Monday, December 31, 2007

Lost: $720 Billion. If Found, Please Return to Owner, Preferably in Cash



By Steven D. Levitt / NYT Freakonomics

According to the S&P/Case-Shiller index of housing prices, home prices have fallen by about 6 percent in the United States on average over the last twelve months. By my rough calculations, that means that home owners have lost about $720 billion in wealth as a consequence. That is about $2,400 for every person in America, and $18,000 for the average homeowner.

Relative to stock market declines, however, that loss of $720 billion over the course of the year doesn’t look quite so big. The total market capitalization of U.S. stock markets is the same order of magnitude as the total value of the housing market (between $10 and $20 trillion). In one week during October of 1987, the U.S. stock market lost over 30 percent of its value.

The $720 billion figure is also about the same magnitude as the amount of money the U.S. government has spent on the war in Iraq.

If you are a homeowner, how bad do you feel about this? You should feel pretty bad, but I’m guessing you would feel a lot worse in the following scenario: home prices did not fall at all last year, but one day you took $18,000 out of the bank to pay cash for a new car, and someone then stole your wallet with the $18,000 in it. At the end of the day, your wealth would be the same (down $18,000, either from depreciation of the value of your home or because the money was stolen), but one loss is psychologically far worse than the other.

The rest after the click ...

Jesus Was a Liberal and God is a Progressive



by Kim Mance / HuffPo

I'm sure when Jesus taught His followers to "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's," He didn't mean the separation of church and state. In fact, all those years spent in Sunday school made it pretty clear to me that Jesus was a huge fan of the way the Pharisees and Sadducees oppressively ruled over politics through their interpretation of religious doctrines.

And it's rather inspirational to think back to the many Gospel stories of the sick and dying asking Jesus to heal them. But the Son of God, in all His compassion, explained that without private medical insurance coverage, there was nothing He could do for them. It just wouldn't have been fair to the wealthy, or good for the economy.

And speaking of the economy, Jesus, of course, repeatedly taught His disciples that if they could just come up with a million-shekel idea, they wouldn't have to mooch off the kindness of others anymore. He wasn't really much into sharing. "God only helps those who help themselves," He said. Well, okay, maybe He didn't say that. But I'm sure He meant to. It's just a fluke that's not in the Bible.

The rest after the click ...

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Yes, Virginia, It CAN happen HERE

Naomi Wolf - (London) Guardian

Last autumn, there was a military coup in Thailand. The leaders of the coup took a number of steps, rather systematically, as if they had a shopping list. In a sense, they did. Within a matter of days, democracy had been closed down: the coup leaders declared martial law, sent armed soldiers into residential areas, took over radio and TV stations, issued restrictions on the press, tightened some limits on travel, and took certain activists into custody.

They were not figuring these things out as they went along. If you look at history, you can see that there is essentially a blueprint for turning an open society into a dictatorship. That blueprint has been used again and again in more and less bloody, more and less terrifying ways. But it is always effective. It is very difficult and arduous to create and sustain a democracy - but history shows that closing one down is much simpler. You simply have to be willing to take the 10 steps.

As difficult as this is to contemplate, it is clear, if you are willing to look, that each of these 10 steps has already been initiated today in the United States by the Bush administration.

Because Americans like me were born in freedom, we have a hard time even considering that it is possible for us to become as unfree - domestically - as many other nations. Because we no longer learn much about our rights or our system of government - the task of being aware of the constitution has been outsourced from citizens' ownership to being the domain of professionals such as lawyers and professors - we scarcely recognise the checks and balances that the founders put in place, even as they are being systematically dismantled. Because we don't learn much about European history, the setting up of a department of "homeland" security - remember who else was keen on the word "homeland" - didn't raise the alarm bells it might have.

It is my argument that, beneath our very noses, George Bush and his administration are using time-tested tactics to close down an open society. It is time for us to be willing to think the unthinkable - as the author and political journalist Joe Conason, has put it, that it can happen here. And that we are further along than we realise.

The rest following the click ...

My comment: I know. I know! I harp on this topic a lot. But, wither you agree with Naomi Wolf or disagree, it's important to read what she has to say. To disagree is fine, but it entails a responsibility to point out where her case is weak, where it doesn't hold water and where she totally misinterprets reality. That in order to do that, you have to read what she has to say.

Personally, I think she's dead on right.

Great Moments In Presidential Speeches


or check out the video here.

It would be funny if it weren't for the consequences.

Friday, December 28, 2007

An unguarded truth

"Our enemies...never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we."

– George W. Bush

The Challenge


or watch the video here ...

Learning a Little from History

"The People's Army"

Allison Kilkenny on HuffPo

It was a time when a demoralized population was subjected to corrupt elections, the spineless press was censored and subsidized by muscled partisan agents, outrageous interest rates implemented by suit-wearing pirates bankrupted citizens, and unfair mortgages left people homeless and desperate. Meanwhile, land concentration forced poor people off valuable property and ensured corporate profits continued to balloon unregulated.

The poor kept getting poorer, the rich kept getting richer, and all the while an elite class fought to reinforce arbitrary divides between the working class to keep them - the angry masses - at bay and squabbling among themselves.

The year was 1892. From this systematic abuse of the poor arose the People's Party, or the Populist Party, one of the original third parties in the history of the United States. Mainly farmers, the Populist Party bridged a divide and united two groups that many politicians saw as hopelessly and permanently estranged: northern Republicans and southern Democrats, the city-slickers and good ole' boys - white and black. If you want to be crude about it: the intellectual north and ass-backwards south.

At the time, Republicans were the ones who were anti-slavery. The Democratic southerners wanted a return to the "better time" where lavish plantations lined verdant cotton fields. Republican northerners wanted an eight-hour week day and streets that weren't lined with feces. Naturally, blacks liked the Republican party because 99.9% of them were a little nervous the crazy Democrats would enslave them again.

Think: red state-blue state, but turned on its head. It feels only vaguely unfamiliar, like a dream. Except, it happened. It happened in this very country 115 years ago.

More after the click ...

My comment: The first mistake most people make is to confuse "Conservative" and "Republican". There have been times in history when Republicans were Liberal and Democrats were Conservative ... though it may be hard to imagine that from where we are today.

It's amusing to have todays Republicans, who consider themselves Conservative, point to Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt as icons of their party when the two of them were actually representative of Liberal trends in American politics.

Lincoln freed the slaves and was opposed to "states rights" as it was presented by southern (conservative) Democrats. Roosevelt is noted for supporting unions and for "trust busting" which many on today's right would consider quite "anti-business".

It's amusing to watch people who've not cracked a history book (or, in many cases, a book of any kind) since high school try to wrap their heads around the realities of history.

Fleecing the Flock

'Gospel of wealth' facing scrutiny



By ERIC GORSKI, AP Religion Writer

The message flickered into Cindy Fleenor's living room each night: Be faithful in how you live and how you give, the television preachers said, and God will shower you with material riches.

And so the 53-year-old accountant from the Tampa, Fla., area pledged $500 a year to Joyce Meyer, the evangelist whose frank talk about recovering from childhood sexual abuse was so inspirational. She wrote checks to flamboyant faith healer Benny Hinn and a local preacher-made-good, Paula White.

Only the blessings didn't come. Fleenor ended up borrowing money from friends and payday loan companies just to buy groceries. At first she believed the explanation given on television: Her faith wasn't strong enough.

"I wanted to believe God wanted to do something great with me like he was doing with them," she said. "I'm angry and bitter about it. Right now, I don't watch anyone on TV hardly."

All three of the groups Fleenor supported are among six major Christian television ministries under scrutiny by a senator who is asking questions about the evangelists' lavish spending and possible abuses of their tax-exempt status.

More after the click ...

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Wisdom From The Founding Rationalists

What Jefferson and Adams Might Tell Mitt Romney

By David Ignatius / Washington Post

My Christmastime reading of the Adams-Jefferson letters was prompted by this year's most interesting political speech but one I also found troubling -- Mitt Romney's Dec. 6 speech on "Faith in America." It was a fine evocation of our twin heritage of religion and religious freedom, until he got to this ritual denunciation of the bogeymen known as secularists. "They seek to remove from the public domain any acknowledgment of God. Religion is seen as merely a private affair with no place in public life. It is as if they are intent on establishing a new religion in America -- the religion of secularism."

