- We recognize the unlimited right to freedom of conscience, religion and belief, and that freedom to practice one's religion should be limited only by the need to respect the rights of others.
- We submit that public policy should be informed by evidence and reason, not by dogma.
- We assert the need for a society based on democracy, human rights and the rule of law. History has shown that the most successful societies are the most secular.
- We assert that the only equitable system of government in a democratic society is based on secularism: state neutrality in matters of religion or belief, favoring none and discriminating against none.
- We assert that private conduct, which respects the rights of others should not be the subject of legal sanction or government concern.
- We affirm the right of believers and non-believers alike to participate in public life and their right to equality of treatment in the democratic process.
"The further a society drifts from the truth, the more it will hate those who speak it." Orwell
"“The price good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men.” Plato
"The secret of freedom lies in educating people, whereas the secret of tyranny is in keeping them ignorant" Robespierre
Wednesday, June 30, 2010
What's the shelf-life of prayer? It's well over a week, now, since the day declared for the purpose of stopping the leak of oil. Is the celestial in-box full? Maybe the prayer numbers didn't meet the reserve? Or is it still being processed? When Sarah Palin chimed in, did that reset the timer or, like me, does God consider her such a joke that he ignored her? Did she cancel the whole thing out? Since so much is at stake, I suppose I have to hope not.
Tuesday, June 29, 2010
As I've said here in various ways at various times, it's been clear from the time of his ascension that the Undead King of Republicans started this country on its inexorable descent from greatness. Selling smoke, as he used to sell smokers, he convinced his subjects of something patently impossible, like perpetual motion (and, by golly, the idea lives perpetually): namely, that you can have everything you want, and not pay for it. Even if by "you" is meant "you, and not... them." Ronnie, revered as only false gods can be revered, told people what they wanted to hear, let them believe what they wanted to believe, and set sail on the course to ruin, holding the tiller while Republicans rode rapturously. Rowing still a sunken ship, his rudderless retinue of relics regale recalcitrant regretters of receded royalty with raptuous rhetoric, rarely regarding recent reality. Ruinous Ronnie Reagan: razer of the Republic.
"It seems that you can look at a chart of almost anything and right around 1981 or soon after you'll see the chart make a sharp change in direction, and probably not in a good way. And I really do mean almost anything, from economics to trade to infrastructure to ... well almost anything. I spent some time looking for charts of things, and here are just a few examples. In each of the charts below look for the year 1981, when Reagan took office.
Conservative policies transformed the United States from the largest creditor nation to the largest debtor nation in just a few years, and it has only gotten worse since then:"
There follow, in the article, several more charts in logical sequence, showing the same trend, the same break point, in various economic parameters.
Twenty years ago, the last serious Republican effort to reduce the budget deficit took place when George H.W. Bush agreed to negotiate with congressional Democrats on a budget deal. As a consequence, many Republicans disowned his efforts and abandoned him in 1992, leading to his defeat. Today, the idea of cooperating with Democrats on deficit reduction is viewed as a total loser by all Republicans. Until that perspective changes, the elder Bush will remain the last Republican who took fiscal responsibility seriously.
Monday, June 28, 2010
What's a blogger to do? There's so many things going on at once, so much political hypocrisy, so many examples of the desire of Congressional Republicans to see America fail -- as policy, for political gain! -- so egregious as to make it impossible to know where to start. Maybe that's part of the big picture: they're deliberately flooding us with so much stupid at once that they figure none will get much attention; and they guess, possibly correctly, that thinking people will finally just throw in the towel. At some point, you just have to accept the facts: we're going politically insane and the media are only too happy to hide the lithium.
- Remember the apoplexy when Moveon.org had a video contest, and there was, briefly, one on its site that compared Bush to Hitler? Recall it was never among the selected winners, never shown, and was removed from the site very soon after it appeared? Anyone notice how often it's still brought up as an example of the hate which is liberalism? Yet Hitlerized pictures of Obama have become so ubiquitous as to be normal background noise. And now, Sarah Palin, that darling of teabaggers, has hopped on the bandwagon. Anyone on the right showing a tenth of the outrage they did over the Moveon non-event? Can it be coincidence that Hitler and Hypocrisy both start with H.
