Friday, March 31, 2006

The Bush Administration versus the Founding Fathers

I've written a guest post for Unclaimed Territory about the Bush administration representing a radical departure from our democratic institutions. You can read it here.

Then, once you're done, make sure you read Glenn's latest post about the Bush (43) White House using the same defense for its NSA surveillance that the Nixon White House used for its spying, which was just quoted by Senator Feingold on the Senate Floor.

Stephen Hadley overestimated the public's esteem of not being lied to

Following up on his previous work about the President having lied about the nature of intelligence he received about Iraq, National Journal reporter Murray Waas now reveals the Karl Rove was worried that revelations about the NIE contradicting the President's public statements about Iraq would hurt the President's re-election chances, and that Rove ochestrated damage-control efforts which included blaming the CIA for intelligence failures and discrediting Joseph Wilson.

But here's the part that touches a nerve for me

[Then-Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen] Hadley was particularly concerned that the public might learn of a classified one-page summary of a National Intelligence Estimate, specifically written for Bush in October 2002. The summary said that although "most agencies judge" that the aluminum tubes were "related to a uranium enrichment effort," the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research and the Energy Department's intelligence branch "believe that the tubes more likely are intended for conventional weapons."
I realize that it's partly the fault of our failing media, but still, the fact that the President, Colin Powell, and others misstated the intelligence regarding the aluminum tubes has been public knowledge for at least two years now. At what point will we tell our elected leaders that we are tired of being lied to?

Quote of the day

Jeff Taylor, from his alarmingly devastating critique of the FBI having obstructed Agent Harry Samit's pre-9/11 efforts to investigate Moussaoui:

[The] decision to deny a warrant [to search Zacarias Moussaoui's computer and belongings] gave rise to the myth that "The Wall" between overseas intelligence and criminal investigations made the PATRIOT Act necessary. To this day this myth is cherished among right-wing radio talkers and has, just now, morphed into a clumsy justification for the White House's sidestepping the FISA court and directing its own wiretap frenzy via the NSA. This is all pure fantasy.

Enron'ing the environment

I'm not sure if anyone else has used this term before, but I'd like to propose a new word: "Enron'ing".

Enron'ing: using deceptive tactics to create the illusion of prosperity in the face of severe decline or failure.

My first official use is in response to this New York Times story about how Interior Secretary Gale A. Norton and Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns were able "to announce proudly on Thursday the first net increase in wetlands since the Fish and Wildlife Service started measuring them in 1954."

An increase in wetlands for the first time since 1954? That's fantastic, right? Well, no, not if you notice what accounts for the increase. The increase came from the figures being fixed. We lost 523,500 acres of swamps and tidal marshes but gained 715,300 acres of "shallow-water wetlands" aka ponds.

In the bog of the federal regulatory code, a wetland is defined as a marshy area of saturated soils and plants whose roots spend part of their lives immersed in water. In the Interior Department's periodic national surveys, a wetland is defined, more or less, as wet.

Traditional tidal, coastal and upland marshes count, but so do golf course water hazards and other manmade ponds whose surface is less than 20 acres.

See? Just like Enron's numbers looked great on paper, right up to the bankruptcy, so to will our environment look great on paper. The Bush administration is Enron'ing the environment.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Long story short: Freud sucks

That's the gist of this authoritative response Frederick Crews had to a recent Newsweek cover story about the pervasive influence of Freud on popular culture.

Freud's status as the poster boy for psychiatry has always been a personal frustration for me for the reasons that:
1.) I see Freud as a psuedoscientist who was able to utilize insight and his great intellect to fashion powerful (yet, false) narratives about the way the human mind works
2.) The quack theories Freud is best known for reflect poorly on the respectability of the discipline
3.) The fields of behavioral and cognitive psychology, along with the field of neuroscience, have made amazing strides in our understanding of human consciousness that are obscured by the shadow Freud casts over popular awareness.

So I was glad to see Crews's response do a good job of explaining why Freud should not be taken seriously.

It's the media fault!

Continuing its assault on our democratic institutions, the Bush administration has taken to blaming the media for low public opinion of our operations in Iraq, alleging that the media has presented the public with biased coverage which over reports negative news and under reports positive news.

Lara Logan responds eloquently in defense of the press. The video is worth watching.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

The signifigance of the newly verified Downing Street memo(s)

In Febuary the Guardian ran a story about a memo obtained by Professor Phillip Sands that revealed Bush and Blair made a pact to invade Iraq with or without the approval of the UN, while also revealing that they considered disguising a plane with UN colors in order to provoke Iraq into shooting it down so that they would have a justification for war. On Monday the New York Times verified that the memo is authentic.

The memo is damning, as it reveals that the President was lying when he made public statement expressing a desire to avoid war, as he had already made the decision to invade Iraq, regardless of whether the UN approved, and regardless of whether or not any evidence of WMD's was obtained. The significance is obvious, yet, as Media Matters notes, the mainstream media has under reported the fact that what is revealed in the memo direcly contradicts the public statements that President Bush made about Iraq leading up to the invasion in March 2003.

What is most disturbing, to me, is the media's ambivalence towards the feeble response to this memo that has been put forth by the White House. Think Progress reports that Scott McClellan claimed in a press briefing the day of the Times story that the President's public and private statements about Iraq were "fully consistent"

This was a meeting that took place back in January of 2003. Even if I know exactly what was said in that meeting, I wouldn’t get into discussing private conversations between world leaders like this. Again, I reiterate to you: The comments that we are making publicly and privately are fully consistent with one another.
As one can see from the Think Progress link, this is absurd. There is no way that the public and private statements of the President can be said to be consistent - the public and private statements of the President are in direct contradiction.

So we have a memo that reveals the President had privately determined to invade Iraq at a time when he was publically claiming that he was still undecided about an invasion and the only defense that the White House can offer is that being undecided about invading and decided about invading are consistent.

One should recall that in the first Downing Street memo the head of British intelligence, Richard Dearlove, reported to Prime Minister Blair upon returning from a July 2002 meeting with top American officials that:

Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. The NSC had no patience with the UN route, and no enthusiasm for publishing material on the Iraqi regime's record. There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action.
The media ignored this as well, despite the startling implication.

In science there is a concept known as consilience which refers to the way multiple lines of inquiry converge to reveal a bit of knowledge. The more consilient the evidence is, the more confident we can be that what we believe is true. What this new memo does is increase the amount of consilient evidence we have that the administration presented a disengenous case for invading Iraq.