Anyone who reads Adams and Jefferson -- or for that matter, Benjamin Franklin, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton or other voices of the American Enlightenment -- can make their own judgment about what the Founders would say about Romney's broadside against secularism. My guess is that their response would be something like: "That is bunkum, sir."

More after the click ...

You Must Remember This

By WILLIAM FALK / New York Times

It was a year of miraculous events. President Bush invited Al Gore to the Oval Office for a friendly chat about global warming. France elected a president who likes and admires Americans. Eliot Spitzer discovered the virtue of humility. In mid-rant, Hugo Chávez was finally told to shut up. The cute little Canadian dollar — the “loonie” — became worth more than a greenback.

People rooted for Kevin Federline to get the kids. After electing 43 consecutive white male presidents, Americans seriously considered a woman, a black man and an Italian-American from New York on his third marriage.

Amid such strange occurrences, one could be excused for missing news of more subtle — but lasting — importance. Here are a few developments you haven’t heard the last of:

The rest after the click ...

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The Continuing War on Christmas



No!!! Wait!!! What's wrong with this picture?!?!?!

How to refute a Creationist with only a bucket of feces

MediaBloodhound's 2007 Fact or Fiction Challenge

The following are quotes and headlines culled from this past year at MediaBloodhound (keep in mind some were said/written prior to '07 but were noted here during the year). Some are real (fact) and some are from satirical articles (fiction) posted under "The Wounded-Courier." See if you can distinguish between the two. Take the 2007 Fact or Fiction Challenge:

1) "The real danger here for Democrats is looking overly beholden to the rule of law." - NBC's Tim Russert

2) “It was a bloodbath. I haven’t seen anything like it since Chevy Chase’s talk show.” - Anonymous reporter on Rich Little's White House Correspondents Dinner performance

3) "As I sit across from Barack Obama in his Senate office, I feel like Ingrid Bergman in 'The Bells of St. Mary’s,' when she plays a nun who teaches a schoolboy who’s being bullied how to box." - NY Times columnist Maureen Dowd on Barack Obama

Twenty seven more doozies following the click ...

King George XLIII


King George XLIII in George III's clothing.

by Dan DeWalt

To date, the most persuasive and productive arguments for impeachment have been based upon the Constitution, which is suffering most egregiously under this administration and Congress, and which expressly prescribes the remedy to be taken should these circumstances arise. And while these arguments are making headway in the halls of Congress, where impeachment must happen, the politicians who are supposed to represent us do not yet understand the depth and breadth of our disgust and dismay with their dereliction of duty. While a growing number have joined the call for impeachment, far too many are towing the identical Republican/Democratic party line of ignoring the Bush/Cheney administration's repeated constitutional violations.

When we last faced a King George who labored to: "subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our Constitution" by: "depriving us, in many cases, of the benefits of trial by jury: For transporting us beyond seas to be tried for pretended offenses," when we last found that "our repeated petitions have been answered only by repeated injury", we knew what conclusion to draw: "A prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a tyrant is unfit to be the ruler of a free people." These of course are quotes from the Declaration of Independence. And when this document was solemnly signed and made public, it had no legal standing whatsoever. It had no chance of succeeding against the world's greatest empire. It alienated the colonists still friendly to England. It drew a line that clearly demarcated the divide that already existed in colonial society. Those who signed it were branded as radicals and, in fact, made outlaws by virtue of their signatures.

The rest after the click ...

New Hapmshire Union Leader Undorses Romney

Another paper joins the undoresment lineup for Mitt:

And after a year of comparing Romney to McCain, of sizing up the two in person and in the media, Granite Staters are turning back to McCain. The former Navy pilot, once written off by the national media establishment, is now in a statistical dead heat with Romney here.

How could that be? Romney has all the advantages: money, organization, geographic proximity, statesman-like hair, etc.

But he lacks something John McCain has in spades: conviction.

The rest after the click ...

Political Rondup

McCain Campaign on Romney:

"Welcome to Mitt Romney's bizarro world, in which everyone is guilty of his sins. He didn't support Ronald Reagan. He didn't support President Bush's tax cuts. He raised taxes in Massachusetts by $700 million. He knows John McCain is gaining on him so he does what any small varmint gun totin,' civil rights marching, NRA endorsed fantasy candidate would do: he questions someone else's credibility. New Hampshire is on to you, Mitt. Give it a rest. It's Christmas."

On The New Republic.

My thought: Romney is in it for personal reasons and will say whatever he thinks will fly in order to get elected. He stands for everything (at one point or another in his career) and therefore stands for nothing. Clinton is accused of "triangulating" which, to my way of thinking, is simply a sophisticated way of pandering. Whatever the truth of that suggestion about Clinton might be, Romney doesn't raise to that level of sophistication.



Racial Undercurrent Is Seen in Clinton Campaign:

It has unfolded mostly under the radar. But an important development in the 2008 Democratic battle may be the building backlash among African Americans over comments from associates of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton that could be construed as jabs at Sen. Barack Obama's race.

These officials, including Clinton aides and prominent surrogates, have raised questions or dropped references about Obama's position on sentencing guidelines for crack vs. powder cocaine offenses; on his handgun control record; and on his admitted use of drugs as a youth. The context was always Obama's "electability." But the Illinois senator's campaign advisers said some African American leaders detect a pattern, and they believe it could erode Clinton's strong base of black support.

On The Washington Post site.

My thought: If it's part of a strategy, it's not working.



Rush Limbaugh takes on Huckabee:

"What was somewhat stunning about all this is that NO ONE in the GOP field, including advisers and staff, could possibly misread my 19-plus-year career the way Gov. Huckabee's D.C. supporter did," Limbaugh said. "Whoever said those things was essentially repeating the Democrat mantra of all these years: that I am just an entertainer, not an independent thinker, part of the Wall Street/D.C. axis. If it was someone on Gov. Huckabee's staff or support team, it was just silly, uninformed and thus curious."

On Politico.

My thought: "Thinkers" deal in ideas. Rush deals in ad hominem attacks, innuendo, invective, and vitriol. He has never had a "idea based thought" in his career. What ever he thinks about being a "thinker", he's an entertainer. Is he influential? Absolutely. So are gossip columnists is some circles ... but that doesn't make them "thinkers". Nor does it make their pronouncements worthy of consideration ... but that never cut any cheese with the "dittoheads" in Rush's fan club.



Firms that got big tax breaks gave bundle to Rudy Giuliani's campaigns:

Corporations that got multimillion-dollar sweetheart tax deals from former Mayor Rudy Giuliani have raised more than $1 million for his Senate and presidential bids, the Daily News has found.

When he was mayor, Giuliani doled out tax reductions to giant corporations far more aggressively than all other New York mayors since the city tax breaks emerged in the 1980s.

In numerous cases, Giuliani allowed corporations to move jobs to New Jersey or lay off large chunks of their workforce - and still reap the full benefits of sales tax exemptions, energy cost discounts and taxpayer-subsidized bonds.

from The Daily News.

My thought: Giuliani is all about the money, the money and personal power. Morals, ethics, the rule of law and the Constitution are all impediments to those goals as far as he's concerned. If you're surprised by supportable allegations of corruption on his watch, you just haven't been paying attention for the last 20 years.



Pollster.com Presidential Polling Trends - Updated 24/7

All the pretty (and not so pretty) pictures here.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

The Evangelical Rebellion

by Chris Hedges*

The rise of Mike Huckabee as a presidential candidate represents a seismic shift in the tactics, ideology and direction of the radical Christian right. Huckabee may stumble and falter in later primaries, but his right-wing Christian populism is here to stay. Huckabee represents a new and potent force in American politics, and the neocons and corporate elite, who once viewed the yahoos of the Christian right as the useful idiots, are now confronted with the fact that they themselves are the ones who have been taken for a ride. Members of the Christian right, recruited into the Republican Party and manipulated to vote against their own interests around the issues of abortion and family values, are in rebellion. They are taking the party into new, uncharted territory. And they presage, especially with looming economic turmoil, the rise of a mass movement that could demolish what is left of American democracy and set the stage for a Christian fascism.

