the saint had lived.
Because statues and portraits are so passé.

From Texas tries to ease polygamist kids' culture shock:
Many of the children have seen little or no television. They have been essentially home-schooled all their lives. Most were raised on garden-grown vegetables and twice-daily prayers with family. They frolic in long dresses and buttoned-up shirts from another century. They are unfailingly polite.

The 437 children taken from the polygamist compound in West Texas are being scattered to group homes and boys' and girls' ranches across the state, plunged into a culture radically different from the community where they and their families shunned the outside world as a hostile, contaminating influence on their godly way of life.
Another stone thrown at due process of law as we witness its long agonizing death.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Money Is The Root Of All That Is Screwing Most Of Us

Does anybody stand up for the little guy anymore? Labor unions used to. Not anymore. Newspapers used to. Not anymore. I don’t know if Congress ever has, but they certainly are not representing anyone but big monied lobbyists now.

I’m sick and tired of the notion that rich people deserve the money that they have. That the reason they deserve it is because they have more skill and work harder than the rest of us. This may be true of some of them. However, it seems to me that some of the richest of the rich are simply stealing from the rest of us.

You don’t believe me? Let’s look at some lists and facts.

Recently, Fortune magazine published it’s list of the top 500 companies in the United States measured by revenue. Here are the top six companies:

  1. Wal-Mart Stores - revenues: 351,139.0, profits: 11,284.0
  2. Exxon Mobil - revenues: 347,254.0, profits: 39,500.0
  3. General Motors - revenues: 207,349.0, profits: -1,978.0
  4. Chevron - revenues: 200,567.0, profits: 17,138.0
  5. ConocoPhillips - 172,451.0, profits: 15,550.0
  6. General Electric - 168,307.0, profits: 20,829.0
The source of all that money is us, you and me. Do you think they might be overcharging us a little bit? Those numbers, by the way, are in millions of dollars. So for Exxon Mobil that number is 39.5 billion dollars. Number one is good old Wal-Mart. This is the company that is unionized in Canada, but not in the United States. Who bargains for the workers of Wal-Mart? Why, Wal-Mart itself does, so they can pay as little as possible to their workers so they can be number one on the Fortune 500. The Walton family also places high on the Forbes billionaire list every year. Do they really need to have that much more money than the rest of us? Money that they get to keep because they underpay their workers, and don’t provide them with any benefits. If Hillary Clinton becomes President will she help the Wal-Mart worker? Since she once was on their board of directors, I’d say the chances are quite slim.

Notice also the presence of General Electric on the list. The parent company of NBC. I wonder if NBC is ever critical of General Electric. I wonder if NBC is ever critical of any of the lobbyists employed by General Electric. Disney is the parent company of ABC. Remember the recent presidential debate on ABC, that big farce with George Stephanopoulos and Charlie Gibson? It was the product of corporate profit being more important than democracy.

Out of the top five on the list, three are oil companies! Exxon Mobil makes a profit of 39.5 billion dollars and yet it claims with a straight face that it is not guilty of price gouging! We are being robbed at the pump, and Congress does nothing but hold a few hearings for show. Why is this? Time to look at another list. In 2005, the top ten oil companies spent a whopping $33,173,092 lobbying Congress and the Bush administration:
  1. ChevronTexaco $8,550,000
  2. ExxonMobil $7,140,000
  3. ConocoPhillips $5,098,084
  4. Marathon $4,290,000
  5. BP $2,880,000
  6. Occidental $2,042,177
  7. Shell $1,478,831
  8. Ashland $904,000
  9. Sunoco $540,000
  10. Anadarko $250,000
Bribery, you say? Me too. Apparently it’s not, though.

From Do the Crime, Do No Time by Nicholas von Hoffman:
There is no bribery in the United States because bribery has been defined out of existence. Anywhere else in the world, providing public officials and government administrators with meals, lodging, transportation, vacations and literally hundreds of millions of dollars in money for political activities is considered bribery. And it is illegal, even in places like Egypt, Russia and China. That they don't enforce their bribery laws is different from America, where we get around that obstacle by not having any.
So when Congress holds hearings and “grills” all those oil company CEO’s, it’s all for show. Congress gives the message to the public that it is doing something, and the message to the oil company lobbyists that it’s going to cost them even more money to buy their favors. Nothing is going to come from it except higher oil and gasoline prices.

Wouldn’t the cost of gasoline come down considerably if the oil companies weren’t spending so much money on nonessentials. Things like their CEO, their lobbyists, and their bought and paid for politicians.

Will things change with a new president in the White House? Most likely not. From Putting a Check on Corporate Power by Charlie Cray:
…the ultimate enemy of democracy -- corporate power -- extends far beyond the two major parties and the three major branches of government. The permanent government inside the beltway -- the 30,000 lobbyists that work for corporations and the dozens of corporate legal foundations, public relations firms, think tanks, trade associations and front groups -- will doubtless continue pushing their agenda forward regardless of who sits in the White House.
If Congress wanted to do the right thing and had any guts, they would outright ban any and all forms of lobbying that involved money. And after that they would pass laws that made independent news media a reality.

