Sunday, November 30, 2008

Obama Recycles

From Obama defends experienced, centrist team by Joseph Williams:

President-elect Barack Obama, rejecting liberals' criticism of his emerging Cabinet, yesterday strongly defended his decision to choose more experienced, centrist aides for his inner circle, arguing that the nation needs sure hands in a time of turmoil - and that it's his job to bring the change he promised voters.
Seeking to reassure supporters worried that he's recycling" appointees from President Clinton's era, Obama suggested it is unrealistic to expect him to bypass the best people available simply because of ties to the last Democratic administration.

However, liberal activists contend that Obama so far has gone too far in one direction, bringing in too many of the same Washington insiders and undermining his own message of change. Obama, they complain, hasn't given a top Cabinet job to a true liberal, and grumble about the expected appointments of rival Hillary Clinton - a centrist Democrat - as Obama's secretary of state an of Robert M. Gates, a Republican appointed by President Bush, to stay on as defense secretary for at least a year.

"I'm not in the camp that says, 'Give him a chance, because his vision will dominate,' " said Tom Hayden, a high-profile liberal and antiwar activist who said he supports Obama despite misgivings over his Cabinet picks. "I don't know what he's doing. This is not governing from the center. This is governing from the past."

Liberal bloggers, who helped fuel Obama's grass-roots fund-raising and volunteer armies, are particularly vocal in their critique of Obama's choices so far.
Read more here.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

'Tis The Season To Shop At All Cost

Imagine no Christmas. Imagine a safer America. Believe it or not, but these two thoughts are related.

From Wal-Mart worker dies in rush; two killed at toy store:

Three violent deaths in two stores marred the opening of the Christmas shopping season Friday.

In the first, a temporary Wal-Mart employee was trampled to death in a rush of thousands of early morning shoppers as he and other employees attempted to unlock the doors of a Long Island, New York, store at 5 a.m., police said.

In the second, unrelated incident, two men were shot dead in a Toys "R" Us in Palm Desert, California, after they argued in the store, police said.
Read the rest here.

Peace on earth and goodwill to men.

A Comparison

From Defeating Nazis, Stopping Holocaust, Cost Less Than Wall Street Bailout by Ken Silverstein:

The cost to the United States of helping defeat Adolf Hitler, liberate Europe from fascist rule and halt the holocaust came to roughly $3.6 trillion, adjusted for inflation. The cost of the bailout, to date, comes to about $4.6 trillion. World War II was a steal — and with the $1 trillion difference there’s still enough left over to cover the past costs of the Marshall Plan and the The New Deal.

Ben Bernanke

From Anatomy of a Meltdown by John Cassidy:

The most serious charge against Bernanke and Paulson is that their response to the crisis has been ad hoc and contradictory: they rescued Bear Stearns but allowed Lehman Brothers to fail; for months, they dismissed the danger from the subprime crisis and then suddenly announced that it was grave enough to justify a huge bailout; they said they needed seven hundred billion dollars to buy up distressed mortgage securities and then, in October, used the money to purchase stock in banks instead. Summing up the widespread frustration with Bernanke, Dean Baker, the co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, a liberal think tank in Washington, told me, “He was behind the curve at every stage of the story. He didn’t see the housing bubble until after it burst. Until as late as this summer, he downplayed all the risks involved. In terms of policy, he has not presented a clear view. On a number of occasions, he has pointed in one direction and then turned around and acted differently.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Repower America

Tell the EPA to protect our health and climate. If you want to, that is.

Rev. Ed Young Couldn't Keep It Up

Does this prove that Ed Young is not God? Young’s day of rest being on Tuesday and all.

From Pastor’s Advice for Better Marriage: More Sex by Gretel C. Kovach:

And on the seventh day, there was no rest for married couples. A week after the Rev. Ed Young challenged husbands and wives among his flock of 20,000 to strengthen their unions through Seven Days of Sex, his advice was — keep it going.

Mr. Young, an author, a television host and the pastor of the evangelical Fellowship Church, issued his call for a week of “congregational copulation” among married couples on Nov. 16, while pacing in front of a large bed. Sometimes he reclined on the paisley coverlet while flipping through a Bible, emphasizing his point that it is time for the church to put God back in the bed.
Does this mean God was having a three way with Young and his wife? Or does God just like to watch? Does this make God kinda kinky?
It is not always easy to devote time for your spouse, Pastor Young admitted. Just three days into the sex challenge he said he was so tired after getting up before dawn to talk about the importance of having more sex in marriage that he crashed on the bed around 8 p.m. on Tuesday night.

Mrs. Young tried to shake him awake, telling her husband, “Come on, it’s the sex challenge.” But Mr. Young murmured, “Let’s just double up tomorrow,” and went back to sleep.
With God on his side, why couldn’t Young keep it up?

I believe in the separation of church and state. I also believe in the separation of religion and sex.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Dark Secrets

From Known Unknowns by Scott Horton:

Under President Bush, the Constitution took a shellacking. We had the most devious, secretive government in our nation's history. In the end, it was at war with the rule of law itself. But this isn't the time to be talking about indictments and prosecutions, though that may come in the fullness of time. Now is the time to force those dark secrets from the recesses in which they've been hidden and insure that the public fully understands what was done by the most incompetent, corrupt and lawless government we've ever had. Charting those dealings is the first step. Correcting them is the second.
From Last Secrets of the Bush Administration by Charles Homans:
In March 2001, U.S. Archivist John W. Carlin received a letter from Alberto Gonzales, then counsel to the newly inaugurated president George W. Bush. It concerned an important deadline that was looming—one that Bush owed to Richard Nixon.

In 1974, Congress ordered a lockdown on all records kept by the Nixon White House, afraid that the outgoing president would try to wipe out the paper trail of his disastrous second term and chastened by the recent destruction of decades’ worth of FBI files by the late director J. Edgar Hoover’s loyal secretary. That order was expanded four years later into a law requiring that all presidents’ papers—everything from briefings to personal notes and everyday communications between the president, vice president, and their staffers—be handed over to the National Archives twelve years after their terms ended for eventual public release. Ronald Reagan was the first chief executive to whom the Presidential Records Act applied, and his papers were due to be turned over to Carlin at the beginning of Bush’s term.

Gonzales wanted Carlin to delay the release until June. His letter didn’t say why, but Carlin agreed. Then in June, Carlin got another memo from Gonzales—Bush’s attorney now wanted until the end of August. Carlin agreed again. The extensions continued until November, when Bush issued an executive order: effective immediately, the release of presidential records would require the approval of both the sitting president and the president whose records were in question, rather than just the former. It was what open-government advocates would later describe as a two-key system: under Bush’s rule, Nixon could have buried the Watergate tapes without explaining himself to anyone.

Bush’s executive order had little to do with any concerns of Reagan himself, whose estate has since shared his papers enthusiastically. Some administration critics theorized at the time that Bush was trying to shield from scrutiny his father’s vice presidential records, which were among the Reagan White House documents—but ultimately it wasn’t really about George H. W. Bush, either. It was about the new president and vice president, and the kind of government they intended to run.
Read the rest here.

Lame Professor Comments On Lame Duck President

Maybe Professor Zelizer isn’t really lame, but his article for CNN sure is.

From Commentary: Bush should do something to stop crisis by Julian E. Zelizer:

Pundits, including some conservatives, feel the coalition Ronald Reagan built in 1980 has fallen apart. Bush was the captain of the Republican Titanic as it sank.
Actually, Bush is responsible for sinking the entire country, not just the Republicans.
Now, with just less than two months left in his presidency, Bush should follow the tradition of lame-duck presidents who tried to make a difference, rather than simply playing out the clock.

The economy is in crisis and there is strong demand for Washington to do something. President Bush's legacy could benefit from some effective action. The president should break bread with Democrats and get this recovery started.
Why Mr. Zelizer thinks that George W. Bush is capable of doing this is anyones guess. Bush has proven himself to be the most incompetent man to hold the office of President of the United States that our country has ever seen. Suddenly his brain will fill with brilliance?