The corporate establishment, whose plundering of the country created fertile ground for a radical, right-wing backlash, is sounding the alarm bells. It is scrambling to bolster Mitt Romney, who, like Rudy Giuliani or Hillary Clinton, will continue to slash and burn on behalf of corporate profits. Columnist George Will called Huckabee’s populism “a comprehensive apostasy against core Republican beliefs.” He wrote that Huckabee’s candidacy “broadly repudiates core Republican policies such as free trade, low taxes, the essential legitimacy of America’s corporate entities and the market system allocating wealth and opportunity.” National Review’s Rich Lowry wrote that “like [Howard] Dean, his nomination would represent an act of suicide by his party.”

More after the click ...

* Chris Hedges, who graduated from seminary at the Harvard Divinity School, was a foreign correspondent for nearly two decades for the New York Times and other publications. He was part of a team of reporters at The New York Times that won the 2002 Pulitzer prize for its coverage of global terrorism.

He is the author of:
War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning
Leaving Moses on the Freeway: The 10 Commandments of America

and
American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America

My comment: So ... we have Christian fascism on one hand and Corporate fascism on the other hand, in a power struggle to see who gets to be the favorite flavor of fascism to destroy the free world.

Personally, I'm for WHATEVER the F@$& is behind door number three ... WHATEVER the F@$& it is.

Monday, December 24, 2007

The Fate of Our Nation

In a brief conversation with the kid at the counter at the local KFC:

Me: Gimme two of those one pound containers of cole slaw.

He: We ain't got no one pound size ... alls we got is the sixteen ounce size.

Me: (((rolling eyes))) Well ... OK ... of that's all ya got, gimme two of those ... and you might tell your boss that I think he should start stocking the one pound size ... I bet they'd move real good.

The Story of Stuff

with Annie Leonard


OK ... so you know how the materials economy works, or at least you think you do. You know about the cycle of extraction, production, distribution, consumption and disposal. That's the way its outlined in the text books, anyway. But maybe there's a little more to it than you think there is.

Have a look at The Story of Stuff. Perhaps you might not like what you see .... you might even disagree with it ... but if you disagree, aren't you obligated to point out where it's wrong? where it misses the mark? how it misinterprets reality?

Dickheads of the Year

My picks for the biggest assholes of 2007 by Bill Maher

My comment: It's only the top 10. I suspect it could have been run out to 100 without much effort ... but, what the hell ... there's a writers strike on.

My Christmas Gift to All


... or find the video here ...

Words - adapted from the bible, The Book of Ecclesiastes
Music - Pete Seeger as performed by The Byrds ...

Sing along if you like ... and make it loud!!

To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
And a time to every purpose under heaven

A time to be born, a time to die
A time to plant, a time to reap
A time to kill, a time to heal
A time to laugh, a time to weep

To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
And a time to every purpose under heaven

A time to build up,a time to break down
A time to dance, a time to mourn
A time to cast away stones, a time to gather stones together

To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
And a time to every purpose under heaven

A time of love, a time of hate
A time of war, a time of peace
A time you may embrace, a time to refrain from embracing

To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
And a time to every purpose under heaven

A time to gain, a time to lose
A time to rend, a time to sew
A time for love, a time for hate
A time for peace, I swear its not too late

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Why is it that Republicans rally for “states’ rights”

... until it actually benefits the states?

WASHINGTON -- The Environmental Protection Agency today denied a waiver that would have allowed California and at least a dozen other states to impose their own stricter vehicle tailpipe emissions standards under the Clean Air Act.

"The Bush administration is moving forward with a clear national solution -- not a confusing patchwork of state rules -- to reduce America's climate footprint from vehicles," EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson said in a statement.

The decision is a victory of sorts for auto makers, who opposed state-by-state regulations.

More after the click ...

To far to the Right even for Conservatives?



I hate it when I find myself agreeing with Pat Buchanan.

The front cover of his The American Conservative magazine suggests Rudy is a Nazi. My read is that Rudy may not be the goose stepping variety but he has an authoritarian streak and he has little use for the Constitution, laws, morals or ethics ... not necessarily in that order.

Just what the world needs ... another petty dictator.

A few things about Mitt from the next door neighbor

The Concord (NH) Monitor has a few things to say about the former governor of Massachusetts:

"If you were building a Republican presidential candidate from a kit, imagine what pieces you might use: an athletic build, ramrod posture, Reaganesque hair, a charismatic speaking style and a crisp dark suit. You'd add a beautiful wife and family, a wildly successful business career and just enough executive government experience. You'd pour in some old GOP bromides -- spending cuts and lower taxes -- plus some new positions for 2008: anti-immigrant rhetoric and a focus on faith.

"Add it all up and you get Mitt Romney, a disquieting figure who sure looks like the next president and most surely must be stopped."

It continues: "If you followed only his tenure as governor of Massachusetts, you might imagine Romney as a pragmatic moderate with liberal positions on numerous social issues and an ability to work well with Democrats. If you followed only his campaign for president, you'd swear he was a red-meat conservative, pandering to the religious right, whatever the cost. Pay attention to both, and you're left to wonder if there's anything at all at his core."

And it concludes: "When New Hampshire partisans are asked to defend the state's first-in-the-nation primary, we talk about our ability to see the candidates up close, ask tough questions and see through the baloney. If a candidate is a phony, we assure ourselves and the rest of the world, we'll know it.

More after the click ...

My comment: The word "phony" is the word that caught my attention.

It's Common Sense, Not Pacifism



by Charley Reese

I should clarify something during this season when everyone hopes for peace and good will: I am not a pacifist.

If war is forced upon us, we have no choice but to fight it. Ernest Hemingway said it well when he observed that there are several things worse than war, and they all come with defeat.

I have opposed and still oppose the war in Iraq because, knowing something about the Middle East, I knew it would be futile. I knew we weren't threatened by Iraq. I knew that the war would be a war of aggression on our part. I knew that no clear-cut victory would be possible.

Even though there has been some diminution in violence, the fundamental political problem remains. The Sunnis, the Shi'ites and the Kurds are not fond of each other. For a long time, the Shi'ites and the Kurds suffered under Saddam Hussein's primarily Sunni regime. Now that the Shi'ites and the Kurds are in control, they are not going to be easily reconciled. Furthermore, the Kurds don't especially like Arabs and want an independent country. The Turks don't especially like the Kurds and will react violently to any move on the part of the Kurds to declare independence.

So, the U.S. forces in the country have a wolf by the ear. We can keep the level of violence reasonably contained as long as we stay there, but neither the armed forces nor the U.S. budget can afford to stay there indefinitely. And to leave, we have to let go of the wolf.

The rest after the click ...

Mitt Speaks

"You know, I’m an English literature major as well. When we say, 'I saw the Patriots win the World Series', it doesn’t necessarily mean you were there — excuse me, the Super Bowl. I saw my dad become president of American Motors. Did that mean you were there for the ceremony? No, it’s a figure of speech.”

from Mitt on CBS News.

My comment: I'm sure glad we got that straightened out! But "Is our childrens learning? uh ... no ... that was the other guy ...

But like Mitt on Religion, there's always John Lennon ... "what do you see when you turn out the light? ... I can't tell you but I know it's mine."

I think I got that one straight.

The Year’s Most Laughable Political Antics

The late-night comedians may have made an early exit from the scene, but fortunately there was no shortage of political punch lines in 2007. From tapping toes and UFO encounters to prostitution scandals and $400 haircuts, it was a year in which politicians did their best to satirize themselves. As a salute to our nation’s fine public servants, here’s a look back at the year’s most memorable feats and foibles. The envelopes, please.

The Winnahs ... after the click ...

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Campaign Funding

On the Houston Chronicle site (second item):

"Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who has been gaining ground in the Republican presidential primaries, is scheduled to meet campaign donors in Houston today at the Tanglewood home of physician Steve Hotze, a longtime Christian conservative activist. Like other major presidential candidates, Huckabee is making a last dash for Texas cash before the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary next month. His trip includes a fundraising event in Dallas after his Houston event."

So, who is this Hotze guy and what does he stand for? Let's take a quick look:

"As a Christian fundamentalist who espouses antigay rhetoric, he's received his share of criticism. Hotze first popped up on the radar in 1982, when he supported a proposed Austin ordinance that would have made it legal for homosexuals to be denied housing based on their sexual orientation. Hotze's organization, Austin Citizens for Decency, proposed the measure to see if Austinites wanted to afford 'special privileges to sodomites.'