Greed is killing democracy in the United States.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Life Should Be A Little More Fair

From Rewarding failure by Geoff Colvin:

You might suppose that the stars are in near-perfect alignment for major reform of CEO pay. The mammoth pay and disastrous performance of Countrywide Financial's Angelo Mozilo, Citigroup's Chuck Prince, and Merrill Lynch's Stan O'Neal should be enough to make the public furious.

Each CEO departed with $100-million-plus compensation after misadventures with subprime mortgages. Now add the economic slowdown to the mix; ordinary Americans are worried about making ends meet while failed pooh-bahs rake it in. Then throw in one more element - a presidential election. Put it all together, and how could change not be imminent?

The answer is that whatever remedies reformers enact, corporate boards can always find a way to pay the boss whatever they like. Over the past 25 years CEO pay has risen regardless of the economic or political climate. It rises faster than corporate profits, economic growth, or average workforce compensation.
The rich and politically powerful get to set a minimum wage for the poor and politically weak. It seems only fair that the poor and politically weak should be able to set a maximum wage for the rich and politically powerful.

Some Words From Warren Buffett

From What Warren thinks... By Nicholas Varchaver:

So wild things happen in the markets. And the markets have not gotten more rational over the years. They've become more followed. But when people panic, when fear takes over, or when greed takes over, people react just as irrationally as they have in the past.
And the worst thing you can have is models and spreadsheets. I mean, at Salomon, they had all these models, and you know, they fell apart.
The answer is you don't want investors to think that what they read today is important in terms of their investment strategy. Their investment strategy should factor in that (a) if you knew what was going to happen in the economy, you still wouldn't necessarily know what was going to happen in the stock market. And (b) they can't pick stocks that are better than average. Stocks are a good thing to own over time. There's only two things you can do wrong: You can buy the wrong ones, and you can buy or sell them at the wrong time. And the truth is you never need to sell them, basically. But they could buy a cross section of American industry, and if a cross section of American industry doesn't work, certainly trying to pick the little beauties here and there isn't going to work either. Then they just have to worry about getting greedy. You know, I always say you should get greedy when others are fearful and fearful when others are greedy. But that's too much to expect. Of course, you shouldn't get greedy when others get greedy and fearful when others get fearful. At a minimum, try to stay away from that.
The American economy is going to do fine. But it won't do fine every year and every week and every month. I mean, if you don't believe that, forget about buying stocks anyway. But it stands to reason. I mean, we get more productive every year, you know. It's a positive-sum game, long term. And the only way an investor can get killed is by high fees or by trying to outsmart the market.

Today Is Earth Day

I’ll let Robert F. Kennedy Jr. do the talking.

From The Bobby Lobby by Amanda Griscom:

On the environment:

The environment is the most important, the most fundamental, civil-rights issue. In the word ecology, the root "eco" is the Greek word for home. It's really about how we manage our home. The environmental movement is a struggle over the control of the commons -- the publicly owned resources, the things that cannot be reduced to private property -- the air, the water, the wandering animals, the public land, the wildlife, the fisheries. The things that from the beginning of time have always been part of the public trust.
On how environmentalism didn’t begin with Earth Day:
Environmentalism didn't begin on Earth Day. It's been recognized for thousands of years as a basic human right. The code of Justinian for the first time outlined environmental rights as essentially fundamental rights. If you were a citizen of Rome, you had an absolute right to cross a beach to catch a fish. The emperor himself couldn't stop you. In England, in the 13th century, they had a clean air act. It was illegal to burn coal in London. It was a capital crime and people were executed for it.

When Roman law broke down in Europe during the Dark Ages, a lot of the feudal kings began reasserting control over the public-trust resources. For example, in England, King John began selling monopolies to the fisheries and he said the deer belonged to nobility. The public rose up and confronted him at the Battle of Runnymede and forced him to sign the Magna Carta, which of course was the beginning of constitutional government. In addition to having virtually all of our Bill of Rights, the Magna Carta has two other chapters on free access to fisheries in navigable waters. And those rights descended to the people in the States when we had the revolution. And virtually every state constitution says the people of the state own the waters and the fisheries, the wildlife, the air. They're not owned by the governor, the legislature, the corporations. Nobody has a right to use them in a way that will diminish or injure their use and enjoyment by others.
Environmentalism shouldn’t end with Earth Day, either.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Ben Stein's Can Of Worms

From The movie overview for Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed:

His heroic and, at times, shocking journey confronting the world’s top scientists, educators and philosophers, regarding the persecution of the many by an elite few.

Ben realizes that he has been “Expelled,” and that educators and scientists are being ridiculed, denied tenure and even fired – for the “crime” of merely believing that there might be evidence of “design” in nature, and that perhaps life is not just the result of accidental, random chance.
First of all, let me point out that “confronting the world’s top scientists, educators and philosophers” with “believing that there might be evidence” doesn’t really make it seem like Ben Stein has a strong argument for his case.