Maybe They Are Actually Atheists

From Politico article on Obama's recent church attendance ignored Bush's sporadic attendance as president:

Summary: In an article headlined "Obama skips church, heads to gym," Politico reported, "On the three Sundays since his election, Obama has instead used his free time to get in workouts at a Chicago gym," and also asserted, "Both President-elect George W. Bush and President-elect Bill Clinton managed to attend church in the weeks after they were elected." However, Politico ignored numerous reports that Bush attended church infrequently over the past eight years and did not belong to a Washington congregation. Politico's report was echoed by other media, including Fox News and the syndicated radio show The War Room with Quinn & Rose.

A Fool And His Money

Republicans were stupid enough to nominate and elect George W. Bush. Twice. I wonder how many are stupid enough to throw their money at what is basically a non-existent presidential campaign?

From Huckabee tells Republicans how to recover by Kristi Keck:

Huckabee abandoned his 2008 presidential campaign in March, but he's shied away from saying if he has put all of his presidential aspirations to rest.

"I'm quite a few months and many prayers away from making some decision like that," he said.

His supporters, however, already are preparing for 2012. Huckabee said that people showing up for his book signings -- often hours before the events are scheduled to begin -- are telling him that he has their vote in the next presidential election.

Supporters behind have even committed to setting aside $2.85 a day so that if Huckabee decides to run, they'll have saved up enough by the time of his announcement to contribute the maximum $2,300 to his campaign. And if not, they'll "just use the savings to splurge on something nice to lessen our disappointment," according to the group's Web site.

While he's amazed by the energy among his supporters, Huckabee said when it comes to a future presidential run, "we'll just have to wait and see."
Aren’t there laws against this kind of thing?

Monday, November 24, 2008

Amerika's Freedom Of Speech

In Amerika we like our religions, that’s why we don’t tolerate imagination.

From SoCal's atheist billboard taken down by The Associated Press:

Complaints have led to removal of an atheist group's "Imagine No Religion" billboard in Rancho Cucamonga.

The General Outdoor sign company took down the Freedom From Religion Foundation billboard on Thursday after the city asked if there was a way to get it removed. Redevelopment director Linda Daniels says they got 90 complaints.

"Sadly, Wolf"

From Forbes: Paulson is 'worst' treasury secretary in modern times by Peter Lanier:

Forbes magazine President and CEO Steve Forbes called Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson “the worst treasury secretary we’ve had in modern times”, citing, among other things, the government’s handling of the housing crisis.

In an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on Sunday, Forbes repeatedly called on the treasury secretary to be more straightforward about the money used to bail out mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

“Have Henry Paulson do at least one thing right, and that is, have the government explicitly guarantee the debt of Fannie and Freddie,” the financial mogul and former Republican presidential candidate said.

When asked if he has confidence in Paulson, Forbes responded “No, sadly, Wolf. He's about the worst treasury secretary we've had in modern times.”

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Quote Of Note - Abraham Lincoln

These capitalists generally act harmoniously, and in concert, to fleece the people. Abraham Lincoln

Saturday, November 22, 2008


From 'Barbarians at the Gate' authors reflect by Jon Friedman:

"Barbarians at the Gate," the absorbing tale of the takeover of RJR Nabisco, was a New York Times No. 1 bestseller. It also spawned a well-received movie on HBO. But before they could envision creating a pop-culture icon, co-authors Bryan Burrough and John Helyar had a modest goal.

"Our whole goal was writing a book!" Burrough said.

I'm not the only person who thinks "Barbarians at the Gate" is the best business book ever. But penning a classic that defined the go-go 1980s on Wall Street was the furthest thing from their minds. "We were too stupid and naïve to know what we were doing," Burrough told me when I sat down with the authors at Dow Jones headquarters.

Helyar smiled when he recalled that he and Burrough ultimately created a "part-comic, part-dramatic operetta" that reflected "the human comedy" of Wall Street at the time.

Wall Street is still governed by fear and, especially, greed today in the wake of the collapse of the securities, real estate and automotive industries. "I'll give you my 'Wall Street 101' lecture," Helyar said. "Then, the M&A artists were over-the-top in some cases but were still tethered to real corporate America."

Fast-forward to today: "Wall Street became more of a blue smoke-and mirrors" environment, Helyar said.

Helyar saw the Internet bubble-burst nearly a decade ago as a result of analysts acting as "carnival barkers." He assesses the current crisis as the work of "quants" inventing ways to exploit the financial markets.

Burrough's view is that the chaos and ruin on Wall Street is emblematic of history repeating itself. "It's exactly the same every time," Burrough said animatedly. "Wall Street produces a product that makes money. Then it is overused -- and by the wrong people."
Read the rest here.


Friday, November 21, 2008

Maybe The New Guy Will Get A Better Grade

From All the Wrong Policies: Paulson Gets 'F-Minus' from Former Regulator by Aaron Task:

As bad a year as the stock market is having, Treasury Secretary Paulson is having an even worse one, according to William Black, Associate Professor of Economics and Law at the University of Missouri.

The professor, who was counsel to the Federal Home Loan Bank Board during the S&L Crisis and blew the whistle on the "Keating Five" in 1989, says Paulson deserves an "F-minus" for his role in the financial crisis.
He also notes Paulson steered Goldman Sachs into subprime and alt-A mortgage securities before becoming Treasury Secretary in 2006. Goldman began shorting those instruments shortly after Paulson's departure, he notes.

The current crisis is "not a hundred-year flood, that suggests it's an act of God caused by random forces," Black says. "This was one cause by bad policies, the same policies that have caused prior crises."
From Stocks surge on Treasury chief talk by Alexandra Twin:
Stocks rallied Friday, with the Dow industrials bouncing as much as 550 points, after reports surfaced that President-elect Barack Obama will nominate New York Federal Bank president Timothy Geithner as his new Treasury Secretary.
In particular, Wall Street seemed to welcome Obama's reported pick of Geithner, the vice chairman of the Federal Reserve's policy-setting committee. Geithner was the Fed's point person on the rescue of Bear Stearns and AIG.

Michael Moore Talks To Larry King

From Moore: Automakers never listened to workers, consumers:

…it was hilarious just watching these CEOs there (Tuesday) and (Wednesday) testifying in Congress, saying that, you know, that the problem wasn't theirs, you know, the cars they were building. It was the financial situation that we're in now.
The problem is the cars they've been building. They've never listened to the consumers. They've just gone about it their own wrong way. I'll tell you, you know, I'm of mixed mind about this bailout, Larry, because I don't think these companies, with these management people, should be given a dime, because that's just going to be money going up in smoke or off to other countries.

GM is currently building a $300 million factory in Russia right now to build SUVs, right outside of St. Petersburg. That's where your money's going to go, no matter what they say.
There's got to be a plan set out to find other ways to transport ourselves in other ways than using fossil fuels.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Action, Reaction, And No Action

“More often than not the government does things that I don’t want them to do, and they don’t do the things that I want them to do.” Paul Thoreau

“Inactivity strikes us as intelligent behavior.” Warren Buffett

"First, do no harm." Unknown

Sometimes it is better to be inactive, rather than active. Sometimes it is better to step back and take some time to assess the situation. Sometimes decisive action is necessary. Knowing whether a situation warrants inaction or action is the hard part. Obviously Warren Buffett does something.

Two recent inactions are pleasing to me. And in both cases I believe I am taking the side of Republicans. That is unusual for me. I believe New York State needs to do something about the fiscal problems it is facing. However, I do not agree with David Paterson’s proposals to cut education and health-care spending. He should find other places to cut spending. Recent opposition to Paterson’s proposals actually pleased me. Recent opposition to a bailout of the big three automakers also pleases me.

Here is an example of some positive activity by General Motors:

It seems like the struggles of the automobile industry have been in the headlines everyday - and General Motors is no exception. Now, the work of GM researchers right here in our backyard may signal better times ahead.