Hotze was able to better articulate his views in 1986, when he was one of dozens of ministers, professionals and laypersons who signed the Coalition on Revival's Manifesto for the Christian Church. The coalition claims on its Web site to be a national network of religious leaders aligned in a mission "to help the Church rebuild civilization on the principles of the Bible so God's will may be done on earth as it is in heaven." They want all aspects of life -- government, science and education -- to adhere to fundamental biblical beliefs. These beliefs include the following:

  • A wife may work outside the home only with her husband's consent
  • "Biblical spanking" that results in "temporary or superficial bruises or welts" should not be considered a crime
  • No doctor shall provide medical service on the Sabbath
  • All disease and disability is caused by the sin of Adam and Eve
  • Medical problems are frequently caused by personal sin
  • "Increased longevity generally results from obedience to specific Biblical commands"
  • Treatment of the "physical body" is not a doctor's highest priority
  • Doctors have a priestly calling
  • People receiving medical treatment are not immune from divine intervention or demonic forces
  • Physicians should preach to their patients because salvation is the key to their health"

Yup ... just what the doctor ordered. Find the full rundown on Hotze along with some really, really good medical advice here.

By the way, were you aware that "The Flintstones" was a documentary?

The Ghost of Willie Horton

Republican operatives invented Willie Horton style attack advertising. George Bush, the Elder, destroyed the Dukakis campiagn with it in the 1988 Presidential Election. Now, in the spirit of "what goes around, comes around", it bites them in the ass.


(or get the video here ... )

A new attack ad accusing Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee of freeing a rapist who then committed murder resembles any of the professionally produced negative TV spots shot by political ad agencies for decades.

But the emotional 58-second video doesn't advocate for any particular candidate, and it hasn't aired as a paid advertisement on any television network. Instead, it made its debut on YouTube on Thursday, where it's chalked up more than 20,000 views, and risen to become the seventh most watched clip in YouTube's news and politics section.

"It's pretty brutal, and it's a very stark reminder to those of us involved in politics of the power that YouTube has to spread a story quickly and virally," says Republican strategist Matthew Klink at Los Angeles-based Cerrell Associates.

More after the click ...


My comment: It's most interesting when you find that they're using the Willie Horton style on each other. The article continues ... "The work of 29-year-old Republican operative Keith Emis, the video is a prominent example of the fruits of a March 2006 decision by the Federal Election Commission (FEC) that exempts non-paid political advertising on the internet from rules requiring disclosure of who produced the ads."

In a typical case of "unintended consequences" and total lack of foresight (that originates with the conservative philosophy of driving the car while focusing on the rear view mirror), the Republican dominated FEC ASSUMED that all the "swift boating" would be aimed at the other side of the aisle.

There's an old joke that seems to apply. It goes something like, "they're so confused over there that they're stabbing each other in the chest".

Friday, December 21, 2007

Hitchen's Challenge

And my challenge is this: "Can you name me a good action done or a good thing done by a believer that couldn't have been said or done by a non-believer?" I've offered this challenge now in print hundreds of times, and on the air, and on the Web, and in public, debating with quite senior religious people. None of them have come up with an example. Whereas, if I say in front of any audience you can think of, "Can you think of a wicked thing said or an evil thing done by someone because of their religious faith?" Nobody needs you to get to the end of the sentence, they've already thought of an example.

-- Christopher Hitchens

Thought for the day



'All sorts of people gather in this town for the feast. Among them there are magicians, astrologers, diviners and murderers,' the procurator spoke in monotone, 'and occasionally also liars. You, for instance, are a liar. It is written clearly: "Incited to destroy the temple". People have testified to it.'

'These good people,' the prisoner spoke and, hastily adding 'Hegemon', went on: '... haven't any learning and have confused everything I told them. Generally, I'm beginning to be afraid that this confusion may go on for a very long time. And all because he writes down the things I say incorrectly.'

Silence fell. By now both sick eyes rested heavily on the prisoner.

'I repeat to you, but for the last time, stop pretending that you're a madman, robber,' Pilate said softly and monotonously, 'there's not much written in your record, but what there is enough to hang you.'

'No, no, Hegemon,' the arrested man said, straining all over in his wish to convince, 'there's one with a goatskin parchment who follows me, follows me and keeps writing all the time. But once I peeked into this parchment and was horrified. I said decidedly nothing of what's written there. I implored him: "Burn your parchment, I beg you!" But he tore it out of my hands and ran away.'

'Who is that?' Pilate asked squeamishly and touched his temple with his hand.

'Matthew Levi,' the prisoner explained willingly. 'He used to be a tax collector, and I first met him on the road in Bethphage,' where a fig grove juts out at an angle, and I got to talking with him. He treated me hostilely at first and even insulted me - that is, thought he insulted me - by calling me a dog.' Here the prisoner smiled. 'I personally see nothing bad about this animal, that I should be offended by this word ...'

The secretary stopped writing and stealthily cast a surprised glance, not at the arrested man, but at the procurator.

Mikhail Bulgakov. The Master and Margarita

Maybe I should have waited for Easter?

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Truth takes a holiday, Honesty takes a vacation

Earlier this month, in a speech defending the racist, uhm, quirks of his proud but secret religion, Mitt Romney declared:

"I saw my father march with Martin Luther King."

So, well, that's that. Except, according to a report in the Boston Phoenix, it turns out that depends on what your definition of "saw" is. And "march." And "with." And "Martin Luther King."

Because it never happened.

"A spokesperson for Mitt Romney now tells the Phoenix that George W. Romney and Martin Luther King Jr. marched together in June, 1963 -- although possibly not on the same day or in the same city."

More here ...

My comment: (Rolling eyes.) But, then, it seems conservatives are rarely troubled by actual facts ... at least in my experience. But that's not the end of it. It's only the beginning.

A new ad from the Romney campaign points out a small but significant difference between their candidate and Mike Huckabee: Mike Huckabee wants murderers to kill you.

Also, Mike Huckabee loves methamphetamines. (Which might explain how he lost all that weight.) He'd turn the entire state of Arkansas into one giant meth lab, except that laboratories could lead to science.

Mitt Romney thinks there's a better way.

In fact, according to the ad:

"Romney got tough on drugs like meth."

[...]

It's almost like he's a liar who thinks you're an idiot.

More on that here ...

A Closer Look at Mercenaries


(or get the video here ...)

"There has not been a single completed prosecution of a crime involving a contractor implicated in violent crime coming out of Iraq, although the reported incidents which would have merited investigation are legion. Again, it is simply impossible to believe that in a community with a peak population of 180,000 people — with many more people than that actually cycling in and out of these jobs, tens of thousands of them Americans — over a period of approaching five years there has been no violent crime. The facts point to something else: an attitude of official indifference within the Department of Justice, or at least a decision to accord these crimes a very low priority and no or very little resources."

from Harpers.

My comment: 180,000 people, many armed to the teeth; 5 years in a high tension war zone and no crime worthy of attention. That's absolutely marvelous! What are the odds?

During the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries governments (particularly England, France, and Holland) contracted with Pirates to wage war on their enemies. They legitimized the pirates by giving them "letters of marque", essentially making them "contractors" and calling them "Privateers". As such, these Privateers were pardoned of all their crimes, exempted from prosecution and encouraged to practice their brutal trade on the enemies of the state that contracted them. The Privateers were subject to no laws other than the laws laid down by the captain of their company of men - as long as they took no overt actions against the contracting country. Sound familiar?

Reality Based Quiz



So, you think you know Rudy?

Take the quiz on The New Yorker Magazine's site. Who knows Rudy better than a New Yorker? (In the interest of full disclosure, I was living in New Jersey at the time Rudy was the mayor of New York - 30 miles from Manhattan and closer to Rudy than 95% of the geography of the State of New York.)

OK ... so maybe you actually want a Fruit Cake delivered to you on January 20, 2009.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

And its 1-2-3 what are we fightin' for?

'Bad' Women Raped and Killed in Southern Iraq

by Ali al-Fadhily on AntiWar
BAGHDAD -

Women are being killed by militia groups in southern Iraq for not conforming to strict Islamic ways, the police say. And increased threats from militia groups are driving many women away from their homes.