- Bobby Jindal is making a living off complaining about the lack of federal support for oil cleanup. Turns out he's been blocking the help. Anyone surprised? And there's more.
- Joe Barton apologizes to BP, apologizes for the apology, then apologizes for the second apology, while the entire lot of Congressional Republicans use the same language as Barton originally used, and are proud of it. Eric Cantor thinks it's ducky.
- Referring to a supposed conversation between them, John Kyl accuses President Obama of using the Arizona border as a political tool, the White House denies his claim, Kyl defends the absurd comment, the RWS™ go nuts, Kyl walks it back, the RWS™ are silent.
- Predictable reaction to the Rolling Stone article.
- Marco Rubio, teabagger icon, has said multiple times that he wants to see the entire health care reform bill repealed. Except lately. He likes (because, it seems, voters do) the idea of eliminating "pre-existing condition" refusals. Or does he? But, of course, he simply doesn't get the economics: you want that, you need mandates. Period.
- Republican farmer calls Democrats the "party of parasites," dances around his taking $1 million in subsidies.
- Doubling down on their belief that their only issue is deficits, failing to care about recovery, Republicans derail more aid to states and extension of unemployment benefits. Despite high unemployment, they think the unemployed should get jobs.
- In but one among the many one-eighties taken by Rs, showing they actually believe in nothing but derailing Ds, it's pointed out that cap-and-trade was not only originally endorsed by Republicans, but was actually part of the McCain-Palin platform. There's simply no way to negotiate with people who have no core values, no shame, no allegiance to any principle other than personal power; who will switch their arguments without the slightest acknowledgment of their hypocrisy, and with their screamers and supporters neither noticing or caring.
- The guy who would be senator, over whom teabaggers are dripping with.... joy... wants to solve immigration with an electric fence. UNDERGROUND. And they'll still vote for him.
- I'm not the only one who thinks the Republicans are deliberately undermining chances for economic recovery in order to help their electoral chances. Damage the country, save the party.
Clearly, Congressional Republicans believe there are enough Americans who neither understand nor care. Certainly they assume they're not paying attention. Selfishness and stupidity, they figure, are the new American norms, and who can say they're wrong? I'd sure like to believe they are, but as long as Sarah Palin is their hero, and Glenn Beck is their fount of inspiration; as long as Rush Limbaugh is the top-rated screamer and Fox "news" is considered a reliable news source, there's really not much reason for hope.
Friday, June 25, 2010
I've thought for a long time that to pull out of Afghanistan would require an act of political courage that we've never seen before, that I can recall, and that we'll never see in such a polarized country. Bob Herbert agrees, it seems:
Ultimately, the public is at fault for this catastrophe in Afghanistan, where more than 1,000 G.I.’s have now lost their lives. If we don’t have the courage as a people to fight and share in the sacrifices when our nation is at war, if we’re unwilling to seriously think about the war and hold our leaders accountable for the way it is conducted, if we’re not even willing to pay for it, then we should at least have the courage to pull our valiant forces out of it.
I think he's right that it's a shared blame. But I think the dynamic is more like this: constant bombardment by the panoply of RWS™ and disgusting inability of liberals to mount an effective response, along with the selfish need of most Americans to equate patriotism with war while avoiding really thinking about it -- much less paying for it -- makes for paralysis. Because overcoming such a charged political climate requires selfless courage; and the screamers know it well, and use it to their advantage.
Thursday, June 24, 2010
Freedom Ain't Free
So eggs from free-range chickens contain five times higher concentrations of pollutants than those of the caged birds.
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
How It Works
Sadly, there are still those who watch Fox "news" and consider it a reliable news source. Ethical, even. A couple of them drop by here once in a while to sing their praises and leave a mess. I keep hoping I could convince those people to peel the scale from their eyes. As if.