Other recent news stories which increase the consilient evidence of this conclusion are ex-CIA agents Paul Pillar's allegations that the intelligence on Iraq was cherry-picked and the National Journal revealing that Bush lied about intelligence on Iraq.

This is in addition to other such lines of evidence such as former Secretary of the Treasury Paul O'Neal alleging that the decision to invade Iraq was predetermined and Bob Woodward revealing in his book Bush at War that plans for invading Iraq were begun shortly after the attack of 9/11, with Donald Rumsfield advocating an invasion of Iraq not because it had anything to do with al Qaeda, but because he thought it would be an easy invasion.

Were the press doing its job, the public would be presented with the narrative that is clearly emerging.

Journalism 101

If you run a story based on the work of another journalist, you credit that journalist. Simple, yes? Apparently, not simple enough for the AP.

Satire of the day

Ten Reasons Gays Marriage is Wrong (h/t News Blog)

01) Being gay is not natural. Real Americans always reject unnatural things like eyeglasses, polyester, and air conditioning.

02) Gay marriage will encourage people to be gay, in the same way that hanging around tall people will make you tall.

03) Legalizing gay marriage will open the door to all kinds of crazy behavior. People may even wish to marry their pets because a dog has legal standing and can sign a marriage contract.

04) Straight marriage has been around a long time and hasn't changed at all; women are still property, blacks still can't marry whites, and divorce is still illegal.

05) Straight marriage will be less meaningful if gay marriage were allowed; the sanctity of Britany Spears' 55-hour just-for-fun marriage would be destroyed.

06) Straight marriages are valid because they produce children. Gay couples, infertile couples, and old people shouldn't be allowed to marry because our orphanages aren't full yet, and the world needs more children.

07) Obviously gay parents will raise gay children, since straight parents only raise straight children.

08) Gay marriage is not supported by religion. In a theocracy like ours, the values of one religion are imposed on the entire country. That's why we have only one religion in America.

09) Children can never succeed without a male and a female role model at home. That's why we as a society expressly forbid single parents to raise children.

10) Gay marriage will change the foundation of society; we could never adapt to new social norms. Just like we haven't adapted to cars, the service-sector economy, or longer life spans.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

What exactly constitutes a "war on Christians"?

An organization called Vision America is going to host in Washington D.C. "The War Against Christians and the Values Voter 2006" Conference later this month. Vision America lists the following as examples of this war
  • Christmas symbols and greetings purged
  • Judge bans "In God We Trust" from Pledge of Allegiance
  • Chaplain told he can't pray in Jesus' name
  • Removal of 10 Commandments monuments
  • Move to stifle religious expression at Air Force Academy
  • Christians arrested for praying at a "gay pride" rally in Philadelphia
  • Homosexual "marriage" by judicial decree in Mass.
  • Blasphemous "Da Vinci Code" movie hits theaters in May
  • Churches torched in Alabama
  • Court says parental rights end at schoolhouse door
A commenter at the Secular Web's Church/State Seperation Forum astutely points out that what V.A. considers war amounts to not being allowed to establish a theocracy or to impose their moralistic beliefs on others through legislation.

Most of those examples they are calling a "War on Christians" and "Overruling God" are proper enforcement of non-establishment, a fact that they hide by omitting mention of the government context outside of which they are not applicable, combined with an arson rampage that resulted in arrests and a popular novel converted to a movie. So we can reasonably conclude: 1) these people vehemently oppose non-establishment of Christianity amd Christian compatable monotheism which they consider to be an unacceptable attack on their religious beliefs 2) they consider laws which don't enforce their religious beliefs on the general population to be an unacceptable attack on their religious beliefs, 3) they consider fictional movies that challange facts which are posited by the religion to be an unacceptable attack on their religious beliefs, 4) they consider 1-3 above to be a raging war comparable in nature to a church arson rampage crime.

When people politicize their religion like this then their religious beliefs become part of the political debate and a proper target for challange. Basically, there is no way to challange their disrespect for the civil rights of non-Christians short of convincing them that their religious beliefs are questionable since they make no practical or meaningfull distinction between their religious beliefs and their perspective regarding public policy.
Failure to make a distinction between religious beliefs and public policy is a trait shared by theocratic Islam, a point raised by Jimmy Carter which was dismissed as absurd by a reviewer at the Weekly Standard.

Meanwhile, Andrew Sullivan links to a legal brief demonstrating that if you're an atheist you're unlikely to win a child custody case in the United States.

This doesn't make me feel safer

I've long held the view that our approach to fighting terrorism is not rational, nor cost effective, having recently mused that our approach to preventing terrorism seems to be the equivalent attempting to put out a fire by pouring gasoline on it.

Now a report has been released that a team of government investigators were able to smuggle enough radioactive material into the United States in order to produce two dirty bombs (see here for the story.) Isn't that unacceptable five years after 9/11? Wouldn't we have been better off devoting our resources to practical means of making us safer rather than ideological fantasy missions in Iraq? We've spent two hundred plus billion dollars in Iraq and the final cost could run into the trillion dollar range. What if we had put that money into securing our borders and ports, into funding the Coast Guard, into securing our chemical and nuclear plants. What if instead of squandering our diplomatic influence by undermining the UN and disregarding international treaties we had worked towards securing loose nuclear materials around the world and strengthening the non-proliferation treaty.

Shouldn't this have been the priority?

Monday, March 27, 2006

The voice of fanatacism

"Rejecting Islam is insulting God. We will not allow God to be humiliated. This man must die." - Abdul Raoulf

The quote above came from a man whom the Associated Press described as a moderate Muslim cleric. Thankfully, international outrage and pressure has led Afghanistan to spare the life of Abdul Rhaman. Rhaman was released on the grounds that he was insane, as being insane is the only legitimate excuse for becoming an apostate, according to Sharia law.

Rhaman is not insane, but that was the only way the Afghanistan gov't could save face with the international community without acknowledging the wrongness of the law that makes apostacy punishable by death.

But the fact that orthodox Islam considers insanity the only plausible reason for deciding to no longer be a Muslim is telling. Its indicative of a mindset that has completely been engulfed with fanatacism, where faith has been fully embraced and nothing else can penetrate, belief is all that matters.

To fully grasp the horror of this meme, consider this conversation I had with a Muslim who believes that this law is just.

Me: This is so profoundly disturbing to me. Even ______, who is usually reasonable and moderate, sees nothing wrong with killing a person for the "crime" of changing his mind.

A law which calls for someone to be put to death because they changed their mind about something is evil. If you worship a god that made thinking a crime, then your god is evil.