Basra police chief Gen. Jalil Hannoon has told reporters and Arab TV channels that at least 40 women have been killed during the past five months in the southern city.

"We are sure there are many more victims whose families did not report their killing for fear of scandal," Hannoon said.

The militias dominated by the Shia Badr Organization and the Mahdi Army are leading imposition of strict Islamic rules. The enforcement of these rules comes at a time when British troops have left Basra, the biggest town in the south, to the Iraqi government.

More after the click ...

My comment: I guess we're winning ... democracy and freedom are on the march! Mission accomplished!!

Huckabee Rejects Darwin, Copernicus, Newton and Einstein

Written by Warren Redlich

Surging Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee reached a new high this week following questions about his denial of the theory of evolution. His poll numbers skyrocketed as the American public finally found a candidate in sync with their views on Darwin. Noticing how the controversy boosted him in the polls, Huckabee took it a step further and denounced several prominent scientists from history.

Comedian and talk show host Bill Maher cornered Huckabee and pressed him about his position on evolution. Huckabee dodged the question on the show, but later came out strongly after he was criticized by the Christian Broadcasting Network.

The Huckabee for President website now prominently features Charles Darwin being hung in effigy, along with position statements insisting that the world is actually flat, the sun orbits the earth in a circular (not elliptical) manner, gravity is a fiction, and space-time is absolute rather than relative. After the New York Times sharply criticized Huckabee for these new positions, the candidate jumped another ten points in the polls.

Evangelicals from all over the country are now swarming Iowa, knocking over Ron Paul supporters as they seek to convert the local heathens and get votes for their candidate. President George W. Bush endorsed Huckabee after finally finding a candidate whose views fit closely with his own.

Several candidates reacted to the Huckabee surge by adopting versions of some of his positions. Hillary Clinton said that her husband Bill is descended from monkeys but she isn't. Barack Obama claimed that he was a monkey when younger but grew out of it. Mitt Romney agreed with Huckabee on relativity and denounced Einstein. Rudy Giuliani insisted that his ancestors were the ones who imprisoned Copernicus, and he assured voters he would do the same. Ron Paul flew a blimp to show that gravity isn't real, though campaign officials denied that the blimp had anything to do with Huckabee.

(Source ...)

Thought for the day

“When fascism comes to this country, it will be wrapped in a flag carrying a cross.”

-- Sinclair Lewis

Footnote: Now watch the Huckabee ad.

You were expecting a screamer?

Orders from Headquarters

from Wonkette

The Catholic Diocese of New Hampshire this Sunday started distributing its voter guide. Since they can’t tell you who to vote for and keep their tax exemption, they’ll just tell you that you can’t ever vote for anyone who is for abortion or stem cell research, but that everything else is totally negotiable based on your conscience as long as those things are the most important things! Other things your conscience need not feel quite as worried about include war, poverty, social justice, racism and environmental policy.
[...]
Also, in case you’ve forgotten, the Catholic Church is all about hierarchies! Levels of hell, purgatory, layers upon layers of paper bureaucracy and obfuscation, they loooove it all. And, so, they’d like to remind Catholics that while war might be “seriously wrong” if it involves killing civilians, abortion, euthanasia and embryonic stem cell research are “intrinsically evil.” That’s, like, worse and stuff. The death penalty, however, isn’t classified.

The rest after the click ...

Monday, December 17, 2007

This Is Not a Test

by Christopher Hitchens, Slate

It's perfectly reasonable to reject a candidate because of his religious views.

Just before this gets completely out of hand and becomes a mantralike repetition, let us please recall what the careful phrases of Article VI of the U.S. Constitution actually and very carefully and deliberately say:

The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.

As so often, the framers and founding fathers meant what they said, said what they meant, and risked no waste of words. A candidate for election, or an applicant for a post in the bureaucracy, could not be disqualified on the grounds of his personal faith in any god (or his disbelief in any god, for that matter). This stipulation was designed to put an end to the hideous practice of European monarchies—and the pre-existing practice of various American colonies—whereby if a man did not affirm the trinity, or deny the pope, or abjure Judaism (depending on the jurisdiction), he could be forbidden to hold office or even to run for it. Along with the establishment clause of the First Amendment, and the predecessor-language of the Virginia Statute on Religious Freedom, it forms part of the chief glory of the first-ever constitution that guaranteed religious liberty, religious pluralism, and the freedom to be left alone by priests and rabbis and mullahs and other characters.

However, what Article VI does not do, and was never intended to do, is deny me the right to say, as loudly as I may choose, that I will on no account vote for a smirking hick like Mike Huckabee, who is an unusually stupid primate but who does not have the elementary intelligence to recognize the fact that this is what he is. My right to say and believe that is already guaranteed to me by the First Amendment. And the right of Huckabee to win the election and fill the White House with morons like himself is unaffected by my expression of an opinion.

Full text following the click ...

My comment: There may not be a religious test to HOLD office but there certainly is a religious test for my vote. To continue with Hitchen's thought, the follwing is a list of candidates (from his article) who won't be getting my vote ... ever:

* A candidate who followed the "Rev." Jim Jones to a Kool-Aid resort in Guyana (don't forget that this did actually happen)

* A candidate who said that the pope could excommunicate other American candidates with whom he disagreed

* A candidate who said that the above-mentioned pope was the Antichrist

* A candidate who said that L. Ron Hubbard was a visionary

* A candidate who said that Joseph Smith was a visionary

* A candidate who said that any holy book was scripturally inerrant

* A candidate who was a member of Hezbollah or the Muslim Brotherhood or the Nation of Islam

* A candidate who was a supporter or member of the Orange Order or the Ulster Unionist Party

* A candidate who was a supporter or member of Opus Dei or the Phalange Party

* A candidate who was a supporter or member of Lehi or the Jewish Defense League

* A candidate who was a member of the Aryan Nations, the KKK, or any other white Protestant "Christian Identity" faction

* A candidate who said that the Quran was dictated by the archangel Gabriel

... and I think a couple of 'em are running for office as I write this.

Time for another rousing round of ...

write your own caption!



thanks to the General ...

"Golleeeeeee ..."

Keep in mind, we're talking about a fully grown, supposedly educated man who believes "The Flintstones" is a documentary.

#14 on Mad Magazine's 20 dumbest people, events, and things of 2007



Finally there is compelling evidence that the theory of evolution is wrong! For proof positive that man's intelligence has not evolved in eons, consider the Cro-Magnon brained imbeciles behind the recently opened Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky. The museum's exhibits don't merely challenge science, they ignore it completely! It's the only place in the world you can see man riding bareback on a dinosaur — except, of course, in an old episode of The Flintstones.

The World to the US

Bali - Climate Change Conference

"We seek your leadership. But if for some reason you are not willing to lead, leave it to the rest of us. Please get out of the way."


The conference exploded with applause, the U.S. delegation backed down, and the way was cleared yesterday for adoption of the "Bali road map" after a dramatic half-hour that set the stage for a grinding two years of climate talks to come.

My comment: How far we've fallen in the eyes of the world. How great our loss of credibility!

In our press to protect short term economic stability we have ignored the long term consequences and abdicated our position as leaders of the world. The long term consequences are almost universally recognized in the scientific community ... that part of the scientific community not on corporate PR payrolls ... and those consequences are dire. The long term economic consequences are far greater than any of the imagined short term consequences inherent in taking action.

But, if you believe that the second coming is at hand and you believe that you are in a position to "bring it on" ... well, the best course of action on this issue is in-action and that is precisely what our so-called leadership has been doing.

File it all under "You can fool all of the people some of the time and some of the people all of the time ... but you can't fool all of the people all of the time."

Romney weighs in on waterboarding



Chris Dodd's Filibuster



The telecom companies want immunity from prosecution for their complicity and active participation in spying on American citizens. If no laws have been broken, why would one want or need immunity?

In a Republican world of "personal responsibility" it seems no one wants to be held accountable. The administration wants to eliminate the system of checks and balances that have served our country well for over 200 years and now, telecoms want to be excused from responsibility for their actions (in advance). What ever happened to that ole' time value of taking responsibility?