Secondly, let me point out that Mr. Stein has ripped the cover off of his can of worms. By the logic that Mr. Stein is using to promote “intelligent design”, I should have a legitimate complaint against every place of worship in this country. How dare they not hire me to preach to their congregations that there is no God!

If Ben Stein wants religion to enter the science classroom, it seems only fair to let atheism enter the place of worship.

Doyennes And Knuckleheads

From Shoddy! Tawdry! A Televised Train Wreck! by Frank Rich:

However out of touch Mr. Obama is with “ordinary Americans,” many Americans, ordinary and not, have concluded that the talking heads blathering about blue-collar men, religion, guns and those incomprehensible “YouTube young people” are even more condescending and out of touch. When a Washington doyenne like Mary Matalin, freighted with jewelry, starts railing about elitists on “Meet the Press,” as she did last Sunday, it’s pure farce. It’s typical of the syndrome that the man who plays a raging populist on CNN, Lou Dobbs, dismissed Mr. Obama last week by saying “we don’t need another Ivy League-educated knucklehead.” Mr. Dobbs must know whereof he speaks, since he’s Harvard ’67.

The New Social Evil?

From Religion is ‘the new social evil’ by Robert Watts:

A Charity set up by an ardent Christian to fight slavery and the opium trade has identified a new social evil of the 21st century - religion.

A poll by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation uncovered a widespread belief that faith - not just in its extreme form - was intolerant, irrational and used to justify persecution.

Pollsters asked 3,500 people what they considered to be the worst blights on modern society, updating a list drawn up by Rowntree, a Quaker, 104 years ago.

The responses may well have dismayed him. The researchers found that the “dominant opinion” was that religion was a “social evil”.

Many participants said religion divided society, fueled intolerance and spawned “irrational” educational and other policies.

One said: “Faith in supernatural phenomena inspires hatred and prejudice throughout the world, and is commonly used as justification for persecution of women, gays and people who do not have faith.”
For something that has been around for what seems like forever, calling religion “new” seems rather strange. Hasn’t religion been a social evil since it’s inception? A way to separate people into “us” and “them?” The same way that countries do. Someone should write a blog about countries and religion, and how they separate people into groups that don’t get along with one another.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Oh, The Insanity!

Yesterday I asked a simple question. If the United States could invade Iraq with no concern for the consequences, then why can’t we just leave Iraq with no concern for the consequences?

I would like to take this opportunity to add some thoughts to what I wrote yesterday.

From War Without End by Helen Thomas:

Congress should wake up before it’s too late and listen to retired Army Lt. Gen. William Odom, former director of the National Security Agency.

NSA is the nation’s largest intelligence agency, which monitors messages from all over the world.

Odom testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last week and urged an immediate withdrawal from Iraq. He claimed the troop surge (escalation) has prolonged instability in Iraq and that the only “sensible strategy” is “rapid withdrawal.”

In a separate speech last week, the outspoken general said, “We are certainly to blame for the chaos in Iraq” but “we do not have the physical means to prevent it.”
From GAO Slams Bush on Terrorism - says Al Qaeda attack likely and we have no plan by Max Bergmann:
Here is the title of a report from the Government Accountability Office on combating terrorism released today:
The United States Lacks a Comprehensive Plan to Destroy the Terrorist Threat and Close the Safe Haven in Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas.
That is not some line buried in the report. That is the title. Wow.

This GAO report may be the most damning condemnation of the Bush administration's counter-terrorism efforts. The report goes on to say that the Bush administration has failed to develop any plan to address the Al Qaeda threat. Worse, the report finds that Al Qaeda is now able to attack the United States and represents the "most serious" threat to this country.

The report's opinion of the Bush administration efforts speaks for itself:
The United States has not met its national security goals to destroy the terrorist threat and close the safe haven in Pakistan…
Not only have we not met our goals but we have no plan to meet our goals:
No comprehensive plan for meeting U.S. national security goals in the FATA has been developed, as stipulated by the National Strategy for Combating Terrorism (2003), called for by an independent commission (2004), and mandated by congressional legislation (2007). Furthermore, Congress created the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) in 2004 specifically to develop comprehensive plans to combat terrorism. However, neither the National Security Council (NSC), NCTC, nor other executive branch departments have developed a comprehensive plan that includes all elements of national power—diplomatic, military, intelligence, development assistance, economic, and law enforcement support—called for by the various national security strategies and Congress.
Insanity!!! The right wing war machine has gone insane! We have an insane man running our country!

Wouldn’t the practical, logical, sane course of action be to leave Iraq and direct at least some of our currently misdirected vast resources toward doing something/anything about Al Qaeda?

Why hasn’t Bush been impeached? He is not only incompetent and criminal. He is insane!


"A lot of times in politics you have people look you in the eye and tell you what's not on their mind." George W. Bush

Bush should know. If anyone is a master of disengaging one's brain before speaking, it is he.