A car developed in Honeoye Falls may be one of the solutions. It's the General Motors Hydrogen Fuel Cell Electric Car. There are only 100 in the United States. Zero gas; zero pollution.
GM know this car works. But O'Connell says it can't be put on the market until the country builds more hydrogen fueling stations. "We've calculated that you need about 12,000 stations in order to put a station within 5 miles of about 75% of the population."
I would hope for some positive activity on the part of the federal government in regards to the building of more hydrogen fueling stations. So far all I see is inactivity on their part. Once upon a time we had automobiles without good roads to drive them on. Dwight D. Eisenhower took action when he championed the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956. Who benefitted from this? Nearly everyone, including the automobile industry. In fact the automobile industry lobbied for it. Now we have non-polluting automobiles with no place to fuel them. There should be a Federal-Aid Fuel Station Act of 2008 that would retrofit existing gas stations and/or build new stations to service alternative energy fuels such as electricity, hydrogen, and bio-fuels. This would be government activity that I would whole heartily support. Government activity that would help General Motors, as well as consumers and workers and the economy. And the planet, too. It’s such a no-brainer, is that why the government isn’t doing anything about it?

“Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself.” Mark Twain

Quote Of Note - George Bernard Shaw

“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.” George Bernard Shaw

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Reason's Greetings

I don’t care much for the term HumanLight. It sounds like a beer.

From Atheists Reach Out -- Just Don't Call It Proselytizing by Stephanie Simon:

Late next month, atheists, humanists, freethinkers, secularists -- in short, nonbelievers of every description -- will gather in dozens of cities to mark the holiday they call HumanLight.

Whether by singing from a Humanist Hymnal, decorating a winter wreath or lighting candles dedicated to personal heroes, they'll celebrate what has been an exhilarating ride for the faithless -- a surge in recognition that has many convinced they're on the brink of making a mark on mainstream America.

During the past three years, membership has grown in local and national associations of nonbelievers. Books attacking faith as a delusion shot up best-seller lists. For the first time, the faithless even raised enough funds to hire a congressional lobbyist.

Building on that momentum, nonbelievers have begun a very public campaign to win broad acceptance. On billboards and bus ads, radio commercials and the Internet, atheists are coming forward to declare, quite simply: We're here. And we're just like you.
Read the rest here.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Where Is My Bailout?

All American workers and consumers are essential to the American economy. When will the government bail us out?

Screw Ford!

The past is past. Is that what we should tell someone serving a life sentence for murder? The past is past, and the future will suck if we continue to reward incompetence and failure.

From Ford CEO on bailout opposition: Past is past:

Ford Motor Company chief executive Alan Mulally defended his company Tuesday against charges that Ford caused its own problems and said bailing out Detroit was essential to the U.S. economic recovery.
CNN’s headline is misleading. Nowhere in their article do they actually quote Mulally saying “past is past.”

I still say: “Screw Ford!”

If the government wants to give money to an auto maker they should give it to somebody like this, on the condition that they make their cars more affordable. Let’s try rewarding competence for a change.

Ford is a dinosaur. It deserves to become extinct. Chrysler and GM as well. Let them go bankrupt. Make more room for the innovative car companies. The ones that can make a profit without the government's help. Isn’t that how capitalism is supposed to work?

Once upon a time Ford was an innovative company. A company that was partially responsible for the bankruptcy of many buggy and wagon manufacturers. Back then, did the government try to bailout the buggy and wagon manufacturers? I don’t know. If they did, it was a stupid thing to do. You can’t stand in the way of progress and innovation.

How Much Change Will Obama Bring?

From Iraq War Supporters Have Bad Judgment Until They Work for Obama by W. James Antle, III:

So who does Obama turn to when he starts hiring people for major positions in his administration? Joe Biden for vice president, even though Biden voted to authorize the Iraq war. Rahm Emanuel for White House chief of staff, even though Emanuel supported the war and says he would have voted for it even if he knew there were no weapons of mass destruction.

Congressional Booty

Have you ever wondered why Congress likes to favor the rich so often?

From Frosh Could Join ‘50 Richest’ by Paul Singer and Jennifer Yachnin:

Last week’s elections have created room in one of Washington, D.C.’s most exclusive clubs: Six members of Roll Call’s “50 Richest Members of Congress” will be gone in January.

But fear not — the freshman class of 2009 is bringing reinforcements who appear ready to join the high-rollers on the Hill.

Candidates for Congress file financial disclosure forms that are similar to the annual disclosure forms filed by Members and that carry some of the same caveats. Personal property that is not held for investment purposes — such as second homes — is not disclosed, and the value of each asset is recorded in broad categories that make it impossible to estimate net worth with any precision.

Nevertheless, the disclosure forms do offer a way to compare relative worth of Members, providing a glimpse of some incoming Members who may be worth more than $5 million, which was the minimum for membership in the most recent top 50 list.

The departing Members on the list are: Rep. Robin Hayes (R-N.C.), whose minimum net worth of about $79 million made him the fifth-richest Member last year, but was not enough to win re-election; Sen. Gordon Smith (R-Ore.), who lost re- election by a razor-thin margin, but gets to keep the $29 million that made him the 10th-richest Member; Sen. Elizabeth Dole (R-N.C.), who lost her seat as well as her spot as 19th on the list with $16 million; Rep. Steve Pearce (R-N.M.), who gave up his House seat and 31st place at $8 million in an unsuccessful bid for the Senate; Sen. John Warner (R-Va.) who retired, taking about $6 million in net worth that qualified him for 45th place; and Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.), who was No. 50 on the list with $5 million until he agreed last week to become chief of staff to President-elect Obama.
Read the rest here.

Monday, November 17, 2008

"Screw them"

From Saving Detroit by Greg Saunders:

When it comes to bailing out the auto industry, count me in the “let them starve” camp. The auto industry has been outsourcing American jobs for 25 years now with little regard for the devastated communities they’ve left in their wake (seriously, re-watch Roger & Me sometime). The big three have also used their lobbying might to oppose every environmental regulation in their sights. And on top of all of that, their cars suck. Bailing out the auto companies whose single-minded devotion to SUV’s made them blind to the hybrid revolution is like bailing out a record company that hasn’t had a hit since “The Macarena”. Screw them.
Read the rest here.

Screw them, let them starve, and let me get this straight.


Oh No! Thoughts From Socialists

From Barack Obama as a Ruling Class Candidate by Paul Street:

But, as The New York Times‘ editors certainly know, “they” still “put in who they want to put in” to no small extent. The predominantly white U.S. business and political establishment still makes sure that nobody who questions dominant domestic and imperial hierarchies and doctrines can make a serious (“viable”) run for higher office – the presidency, above all. It does this by denying adequate campaign funding (absolutely essential to success in an age of super-expensive, media-driven campaigns) and favorable media treatment (without which a successful campaign is unimaginable at the current stage of corporate media consolidation and power) to candidates who step beyond the narrow boundaries of elite opinion. Thanks to these critical electoral filters and to the legally mandated U.S. winner-take-all “two party” system, a candidate who even remotely questions corporate and imperial power is not permitted to make a strong bid for the presidency.

Barack Obama is no exception to the rule. Anyone who thinks he could have risen to power without prior and ongoing ruling class approval is living in a dream world.
Read more here.

From The U.S. Imperial Triangle and Military Spending by John Bellamy Foster, Hannah Holleman, and Robert W. McChesney:
The United States is unique today among major states in the degree of its reliance on military spending, and its determination to stand astride the world, militarily as well as economically. No other country in the post–Second World War world has been so globally destructive or inflicted so many war fatalities. Since 2001, acknowledged U.S. national defense spending has increased by almost 60 percent in real dollar terms to a level in 2007 of $553 billion. This is higher than at any point since the Second World War (though lower than previous decades as a percentage of GDP). Based on such official figures, the United States is reported by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) as accounting for 45 percent of world military expenditures. Yet, so gargantuan and labyrinthine are U.S. military expenditures that the above grossly understates their true magnitude, which, as we shall see below, reached $1 trillion in 2007.