On Monday, December 17th, 2008, Chris Dodd will take to the floor the Senate and begin his filibuster of telecom immunity. He will start talking and he won't stop until he loses a cloture vote or Harry Reid shelves any FISA bill containing retroactive immunity.

To close debate, opponents will have to muster 60 votes. If every Republican (and Joe Lieberman) votes for cloture, this means at least 10 Democrats will have to betray their fellow party member to end Dodd's filibuster.

Joe Biden, Barack Obama, and Hillary Clinton have all said they will support Dodd's filibuster. Senator Feingold is also supporting Dodd.

Find out more about Chris Dodd's Filibuster here.

Finally, a Democrat with a spine!

If you're not familiar with the circumstances, this article in the New York Times will provide a briefing.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

A Modern Christmas Carol


... or get the video here.

Words and music by Billy Joel. Sung by Cass Dillon. Joel wanted someone a little closer in age to the sentiment ...

Sometimes its hard to tell the parody from reality


... or get the video here.

That didn't take long!

Yesterday Rep Wexler asking for citizens to sign the petition on his website in support of impeachment hearings for Vice President, Dick Cheney. Wexler was hoping to get 50,000 signatures and it didn’t take long — it took just 24 hours to meet his goal and the signatures are still rolling in. If you haven’t signed the petition yet, you can find it here.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Wexler Wants Hearings - so do I


... or get the video here.

My comment: I signed the petition on Wexler's web site because I believe We, the People, need to know the full truth. If Clinton lying to Congress about a personal peccadillo constituted sufficient reason to invoke impeachment hearings then the manipulation of intelligence to bring this country into war resulting in the deaths of literally thousands of American troops as well as perhaps hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, the "outing" of a covert intelligence agent for political purposes, and engaging in the same torture that is outlawed by international agreements for which we have held others accountable as well as a laundry list of other allegations require - even DEMAND - scrutiny.

I don't suggest I support the proceedings as a pay-back for the Clinton fiasco but, if that is where the bar has been set, then the current administration is way over the top. Even if we don't apply those proceedings as precedent, it appears there is sufficient evidence of the breach of black letter law ... and, in a nation of law, no one is above the law ... even in time of war. We have held others accountable for war crimes and for lying to Congress in the past. We cannot make exceptions now.

Yes, I signed the petition on Wexler's web site. I hope, in the quest for honest answers and a full airing of the facts, you will, too. I believe that, if you have questions about how this administration has conducted itself on behalf of the people of this country, you have a patriotic duty to seek answers by means of the mechanisms afforded us, the people, in the Constitution. Impeachment is serious business ... so is war and so is undermining our intelligence organizations and so are breaches of international treaties and so is lying to Congress and to the American people.

Flying under the radar


Hamster Powered Paper Shredder

Federal spending on paper shredding has increased more than 600 percent since George W. Bush took office. This chart, generated by usaspending.gov, the U.S. government's brand spanking new database of federal expenditures, shows spending on "contracts for paper shredding services" going back to 2000.

In 2000, the feds spent $452,807 to make unpleasant truths go away; by 2006, the "Cheney Effect" had bumped that number up to $2.9 million. And by halfway through 2007, the feds almost matched that number, with $2.7 million and counting. Pretty much says it all.

(Source ...)

My comment: Making sure reality becomes what you say it is? Of course, Clinton was a liar... he just wasn't quite as professional about it.

With all this activity ramping up, is it possible that a Republican administration is planning for a change in the national political winds? You really have to ask yourself, why destroy so much evidence if there are no crimes to hide?

Defying Conventional Wisdom

Money talks in politics, and sometimes it gives a sermon.

Clergy and religious organizations contribute to political candidates, just like investment bankers or teachers or any other group. That clergy give doesn't surprise, but how they're giving does. Although religious leaders' total campaign 2008 contribution of $633,314 is a drop in the bucket ("clergy and religious organizations" is ranked 71st out of 80 "industries" tracked by The Center for Responsive Politics), the money distribution shows that the "God dollar" is as up for grabs as the "God vote."

Thus far in the '08 cycle, 56 percent of religious groups' and leaders' donations have gone to Democrats, and 43 percent to Republicans, compared with 52/47 in favor of Republicans in '06 and 51/49 in favor of Democrats (!) in 2004.

Among presidential candidates, Barack Obama leads with $107,350, followed by Hillary Clinton's $88,910 and Mitt Romney's $39,350. Would you have guessed that the leading Democrat has raked in nearly three times as much money as the top Republican? Me neither.

More after the click ...

Q: What is an enemy combatant?

In relation to the current political debate over the Guantanamo prison, what is the legal definition of "enemy combatant”?

A:

"Enemy combatant" is shorthand for people who are fighting unlawfully. But no one is quite sure exactly what that means.

We can understand why one might be confused as to the actual definition of “enemy combatant.” It's a question that has vexed philosophers, lawyers and constitutional scholars. Part of the problem is that "enemy combatant" is often used as shorthand for "unlawful enemy combatant." But even distinguishing between lawful and unlawful enemy combatants doesn't bring much additional clarity.

The Third Geneva Convention specifies a set of criteria that combatants must meet to be legal:

* Be commanded by a person responsible for his subordinates
* Have a fixed distinctive sign recognizable at a distance
* Carry arms openly
* Conduct their operations in accordance with the laws and customs of war

There are additional exceptions for certain classes of civilians, including those who "spontaneously take up arms to resist the invading forces, without having had time to form themselves into regular armed units, provided they carry arms openly and respect the laws and customs of war."

On the other hand, the Military Commissions Act of 2006 defines a lawful enemy combatant as a member of the regular forces, a militia, a volunteer corps or an organized resistance movement belonging to a state (whether officially recognized or not) that is engaged in hostilities against the United States and who must

* Wear a fixed distinctive sign recognizable at a distance
* Carry his or her arms openly
* Abide by the law of war

The Act does not provide any additional exemptions. Moreover, it also explicitly defines members of the Taliban, al Qaeda and associated forces as unlawful enemy combatants.

By and large, the Military Commissions Act of 2006 and the Third Geneva Convention will pick out the same people as lawful combatants. A U.S. Marine patrolling in Basra or a Russian soldier in Chechnya are both lawful combatants. A person who straps dynamite to his chest and blows up a cafe is not. Other cases, however, are less clear. A member of the Taliban militia, ordered to resist U.S. soldiers when they landed in 2001, would seem to be protected as lawful under the Third Geneva Convention. Under the Military Commissions Act of 2006, he wouldn't be.

It's also not clear which set of rules ultimately applies. The U.S. Constitution, in what scholars call the Supremacy Clause, specifies that treaties like the Third Geneva Convention are part of the supreme law of the land. But the Constitution also recognizes the right of Congress to pass laws. Scholars are divided as to which authority trumps the other. So until the Supreme Court rules on the issue (and it is under no obligation to do so), there is no clear legal definition of an enemy combatant, lawful or otherwise.

-Joe Miller on FactCheck.org

Friday, December 14, 2007

Are Americans Really 'Better Than That'?


Fedor Dostoevsky

by Ray McGovern on AntiWar

A boyish, inquisitive face with an innocent look peered out from the Washington Post's lead story yesterday on torture. It was well groomed, pink-shirted John Kiriakou, a CIA interrogator who could just as easily pass for the local youth minister.

The report by the Post's Joby Warrick and Dan Eggen, which describes Kiriakou's experience in interrogating suspected terrorists, raises in an unusually direct way an abiding question: Should the United States of America be using forms of torture dating back to the Spanish Inquisition?

Nowhere is the mood of that infamous period better portrayed than in the famous Grand Inquisitor chapter of Dostoevsky's Brothers Karamazov. Dostoevsky was unusually gifted at plumbing the human heart. While it has been 127 years since he wrote Brothers Karamazov, he nonetheless captures the trap into which so many Americans have fallen in forfeiting freedom through fear. His portrayal of Inquisition reality brings us to the brink of the moral precipice on which our country teeters today. It is as though he knew what would be in store for us as fear was artificially stoked after the attacks of 9/11.