"And so, so long as I'm the President, my measure of success is victory and success." George W. Bush

I can’t wait to find out what his “measure of success” will be after he is president.

Science And Morality

From Ben Stein and Darwin: Truth is what matters by Mark C. Chu-Carroll:

People will always find ways to justify horrible things. Just look at the headlines here in the US over the last week about torture. We'll find ways of justifying the things we want to justify. But justifications don't change facts. Evolution is a theory that does an amazing job of describing a piece of the world. Whether it's used to justify something evil doesn't change that. If it's true, it's true. And no amount of ranting about the horrible things that it supposedly motivated can change that. In the end, the truth is the truth. Evolution is true - whether Hitler, or the Janjaweed in Sudan, or eugenicists in America choose to use it to justify their actions doesn't change that. It's still true.

The whole Darwin-to-Hitler link in Stein's wretched little movie is a totally meaningless exercise. It's a line of pure and utter bullshit, and even if we were to accept it as absolute truth, it would be irrelevant. Truth and morality are two different things.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

A Simple Question

If the United States could invade Iraq with no concern for the consequences, then why can’t we just leave Iraq with no concern for the consequences?

The very same people who supported the invasion are the ones who now support staying. The argument for staying is that chaos will ensue and people will die and so on. Let me think about this for a moment. It is perfectly alright to attack a country causing chaos and the killing of many people, but it is not alright to leave a country causing chaos and the killing of many people. I fail to see the logic in this. Especially when you consider that one is an aggressive act and the other is a passive act. In other words when you start a war you are doing the killing, when you end a war ( if any killing happens at all ) you are no longer doing the killing.

The argument can be made that leaving Iraq would cause chaos and killing. The argument can be made that staying in Iraq is causing chaos and killing. There is one key difference, however. We are not sure what would happen in the first case, we damn sure know what is happening in the second case. Just because the right wing war machine says we can’t leave Iraq is no reason to believe that we can’t.

Can A Newt Insert Its Foot Into Its Mouth?

From Contradicting His Hero Ben Franklin, Gingrich Says Americans ‘Will Give Up All Their Liberties’ For Safety by Ali:

Yesterday, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich visited Drew University in New Jersey, where he took questions from 20 political science majors there. When one asked him how the government could justify stripping rights from Americans in such pieces of legislation as the Patriot Act, Gingrich said that the government has a “right to defend society,” and when under threat, “people will give up all their liberties“:
“If there’s a threat, you have a right to defend society,” Gingrich said. “People will give up all their liberties to avoid that level of threat.“
Gingrich is directly contradicted by Benjamin Franklin, who rejected the notion that one should give up one’s liberties out of fear:
Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.

All The President's Men

Why don’t Sean Hannity and George Stephanopoulos care about the terrorists that George W. Bush associates himself with? Why are they only picking on Barack Obama? In the fair and balanced world in which we live shouldn’t they be questioning George W. Bush about his associations with Otto Reich, Orlando Bosch, and John Negroponte.

And let’s not forget Bush’s association with himself.

Memo To Charlie, George, And David

To Charlie Gibson, George Stephanopoulos, and David Brooks:

Paraphrasing John Prine: Your flag lapel pin won’t get you into heaven anymore. “They're already overcrowded from your dirty little war. Now Jesus don't like killin', no matter what the reason's for…”

Instead of being concerned about flag lapel pins maybe you should be more concerned with the “hole in daddy's arm where all the money goes."

I thought we already covered all of this nonsense forty years ago.

An Expelled Narrative

Consider me impressed. Over at Amused Muse Kristine has amassed large quantities of data concerning Ben Stein’s latest foray into movie making. A fascinating tale!

From Expelled: Imagine! by Kristine:

Now, it is evident to all why intelligent design has no place in science classrooms or in academia at large: it is a cheat, and its advocates are cheaters. And cheaters don’t belong in class – let alone teaching in our nation’s classrooms.

The Travesty

From Democratic Debate: Tube turn-off by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer Editorial Board:

We're at a crisis on so many points -- the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the economy, our health care system and, oh yes, global warming -- that frankly, a mangled statement on why some Americans cling to guns or religion and a fib of an anecdote about what happened before a ceremony on a tarmac in Bosnia in the '90s are completely immaterial. While the talking heads can't focus on what matters in the campaign, we hope the American public will be able to ignore the distractions and focus on the issues that could alter the country's course.

Friday, April 18, 2008

David Cay Johnston

From Pulitzer Winner David Cay Johnston on Times Buyout List by John Koblin:

And joining Pulitzer winner Linda Greenhouse on the payout line, is Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter David Cay Johnston, who has submitted an application to volunteer for a buyout (Media Mob needs to qualify because technically the paper has the final say and will be reviewing applications for the next 45 days).

“I want to do books full time,” Mr. Johnston told Media Mob. “With a buyout, I can do them twice as fast. I want to do long-form magazine work, too! And I have documentarians talking to me about TV and theatrical releases.”
“My job is about reading the paperwork and not listening to the politicians,” he said. “Instead, I find people—human beings—to illustrate the problem.”