In 2006, the Bush Administration closed off a five-square-mile stretch of the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge to the public to allow the Border Patrol to improve security. Owing to mission creep of sorts, this section stayed closed. And how does Fox interpret this? That President Obama is giving vast stretches of land back to Mexico.
I have to admit I'd never before visited the Fox "news" website. I just did. It's really quite astounding. One after another, relentlessly, article after article attacking President Obama, liberals, government policy in the most slanted language. It's not as if this stuff isn't ubiquitous on right-wing websites. But this is the network that calls itself fair and balanced. We report, they claim, allowing "you" to decide. Even the Huffington Post has articles critical of Democrats, and of the president, and it regularly posts commentary from such wingers as Tony Blankley.
But Fox... well, they're in a category alone. I don't begrudge them their bias and their right to lie through their pixels. It's just that I'm continuously boggled by the fact that anyone -- even teabaggers and others of such limited critical skills -- could call them a useful source of news. Of confirmation bias, sure. Of reinforcing prejudice and fact-free belief, of course. A place to go to get lubed and stroked, the best.
But, c'mon: a fair news source? A news source by any definition? It's pathetic, if laughable.
Monday, June 21, 2010
It should be clear to everyone by now that Congressional Republicans, the RWS™, and everyone at Fox "news" would rather see President Obama fail than see our country succeed. It's as overt as an oil spill. The best thing that could happen, in their eyes, would be for the country to fall into another recession. (Well, that, or the nuking of a city by al Queda.) So here's how it goes:
"If Congress doesn't provide additional stimulus spending, economists inside and outside the administration warn that the nation risks a prolonged period of high unemployment or, more frightening, a descent back into recession. But a competing threat -- the exploding federal budget deficit -- seems to be resonating more powerfully in Congress and among voters."
"Seems to be," all right. And why is that? See above. Egged on by people for whom national interest is the furthest thing from their minds, people have come to prefer economic calamity over short-term deficit spending. Rightfully, Obama has pledged to address deficits when the time is right. Wrongfully, with only their return to political power in mind, the selfish have convinced the short-sighted that the time is now.
Sunday, June 20, 2010
It's All Over
Finally. No more oil leak, no more dead animals; the beaches and marshes shall gleam. It's amazing no one thought of it until now; not, at least, as official policy.
State senators designated Sunday as a day for citizens to ask for God's help dealing with the oil disaster."Thus far efforts made by mortals to try to solve the crisis have been to no avail," state Sen. Robert Adley said in a statement released after last week's unanimous vote for the day of prayer. "It is clearly time for a miracle for us."The resolution names Sunday as a statewide day of prayer in Louisiana and calls on people of all religions throughout the Gulf Coast "to pray for an end to this environmental emergency, sparing us all from the destruction of both culture and livelihood."
Haul in ye the boom, send forth to their homes the cleaners of the beaches. Uncap ye the gusher, invest ye in BP. For the day of healing is nigh. Raise ye your voices and thank ye your Father, for it is His day.
Saturday, June 19, 2010
You can't really love soccer if you don't hate it.
- I know of no game in which the weaker team has such a chance of winning.
- There's no contest in which subjectivity -- or incompetence -- of a referee has such a role in the outcome. In other games, referees decide if something happened. In soccer, they also decide whether it was important. Important enough. For the location.
- In no sport are the required skills so difficult and so under-appreciated by unknowing viewers.
- There's no game in which the higher level you achieve the more inclined you are to fake injury and roll around like an idiot.
- Only in soccer is the scoring almost secondary to the appreciation of the work being done (which means appreciation is lacking in the uninitiated.)
- Offsides is something only real fans understand. Often, this excludes side judges.
- Deciding a tie by a shootout is the most horrible thing that happens in any sport, anywhere. At least in hockey they've made it more of a show.
- The difficulty of scoring explains much of the above.
Friday, June 18, 2010
This Is It
It was a lightning strike, in case you hadn't heard.