Externally, these are necessary expenditures of world empire. Internally, they represent, as Michal Kalecki was the first to suggest, an imperial triangle of state-financed military production, media propaganda, and real/imagined economic-employment effects that has become a deeply entrenched, and self-perpetuating feature of the U.S. social order.
Today the enormous weight of Washington’s war machine has not prevented it from being stretched to its limits while becoming bogged down in Iraq and Afghanistan. Although still capable of great destruction, the United States is significantly limited in its ability to deploy massive force to achieve its ends whenever and wherever it wishes. The dream of Pax Americana, first presented by John F. Kennedy at the height of the Cold War, has turned into the nightmare of Pox Americana in the years of waning U.S. dominance. The role the media monopoly has assumed in recent years in the promotion of war propaganda has contributed to the rapid growth of a media reform movement, which is now challenging the concentration of communications in the United States.

There is no doubt that a society that supports its global position and social order through $1 trillion a year in military spending, most likely far exceeding that of all the other countries in the world put together, unleashing untold destruction on the world, while faced with intractable problems of inequality, economic stagnation, financial crisis, poverty, waste, and environmental decline at home, is a society that is ripe for change. It is our task to change it.
From Notes from the Editors:
In the Notes from the Editors for the September issue of Monthly Review (written in late July) we asked why, with the United States bailing out the financial sector of the economy to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars, there was no public outrage. As we observed at that time, “In the end there seems to be no satisfactory explanation for lack of popular protest over a series of ad hoc grants showering hundreds of billions of dollars of public money on the masters of finance, collectively the richest group of capitalists on the planet. And that raises the question: Is this outrage present nonetheless, growing underground, unheard and unseen? Will it suddenly burst forth, like some old mole, unforeseen and in ways unimagined?” The collapse of Lehman Brothers on September 15, the resulting freezing up of credit markets, U.S. Secretary of Treasury Henry Paulson’s emergency plan for a $700 billion bailout of financial firms, offering “cash for trash,” i.e., proposing to buy up the toxic waste of virtually worthless mortgage-backed securities at taxpayer expense—quickly answered our question. When the U.S. Treasury got into the act with its bailout proposal, requiring Congressional authorization (previously the Federal Reserve had led the way in bailouts, to the point that treasury securities had sunk to just over half of the Fed’s assets, as we explained in September), all hell finally broke loose. Suddenly, the public outrage that had been growing beneath the surface burst forth. The U.S. capitalist class was abruptly confronted with a major political as well as economic crisis.
Read the rest here.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Let Me Get This Straight

The big three automakers (Ford, GM, and Chrysler) are hurting because they don’t know how to sell cars anymore. To me, this means that they aren’t that important to the economy anymore. Or at the very least that their importance is diminishing.

The big three automakers (Ford, GM, and Chrysler) are hurting because they don’t know how to sell cars anymore. To the United States government, this means that they are so important to the economy that taxpayers should bail them out.

The taxpayers no longer want their products, why should we be forced to give them our money? So that they continue to produce automobiles that we no longer want to (and/or can’t afford to) buy?

If the feds are going to force us to give our hard-earned money to the automakers, can’t we at least get a new car in return?

It makes no sense to reward incompetence and failure. We did that already with George W. Bush and look what we got in return. More incompetence and failure.

Break The Bailout

From Break the Bailout:

Take a stand with us as we deliver "Bailout Blowback" to our elected officials who supported this legislation.

Together we'll educate voters about what the bailouts really mean. We'll go door to door, run television and radio ads, hold marches and protests, and make the news.

What an incredible opportunity the bankers and congress have given to us... the outrage of We, the People! Join us, come together with us as a community of Americans demanding accountability, and redirect that impotent outrage into something positive for America. Let's Break the Bailout!

Alice Walker Writes To Barack Obama

From Wikipedia:

Alice Malsenior Walker (born February 9, 1944) is an American author, self-declared feminist and womanist - the latter a term she herself coined to make special distinction for the experiences of women of color. She has written at length on issues of race and gender, and is most famous for the critically acclaimed novel The Color Purple, for which she won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.
From An Open Letter to Barack Obama by Alice Walker:
Nov. 5, 2008

Dear Brother Obama,

You have no idea, really, of how profound this moment is for us. Us being the black people of the Southern United States. You think you know, because you are thoughtful, and you have studied our history. But seeing you deliver the torch so many others before you carried, year after year, decade after decade, century after century, only to be struck down before igniting the flame of justice and of law, is almost more than the heart can bear. And yet, this observation is not intended to burden you, for you are of a different time, and, indeed, because of all the relay runners before you, North America is a different place. It is really only to say: Well done. We knew, through all the generations, that you were with us, in us, the best of the spirit of Africa and of the Americas. Knowing this, that you would actually appear, someday, was part of our strength. Seeing you take your rightful place, based solely on your wisdom, stamina and character, is a balm for the weary warriors of hope, previously only sung about.

I would advise you to remember that you did not create the disaster that the world is experiencing, and you alone are not responsible for bringing the world back to balance. A primary responsibility that you do have, however, is to cultivate happiness in your own life. To make a schedule that permits sufficient time of rest and play with your gorgeous wife and lovely daughters. And so on. One gathers that your family is large. We are used to seeing men in the White House soon become juiceless and as white-haired as the building; we notice their wives and children looking strained and stressed. They soon have smiles so lacking in joy that they remind us of scissors. This is no way to lead. Nor does your family deserve this fate. One way of thinking about all this is: It is so bad now that there is no excuse not to relax. From your happy, relaxed state, you can model real success, which is all that so many people in the world really want. They may buy endless cars and houses and furs and gobble up all the attention and space they can manage, or barely manage, but this is because it is not yet clear to them that success is truly an inside job. That it is within the reach of almost everyone.

I would further advise you not to take on other people's enemies. Most damage that others do to us is out of fear, humiliation and pain. Those feelings occur in all of us, not just in those of us who profess a certain religious or racial devotion. We must learn actually not to have enemies, but only confused adversaries who are ourselves in disguise. It is understood by all that you are commander in chief of the United States and are sworn to protect our beloved country; this we understand, completely. However, as my mother used to say, quoting a Bible with which I often fought, "hate the sin, but love the sinner." There must be no more crushing of whole communities, no more torture, no more dehumanizing as a means of ruling a people's spirit. This has already happened to people of color, poor people, women, children. We see where this leads, where it has led.
Read the rest here.

Bible Verse For Sunday 11-16-08

And Ba'laam rose up in the morning, and saddled his ass, and went with the princes of Moab.

And God's anger was kindled because he went: and the angel of the Lord stood in the way for an adversary against him. Now he was riding upon his ass, and his two servants were with him.

And the ass saw the angel of the Lord standing in the way, and his sword drawn in his hand: and the ass turned aside out of the way, and went into the field: and Ba'laam smote the ass, to turn her into the way.

But the angel of the Lord stood in a path of the vineyards, a wall being on this side, and a wall on that side.

And when the ass saw the angel of the Lord, she thrust herself unto the wall, and crushed Ba'laam's foot against the wall: and he smote her again.

And the angel of the Lord went further, and stood in a narrow place, where was no way to turn either to the right hand or to the left.

And when the ass saw the angel of the Lord, she fell down under Ba'laam: and Ba'laam's anger was kindled, and he smote the ass with a staff.

And the Lord opened the mouth of the ass, and she said unto Ba'laam, What have I done unto thee, that thou hast smitten me these three times?

And Ba'laam said unto the ass, Because thou hast mocked me: I would there were a sword in mine hand, for now would I kill thee.

And the ass said unto Ba'laam, Am not I thine ass, upon which thou hast ridden ever since I was thine unto this day? was I ever wont to do so unto thee? And he said, Nay.
What the hell? A talking ass?

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Is It All That Oil That Makes Bush So Slimy?

From In Final Days, Bush Pushes for Iraq's Oil by Maya Schenwar:

As the Bush administration rumbles to an end, it is pushing with increasing urgency for a commitment to a long-term US presence in Iraq. Though the military aspect of this "commitment" has garnered substantial publicity, the administration is equally invested in the economic aspect: securing US control over Iraqi oil before Bush leaves office, according to experts in the field.
Many Iraqis fear that the Bush administration's last-ditch efforts to gain control of their oil will leave their resources in the hands of the US for decades to come.
Read the rest here.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Your Tax Dollars At Work

Why does AIG think that any of its workers are “valuable”?