Mr. Johnston said his favorite story was uncovering inequities in the tax system—how the I.R.S. is more likely to audit the poor than the rich—which earned him a Pulitzer in 2001.
From Another Journalistic Buyout... by Brad Delong:
There was once a Dilbert cartoon about buyouts: "management says we have to pay the competent people to leave."

At coffee I discover that David Cay Johnston had taken a buyout from the nyt and is now out on his own as an independent journalist.
David Cay Johnston is the author of the excellent book Free Lunch: How the Wealthiest Americans Enrich Themselves at Government Expense (and Stick You with the Bill). I'm glad to hear that he wants to write more books. He's probably better off without the New York Times anyway.

The New York Times should also buyout the sellouts David Brooks, Maureen Dowd, Bill Kristol, and Tom Friedman. As cheaply as possible. For like, nothing.

The Wrong War

Does the president know that we have been fighting the wrong war? Do all the rest of the politicians in Washington know that we have been fighting the wrong war? No, I don’t mean the “war” (occupation) in Iraq. We all know that they don’t have a clue about Iraq. I mean the war on drugs. Did you know that teachers unions are more dangerous than drug pushers? I didn’t. I must have missed all the statistical data that was published that backs up the claims of Neal Boortz. I mean, he’s on the radio, so what he says must be true, right? Mr. Boortz says: “the single most dangerous entity, group of people in this country right now are the teachers unions." Wow. That’s more dangerous than murderers, rapists, child molesters, crooked politicians, and lying radio announcers combined. We need to do something. We need to round up all those evil union reps and throw them in jail. Free the pushers now! We need to make room in our prisons for bad, nasty, evil union reps.

From Boortz: Teachers unions "do more damage to this country than all the drug pushers together":

During the April 16 broadcast of his nationally syndicated radio show, while discussing the issue of public education with a caller, Neal Boortz stated: "I think the most dangerous -- the single most dangerous entity, group of people in this country right now are the teachers unions." He continued: "I think teachers unions do more damage to this country than the Los Angeles Lakers. They do more damage to this country than all the drug pushers together. ... If I had a button right now, two buttons -- push this button and it gets rid of all the drug dealers; push this button, it gets rid of the teachers unions -- I'm getting rid of the teachers unions."
On second thought, instead of jailing union reps, could we just boot Neal Boortz off the radio instead? If I had a button right now…

UPDATE Friday April 18, 2008 4:26PM: The Los Angeles Lakers???

Seems Like A Good Idea To Me

Sen. Barack Obama proves that he is more intelligent, a better leader, and cares more about the well being of the American people than Hillary Clinton.

From Obama: Let's campaign, not have more debates:

Sen. Barack Obama suggested Thursday that he doesn't see any point in having another debate with Democratic rival Sen. Hillary Clinton.

Clinton has agreed to a debate next week, but Obama has not accepted the invitation.

At an appearance in Raleigh, North Carolina, Obama said he has a lot of campaigning to do in a limited amount of time.

Obama said he had agreed to an earlier debate, but Clinton declined that one.

"I'll be honest with you, we've now had 21," he said. "It's not as if we don't know how to do these things. I could deliver Sen. Clinton's lines; she could, I'm sure, deliver mine."

The Exact Opposite Conclusion

From It's 1984 at the Wall Street Journal by James Hrynyshyn:

So let me get this straight: a president in his final year in office lays out a plan that calls for doing NOTHING about greenhouse gas emissions for 17 years — and even then fails to call for a mandatory cap — isn't abdicating responsibility and handing over the task to his successor? Incredible. It's hard to believe that the writer(s) who cranked out the editorial can sleep at night.

And to imply Bush isn't ready to "wave aside economic considerations in the interests of 'doing something'" is just plain bizarre. I guess those trivial items called the $9-trillion debt and the quagmire called Iraq are just figments of my imagination.

Portraits Of George W. Bush

From Portrait of a president by PZ Myers:

I never thought I could actually like a portrait of George W. Bush, but this one isn't bad. Go ahead and click on the link — the overall portrait is fine, and you may not notice anything at all disturbing (well, except for the fact that it is George W. Bush) on seeing it. You might not want to click on the links to details in the image, though; this picture is a collage made from pictures of anuses snipped out of porn magazines.

It ain't pretty, but it's art that speaks the truth.
From American War Dead Peer Out from the Portraits of Their Killer:
August 4, 2004: Two different initiatives have put the presidency of George W. Bush into perspective. At last count, nearly 1,000 American soldiers were sent to Iraq thinking they were fighting for American security. They returned to America in boxes, hidden by their Government in the darkness of night. They now have their proud faces peering out from the portraits of the man who is responsible for their death.