It's safe to assume, I assume, that many -- if not all -- of the members of that church believe in miracles. Surely they pray for interventions of one sort or another all the time: that's what believers do. So what could be more of a sign from above than a bolt from the blue, taking out the statue with inerrant aim (leaving intact, according to reports, the adult video store next door)? On what basis could a believer-in-miracles reject the event as an act of their god? I mean, if we pick and choose, then what's the point? I've said it before: if the kid who survives the school bus crash is a miracle, so are the ones that died.
Because, isn't rebuilding that craven image a direct affront to their god? If a lightning bolt, in the context of Jesus and a church, isn't about as clear a statement as you can hope to get, what the hell is? Or if it isn't, how can they claim to be able to interpret any event; how can they continue to pray for signs, for miracles? What's the point, if you're gonna reject that as a message pitch, high and tight?
Thursday, June 17, 2010
I haven't yet posted what I wrote after watching President Obama's Oval Office speech. Disappointed, I wanted to let it settle for a while. Why did he even bother, was my central thought. Has he become deaf to his own words?
Then I saw the above clip, and realized it captured much better than I'd written what my thoughts were. The message is exactly what we should have heard. And didn't.
How can it be that Republicans are poised to make enormous gains in November? It's un-frickin-believable. Democrats are nothing if not meek and afraid; but, my god, it's like choosing between walking by a panhandler and Jack the Ripper.
I wrote a book once. It took several months, lots of self-editing and revision, and I loved everything about it. Something, therefore, annoys me about the idea of people cashing in on celebrity by sticking their names on ghost-written books, to the tune of millions of dollars.
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
If Rand Paul has his way, we'll end all regulating of business. Same with a former pro football player in my state, running against Patty Murray. Get rid of 'em all, he says. Ditto John Boner, Mitch McConnell, and Sarah Palin, who's against regulations except when she's not. (Okay, let's give Sarah a pass: she really has no idea what she believes (except in faith healing.))
...it’s hard to think of a recent disaster in the business world that wasn’t abetted by inept regulation. [...]
These failures weren’t accidents. They were the all too predictable result of the deregulationary fervor that has gripped Washington in recent years, pushing the message that most regulation is unnecessary at best and downright harmful at worst. The result is that agencies have often been led by people skeptical of their own duties. This gave us the worst of both worlds: too little supervision encouraged corporate recklessness, while the existence of these agencies encouraged public complacency.
...[S]uccessful regulation, by filling information gaps and managing risk, fosters confidence in the safety and honesty of markets, which in turn makes them bigger and more robust. The pharmaceutical industry, for instance, would be much smaller if people were seriously worried that they might be poisoned every time they took a new drug. And though executives chafe at financial regulation, the protection it provides makes investors far more likely to hand them money to play with. If we want our regulators to do better, we have to embrace a simple idea: regulation isn’t an obstacle to thriving free markets; it’s a vital part of them.
And yet our country is steeped (get it?) in teabaggers demanding the return to every policy that got us where we are. In our history -- and it's not like you have to go very far back for examples -- there are countless examples of deregulated industries going wild to the detriment of our economy and to the harm of consumers. Are there really any examples of the opposite; of over-regulation causing such economic (and ecologic) violence as we've just seen?
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
Republican communication strategists in Washington and Louisiana are thrilled at the press coverage of the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, according to e-mails from GOP officials accidentally sent to the Huffington Post.The specific news report that had party operatives celebrating was a local Fox Channel 8 report on an event held by Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal calling on President Obama to lift the moratorium on offshore drilling."Watch the video -- you can't beg for a better package than that," writes a top Louisiana GOP spokesman to a communications staffer at the Republican National Committee.
Oklahoma State Senator Rex Duncan (R) is pushing for a ballot measure that would prohibit courts from considering international or sharia law when deciding cases. He says the measure is a "preemptive strike" against "liberal judges" who want to "undermine those founding principles" of America.
What is there to say about people who think like this? And about those that vote for them? How many of them can a democracy tolerate before it collapses under its own weight?
Monday, June 14, 2010
How thin is the veneer of civilization. How few layers of keratin separate humans from packs of animals. As another example of ethnicity justifying slaughter answers those questions, I can only wonder if it could happen here. Here's irony, if ever there was:
Aigulia said her house was destroyed by Uzbeks overnight and all her Kyrgyz neighbors had to run for their safety. She said the area was still unsafe, claiming Uzbek snipers were shooting at them.