From AIG to Pay Millions To Top Workers by Carol D. Leonnig:

American International Group plans to pay out $503 million in deferred compensation to some of its top employees, saying it must tap the funds to keep valuable workers from exiting the troubled insurance giant.

News of the payments to top AIG talent comes as the federal government has just put more money into saving the company from bankruptcy, beefing up the total public commitment to $152 billion. Meanwhile, members of Congress are questioning the company's expenditures -- including lavish business trips to resorts -- during a time when taxpayers are on the hook for the bailout.
Read the rest here.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Seven Days Of Sex

Didn’t God say six days of sex, and then a day of rest?

From Texas pastor to issue 7-day sex challenge by the Associated Press:

The pastor of a megachurch says he will challenge married congregants during his sermon Sunday to have sex for seven straight days — and he plans to practice what he preaches.

“We’re going to give it a try,” said the Rev. Ed Young, who has four children with his wife of 26 years.

Young, 47, said he believes society promotes promiscuity and he wants to reclaim sex for married couples. Sex should be a nurturing, spiritual act that strengthens marriages, he said.

“God says sex should be between a married man and a woman,” Young said. “I think it’s one of the greatest things you can do for your kids because so goes the marriage, so goes the family.”
So. Have sex. Do it for the kids. And if you’re gay or sleeping around, well screw you, there’s just no way you can have sex for seven days straight. It’s in the Bible someplace, I’m sure.

Isn’t it kind of blasphemous to go for seven days, when God needed to rest after six? By the way, why did someone who is all-powerful need to rest?

Don’t miss the seven days of sex challenge. Why? I’m not sure. Won’t there be another seven days coming along again very soon? It seems to me that you could have sex seven days in a row any time you want to.

There is more that I could say about all of this, but it sort of creeps me out to think about it, and it would creep me out even more to write about it.

What would Jesus do?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Atheists Do More Than Just Vote

As I’ve pointed out before, atheists vote. (If you follow the link, trust me, the part about atheists voting is in there somewhere.) They also make political contributions.

From Dole's mistake: 'Godless' ad drove donors, voters to Hagan by Lisa Zagaroli:

It's no surprise to Steve Lowe that being an atheist is considered taboo.

But when the head of the Washington Area Secular Humanists saw Sen. Elizabeth Dole's "godless" campaign ad, he did something he'd done only once before — he sent money to a political candidate.

Turns out, Sen.-elect Kay Hagan got 3,600 contributions within 48 hours of Dole airing of the controversial ad, which centered on Hagan's attendance at a fund-raiser at the Boston home of someone active in the atheist community. The Democrat from Greensboro had immediately used the "godless" ad as an e-mail fund-raising tool, and it paid off.

"I told Hagan's campaign, 'This is the reason you're getting money from me — I want you to know this is not hurting you, this has helped you,'" said Lowe said, who gave $50 to Hagan and called Dole, R-N.C., several times to complain.
Lowe, the Washington atheist, said he gave money unsolicited because he was upset that Dole would suggest a candidate was unqualified or "unworthy" due to associating with people who don't believe in God.

"It was so offensive to me," said Lowe, who was unveiling an unrelated ad campaign with other atheist leaders Tuesday at the National Press Club.

In that campaign, Washington buses will have signs that say, "Why believe in a god? Just be good for goodness' sake."
You can read about one groups reaction to those bus ads here, where the concept of irony seems to have not occurred to the chairman of a group called In God We Trust. He attacks the bus ads claiming that they “are a deliberate attack on American traditions, beliefs and customs.” What could be more American than freedom of speech? In God we trust, and God said that atheists don’t have freedom of speech.

Doomed, Or Not Doomed?

Is it the end of the world?

From Time To Batten Down The Hatches by Thomas C. Scott:

My general advice to everybody is the same: Start, right now, battening down the hatches. We're in for an extended period of financial stress and readjustment. I tell clients that even if they think they're OK; even if they can pay their bills; even if their companies have no foreseeable layoffs; they should take steps right now to secure their immediate and long-term futures.

Cut out discretionary spending, downsize, think twice about that new car. If you're having trouble with house payments, give it up now. Walk away and let it go into foreclosure. This is not going to end quickly.
Or is it an opportunity to make some money?

From How Your Portfolio Will Recover by Chuck Saletta:
If anything, the Wall Street Panic of 2008 means you have an even better chance of seeing some extraordinary long-term returns.
In other words, the more the overall market has been hammered, the better your chances of profiting as it recovers.
I’m listening to the voices of experience here (the youngster at 78) and here (the other youngster at 94). I have a feeling that they know what they are talking about.

They Don't Have A Clue, Do They?

Clueless. How often can that word be applied to the Bush administration?

From Paulson changes tack on financial rescue by Greg Robb:

Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson laid out details for the next stage of the government's financial-market rescue package Wednesday, announcing that he has shelved the original plan to buy troubled mortgage assets while turning his attention to nonbank financial institutions and consumer finance.

In a broad and deep review of the controversial $700 billion effort, Paulson defended the steps taken to date, but in the same breath said that financial markets remain fragile and that the focus must remain on "recovery and repair."
Alex Merk, president of Palo Alto Calif.-based Merk Investments, a mutual-fund firm, said that market participants were frustrated with Paulson's communication skills and changing tactics.

"He's been flip-flopping on every plan and it doesn't look like he has a plan," Merk said in an interview.

According to Merk, the rescue plan is failing to get banks to lend money, and that holders of mortgage assets who had been hoping to sell to the government at a good price have now seen these hopes dashed.

Earlier Wednesday, federal bank regulators issued a joint statement jawboning banks to start lending money to consumers. But Merk said that there are many factors that are making banks hoard capital.

"They don't trust their own balance sheets, and why lend to consumers when the consumer sector is going down the drain?" he commented.
Bush can’t leave soon enough. Not only is his administration immoral and incompetent, it is totally clueless.

Those Damn Humanist Braggarts

From UN Affiliated Atheist Group Launches Ad Campaign Targeting God and Christmas:

The national advocacy group In God We Trust today blasted the atheist American Humanist Association for its ad campaign mocking the Christmas holiday and American's who believe in God. The ad campaign asks, "Why believe in a god? Just be good for goodness sake," and will be placed on Washington, DC city buses.

"These ads are a deliberate attack on American traditions, beliefs and customs by a United Nation's affiliated group that espouses a radical anti-American agenda and is funded by a zealot who believes that the U.S. is a backwards nation full of imbeciles," says In God We Trust Chairman Council Nedd.

The American Humanist Association brags on its website that it is an official U.N. Non Governmental Organization (NGO) and works with the U.N.'s Department of Public Information. According to the AHA, its mission is to, "Support and promote the work of the United Nations, actively engage in lobbying for the UN and our own organization's objectives with our national governments . . ."
Does God tell these people to resort to name calling? Or do they think of that particular Christian value all on their own?
"This ad campaign is yet another attempt by America-hating snobs to mock and attack our nation's traditions and culture" says Nedd. "The AHA is not some harmless little atheist group. These people hate America and they are working with our nation's enemies to attack our heritage."
Oh ye of little faith. Oh ye of so much fear.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Concept Of An Open Door

Does Sarah Palin rely on God for everything? Does he tell her when to have sex?

From Palin: ‘I’ll plow through’ if political door opens by Gene Johnson:

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, amid speculation she’ll run for president in four years, blamed Bush administration policies for the defeat last week of the GOP ticket and prayed she wouldn’t miss “an open door” for her next political opportunity.

“I’m like, OK, God, if there is an open door for me somewhere, this is what I always pray, I’m like, don’t let me miss the open door,” Palin said in an interview with Fox News on Monday. “And if there is an open door in ‘12 or four years later, and if it is something that is going to be good for my family, for my state, for my nation, an opportunity for me, then I’ll plow through that door.”
Is it necessary to “plow through” an open door? Perhaps Ms. Palin’s subconscious is telling her that the door has already been closed.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Is Bush Actually A Socialist?