Barack Obama Remarks On The Recent Debate

Barack Obama in Raleigh, NC:

Thursday, April 17, 2008

We Have Become A Nation Led By The Most Lazy And Ignorant

From The Collapse Of The National Press by Hunter:

After the first forty minutes of last night's Democratic debate, it was clear we were watching something historic. Not historic in a good way, mind you, but historic in the sense of being something so deeply embarrassing to the nation that it will be pointed to, in future books and documentary works, as a prime example of the collapse of the American media into utter and complete substanceless, into self-celebrated vapidity, and into a now-complete inability or unwillingness to cover the most important affairs of the nation to any but the most shallow of depths.

Congratulations are clearly in order. ABC had two hours of access to two of the three remaining candidates vying to lead the most powerful nation in the world, and spent the decided majority of that time mining what the press considers the true issues facing the republic. Bittergate; Rev. Wright; Bosnia; American flag lapel pins. That's what's important to the future of the country.

What a contrast. Only a few weeks ago, we were presented with what was considered by many to be a historic speech by a presidential candidate on race in America -- historic for its substance, tone, delivery, and stark candor. Last night, we had an opposing, equally historic example -- and I sincerely mean that, I consider it to be every bit as significant as that word implies -- of the collapse of the political press into self-willed incompetence. You might as well pull any half-intelligent person off the street, and they would unquestionably have more difficult and significant questions for the two candidates. It was not merely a momentarily bad performance, by ABC, it was a debate explicitly designed to be what it was, which is far more telling.

Does Anyone Take David Brooks Seriously?

In 2003 David Brooks saw George W. Bush as an honest man:

I think we are all disgusted by the way George W. Bush's administration has allowed honesty and candor to seep into the genteel world of international affairs.
Now his administration has taken to honesty like a drunken sailor. It has made a fetish of candor and forthrightness.
In 2004 David Brooks thought George W. Bush was right about Iraq:
…I still believe that in 20 years, no one will doubt that Bush did the right thing. To his enormous credit, the president has been ruthlessly flexible over the past months and absolutely committed to seeing this through. He is acknowledging the need for more troops.
Yesterday, David Brooks thought Charlie Gibson and George Stephanapoulos did a great job:
I understand the complaints, but I thought the questions were excellent. The journalist’s job is to make politicians uncomfortable, to explore evasions, contradictions and vulnerabilities. Almost every question tonight did that. The candidates each looked foolish at times, but that’s their own fault.

We may not like it, but issues like Jeremiah Wright, flag lapels and the Tuzla airport will be important in the fall. Remember how George H.W. Bush toured flag factories to expose Michael Dukakis. It’s legitimate to see how the candidates will respond to these sorts of symbolic issues.
Shouldn't journalists do a little more than "make politicians uncomfortable, …explore evasions, contradictions and vulnerabilities?" How about something as simple as finding out where politicians stand on the issues. And no, I don't mean "symbolic issues."

Symbolic issues? What about real issues? Iraq, Iran, North Korea, nuclear bombs, immigration, education, healthcare, inflation, the economy, torture, impeachment, the deficit, the debt, the housing crisis, war crimes, extraordinary rendition, Guantanamo Bay, terrorism, taxes, government spending, FEMA, Katrina, New Orleans, Supreme Court nominees, Presidential power, FISA, Darfur, AIDS, Corporate Crime, Global Warming, energy costs, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Walter Reed, Veterans care, the case of Gov. Don Siegelman, toxic waste, missing White House emails, the huge U.S. embassy in Iraq, Blackwater, clean coal, nuclear power, oil drilling in Alaska, forestry in Alaska, foreign investment in U.S. companies, Pakistan, Israel, Palestine, China, food safety, toy safety, NASA, bridges to nowhere, bridges falling down, the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, Egypt, the Department of Homeland Security, Star Wars (Reagan’s, not the movie), Afghanistan, crime, the war on drugs, the death penalty, prison overcrowding, the U.S. prison industry, racism, voting machines, rigged elections, air travel security, free speech zones, police brutality, pollution, overpopulation, al-Qaeda, Federal No-Bid Contracts, Alberto Gonzales, Executive Orders, the Middle East, the price of oil, government secrecy, stem cell research, Hamas, the FBI, the CIA, Hatch Act violations, the United Nations, the United States attorney scandal, coal miner safety, poverty, homelessness, Syria, gun violence, the Endangered Species Act, Mad Cow disease, U.S. missile defense systems in Eastern Europe, Cuba, internet privacy, educational freedom, intelligent design, evolution, war spending, PBS funding, federal funding of family-planning programs, the Gaza Strip, military tribunals, U.S. role as nation-builders, Kazakhstan, government ethics, the world-wide food crisis, NAFTA, the NSA, the consolidation of the corporate media, No Child Left Behind, the Unitary Executive Theory of the Presidency, The Pandemic Flu Plan, corporate welfare, corporate tax breaks, the National Rifle Association, lobbyists, Presidential bypassing of Senate confirmation processes, dirty bombs, school safety, international treaties, the breaking of international treaties, college-tuition assistance, the Clean Air Act, mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants, perchlorate contamination in drinking water, the Abu Ghraib scandal, and the Bill of Rights. I’ll stop there, even though there is probably more.