Joseph Conrad once wrote, "all a man can betray is his conscience." This is what the Sharia would have you do, betray your concience. How can thought be criminalized? How can a person not be free to think whatever thoughts they are compelled to think?

If a person is not free to choose or change their religion, then they are not free, period. They have been made a slave from the inside out.

I know that _____ will tell me that we can't judge God's laws, that all we can do is follow them. That's fanatic talk, the talk of a slave, a person who now advocates that you too become a slave. That you should put the chains on yourself, and love being a slave.

The word that Islam is derived from means "submission." What you are to submit is your very humanity.

Him: That's exactly it. You submit to God as His willing servant, "slave" if you like.

Not one of the beings in the heavens and the earth but must come to God Most Gracious as a servant. (Qur'an 19:93)

The answer of the Believers, when summoned to God and His Apostle, in order that He may judge between them, is no other than this: they say, "We hear and we obey": it is such as these that will attain felicity. It is such as obey God and His Apostle, and fear God and do right, that will win in the end (Qur'an 24:48-51)

The Prophet (pbuh) said:"Do not exaggerate in praising me as the Christians praised the son of Mary, for I am only a slave. So, call me the Slave of God and His Apostle."

"I am a slave. I eat as a slave eats and I sit as a slave sits."

In a previous conversation, he gave this rationale for the law:

Apostacy is the worst crime possible. That's why God places such high preventative measures against it, for your own sake.

God says that whoever leaves Islam, will not only be eternally in Hell, they will never be guided.

That's why a serious eternal punishment is forewarned with a serious earthly punishment. That's how seriously a person needs to reconsider their position.
Were critical thought to factor into accepting such a rationale, one would immediately see the circularity of it. Why must God punish apostacy? Because its a serious crime. Why is it a serious crime? Because God punishes apostacy seriously. Why must God prevent apostacy? Because apostacy will lead to eternity in Hell. Why does apostacy lead to enternity in Hell? Because God punishes apostacy by eternity in Hell.

The ghost of Patrick Henry responds to Senator Roberts

Senator Pat Roberts, speaking about the NSA surveillance scandal, had this to say: "You don't have civil liberties if you're dead."

Hearing this, from the great beyond, the ghost of Patrick Henry answered, "Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!"

Quote of the day

"Whatsoever thou wouldst that men should not do to thee, do not do that to them. That is the whole Law. The rest is only explanation." - Hillel Ha-Babli, The Sabbath (30 B.C.E.), as quoted by Michael Shermer in The Science of Good and Evil

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Art quote of the day

"Everything we see hides another thing, we always want to see what is hidden by what we see. There is an interest in that which is hidden ..." - Rene Magritte, from his commentary on "The Son of Man" (1964)

Saturday, March 25, 2006

If Stop the ACLU were to quote Twain...

It might look something like this

You see, my kind of loyalty was loyalty to one's country, not to institutions or its officeholders. The country is the real thing; it is the thing to watch over and care for and be loyal to; institutions extraneous, they are its mere clothing, and clothing can wear out, become ragged, cease to be comfortable, cease to protect the body from winter, disease, and death. To be loyal to rags, to shout for rags, to worship rags, to die for rags--that is a loyalty of unreason; it is pure animal; it belongs to monarchy; was invented by monarchy; let monarchy keep it. I was from Connecticut, whose constitution declared "That all political power is inherent in the people, and all free governments are founded on their authority and instituted for their benefit, and that they have at all times an undeniable and indefensible right to alter their form of government in such a manner as they think expedient." Under that gospel, the citizen who thinks that the Commonwealth's political clothes are worn out and yet holds his peace and does not agitate for a new suit, is disloyal; he is a traitor. That he may be the only one who thinks he sees this decay does not excuse him; it is his duty to agitate, anyway, and it is the duty of others to vote him down kill him if they do not see the matter as he does.
- Mark Twain, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court

See, now that's how you do satire (as opposed to this.)

John sent me this quote (in its original form) via e-mail the other day in response to people who make the case that dissent equals treason.

Unfunny "joke" of the day

Rope + Tree + ACLU Lawyer = Pinata

From Stop the ACLU (via Orcinus)

Here's the disclaimer they ran after a website pointed out that STACLU had photoshopped a picture of Albert Einstein advocating the murder of members of the ACLU:

"For those who are too stupid to understand, the below picture is satire. It is a joke. We do not actually advocate murder in any way here at STACLU."

Could someone explain to me what the satire of Albert Einstein writing an equation on a blackboard that has as its solution the death of ACLU lawyers is? Sorry to say, I don't see it. What I do see, is a "joke" which only works if the audience hates the target.

Really, if someone said

tree + rope + nigger = pinata

Would you think that's funny? I expect some southern racist in the 1920's would think that's a good joke, and might try and defend it on the same grounds.

But hate is not a joke. And its not funny.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Days numbered for the Easter Bunny

If you needed further proof that Bill O'Reilly is one of the transmitters that Dave Neiwert writes about, you've got it.

Earlier today the Green Knight posted a link to a World Net Daily article about Easter and the Easter bunny coming under attack. No, really.

As I type this the Factor is on and Bill is telling me that secular progressives have targeted the Easter bunny for elimination. How can anyone take this man seriously?

And recalling my previous post about meme evolution, its interesting to note that in Henry Ford's rabidly anti-Semitic tract The International Jew, he wrote that Jews were working to eliminate Easter in addition to Christmas.

Trivia of the day

Question: Who coined the term 'secularism'?

Answer: George Jacob Holyoake (1817 -1906) in 1846.

Bush versus the Constitution

From the Boston Globe

Bush signed the bill with fanfare at a White House ceremony March 9, calling it ''a piece of legislation that's vital to win the war on terror and to protect the American people." But after the reporters and guests had left, the White House quietly issued a ''signing statement," an official document in which a president lays out his interpretation of a new law.

In the statement, Bush said that he did not consider himself bound to tell Congress how the Patriot Act powers were being used and that, despite the law's requirements, he could withhold the information if he decided that disclosure would ''impair foreign relations, national security, the deliberative process of the executive, or the performance of the executive's constitutional duties."

Bush wrote: ''The executive branch shall construe the provisions . . . that call for furnishing information to entities outside the executive branch . . . in a manner consistent with the president's constitutional authority to supervise the unitary executive branch and to withhold information . . . "

The statement represented the latest in a string of high-profile instances in which Bush has cited his constitutional authority to bypass a law.

His constitutional authority to act unconstitutional. If you can't wrap your brain around that logic then you haven't mastered double-think yet.