In the story, Dostoevsky's Grand Inquisitor (the Cardinal of Seville) ridicules Christ for imposing on humans the heavy burden of freedom of conscience, and explains how it is far better, for all concerned, to dull that conscience and to rule by deceit, violence, and fear:

"Didst thou forget that man prefers peace, and even death, to freedom of choice in the knowledge of good and evil?...We teach them that it's not the free judgment of their hearts, but mystery which they must follow blindly, even against their conscience.... In the end they will lay their freedom at our feet [and] become obedient...We shall tell them that we are Thy servants and rule them in Thy name.... we shall be forced to lie.... We shall tell them that every sin will be expiated if it is done with our permission."

The rest after the click ...

Holier Than They

by Judith Warner / New York Times

For years, the left – and moderates – permitted the right to frame itself as the sole custodian of “family values” in the United States. It was only when vast numbers of American families woke up to the fact that they were not being valued at all – that, in fact, they were being fleeced – that non-conservatives shook themselves into a sentient state and began to talk about replacing empty words with substantive promises about health care, child care and college aid.

Now a similar thing is happening with religion. We are, we’ve repeatedly been told in the past week, in the grip of a faith war. There has been a lot of interesting discussion of Mormonism and Evangelical Protestantism, about Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee outdoing themselves to appeal to Christian conservatives, and about John McCain’s belief in a “Christian nation.” There has been dismay about a political moment in which it seems a candidate must pass a religious litmus test to gain national viability. There have been comparisons to John F. Kennedy, talk of the Founding Fathers, of the separation of church and state, and of how the Puritans’ rather intolerant vision of religious freedom continues to trickle down to our day.

But one line of questioning, it seems to me, is missing. One point of view is inexpressible, taboo. I am not referring to atheism – the one belief system that clearly had no place in the vision of America Romney painted in his much-anticipated speech on faith last week. Rather, I’m thinking of the now entirely muted issue of whether the basic ethical foundations of Romney, Huckabee et al’s political views truly are “Christian” – in the good-neighborly sense of the word.

More after the click ...

Urban Skyline



Unfortunately, it's lousy Photoshop work. (NOT MINE, BY THE WAY.)

Thursday, December 13, 2007

All war, all the time

or, I guess I'm not the only one to notice ...

...it struck me that the true genius of the Bush regime and its neo-con allies is that they have created a self-perpetuating privatized killing machine. There are always those who will profit from war and do their best to lobby for war. But Bush has taken this hallmark tendency in a capitalist society a step further by creating a veritable patronage system that requires sustaining these wars and occupations indefinitely. The Erik Princes of this world will now be a constant political force pressing the nation to maintain a substantial garrison in Iraq, Afghanistan, and everywhere else where a buck can be made.

Whoever sits in the White House after January 20, 2009, or which party controls the Congress, will matter little without bold action against the new permanent war economy. Without radical change this new militarized patronage system will continue to chug along. There are simply too many people and corporations making too much money to give it up. Halliburton's in Dubai now, and with Blackwater, Triple Canopy, and Dyncorp providing the muscle, Bush and Cheney have accomplished the dream of Ronald Reagan's CIA Director William Casey: To build an "off the shelf, stand alone, independent" entity to run American foreign policy free from the constraints of the Congress and the American people*.

The next President is not going to know what the hell is going on over there with all of those "cut outs" and front businesses and shell companies and money launderers and arms merchants and private security firms fused with the privatized U.S. intelligence services and military. Lots of luck trying to reel in these privateers and freebooters ...

the rest of it after the click ...

My comment: Of course, it helps to have read Vonnegut.

* Read, "free from the constraints of the Constitution" and answerable to no one, no law, and no jurisdiction.

In Rome, new emperors were often chosen by the private armies they could muster. Rome fell. It deserved to. It helps to read a little history now and then, too.

Does it matter to YOU?

... in 1947, the United States charged a Japanese officer, Yukio Asano, with war crimes for carrying out another form of waterboarding on a U.S. civilian. The subject was strapped on a stretcher that was tilted so that his feet were in the air and head near the floor, and small amounts of water were poured over his face, leaving him gasping for air until he agreed to talk.

"Asano was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor," Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) told his colleagues last Thursday during the debate on military commissions legislation. "We punished people with 15 years of hard labor when waterboarding was used against Americans in World War II," he said.

More after the click ...

Case synopsis.

History of waterboarding.

Legality of waterboarding ... both international law and US law.

My comment: Waterboarding has never been controversial before ... not since the dark ages. By suggesting there's wiggle room we invite some unwanted consequences. What are the consequences? We can no longer try those who waterboard our troops as war criminals. I think we want to think twice about those things we want to eliminate as war crimes. (And do you really think we can eliminate a category of war crime unilaterally?)

HR 847

RESOLUTION

Recognizing the importance of Christmas and the Christian faith.

Whereas Christmas, a holiday of great significance to Americans and many other cultures and nationalities, is celebrated annually by Christians throughout the United States and the world;

Whereas there are approximately 225,000,000 Christians in the United States, making Christianity the religion of over three-fourths of the American population;

Whereas there are approximately 2,000,000,000 Christians throughout the world, making Christianity the largest religion in the world and the religion of about one-third of the world population;

Whereas Christians identify themselves as those who believe in the salvation from sin offered to them through the sacrifice of their savior, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and who, out of gratitude for the gift of salvation, commit themselves to living their lives in accordance with the teachings of the Holy Bible;

Whereas Christians and Christianity have contributed greatly to the development of western civilization;

Whereas the United States, being founded as a constitutional republic in the traditions of western civilization, finds much in its history that points observers back to its roots in Christianity;

Whereas on December 25 of each calendar year, American Christians observe Christmas, the holiday celebrating the birth of their savior, Jesus Christ;

Whereas for Christians, Christmas is celebrated as a recognition of God's redemption, mercy, and Grace; and

Whereas many Christians and non-Christians throughout the United States and the rest of the world, celebrate Christmas as a time to serve others: Now, therefore be it

1 Resolved, That the House of Representatives—
2 (1) recognizes the Christian faith as one of the
3 great religions of the world;

1 (2) expresses continued support for Christians
2 in the United States and worldwide;
3 (3) acknowledges the international religious and
4 historical importance of Christmas and the Christian
5 faith;
6 (4) acknowledges and supports the role played
7 by Christians and Christianity in the founding of the
8 United States and in the formation of the western
9 civilization;
10 (5) rejects bigotry and persecution directed
11 against Christians, both in the United States and
12 worldwide; and
13 (6) expresses its deepest respect to American
14 Christians and Christians throughout the world



Dec 11, 2007: On motion to suspend the rules and agree to the resolution, as amended Agreed to by the Yeas and Nays: (2/3 required): 372 - 9, 10 Present (Roll no. 1143)



My comment: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

For those who don't recognize it, that's the full text of the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America. It specifically prohibits Congress from making laws that favor one religion over another. It used to be called the separation of church and state and it served our country well for more than 200 years ... until now.

It would appear that only 9 Representatives in the House have actually read it.

Who stands for the Constitution now that Congress no longer does?

Jews, Buddhists, Muslims, Wiccans, members of other religions to numerous to list and those of no particular "faith" at all have all been put on notice. The United States is not what it used to be. The Constitution doesn't mean what it used to mean.

Congress has now singled out a specific religious orientation for special recognition. It is not a great leap from there to special treatment.

This may seem a small, insignificant thing ... it is not. The waters have been tested. If there is no protest, another step will be taken ... and then another and another. Never again? This is how it happens ... and it's happening here.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Human evolution speeding up

CHICAGO (AFP) -

The world may feel more and more like a global village, but its residents are increasingly genetically diverse thanks to the rapidly accelerating pace of human evolution, a study said Monday.

Geneticists say the huge explosion in our numbers in the past 40,000 years, since Homo sapiens migrated out of Africa to other continents, has resulted in a much faster pace of evolution compared to the previous six million years.

The pace of change has increased 100-fold in modern times compared to our distant past, and most notably since the Ice Age, 10,000 years ago, and has led to increasing diversification between the races.

"We are more different genetically from people living 5,000 years ago than they were different from Neanderthals," said John Hawks, an anthropologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who collaborated on the study.

The rest after the click ...

The Republican Revolution delivers again

by Jesus' General

The greatest propaganda coup of the last century wasn't birthed at a stadium in Nuremberg or in the the dark recesses of the Kremlin, it was given life by an American president in an Oval Office meeting with his top advisers. That president was Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and his propaganda victory was the acceptance of the idea that the role of government was to serve the people.