Is George W. Bush a socialist? Is George W. Bush a fascist? Did George W. Bush purposely destroy the United States economy so that the government would have to nationalize everything? What does it mean to nationalize a bank?

From The Financial Crisis: Will the U.S. Nationalize the Banks? by Dan La Botz:

The economy is already in a recession. Whatever the ultimate bailout plan, the financial situation could well continue to unravel, curtail credit, and shrink the broader economy, leading to a deep recession or depression. The U.S. Congress, both Democrats and Republicans, might then be forced -- despite their deep aversion to any form of government ownership -- to not only bail out the banks but to buy them. The increasingly popular sentiment that the bankers should be made to pay for the crisis opens the door to the notion of nationalization of the banks. What would it mean to have the government own the banks?

Historically the Populists, various labor parties, and the Socialist and Communist left have raised the slogan of nationalization of the banks as part of a process of bringing about socialism. Their argument has been that if the banks were owned by the government, and the government were controlled by the people, we could democratically plan an economy to meet the needs of all. Nationalization of the banks would form part of a plan of socialization of the economy -- banks and corporations, mines and factories, airlines and railroads -- brought under the control of a combination of citizens, workers, and consumers. We would put our children, the elderly and the infirm first, and organize the economy to provide jobs, housing, health care, education, and retirement benefits for all. Bank nationalizations in reality, however, have usually just been a stage in the boom-bust cycles of modern economies, a period when the state lends its strength to finance to see it through hard times, and once finance has recuperated, the state returns it to its private owners so they can continue to reap the benefits of wealth plus interest.
Read more here.

From U.S. is getting a socialist economy by Gwynne Dyer:
After Comrade George W. Bush nationalized the two giants of the U.S. mortgage market, Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, earlier this month, Anatole Kaletsky wrote in the Times of London that "the most capitalist administration ever, in the world's most capitalist country, (has) decided to wipe out the private owners of its biggest and most important financial companies and replace them with state-appointed bureaucrats."

Wikipedia defines "nationalization" as "the act of taking an industry or assets into the public ownership of a national government. It is a central theme of certain brands of estate socialist' policy that the means of production, distribution and exchange, should be owned by the state ... Nationalization may occur with or without compensation to the former owners. If it takes place without compensation it is a case of expropriation."
Read the rest here.

From Yet another wignut pundit claims Bush is a “socialist” by Paul:
Since we socialists can’t seem to agree on even the colour of shit, there are about as many different interpretations of socialism as there are socialists. But the one thing that we have in common (along with some anarchists such as Noam Chomsky) is that we believe that the state can (and should) be used for a time to curtail the power of capitalists, to remove them from their position of ridiculous power and to redress the gross imbalance in wealth that they have accumulated for themselves while 18 million people (3 times 9/11) die globally every year due to poverty.

Fascists on the other hand believe in using the power of the state to preserve and enhance the power of capitalists (see, for instance, the collusion between Nazi Germany and the infamous Krupp family or Mussolini’s Corporatist régime) at the expense of workers.

I know, I know, it’s hard. They both deal with the state AND capitalists! It’s so confusing. But here’s an easy mnemonic device to help remember the difference between the two for next time.

Saying that Bush’s fascist move this week is actually the same thing as “socialism” just because it involves the state and capitalists is a bit like saying that cancer-causing cigarettes are the same thing as chemotherapy because they both involve cancer and its spread.
Are there wignuts out there, or is that just a spelling error? Paul definitely thinks outside of the box. I’m not sure that I agree with him, but I find what he has written about the financial crisis to be interesting. What do you think? Is all of this socialism or fascism? Or neither?

Paul has a link to this video. I assume the wignut/wingnut pundit he refers to is Andrew Sullivan:

Both Sullivan and Naomi Klein bring up some good points. One thing that bothers me about Sullivan’s point about personal responsibility is his denial of outside pressure. The advertising business is based on outside pressure. It wouldn’t be as large of an industry as it is if outside pressure didn’t work. People were inundated with outside pressure to use credit for all kinds of things. And after all the problems that going into too much debt have caused for all of us, the outside pressure still continues. My home loan is with Countrywide. Nearly every month I receive a letter telling me how much available home equity I have, and asking me if I am interested in refinancing. I just received another one the other day.

From Bush Embraces Obama’s Socialism by Cliff Kincaid:
The point was that Obama is a socialist. Biden called the accusation “ridiculous.”

The problem for the Republican ticket of John McCain and Sarah Palin is that their fellow Republican, President George W. Bush, may do more damage to American-style capitalism during his last months in office than Obama could ever do in a four-year term as president.

In short, we already have a socialist president―and his name is Bush.
The irony is that the same socialist process begun by the Republican president, Bush, could be dramatically expanded under a Democratic President, Obama. This time, the “bailouts” and “rescues” will be global in nature and used to benefit the rest of the world, using U.S. tax dollars.

The inevitable result will be global government financed by global taxes. The last time this was tried in America was when King George attempted to impose taxes on what became the founders of the greatest country in human history, the United States of America.

The cry of “no taxation without representation” led to a revolution.
I find all of this to be very interesting, but it does make my head hurt.

I plead ignorance. I really don’t know what the solution is to the financial crisis. What scares me is that either the people in charge of fixing things know as much, or less, than I do. Or they know what they’re doing, and the only people that will benefit from their solutions are the rich and powerful. Either way, the word “screwed” comes to mind.

I also plead confusion. Is George W. Bush a radical right-wing nut (my definition) or is he, as described by Andrew Sullivan) a left-wing socialist?

Maybe he is simply an immoral, fascist asshole.

But wait, there’s more! It appears that perhaps “the people in charge of fixing things know as much, or less, than I do.”

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Peace Be With You

I wonder what the fighting was all about? Something religious, or something secular?

From Monks brawl before religious ceremony by Shira Medding:

An unusual sight greeted Jerusalem police as they entered one of Christianity's holiest sites Sunday morning: dozens of monks punching and kicking each other in a massive brawl.

Monks from the Greek Orthodox and Armenian denominations were preparing for a ceremony at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in the Old City when a disagreement led to a full-fledged fist fight.
Read the rest here.

The only useful purpose of religion is to divide us. And that’s not very useful.

God On Trial

Tonight, as part of their Masterpiece Contemporary series, PBS is broadcasting God on Trial. Here are descriptions from the PBS website:

Faced with the terrors of Auschwitz, prisoners put God on trial for abandoning His chosen people. Antony Sher, Dominic Cooper, and Stellan Skårsgard star in this moving drama.

Why is there so much suffering in the world and what kind of God would allow it to happen? Universal questions about faith and philosophy are at the heart of God on Trial, which was inspired by the legend that a group of concentration camp prisoners conducted a mock trial against the Almighty God. From all walks of life, a physicist, a glove maker, rabbis, a law professor and at least one criminal weigh the evidence and offer thoughtful arguments taken from history, science, theology and personal experience.

Bible Verse For Sunday 11-09-08

And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day.

And when he saw that he prevailed not against him, he touched the hollow of his thigh; and the hollow of Jacob's thigh was out of joint, as he wrestled with him.

And he said, Let me go, for the day breaketh. And he said, I will not let thee go, except thou bless me.

And he said unto him, What is thy name? And he said, Jacob.

And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed.

And Jacob asked him, and said, Tell me, I pray thee, thy name. And he said, Wherefore is it that thou dost ask after my name? And he blessed him there.

And Jacob called the name of the place Peni'el: for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.

And as he passed over Penu'el the sun rose upon him, and he halted upon his thigh.

Therefore the children of Israel eat not of the sinew which shrank, which is upon the hollow of the thigh, unto this day; because he touched the hollow of Jacob's thigh in the sinew that shrank.
What the hell? Why did Jacob and God wrestle? Was Jacob winning? How strong is God anyway that a mere mortal could face him and prevail? Why didn’t Jacob want more from God than just God’s blessing? Why the hell did God change Jacob’s name? Why is it that God doesn’t show his face anymore? What was it that was so special about these Old Testament guys, were they all high on something and hallucinating? If you eat “of the sinew which shrank,” do you go to hell?