The President, as head of the Executive branch of government, is sworn to uphold the laws of the nation, to enforce them. He does not get to decide when or if he will follow the laws. Doing so is a violation of the separation of powers that were enshrined in the Constitution to prevent and/or minimize the abuse of power.

"The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny." - James Madison

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Troops to stay in Iraq until at least 2009

So says the President. If someone had asked you in 2001 what we could do to reduce the risk of terrorist attacks against the United States would one of your answers have been to engage in a 6 year trillion dollar war in an oil rich Middle Eastern country (that had nothing to do with the attacks on 9/11)?

The war on American values meme

In a discussion that started in the comments of this post at Orcinus about how "the Left" was said by Lou Rosetto to be a "fellow traveler" of "Islamic fascism" even though in America it is Republican party which has for a influential chunk of its constituency the ideological equivalents of Islamic theocrats I remarked that:

"The left" is defined as whoever America's enemy is.

My theory is that liberal hate replaced Jew hate in the right-wing mind after the horrors of WWII made it politically incorrect to blame Jews for everything wrong.

No one wants to act like a Nazi afterall.

That's the motivating factor for Holocaust deniers - they want to make it acceptable to hate Jews again.

A commenter replied that "the mainstream punditocracy comes about as close to 'Jew hate' as you can get when they start talking about 'decadent coastal elites', 'Hollywood elites' and 'international financiers'... the only things missing are, well, the word 'Jew' and grotesque caricatures of obese, unshaven, hook-nosed men in tophats and tails," and another added that, "much of today's anti-Semitism is hidden behind codewords. Funny how these words also conflate "Jew" with "Liberal (that is, Communist)."

I then answered that I agree that there is hidden anti-semitism in the culture war punditry, but that it is hidden from the right-winger himself. The horrors of WWII demonstrated the wrongness of anti-semitism, so the meme evolved to scapegoat a group that was acceptable to blame: liberal secular progressives. People like Bill O'Reilly who warn about the secular elites in Hollywood and the evil anti American ACLU are not conscious of how such rhetoric seems to be the same rhetoric that was employed previously, minus the overt anti-Semetism.

As an example of the development of the meme I referenced the war on Christmas, outlining that:

  • In the 20's - Jews were accused of attacking Christmas
  • In the 60's - Communists were accused of attacking Christmas
  • Now - Liberals are accused of attacking Christmas
Now, this "theory" of mine is just a hunch, and I have not really investigated it all that much to see if it hold true. But it is consistent with Dave Neiwert's research into how extremist ideas have been making their way into the mainstream political discourse via transmitters who present sanitized palatable versions of these views.

Consider, for example, this forum entry I found from someone who is most likely a Stormfront member as the unevolved form of the meme.

Primarily due to the fact they control and own all of the most radical leftists groups such as the ACLU, NAACP, ADL, etc and attack everything I believe in. They have a monopoly on the press and use it to attack everything I and America stands for along with hollywood which promotes absolute filth. They vote overwhelmingly democrat and are responsible for neoconservatism. They try to impose their communist beliefs on the general public regardless of what public opinion is. A good example of this is: Howard Stern, Jerry Springer, Ricki Lake, Muary Povich etc. If you see something indecent there is a 99 percent change its a Jew behind it. I am serious and it's true. Not all Jews are like this you always have your acceptions but the majority of them do have radical political beliefs. They are always the biggest obstacle to decency and passing a measure which is in the best interest of America. Their continual bigotry and intolerance towards Christians and people who disagree with them can no longer be ignored.

I believe that Asians have a tendency to be liberal but they keep to themselves and do not impose their viewpoints on everyone else unlike Jews. I respect that. They are entiteled to their beliefs and as long as they do not try to shove it down my throat I dont have a problem with them.

I feel that it is absolutely imperative to notify the public of the dangers of having our motion picture industry dominated by Jewish Marxists. When liberal radicals own networks which have a tremendous amount of influence they are going to chose programming which reflect their personal views; views which are contrary to the principles of our democracy. These viewpoints are being filtered down to the unsuspecting general public which therefore influence: public policy, opinion, culture, and redefine our society and lower cultural and religious standards. Promoting communist propaganda is not in our best interest. Our movies are broadcast to the world and it reflects on America. Jewish control of America needs to be broken or we cant expect this country to maintain it's prosperity.
If we were to excise the racism what would be left? You'd be left with something that could easily pass for something written or said by any mainstream culture war pundit. Let's take a look.

Bill O'Reilly:

It's hard to be optimistic when fundamental creeds like America's Judeo-Christian philosophy, like competitive capitalism, like responsibility for one's actions are all under fire by the likes of George Soros and other "open society people."

Even the optimism of President Reagan would be challenged by organizations like the ACLU, the NAACP, and some large urban newspapers who want to tear down traditional America and replace it with a secular entitlement-driven system.
Jerome Corsi

This year's fare of little watched movies insisted on jamming America once again with Hollywood's "in your face" extreme leftist agenda. If "Brokeback Mountain" had won, we would have been besieged with an emboldened gay lobby even more determined to advance their crusade in our movie theaters and public schools.
Don Feder

Abetted by activists in the federal judiciary, the Anti-Defamation League and American Civil Liberties Union are intent on removing all prayers, all religious symbols and all references to God from our public life.

Appeals to inclusiveness are a cover.

Ultimately, they seek to purge Judeo-Christian morality from our legal system and government. They understand what many Christians and Jews miss--without God, there is no basis for traditional morality.

Once the vestiges of faith have been swept aside, they can fashion the America they long for--one that will make San Francisco on a Saturday night seem like a Baptist revival meeting on Sunday morning.

Bill O'Reilly

Anyway, Fox News has risen up to become a major force -- factor, if you will -- in America. And it is a counter to the secular progressive, left-wing media, which dominates the newspaper industry and is very sympathetic in the television industry. And everybody knows that. That, that's provable. The studies have shown it. Newspaper, after newspaper, after newspaper where you live.

Traditional Values Coalition

The list goes on, but it is important to see the coalition that has formed: Islamists, Marxists, Hollywood Liberals, and Homosexual activist groups – all aligned with the Revolutionary Communist Party to vilify President Bush, Christians, and the war against Islamic terrorism.


A dangerous Marxist/Leftist/Homosexual/Islamic coalition has formed – and we’d better be willing to fight it with everything in our power. These people are playing for keeps. Their hero, Mao Tse Tung is estimated to have murdered upwards of 60 million people during his reign of terror in China. Do we think we can escape such persecution if we refuse to fight for what is right?