Prior to FDR, government served only those who deserved it: the corporations. Indeed, it was merely a few decades earlier that corporations were granted personhood and at least one senator, after proudly stating he represented Standard Oil, proposed that Senate representation should be given to corporations rather than the states.

But all that changed with FDR. He and his successors perverted government's purpose by forcing it to address things like the 40 hour work week, workplace safety regulation, state subsidies for the elderly and the sick, and eventually, even civil rights.

More after the click ...

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

A few more words from Pat Condell

The more I listen to Pat, the more I like him ...

... or get the video here.

And its 1-2-3 what are we fightin' for?

from ABC News

A Houston, Texas woman says she was gang-raped by Halliburton/KBR coworkers in Baghdad, and the company and the U.S. government are covering up the incident.

Jamie Leigh Jones, now 22, says that after she was raped by multiple men at a KBR camp in the Green Zone, the company put her under guard in a shipping container with a bed and warned her that if she left Iraq for medical treatment, she'd be out of a job.

"Don't plan on working back in Iraq. There won't be a position here, and there won't be a position in Houston," Jones says she was told.

In a lawsuit filed in federal court against Halliburton and its then-subsidiary KBR, Jones says she was held in the shipping container for at least 24 hours without food or water by KBR, which posted armed security guards outside her door, who would not let her leave.

More after the click ...

My comment: It's a good thing we've found a way to make war profitable by privatizing it. Rape and pillage have always been side benefits. Now we've ensured that it can all go on forever.

If the alleged perpetrators had been members of the military they would be held accountable to the Code of Military Justice. However, due to policy decisions related to our presence in Iraq, contractors are held accountable only to the bottom line. The "invisible hand of the market" will provide all the justice that's necessary.

Granted, these allegations have not been proved but, without a trial how can we ever know for sure?

10 Questions for the Candidates

1. The top ten questions are presented to the candidates - the questions are determined by citizen votes.

2. Candidates post their video answers by December 15th.

3. You decide if they actually answered the questions. Voting ends on December 31st.

Check it out ...

Sponsored by The New York Times, MSNBC and others.

Thought for the day

"The fact that certain planets are uninhabited may very well derive from the fact that their nuclear scientist are more advanced than ours."

– Salon Gahlin, Swedish author

Monday, December 10, 2007

I smell a Teddy Bear


... or catch the video here.

Christians were recently shocked by the Muslim reaction to the perceived attack on their religion when a school teacher had the tumidity to actually allow little school children to name a Teddy Bear "Mohamed". Yet, here, a sign that merely quotes a John Lennon lyric, "Imagine No Religion" and graphically makes the point that the Twin Towers would still be standing if it weren't for religious beliefs taken to a logical extreme (which, incidentally is all too true) has them up in arms.

When something is characterized as an attack (analogous to throwing rocks or bombs, or calling your mother names), it justifies retaliation. The sign simply suggests the viewer use their mind and their imagination. I wonder what kind of retaliation that calls for?

It's sad and strange that they don't see the irony ... or the hypocracy.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

John Lennon & Carlos "Tom" Jobim

In praise of great men ...



from a piece by Cris McGowan on HuffPo

December 8 marks the death anniversaries of two of the late 20th century's most influential musical figures: John Lennon, who died in 1980, and Antonio Carlos "Tom" Jobim, who passed away in 1994. In both cases, their songs were the soundtracks for generations who lived during days when it seemed as though anything were possible and a great leap forward was about to occur. The songs of the Beatles and Jobim remain remarkably popular decades after the respective heydays of the Fab Four and bossa nova, and their musical legacies will endure into the distant future.

Lennon and McCartney reinvented rock and pop, with the help of George Martin and George Harrison, and became mythic figures, objects of intense scrutiny by the press and closely identified with the cultural revolution sweeping North America and the U.K. in the 1960s. Meanwhile, in the other hemisphere, Jobim created some of the most sophisticated pop music the world has ever heard, stunning for its harmonic richness and deceptive simplicity. Along with singer-guitarist João Gilberto, Tom transmuted the venerable samba into light and breezy bossa nova, which was closely identified with a booming, optimistic, progressive Brazil of the early '60s. Alas, the country was thrown off track in 1964 when a military coup toppled Brazil's democratically elected government.

More after the click ...

My comment: They sure don't make music the way we used to.

Thought for the day

"People demand freedom of speech as a compensation for the freedom of thought which they seldom use."

-- Soren Kierkegaard

Friday, December 07, 2007

Darth Vader? Not really.



Paul Krugman / New York Times

Back when Hillary Clinton described Dick Cheney as Darth Vader, a number of people pointed out that this was an unfair comparison. For example, Darth Vader once served in the military.

Here’s another reason the comparison is invalid: the contractors Darth Vader hired to build the Death Star actually got the job done.

More after the click ...

Support for Republican policy among military families ...

Ain't what it used to be ...

Specifically, nearly 60% of military families disapprove of the president’s performance and his handling of the war in Iraq. Among those families with members serving in Iraq or Afghanistan, six in 10 say the war has not been worth the cost. In both instances, the opinions of military families are in line with those of the U.S. civilian population.

Perhaps most importantly, a clear majority (58%) of these families “favor a withdrawal within the coming year or ‘right away.’”

Seems to me another shoe just dropped ... more after the click.

Risk-o-meter -or- what are the odds?

Americans are bombarded daily with warnings of dire threats to their health. Favorite scares include ones about traces of various chemicals in the environment, and about both synthetic and natural food constituents. But in reality, most if not all of these warnings have little to do with the real threats to our health and lives. The American Council on Science and Health (ACSH) has therefore constructed this website to give Americans a more accurate perspective on the exposures and diseases that have been proven to increase the risk of death for Americans.

If you're interested ... check out the Risk-0-meter.

My comment: For the last couple of years my cholesterol and triglycerides have been a little on the high side. I got the former back in line but seem to be unable to do much about the latter. I started with a new doctor recently ... a chap from India who seems to share my disdain for medications as a way to control all medical problems. We both seem to thin a little self discipline and a bunch of exercise can do the trick most of the time. (Disclosure: I seem to have been able to muster the former but the latter still seems to escape me.)

In any case, his comment that got me interested in "what are the odds" came from a brief conversation we had about my triglyceride count at our last meeting.

He: It's still a little high.

Me: How much should I be worried?

He: Something else will probably kill you first.


Now there's a man and a doctor that I can appreciate.

The bits Romney left out of his not-so JFK speech


Joseph Smith's Vision of Jesus
and the Angle Maroni.


Are a candidate's religious beliefs fair game?

or "My Inner-Frenchman on Why Mitt's Mormonism Matters"

Other than a few irresistible satirical pieces, I've stayed away from the question of whether voters should consider Mitt Romney's religion before casting their vote. I preferred to sit back and bathe myself in schadenfreude as I waited for the true-red Republicans of the Intermountain West to react to being blackballed by the most powerful faction of their party's base.

But my feelings changed a few weeks ago after I read a Burnt Orange Report post on why a candidate's religious beliefs should be off limits. I've been considering writing a response since then, and what better time to do that than now, on the day after Romney gave his so-called "JFK speech."

I'll begin by saying that I fully support the "no religious test" clause of the Constitution. I am not advocating that anyone be barred from holding office on the basis of religion. I do believe, however, that it is proper for voters to consider a candidate's religious beliefs before casting a vote for him or her.

The weight one should give to this consideration is dependent on four variables. First, what is the candidate's level of religiosity? Is he or she unquestioningly committed to the church's doctrine or is the candidate more independent in his or her thinking?

Second, how dogmatic is the candidate's church? Is questioning allowed? How does it treat dissent? Do they believe their scriptures are literal or metaphorical?

Third, what does the candidate believe regarding the relationship between people and God? Does the candidate believe God speaks directly to him or her? If so, does the candidate believe he or she has special powers of Revelation that are unavailable to most people? Does the candidate believe that the God guided the hands of our founding fathers and continues to guide the hands of our leaders today?

Finally, how would the church's doctrine influence the candidate's presidency?

More after the click on Jesus' General ...

And still more here under the title "Mitt Romney's Jesus is Just as Good as the Leading Brand"

With a slightly different approach under the title "Mitt Romney's Ironic Speech on Religious Tolerance"