Saturday, November 8, 2008

“We don’t have a god telling us what to do”

From In the name of no father by Rob Cullivan:

However, she and her atheist companions agree on one thing – morality doesn’t depend on theism.

“What keeps a society safe and running smoothly is what morality is all about,” Knox says. “I think what we have to answer to is our society and how much you want to be part of that society.”

Like Tuppman and Smythe, Knox questions relying on a higher power to make oneself a good person.

“When you do not have daddy in the sky telling you what to do and waiting for you to be responsible, you take responsibility for yourself,” she says.


To varying degrees, all three people enjoyed comedian Bill Maher’s film “Religulous,” still in theaters. Maher’s movie takes satirical aim at Western monotheistic religions as well as such beliefs as Scientology. On the other hand, they all took issue with Maher’s ridicule of believers.

“As a Unitarian, I think we would not ridicule somebody else for their beliefs,” Knox says. “We’re humanitarian. We believe in compassion.”

Which is one reason why Tuppman, for example, says she’s never liked the Christian story of a loving God sending Jesus to die on the cross for our sins, nor for that matter, the doctrine of original sin, the idea humans are conceived in a state lacking holiness resulting from Adam and Eve’s fall.

“I didn’t ask to be born, and I thought why should I have guilt on top of it,” Tuppman says.

Although all three believe humans suffer because of ignorant religious beliefs and have chafed under theocratic governments, they acknowledged that when militant atheists are in control – for example, in the former Soviet Union – humanity doesn’t always advance either.

Knox adds she opposes coercion in general, whether in the name of God or the name of no god.

“Separation of church and state is the best approach in the world,” she says.
There are so many right-wing religious fundamentalists who equate atheism with communism, yet it is obviously not true that they are the same thing. I believe that what Carol Knox says so well is true of most atheists, that we oppose “coercion in general, whether in the name of God or the name of no god.”

Blind obedience to communism (or any other political organization) or to God (or any form of deity) is not the answer.

I wish that we could all find common ground. I believe that we may agree on more things than we realize. I also believe that some of the things that atheists believe can be found in the Bible, and some of the things that right-wing religious fundamentalists believe can be found in socialism. To throw the baby out with the bath water is not very smart. Condemnation of the whole of something just because you disagree with a part of it does not seem very wise. Let’s take the good out of things wherever we can find it. Tolerance does not mean submission, and tolerance does not mean silence.

Tolerance Doesn't Mean Submission

From What is an “atheist community”? by PZ Myers:

One of the essentials of community building is the construction of principles of tolerance. We don't have to agree with each other on everything, nor can we, and as we all know, freethinkers are going to be especially diverse and fractious. Learn to take the best that each subset of us offers — you do not have to swallow all of the Communist party line to see that some of what they say is useful. You do not have to be a member of the RRS to see that we share some common goals, and that we can work together. Heck, there are Christians who share some of our goals (secular government, religious liberty, good science education, and so forth), and we can and must work together with them. And at the same time, as skeptics and science-minded people, the principles of tolerance we adopt are going to have to include frank disagreement and criticism of ourselves and others. That should be a central part of who we are, that we do not muzzle our ideas and that we can go up to our fellow atheists and say, "you're wrong" on just about anything, but without simultaneously implying that they're going to be ostracized from the community.

Friday, November 7, 2008

My Word Choice Is "Immoral", But What Do I Know

“Don’t follow leaders
Watch the parkin’ meters” Bob Dylan

From Historians: Bush presidency 'battered,' 'incompetent,' 'unlucky' by Ed Hornick:

With record low approval ratings and intense criticism for his handling of the Iraq war, Hurricane Katrina and the economy, the word most used to label George W. Bush's presidency will be "incompetent," historians say.

"Right now there is not a lot of good will among historians. Most see him as a combination of many negative factors," said Julian Zelizer, a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School.

"He is seen as incompetent in terms of how he handled domestic and foreign policy. He is seen as pushing for an agenda to the right of the nation and doing so through executive power that ignored the popular will," he added.

But like so many presidents before him, Bush's reputation could change with time.

Harvard University political history scholar Barbara Kellerman said when President-elect Barack Obama takes over in January, people may view Bush in a new light.

"I think it's possible when people have stopped being as angry at the Bush administration as they are now ... that they will realize that some of this is just ... the luck of the draw."

Kellerman, author of the book "Bad Leadership: What It Is, How It Happens, Why It Matters," noted that Bush has not had luck on his side for the past eight years.

"He [Bush] has been a quite unlucky president. Certain things happened on his watch that most people don't have to deal with -- a 9/11, a [Hurricane] Katrina, the financial crisis, being three obvious examples," she said.

"And yet they happened on his watch. He is being blamed," she said.
Read the rest here.

Barbara Kellerman is insane, if she thinks that the atrociousness of Bush’s choices as president can be explained away by bad luck! Yes, bad things happened while Bush was president, and he chose to make them worse by his actions and his words. Not to mention the fact that he created more bad things, again by his actions and his words, when he didn’t have to.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt had the Great Depression, Pearl Harbor, and World War II to deal with. Did these things make him a bad president?

Why does Harvard have this idiot on their faculty?

Is The "God Gap" Where God Buys His Clothes?

From US election: Obama narrows 'God gap' and attracts religious US voters by Suzanne Goldenberg:

Barack Obama managed to narrow the "God gap" with Republicans in the election, performing better among every religious group than Democrats in 2004, it emerged today.

The gains for Obama among religious voters are a testament to an ambitious outreach effort - one that managed to overcome a disastrous slip by Obama on the critical issue of abortion.

Obama, in his election strategy, had made a concerted effort to reach out to religious voters. Unlike other Democratic candidates, Obama is comfortable with the language of the Bible.

On the campaign trail, he regularly shared his conversion story, and spoke about issues of sin and personal responsibility.

The Democrat became a Christian in his 20s after being raised outside organised religion.
Read the rest here.

Surly Mood

Barney, the First Dog, has bitten a news reporter. Supposedly the dog was in a “surly mood.” Having to put up with George W. Bush seems to put everyone in a surly mood, even animals.

From First Dog takes a bite at White House reporter by Kathleen Koch and Erika Dimmler:

President-elect Barack Obama's daughters have been promised a puppy for the White House — President Bush's dog, Barney, demonstrated his technique for dealing with the media Thursday…sinking his teeth into Reuters TV White House correspondent Jon Decker.

Call it a case of biting the hand that covers you.

First Dog Barney and his handler were out on the front lawn for a walk when Reuters' Decker and another reporter approached.

"He looked very nice and friendly," says Decker. "I bent down to pet him and he just snapped at me."
Read the rest here.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Did Anyone Do This When Bush Became President?

Slim Odds For Sara Palin

From History suggests Palin's political future is dim by Joshua Spivak:

Though Sarah Palin's vice presidential run came to a losing end on Tuesday, many of her supporters are already touting her as a candidate in 2012.

Despite her poor performance in the media and in some polls, Palin, unlike McCain or the other Republican primary candidates, managed to excite the party's conservative base.

But history has a cruel lesson for anyone counting on her presidential aspirations: the losing vice presidential candidate has usually met the end of the line for a national office run.

Based on recent history, this may seem counterintuitive. After all, the winning vice presidential candidate is handed a gilded path to the nomination. Since 1952, seven of 11 vice presidents have gained their parties' presidential nomination in the next election. There is an obvious reason for this -- the vice president is running effectively as incumbent, cloaked under the mantle of the previous president. The vice president has also managed to stay in the public eye for the last four or eight years, gaining invaluable name recognition and respect from the party faithful.

But the losers have a sadder story to tell. Throughout the entirety of American history, only three losing vice presidential candidates have managed to ever come back and win their parties' nomination. And all three have exceptional stories.
Read the rest here.

Private Equity Myth

From Myth-busting Blackstone by David Weidner:

The myth that private equity firms make their money from making portfolio companies leaner and meaner is in danger of getting busted.

Blackstone Group LP posted a net loss of $340.3 million, or $1.27 a share, compared with a net loss of $113.2 million, or 44 cents a share, a year earlier. Revenue was negative $160.3 million, compared with $526.7 million a year ago amid lower values for its portfolio holdings across its corporate private equity, real estate and alternative asset management businesses. See full story.