And then, of course, there's Ann Coulter, who believes there is a liberal Communist plot against America. In Treason she writes

The portrayal of Senator Joe McCarthy as a wild-eyed demagogue destroying innocent lives is sheer liberal hobgoblinism. Liberals weren't cowering in fear during the McCarthy era. They were systematically undermining the nation's ability to defend itself while waging a bellicose campaign of lies to blacken McCarthy's name. Everything you think you know about McCarthy is a hegemonic lie. Liberals denounced McCarthy because they were afraid of getting caught, so they fought back like animals to hide their own collaboration with a regime as evil as the Nazis.
Later, Coulter states

Americans cannot comprehend how their fellow countrymen could not love their country. But the left's anti-Americanism is intrinsic to their entire worldview. Liberals promote the right of Islamic fanatics for the same reason they promote the rights of adulterers, pornographers, abortionists, criminals, and Communists. They instinctively root for anarchy against civilization. The inevitable logic of the liberal position is to be for treason.
Those are just a few examples. But one need only turn on the tv or read the latest Limbaugh, Malkin, Bozell, etc. column to hear about how far left liberal radicals in Hollywood and the media are attacking Christianity and American values. Perhaps these people might rethink their views if they noticed how similar it sounds to the anti-Semitic rhetoric of the past.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Americans trust atheists the least

Damn, what century is this again? From Pharyngula

From a telephone sampling of more than 2,000 households, university researchers found that Americans rate atheists below Muslims, recent immigrants, gays and lesbians and other minority groups in "sharing their vision of American society." Atheists are also the minority group most Americans are least willing to allow their children to marry.
These Americans don't think atheists can be moral. How sad. How sad it is that they think the only reason they behave themselves is because an invisible super magic power wants them to. And here I thought being kind and honest was the right thing to do because the world would be a terrible place if people weren't kind and honest.

Literary quote of the day

"Did I request thee, Maker, from my clay
To mould me Man? Did I solicit thee
From darkness to promote me?"

- John Milton, Paradise Lost*

*This is also the opening line of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

The Ring of Gyges and the temptation of Frodo

The Ring of Gyges is a legend about a shepherd who finds a magical ring which grants him the ability to turn invisible and who then uses the ring to seize power and wealth for himself. The legend was proposed by the character Glaucon in Plato's Republic as a thought experiment in order to demonstrate Glaucon's view that men act justly only because they can not get away with being unjust. Glaucon argues

Suppose now that there were two such magic rings, and the just put on one of them and the unjust the other; no man can be imagined to be of such an iron nature that he would stand fast in justice. No man would keep his hands off what was not his own when he could safely take what he liked out of the market, or go into houses and lie with any one at his pleasure, or kill or release from prison whom he would, and in all respects be like a God among men. Then the actions of the just would be as the actions of the unjust; they would both come at last to the same point. And this we may truly affirm to be a great proof that a man is just, not willingly or because he thinks that justice is any good to him individually, but of necessity, for wherever any one thinks that he can safely be unjust, there he is unjust. For all men believe in their hearts that injustice is far more profitable to the individual than justice, and he who argues as I have been supposing, will say that they are right. If you could imagine any one obtaining this power of becoming invisible, and never doing any wrong or touching what was another's, he would be thought by the lookers-on to be a most wretched idiot, although they would praise him to one another's faces, and keep up appearances with one another from a fear that they too might suffer injustice.
Socrates answered that acting unjustly was not in the self-interest of an invidual because it would throw his tripartite soul (reason/appetite/spirit) out of balance. Socrates believed justice is balancing the three parts of the soul, and that unchecked pursuit of desires upset that balance,because material desires will be pursued at the expense of wisdom. In essence, Socrates argues that it is wrong to abuse the power of the ring, and that is in itself reason enough to not abuse power.

While many people would agree with Socrates, many people will also find it hard to resist the temptation not to use the power of the ring to their advantage. And despite ultimately agreeing with Socrates that actly justly is a good in itself, I must say that I also agree with Glaucon that that the concept of justice originated as a social construct. Morality likely developed as a consequence of man's evolutionary history as a social creature in which having a sense of right and wrong and a means of punishing/discouraging unfair behavior facilitated social cohesion and cooperation between individuals who might have conflicting interests (see the Nash equilibrium).

J.R.R. Tolkien picked up on this theme in The Lord of the Rings, with Sauron's Ring of Power being that tale's equivalent of the Ring of Gyges. In Tolkien's world, no one is able to resist the temptation of the ring, with every person who wears the ring eventually being corrupted by it, including even those who have no desire to act unjustly. The solution that Tolkien proposes is not to put the ring on in the first place; to instead destroy it, so that no one can abuse it or be tempted by it.

Can this parable teach us anything today?

Believe or die

Andrew Sullivan points out the Sharia's notion of tolerance.

"We will invite him again because the religion of Islam is one of tolerance. We will ask him if he has changed his mind. If so we will forgive him." - Afghan judge, on sentencing a man to death for being an apostate

Monday, March 20, 2006

We are all Maher Arar

"He that would make his own liberty secure must guard even his enemy from oppression; for if he violates this duty he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself." - Thomas Paine, Dissertation on the First Prinicples of Government

Whenever someone speaks out about some injustice that has been committed in the name of fighting terrorism the most common response is, "they're terrorists, they don't deserve any rights." A close second would be, "if you're not doing anything wrong, you have nothing to worry about." Even were we to accept the first premise as true it would still not justify violating the rule of law, because the second premise is false, or at least, were the second premise true it would mean we would have no need of the Bill of Rights or our Constitution. I assume that most Americans are not willing to put that sort of trust in the hands of their government.

At the Atheist Ethicist, Alonzo Fyfe writes

Basically, if, as Gonzales argues, the Constitution gives President Bush the authority to sign secret executive orders suspending the 4th Amendment, then he can suspend any Amendment. If he can replace the Judicial branch of government with his own Justice Department, and rewrite legislation as he sees fit, then he can eliminate (in practice if not in fact) the Judicial and Legislative branches of government.

Effectively, it is an argument that states that the Constitution does not exist except insofar as it pleases the President to use it.

As further proof of this, U.S. News and World Report has revealed that the Bush Administration is using the same arguments to claim the right to conduct warrantless physical searches of the home and business of “terror suspects.” That is to say, if you are a “terror suspect”, government issues can come into your house and look around without going to a judge and proving probable cause.