A Kyrgyz man, Iskander, said he and others burned Uzbek property to avenge their attacks.
"Whatever you see over there - all the burnt restaurants and cafeterias - were owned by them and we destroyed them on purpose," he told APTN. "Why didn't they want to live in peace?"
Given the tenor of the times in the US, with death threats against legislators who voted for health care -- health care, ferchrissakes! -- with hatred and fear being stoked deliberately (and very effectively) by Fox "news" and the awful RWS™, can it really be much longer before such violence breaks out here? We're talking cafés and houses and schools in this latest example of human defectiveness; not hovels and caves.
Friday, June 11, 2010
Well, here's a small amount of good news. In California, a cadré of four lawyers ran against four sitting judges, with the claim that they'd bring Jesus to the bench. Making not even the pretense of judicial impartiality, they wanted the job on the basis of their pledge to rulings based on the Bible.
Wednesday, June 9, 2010
Climate Change Melts Brains
In trying to do all they can to gut climate legislations, Congressional Republicans, led by Senator Lisa Murkowski, R-Palin's place, once again have revealed their stupidity in its blinding resplendency. Really, I think when these people get together, some sort of vortex is created that sucks intellect from everyone within an as-yet undefined radius. Certainly that distance is at least big enough to contain their own group.
It doesn’t help her case that the press conference she called on the measure Tuesday featured some of the Senate's all-stars of climate denial. There was Inhofe, who reaffirmed his belief that global warming is the "greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people." There was Sen. Kit Bond of Missouri, who noted that, "Without carbon, my trees would die. Carbon occurs naturally." And there was Sen. Mike Enzi of Wyoming, whose contribution was, "People are breathing out CO2 all the time. Would that be a violation of the Clean Air Act under this law?"
Saturday, June 5, 2010
Right. The guy apologizes for "poor judgment:"
A Kent man accused of joining his wife in raping their 4-year-old daughter live online was sentenced Friday...
Addressing King County Superior Court Judge Regina Cahan, Beston claimed remorse before apologizing for a his "poor judgment" and saying he hoped to mend fences with his children in the future.
Poor judgment. That gives language a bad name. The only words to which he is entitled, in my opinion, are these: "Your honor, I am a sick sick individual who has no place in society, ever again. I request that I be incarcerated for life or, if you prefer, put to death. Anything less would be a travesty. I am a travesty. My wife, too."
Friday, June 4, 2010
I just watched a really disturbing video, about the booming -- or lack thereof -- of the Gulf Coast. It's full of really bad language, so much so that I'll just provide a link as opposed to embedding the clip. But for those of you who wouldn't be offended by pervasive use of the f-word and occasional use of the c-word, it can be seen here.
Thursday, June 3, 2010
Of the many things I find incomprehensible about the American right wing, their hatred of the ACLU is very near the top of a long and depressing list. That a party which claims reverence for the Constitution and professes distrust of big government reviles an organization dedicated to protecting people's rights from government overreach has always seemed absolutely self-contradictory. Hypocritical. Nonsensical. Inconsistent.
Punishing students for wearing T-shirts with the American flag is a clear violation of their free speech rights. The ACLU of Northern California responded to the incident by sending a letter (PDF) to Morgan Hill Schools Superintendant Dr. Wesley Smith, reminding him of the speech rights students are entitled to under the U.S. Constitution and California law.
A PDF of the more formal letter sent to the school is here. This shouldn’t surprise anyone familiar with the actual ACLU, as opposed to the movement conservative caricature of it.
Of all the people whose natural inclination you'd think would be strong support of such a group, it ought to be so-called conservatives, libertarians, and, if they knew the first thing about anything, teabaggers. Protectors of civil liberties, willing to stick out their necks, to do the unpopular thing in the name of constitutional rights: could such a group be more American, more desirable, more, ferchrissakes, conservative?
I simply can't fathom it.