The losses suggest that despite the industry's claims to the contrary, private equity companies - especially firms as big as Blackstone - are as vulnerable as their corporate counterparts to the deep economic crisis. In essence these firms are little more than souped-up conglomerates that enjoy a tremendous tax break because their portfolio companies are considered investments.
Read the rest here.

From Off To On

Shepherd Smith: Now that the election is over, Carl, tell us more about all those reports of infighting between McCain and Palin staffers.

Carl Cameron: Well, I wish I could have told you back at the time but all of it was put off the record until after the election. There was great concern in the McCain campaign that Sarah Palin lacked the degree of knowledgeability necessary to be a running mate, a vice president, and a heartbeat away from the presidency. We’re told by folks that she didn’t know what countries were in NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement, that being Canada, the US, and Mexico. We’re told she didn’t understand that Africa was a continent rather than a country just in itself ... a whole host of questions that caused serious problems about her knowledgeability. She got very angry at staff, thought that she was mishandled… was particularly angry about the way the Katie Couric interview went. She didn’t accept preparation for that interview when the aides say that that was part of the problem. And that there were times where she was hard to control emotionally there's talk of temper tantrums at bad news clippings…
Put off the record by whom? Why isn’t it off the record anymore? Did Carl Cameron and Fox News want another idiot to be president?

I Wouldn't Mind

Here is one of David Letterman’s reactions to Barack Obama’s presidential victory:

“Anybody mind if he starts a little early?”

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

A New Dawn, A New Day

Dignity. What a concept.

Why did John McCain wait until after he had lost to act dignified and presidential?

Apparently, the citizens of the United States of America took notice that Barack Obama has been dignified and presidential since he began his campaign… and things were no different last night.

Here is my favorite part of Barack Obama’s speech last night:

This election had many firsts and many stories that will be told for generations. But one that's on my mind tonight is about a woman who cast her ballot in Atlanta. She's a lot like the millions of others who stood in line to make their voice heard in this election, except for one thing: Ann Nixon Cooper is 106 years old.

She was born just a generation past slavery; a time when there were no cars on the road or planes in the sky; when someone like her couldn't vote for two reasons — because she was a woman and because of the color of her skin.

And tonight, I think about all that she's seen throughout her century in America — the heartache and the hope; the struggle and the progress; the times we were told that we can't and the people who pressed on with that American creed: Yes, we can.

At a time when women's voices were silenced and their hopes dismissed, she lived to see them stand up and speak out and reach for the ballot. Yes, we can.

When there was despair in the Dust Bowl and depression across the land, she saw a nation conquer fear itself with a New Deal, new jobs and a new sense of common purpose. Yes, we can.

When the bombs fell on our harbor and tyranny threatened the world, she was there to witness a generation rise to greatness and a democracy was saved. Yes, we can.

She was there for the buses in Montgomery, the hoses in Birmingham, a bridge in Selma and a preacher from Atlanta who told a people that "We Shall Overcome." Yes, we can.

A man touched down on the moon, a wall came down in Berlin, a world was connected by our own science and imagination. And this year, in this election, she touched her finger to a screen and cast her vote, because after 106 years in America, through the best of times and the darkest of hours, she knows how America can change. Yes, we can.

America, we have come so far. We have seen so much. But there is so much more to do. So tonight, let us ask ourselves: If our children should live to see the next century; if my daughters should be so lucky to live as long as Ann Nixon Cooper, what change will they see? What progress will we have made?
What will we give to the future? What a concept. In this day and age of the here and now, we need to think about and do something about the bigger picture. Knowing this is the first step.

What will the next one hundred years bring us? Most of us will never know. Hopefully we will move forward in seen and unforeseen ways that will make us more civilized and humane.

We do know what the last eight years have brought us. We have taken too many giant steps backwards. Our leaders have succeeded in making us all less human, less humane. Hopefully we can now begin to crawl out of the sewer that they have cast us in, and restore some dignity to the United States of America. That is my dream of a new tomorrow.

If you’re like me and you like to sprinkle your hopes and dreams with a dash or more of skepticism and cynicism, then might I recommend PZ Myers and Dennis Perrin. One of the things that I like about Obama is that he reminds us that progress is up to us. It is not all up to Barack Obama. We need to be active in the political process as well, beyond simply voting. It is also up to us to hold him accountable. This is as it should be. Let’s try to remember these things. Electing Obama is only the first step, there are many more to be taken.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Maybe She Voted For Obama, That Would Be Really Cool

From Who did Sarah Palin vote for? by Joan Walsh:

On MSNBC just now, Sarah Palin took a few questions from reporters clustered outside her Wasilla, Alaska, polling place. Unbelievably, she refused to tell them whom she voted for. Here's what she said: "I am also exercising my right to privacy, and I don't have to tell anybody who I vote for, nobody does, and that's really cool about America also." Verbatim.

The Best Thing About Today

George W. Bush is not on the ballot.

Religious Whack Job?

Is Sarah Palin a religious whack job? Let’s not forget that George W. Bush is a religious whack job. Sarah Palin appears to be even more of one than Bush is. Max Blumenthal has given us the information we need to decide the extent of Sarah Palin’s whackjobbery.

From Best of the ’08 Campaign V: Northern exposure by Scott Horton:

We see in some clips Palin delivering an address in which she equates religious missionary work with her political career. A series of vital political projects—ranging from the war in Iraq to a pipeline project—are described as being divinely ordained, and thus beyond discussion. In another clip, Bishop Thomas Muthee lays hands on Palin and prays, “Bring finances her way even for the campaign in the name of Jesus… Use her to turn this nation the other way around and to keep her safe from every form of witchcraft.” In another segment that Blumenthal recorded in the church, Muthee sermonizes about “the enemy,” using violent language. What these clips reveal is material to understanding Palin’s political and religious views. They suggest that the Wasilla congregation and Palin follow “dominionism,” a conviction that society must be governed exclusively by the law of God as set forth in the Bible. Biblical texts are to be construed and applied with a right-wing twist that reveals plenty of conservative social prejudices and little sensitivity to the original texts themselves. Moreover, dominionists share a millennial vision of the Rapture, coming great upheavals and political change leading to the creation of the Kingdom of God on earth. Dominionists do not embrace the separation of church and state, and tend to approach political issues from a highly dogmatic stance, often focused on particular charismatic individuals they see as ordained to govern. Indeed, dominionists widely embraced George W. Bush as an “anointed” leader whose decisions were beyond debate. They form a large chunk of the 20 percent rump group that continue to give Bush a positive performance evaluation. Blumenthal interviews one of Palin’s followers who equates her with Queen Esther, the biblical figure who bravely protected the Jews during the Babylonian Captivity.

I'm Voting For The Muslim Socialist

From Q&A: Ron Reagan:

Reagan: That's one of the more remarkable aspects of this, this whole Muslim thing, and Colin Powell addressed it the other day, I thought quite eloquently, when he said that, you know, as a matter of fact Barack Obama isn't Muslim, he happens to be Christian, but what if he was Muslim? You know, in America that's not supposed to make a difference. We don't have a religious test for public office in America. So if he were a Muslim it shouldn't make any difference to anybody. But of course, apparently it does.
Reagan: And "socialist." Yeah, you know. Apparently if you give money to oil companies it's not socialism, but if you give it to, you know, poor people or spread the wealth around then you're a socialist.

Jingoistic John

From Palin On Democrats: "Do They Think The Terrorists ... Are The Good Guys?" by Greg Sargent:

What American presidential campaign has been more crassly militaristic and jingoistic than this one? Bush in 2004 pales in comparison. TPM's resident trivia fanatic, Eric Kleefeld, suggests James Polk's 1844 campaign, based on an appeal to expand America's borders by force, or George Wallace's 1968 campaign, in which he chose as his running mate someone who helped pioneer carpet-bombing. Thoughts, anyone?

Should Obama win this thing, the depths McCain-Palin have sunk to will only make Obama's victory that much more rewarding and momentous.