That is to say, government agents can look through your home and business after calling you a “terror suspect” without having to show anybody any good reason to believe you really are a “terror suspect”.

We Are All “Terror Suspects”
If that is true, then we are also all Maher Arar

In a startling, ominous decision ignored by most of the press around the country Federal District Judge David Trager, in the Eastern District of New York, has dismissed a lawsuit by a Canadian citizen, Maher Arar, who, during a stopover at Kennedy Airport on the way home to Canada after vacation, was kidnapped by CIA agents.

Arar was flown to Syria, where he was tortured for nearly a year in solitary confinement in a three-by-six-foot cell ("like a grave," he said). He became, internationally, one of the best-known victims of the CIA's extraordinary renditions the sending of suspected terrorists to countries known for torturing their prisoners.

Released after his ordeal, Arar has not been charged with any involvement in terrorism, or anything else, by Syria or the United States. Stigmatized by his notoriety, still traumatized, unemployed, he is back in Canada, where the Canadian Parliament had opened an extensive and expensive public inquiry into his capture and torture. The United States refuses to cooperate in any way with this investigation.

Maher Arar sued for damages in federal court here (Maher Arar v. John Ashcroft, formerly Attorney General of the United States, et al.). Representing Arar for the New York based Center for Constitutional Rights, David Cole predicts, and I agree, that if Judge Trager's ruling is upheld in an appeal to the Supreme Court, the CIA and other American officials will be told "they have a green light to do to others what they did to Arar" no matter what international or U.S. laws are violated in the name of national security.
Boston Legal has the courage to say what needs to be said about this.

Friday, March 17, 2006

V For Vendetta

Ok, I saw V for Vendetta.

Go see it. See it two or three times. Send a message that this story resonates with a people who still value liberty and democracy.

Update - To get the perspective of a pathological conservative on this movie, take a gander at this review by Debbie Schlussel (WARNING - Her review contains plot spoilers, if you don't want to know don't read it, and perhaps don't read the rest of this post.)


Despite the goverment in the movie being a nightmarish dictatorship, Schlussel still can't allow herself to admit that totalitarianism in the name of national security is wrong. She writes

Overall, the most outrageous thing about "V" is the ending. Instead of vanquishing terror, all of Britain sides with the terrorist hero of this movie. They celebrate his murder of all the top officials in government, his blowing up of the Houses of Parliament and other government buildings.

Terrorists and terrorism are the heroes, the government fighting them and trying to keep us safe are the enemy.

Um, somehow, Schlussel missed the part where V, the vigilante hero of the film, vanquished a 1984ish government which was ruling over Britain with an iron fist, controlling the people through fear and violence [and she also fails to note the two buildings that V blows up (techinically, he only blows up one) are both unoccupied - with V having given warning that the Parliament would get blown up a year in advance.]*

V does kill top officials. These were officials directly responsible for the deaths of thousands, and within the context of the movie killing them was the only option. I will admit one can find this sort of vigilantism morally objectionable, but its no more objectionable than any western movie where the good guy shoots up really bad people who happen to be the law.** There is something terribly disturbing about her inability to recognize that, in the reality that the movie presents us with, the government just so happens to be in the wrong when it censors, beats, kills and tortures its citizens.

Schlussel feels that the movie is pro al Qaeda and pro terrorism. It is not, or at least its only pro-terrorist in the sense that a people fighting an oppressive government can be called terrorists. The movie is a parable about a society which is fooled into voting into power an authoritarian government who takes advantage of the society's desire for security. There is nothing in it that suggests that the terrorists the people feared were not a legitimate threat. But the point is to be weary of trading essential liberty for temporary security. If that's anti American, then take it up with Ben Franklin.

Her real problem is that the movie holds up a mirror to the conservative movement and says, "this is what you might become if you continue on your present course." She's being defensive because she recognizes that some of the fascist elements in the movie are also shared by the conservative movement today. She thinks that is an absurd comparison, but the lady doth protest too much. Take for example, this quote from an obscure essayist which Dave Neiwert managed to dig up

Instead of sitting around, incessantly sniping at President Bush and the US Military, sipping "liberal coward broth", hating America and Conservatives, the wacko liberal poison Left-Wing Nuts and the rest of The Enemy Within should be rounded-up and put into "re-education camps" and forced to watch 24 hour, non-stop TV news footage of 9-11, Sodomy Insane's rape/torture/murder rooms and the unearthing of Iraqi mass graves. Those hard-core Lefty wacko filth who can't be converted, should be summarily tried and locked away for life; no chance of parole. They're a waste of oxygen and a "clear and present danger" to America, as is the murderous, degenerate cult of Islam. Free and unfettered speech is guaranteed under the First Amendment, but actively working and trying to destroy this Nation, in a time of war, when our very lives are in peril, is a treasonous and seditious offense, and should be treated as such, and punished by death. The much-maligned Patriot Act provides for that very situation, and should be implemented post haste. All verminous, hate-America, liberal-socialist-commie filth should be contained and selectively eliminated.
That's from a no name nobody extremist. But its not that far off from some more mainstream conservative thought.

When I have more time I may re-edit this and address the Christianity versus Islam aspect of her review.

*Although he does attempt to blow up another.
** There is some moral ambiguity that the movie acknowledges. Several of the deaths V causes seem more out of revenge than out of necessity. V, however, recognizes that he is part of a violent system and in the end dies by his own choice with the government that is overthrown.

Bill Frist on flag burning

Bill Frist plans on proposing a Constitutional amendment to "protect the flag" from "physical assault." Senator Frist, in a round about way, acknowledges that this is an abridgement of free speech when he writes, "exercising one's right to free speech by destroying the very icon of that right need not be one of them."

I've already written here why I believe it is antithetical to the principles of a secular democracy to be creating sacred icons.

This is the sort of Orwellian political grandstanding that I abhor. Under the pretense of protecting free speech America, Senator Frist would prohibit a means of expressing dissent. Legislating nationalistic orthodoxy is not patriotism, and one would hope that a United States Senator would be capable of telling the difference.