None of these things matter to David Brooks. Lapel pins seem to be very important to him, however. Why does this man write for the New York Times? Can’t they find someone else, someone that’s not an idiot?

America Just Had A Horrible Night

From An open letter to Charlie Gibson and George Stephanopoulos by Will Bunch:

With your performance tonight -- your focus on issues that were at best trivial wastes of valuable airtime and at worst restatements of right-wing falsehoods, punctuated by inane "issue" questions that in no way resembled the real world concerns of American voters -- you disgraced my profession of journalism, and, by association, me and a lot of hard-working colleagues who do still try to ferret out the truth, rather than worry about who can give us the best deal on our capital gains taxes. But it's even worse than that. By so badly botching arguably the most critical debate of such an important election, in a time of both war and economic misery, you disgraced the American voters, and in fact even disgraced democracy itself. Indeed, if I were a citizen of one of those nations where America is seeking to "export democracy," and I had watched the debate, I probably would have said, "no thank you." Because that was no way to promote democracy.

You implied throughout the broadcast that you wanted to reflect the concerns of voters in Pennsylvania. Well, I'm a Pennsylvanian voter, and so are my neighbors and most of my friends and co-workers. You asked virtually nothing that reflected our everyday issues -- trying to fill our gas tanks and save for college at the same time, our crumbling bridges and inadequate mass transit, or the root causes of crime here in Philadelphia. In fact, there almost isn't enough space -- and this is cyberspace, where room is unlimited -- to list all the things you could have asked about but did not, from health care to climate change to alternative energy to our policy toward China to the deterioration of Afghanistan to veterans' benefits to improving education. You ignored virtually everything that just happened in what most historians agree is one of the worst presidencies in American history, including the condoning of torture and the trashing of the Constitution, although to be fair you also ignored the policy concerns of people on the right, like immigration issues.

Preconceived Beliefs

From Divided They Fall by Nicholas D. Kristof:

Another challenge is the biased way in which we gather information. We seek out information that reinforces our prejudices. One study presented listeners with static-filled recordings of speeches that they believed they were judging on persuasive power. Listeners could push a button to tweak the signal, reducing the static to make it easier to understand. When smokers heard a speech connecting tobacco with cancer, they didn’t try to improve the clarity to hear it more easily. But they pushed the button to get a clearer version of a speech saying that there was no link between smoking and cancer. Nonsmokers were the exact opposite.

This resistance to information that doesn’t mesh with our preconceived beliefs afflicts both liberals and conservatives, but a raft of studies shows that it is a particular problem with conservatives. For example, when voters receive mailings offering them free pamphlets on various political topics, liberals show some interest in getting conservative views. In contrast, conservatives seek only those pamphlets that echo their own views.

Likewise, liberal blogs overwhelmingly link to other liberal blogs or news sources. But with conservative blogs, the tendency is much more pronounced; it is almost a sealed universe.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Berkeley, Yoo, And Testicle Crushing

Earlier today I wrote a rather lengthy piece on John Yoo and whether he deserves to be fired from his teaching position at Berkeley. Then I went for a walk. On my walk I got to thinking about this all over again. The one think that got stuck in my mind that I wished I had included in my earlier piece is this: Somebody else who is better qualified for the job doesn’t have it because Yoo does.

How many college law students do we want Yoo trying to impress his values upon? Here is a refresher course on John Yoo’s values:

Yoo even went so far as to claim, in a debate, that the U.S. president has legal discretion about whether he can crush the testicles of a suspect's child. In a Dec. 1, 2005 debate in Chicago with Notre Dame Law School Professor Doug Cassel, the following exchange occurred:

Cassel: "If the president deems that he's got to torture somebody, including by crushing the testicles of the person's child, there is no law that can stop him?"

Yoo: "No treaty."

Cassel: "Also no law by Congress. That is what you wrote in the August 2002 memo."

Yoo: "I think it depends on why the president thinks he needs to do that."
What kind of lawyers will Berkley produce because of John Yoo? There has to be someone better for this position at Berkeley.

Jack Welch Shows His Leadership Qualities

From Welch says GE's Immelt has 'credibility issue' by Stephen Singer:

Former General Electric Co. chief executive Jack Welch said Wednesday that he would "get a gun out and shoot" his successor, Jeffrey Immelt, if he allowed GE to miss earnings targets again.

"I'd be shocked beyond belief and I'd get a gun out and shoot him if he doesn't make what he promised now," Welch said on CNBC, a cable station owned by GE.
Hey Jack, it’s only money. Don’t you have any dignity? You are supposed to be such a great leader, one that others look up to and emulate. And this is what you have to offer? It seems to me that it is you who has a “credibility issue” and not Jeffrey Immelt. Whether said in jest or not, violence should not be a proposed solution, especially with so much gun violence all around us. Do you have grandchildren Mr. Welch? Do you want them to emulate your behavior? Shame on you Jack Welch. Perhaps a visit to a psychiatrist would be in order, Mr. Welch.