Well, of course I can. Congressional Republicans, the RWS™, and most of those who support and believe them, have no more love for the Constitution than they have understanding of it. They only love the law when it's convenient, when it applies to them; not to the poor, the brown, the black, the gay, the female, the non-Christian. Any people they don't like. Of that, they really hate to be reminded. Which is what the ACLU does, every day, across the political spectrum. We're a nation of laws, it says; laws that need to be applied equally, to majorities, minorities, rich, poor, powerful and weak.
Wednesday, June 2, 2010
войнa и мир
From 2005. Thanks, Timmyson: thought-provoking on many levels. It makes great sense, even if there's an implication that it's easier than it is.
Hard to be optimistic about Afghanistan. Says, only in part, a report from our own government:
DOD and the State Department have experienced a myriad of problems in carrying out this training. For the Afghan Army, problems include attrition rates of about 20%, deficiencies in leadership, frequent absenteeism that can reduce units to 50% of their strength, limited logistical capabilities, and questionable behavior. For the police, training has been hampered by illiteracy, corruption, and the targeting and killing of police recruits and police by insurgents.
Summarizing an April Senate hearing on Afghan police training, the CRS report cites the following problems, which have also been widely noted elsewhere:* Difficulties in coordinating DOD, State Department, and NATO coalition training;
* Persistent problems in relying on private contractors including poor performance and bad behavior, unauthorized use of firearms and inadequate vetting, and shortages of contractor personnel; and
* Lack of sufficient personnel to manage contracts and insufficient contract oversight including invalid invoices as well as inadequate performance.
As for the Americans, they won his bitter enmity. By Zaeef’s account—which aligns with those of numerous other prisoners who fell into U.S. hands in the wars that followed September 11th—he was treated barbarically: stripped naked, beaten, interrogated endlessly to no purpose, always kept isolated and ignorant of his situation, made to endure years of physical and mental torture in a condition of legal blackout. In a way, even worse than the loss of his rights is the sheer gratuitous ugliness of his treatment at the hands of American soldiers: “Every day all prisoners were lined up outside and made to stand in the sun. There were about twenty tents that held eight hundred prisoners. Not all soldiers were the same, but some would command us to stand there for half-an-hour before they took the attendance register and almost two hours afterwards. No one was allowed to sit down or stand in the shade, no matter what his condition.” Zaeef adds: “May Allah punish those soldiers!”
In Zaeef’s telling, He surely will.
The Americans have won the hatred of all Afghans, he concludes, and will lose the war as the Soviets lost theirs: the whole world is turning away from the U.S. and coming to see the justice of the Islamic cause. Like any religious revolutionary, Zaeef is certain that history and faith will soon rhyme. His entire story is saturated in righteousness; all the hardships he endures are redeemed by the solidarity of the faithful, whose superiority to non-Muslims is taken for granted. Zaeef doesn’t even pay lip service to the notion of equal rights for all: the only outrage is what’s done to Muslims, because they are Muslims and better than the rest of humanity. This world view is founded on such chauvinism that Americans, with our automatic assumptions about equality, might fail to notice it. “My Life with the Taliban” shows that, while all wars are foolish, some wars are not a matter of mere misunderstanding—that beneath the superficial differences of clothing and facial hair lie more profound differences that can’t be reconciled.
.... Yon's outlook is bleak. "Even if the President commits more forces [next year], they will not be effective until 2012. By that time, more allies likely will have peeled off, requiring us to commit even more forces to cover down. We lost crucial time in building the Afghan National Police and Afghan National Army and so forth, and today we are paying the price. This is not to mention that the Afghan government is sorry at best and criminal at worst."He concludes, "The trajectory of this war leaves a sick feeling in my stomach. It's as if I've watched a space shuttle liftoff while sitting at launch control, with full knowledge that it will abort to the Indian Ocean. We are trying to reach orbit with insufficient fuel."Presently, Michael Yon continues to cover the situation in Thailand. As long as General McChrystal is in charge, his days as an embedded reporter are finished, though he intends to return to Afghanistan independently in the near future.
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