Flag burning does not threaten our freedom, but blasphemy laws do.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Frustrating quote of the day

"On Monday, President George Bush helped inaugurate Sunshine Week—an event first launched in 2005 to promote openness and transparency in government—by warning an audience at George Washington University that the free press was aiding terrorists in Iraq." - Julian Sanchez

Republic of Gilead Watch

Missouri, having already proposed a resolution to establish a Christian theocracy, has now voted in its House to ban health clinics from providing family planning.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

On Propaganda

There are two kinds of propaganda - rational propaganda in favor of action that is consonant with the enlightened self-interest of those who make it and those to whom it is addressed, and non-rational propaganda that is not consonant with anybody's enlightened self-interest, but is dictated by, and appeals to, passion. Were the actions of individuals are concerned there are motives more exhalted than enlightened self-interest, but where collective action has to be taken in the fields of politics and economics, enlightened self-interest is probably the highest of effective motives. If politicians and their constituents always acted to promote their own or their country's long-range self-interest, this world would be an earthly paradise. As it is, they often act against their own interests, merely to gratify their least credible passions; the world, in consequence, is a place of misery. Propaganda in favor of action that is consonant with enlightened self-interest appeals to reason by means of logical arguements based upon the best available evidence fully and honestly set forth. Propaganda in favor of action dictated by the impulses that are below self-interest offers false, garbled or incomplete evidence, avoids logical argument and seeks to influence its victims by the mere repetition of catchwords, by the furious denunciation of foreign or domestic scapegoats, and by cunningly associating the lowest passions with the highest ideals, so that atrocities come to be perpetrated in the name of God and the most cynical kind of Realpolitik is treated as a matter of religious principle and patriotic duty.
- Aldous Huxley, "Propaganda in a Democratic Society"

This is why Senator Frist is so eager to get Democrats to vote on the motion to censure the President. He and other propagandists plan on making an emotional fear based appeal by spinning the issue as Democrats being weak on terror and exposing the country to danger. It is why Senator Frist and Bush defenders will say that Senator Feingold is opposed to fighting terrorism when in fact Senator Feingold is opposed to illegal spying on US citizens. And they do this with the confidence that the press will help to enable such vile deception.

This point about using emotional appeals to circumvent or prevent honest discussion was cleverly and concisely made by Stephen Colbert the other day during an interview with Arianna Huffington:

AH: "'Cut and run' is the ultimate in 'truthiness.' 'Cut and run' is just a catchphrase that stops people from thinking."

SC: "Exactly! We want them to feel. It doesn't matter what your reasons are; it feels like you're betraying America."

As I have pointed out on previous occasions (see here, here, and here) this tactic is dangerous and should be cause for alarm. This is why I keep bringing up that Herman Goering quote. It is profoundly disturbing to realize that one of the chief political strategies employed today by the Republican party was at one time the primary modus operandi of the Nazis.

Gays may be security risk, says Bush administration

From Yahoo

The Bush administration last year quietly rewrote the rules for allowing gays and lesbians to receive national-security clearances, drawing complaints from civil rights activists.

The Bush administration said security clearances cannot be denied "solely on the basis of the sexual orientation of the individual." But it removed language saying sexual orientation "may not be used as a basis for or a disqualifying factor in determining a person's eligibility for a security clearance."

Quote of the day

"Spat the RNC: 'Sen. Feingold's out of touch attack demonstrates, once again, that Democrats are willing to play politics with the most important issue facing the American people. Attempting to harness angry partisanship for short-term political gain does nothing to make America safer and everything to detract from President Bush's continued efforts to aggressively fight the War on Terror. Not only is Senator Feingold's approach a disservice to those who work tirelessly to protect America, it sends the wrong message to our enemies.' Not to dissect such a tired argument too far, but it ain't too far a leap to think that if George W. Bush fed roofies in chocolate eggs to the children at the White House Easter egg hunt and then went crazy fucking all the children one or two at a time and Russ Feingold felt that it might be proper to censure Bush for drugging and raping children, the RNC would put out the exact same statement." - The Rude Pundit

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Learn to love Big Brother

The ACLU released today evidence that the FBI has spied on organizations soley based upon their anti-war views.

Two documents released today reveal that the FBI investigated gatherings of the Thomas Merton Center for Peace & Justice just because the organization opposed the war in Iraq. Although previously disclosed documents show that the FBI is retaining files on anti-war groups, these documents are the first to show conclusively that the rationale for FBI targeting is the group's opposition to the war.
Meanwhile, Republicans and their strategists are busy calling Senator Feingold weak on terror for being opposed to the idea that the President can conduct secret spying on American citizens without oversight in violation of FISA and the Constitution; Democrats and their strategists are busy not supporting Senator Feingold because they're either afraid of being perceived as weak on terror or they do not object in principle to the violation of the 4th Amendment.

South Park on Scientology

I meant to say something about the episode South Park did on Scientology some time ago, but it slipped my mind until I came across this report that Isaac Hayes (a Scientologist) will be quitting the show because he feels that it is too intolerant of religious beliefs. South Park co-creator Matt Stone says everything that needs to be said about the decision:

"This is 100 percent having to do with his faith of Scientology... He has no problem — and he's cashed plenty of checks — with our show making fun of Christians."


"He wants a different standard for religions other than his own, and to me, that is where intolerance and bigotry begin."

Hayes is obviously upset because the episode made Scientology look bad. But the episode does this by simply letting Scientology speak for itself. The brilliance of the episode is that actually seeing what Scientologists believe is enough to demonstrate how utterly absurd it is. For example, watch the History of Scientology clip where a narrator tells the story of Xenu and body thetans while a disclaimer runs across the screen which reads "THIS IS WHAT SCIENTOLOGISTS ACTUALLY BELIEVE." It is indeed.

You'll notice that the alien souls were brainwashed before entering into our bodies. That's part of why Tom Cruise hates psychiatry. He thinks alien psychiatrists brainwashed the alien souls which had been murdered by an alien galatic overlord before they entered our bodies and became the root of all human psychological distress. How can you not ridicule that?

North Korea adopts the Bush Doctrine of pre-emptive attack

From Reuters

North Korea has the right to launch a pre-emptive attack against U.S.-backed South Korean forces because the two Koreas are technically still at war, the communist state's official media said on Tuesday.

The comments came as North Korea shows its displeasure with annual joint South Korean-U.S. military exercises, which Pyongyang has said are a preparation for an invasion of its territory.

A spokesman for the North's Korea People's Army (KPA) said distrust is high between the United States and North Korea, and Pyongyang "will never remain a passive onlooker to the U.S. pre-emptive attack on the DPRK," its official news agency reported.
In other news:


Democrats block vote on censure

From the New York Times

Senate Democrats on Monday blocked an immediate vote on a call by one of their own to censure President Bush for his eavesdropping program.

They acted after Republicans said they were eager to pass judgment on a proposal that they portrayed as baseless and disruptive to the antiterror effort.