Ruth Marcus Is Full Of It

Today the Washington Post has published Why John Yoo Must Stay by Ruth Marcus. Here are the first two paragraphs:

The March 14, 2003, memo "Re: Military Interrogation of Alien Unlawful Combatants Held Outside the United States" is an abhorrent document. Better known as John Yoo's torture memo, it is shoddy in its legal reasoning, outrageous in its far-reaching assertion of presidential power and repellent in its purpose -- to offer legal cover to U.S. personnel who commit torture.

Should this man be teaching constitutional law at one of the nation's top law schools? If he were being hired on the basis of that memo, certainly not. But he is already teaching at Berkeley's Boalt Hall, and he has tenure, which makes the matter far more complicated and argues, in the end, for keeping Yoo on the faculty.
Marcus then goes on to explain that the recent declassification of this document has stirred many to call for Yoo’s dismissal from Berkeley. She then proceeds to give several very weak arguments as to why she thinks Berkeley should not fire Yoo.

Let’s examine some of them one by one.
Disputes over academic freedom tend by their very nature to involve unpleasant choices. No one wants to have on the faculty, say, a literature professor who marches with Nazis, but pushing her out for that reason invites McCarthyite purges.
Does one literature professor marching with Nazis have an effect on the behavior of the President of the United States? Does one literature professor marching with Nazis have an effect on the behavior of the interrogators of any of our captured soldiers? McCarthyite purges? This is a terrible analogy. Joseph McCarthy was a United States senator who abused the considerable power that he had as a senator. He was not a president of a college considering whether he should simply fire someone or not. The matter with Yoo is about one person. McCarthy had a huge list of people and used the government and Congressional hearings to railroad people on the list to “name names.” Peoples lives and careers were destroyed for no other reason than being on this list. The people on the list were not advocating physical harm toward others, nor were they advocating the breaking of any laws. Yoo, on the other hand was advocating torture and the breaking of laws to the President of the United States. Yoo is also just one person, not the many of McCarthyism. How would a college firing someone be anything at all like McCarthyism? Marcus has her McCarthy analogy completely backwards. Yoo is not the one being persecuted here, Yoo is the persecutor. Yoo and McCarthy both worked for the government and both abused the power that they had. Both have caused other people to suffer.
Edley, as Columbia Law School professor Scott Horton wrote, "is appropriately concerned about freedom of expression for his faculty. But he should be much more concerned about the message that all of this sends to his students. Lawyers who act on the public stage can have an enormous impact on their society and the world around them. . . . Does Dean Edley really imagine that their work is subject to no principle of accountability because they are mere drones dispensing legal analysis?"

Yet the message sent to students by dumping Yoo would be even worse: that some opinions are too dangerous to express. Lawyers are used to staking a foothold on slippery slopes, but this one, with academic freedom at issue, is too treacherous to risk.
Yoo did much more than simply express an opinion! Marcus makes it sound like all Yoo did was appear on Meet The Press and say to Tim Russert, “By the way, torture is just alright with me.” Yoo advised the most powerful person on the planet that it’s OK to break the law and torture people. As far as I know no one has died because of something someone said to Tim Russert. However, untold numbers of people will die because of what Yoo told Bush. This is not about academic freedom. This is not about something Yoo did or said on a college campus. This is about what Yoo did while serving the president and our country. If Yoo had spent his entire career as a college professor, then academic freedom and tenure could be invoked.
The most useful analogy I've read on this subject comes from Princeton professor Deborah Pearlstein, who asked what Berkeley would do if a molecular biology professor "had written a medical opinion while in government employ disclaiming the truth of evolution," and continued to dispute the theory of evolution once he resumed teaching.
The most useful analogy? This is the best that Marcus can come up with? Writing a medical opinion while in government employ disclaiming the truth of cigarette smoking causing cancer would have been a better analogy. No one would die or suffer enormous psychological damage from someone writing “ a medical opinion while in government employ disclaiming the truth of evolution,” and then continuing to dispute the theory of evolution once he resumed teaching. No one would be breaking the law or disregarding the Geneva Conventions because of this.
Pearlstein, a human rights lawyer, found Yoo's memo "blatantly, embarrassingly wrong under the law," but she conceded that legal conclusions lack the hard certainty of scientific truth.
This is truly idiotic. There is no such thing as “ the hard certainty of scientific truth.” Science is not about proving “truths”, it is about disproving previous “truths.” Just ask Ptolemy and Nicolaus Copernicus.
Keeping John Yoo at Berkeley is the high price of liberty.
No it’s not! Keeping John Yoo at Berkeley is destroying liberty. The rich and powerful who commit war crimes, torture (or advocate torture) need to be held accountable to the rule of law. Civilization, democracy, and yes, liberty depend on this. Has Ruth Marcus forgotten that it is “liberty and justice for all?” Not just for a select few.