What are the Democrats afraid of? Yes, the majority Republican party will vote against censuring the President. Let them. Let them go on the record as voting against the 4th Amendment, against the Bill of Rights, against the Constitution, against holding the President accountable for his actions. And once they do, ask the public if they want to be represented by men and women who believe that defending the President is more important than defending the Constitution.

Yes, you are going to be called unpatriotic. Yes, you are going to be called soft on terrorism. But so what? Answer that defending the Constitution is patriotic. Answer that fighting terrorism does not require abandoning the Bill of Rights. If you can not do that, what good are you to Americans across the political spectrum who are deeply concerned over an administration that claims it has the inherent authority to void laws when it sees fit to do so?

What's at stake here are core American values. We are still a nation that is bound by the rule of law, and no man, not even the President, is above the law. When I wrote my state's Senators today (both Republican) I told them that there are somethings that are more important than party allegiance, and that this issue was once such thing, and that it would be a sign of true courage for them to stand against the President in defense of the Constitution.

I did not expect them to do so. Yet I reserve the hope, however slight, that somewhere buried deep in their politician's souls is a remainder of the democratic spirit.

But if the opposition party can not even muster the courage to fight for the principles of democracy, what chance is there that Republicans will be moved to do so?

Monday, March 13, 2006

Quotes of the day

"The fear of be[ing] criticized can be paralyzing. Just look at the way so many Democrats caved in the run up to the war. In 2003, a lot of us were saying, where is the link between Saddam and bin Laden? What does Iraq have to do with 9/11? We knew it was bullshit. Which is why it drives me crazy to hear all these Democrats saying, 'We were misled.' It makes me want to shout, 'Fuck you, you weren't misled. You were afraid of being called unpatriotic.'" - George Clooney


"We need men with moral courage to speak and write their real thoughts, and to stand by their convictions, even to the very death." - Robert Green Ingersoll, "Thomas Paine"

Scott McClellan: enemy of democracy

From Reuters

"I think it does raise the question, how do you fight and win the war on terrorism?" McClellan said. "And if Democrats want to argue that we shouldn't be listening to al Qaeda communications, it's their right and we welcome the debate. We are a nation at war."
Scott McClellan is an enemy of democracy. He is an enemy of democracy because lies such as the one quoted above are intended to circumvent honest discourse by deliberately mischaracterizing the position of his political opponents. In Senator Feingold's clearly stated position he states, "This issue is not about whether the government should be wiretapping terrorists – of course it should, and it can under current law," yet McClellan accuses Feingold of "want[ing] to argue that we shouldn't be listening to al Qaeda communications."

Then to put the icing on the undemocratic cake, McClellan states that we're at war, a subtle means to "denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger."

Feingold guilty of a thoughtcrime

Mark Noonan (h/t Zack) has called for the censure of Senator Feingold for disloyalty to the Leader. Noonan states that to question the Leader is to threaten American security, and by implication says that anything less that blind obediance to the Leader is anti American, and what's more, treason.

Dave Neiwert explains
the political faith that is necessary to hold such beliefs despite the evidence that the NSA surveillance program is unConstitutional and illegal.

One of the reasons the conservative movement has morphed into a pathological political religion is that it has managed to largely cut itself off from the real world by insulating itself from any kind of criticism whatsoever.

Criticism of right-wing programs and policies, you see, is never confronted on its own terms, but is dismissed with a wave of the ad hominem wand: it can't be right because the critics are Bad People with Bad Motives.
And now a (tweaked) excerpt from 1984, inspired by the patriotism of Mark Noonan.

'Are you guilty?' said Winston.

'Of course I'm guilty!' cried [Noonan] with a servile glance at the telescreen. 'You don't think the Party would arrest an innocent man, do you?' His frog-like face grew calmer, and even took on a slightly sanctimonious expression. 'Thoughtcrime is a dreadful thing, old man,' he said sententiously. 'It's insidious. It can get hold of you without your even knowing it. Do you know how it got hold of me? In my sleep! Yes, that's a fact. There I was, working away, trying to do my bit -- never knew I had any bad stuff in my mind at all. And then I started talking in my sleep. Do you know what they heard me saying?'

He sank his voice, like someone who is obliged for medical reasons to utter an obscenity.

"Down with [George Bush]!" Yes, I said that! Said it over and over again, it seems. Between you and me, old man, I'm glad they got me before it went any further. Do you know what I'm going to say to them when I go up before the tribunal? "Thank you," I'm going to say, "thank you for saving me before it was too late."

'Who denounced you?' said Winston.

'It was my little daughter,' said [Noonan] with a sort of doleful pride. 'She listened at the keyhole. Heard what I was saying, and nipped off to the patrols the very next day. Pretty smart for a nipper of seven, eh? I don't bear her any grudge for it. In fact I'm proud of her. It shows I brought her up in the right spirit, anyway.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Senator Frist for President

"The signal that it sends, that there is in any way a lack of support for our commander in chief who is leading us with a bold vision in a way that is making our homeland safer is wrong" - Bill Frist

Bold vision? You mean deciding to violate the 4th Amendment rights of the whole nation. In a way that is making us safer? You mean by not following the Constitution.

See, abiding by the Constitution, that's pre 9/11 think. In a post 9/11 world the American way is to support the Leader unconditionally.

I'm glad we have bold leaders like Senator Frist willing to stand up against craven traitors like Senator Feingold who have the audacity to propose censuring the Leader for "his efforts to mislead the American people about the authorities relied upon by his administration to conduct wiretaps and about the legality of the program." Frist will make a fine Presidential candidate in this new post 9/11 world, as Frist, like the President, had the vision to recognize that 12 men with boxcutters hijacking planes and crashing them into the World Trade Center meant that the Constitution was a liability that we could no longer afford to follow.

War prayer 2006

"You know, in a sane world, every country would unite against Iran and blow it off the face of the earth. That would be the sane thing to do," said Bill O'Reilly.

*The stranger touched his arm, motioned him to step aside—which the startled minister did—and took his place. During some moments he surveyed the spellbound audience with solemn eyes, in which burned an uncanny light; then in a deep voice he said:

“I come from the Throne—bearing a message from Almighty God!” The words smote the house with a shock; if the stranger perceived it he gave no attention. “He has heard the prayer of His servant your shepherd, and will grant it if such shall be your desire after I, His messenger, shall have explained to you its import—that is to say, its full import. For it is like unto many of the prayers of men, in that it asks for more than he who utters it is aware of—except he pause and think. “God’s servant and yours has prayed his prayer. Has he paused and taken thought? Is it one prayer? No, it is two—one uttered, the other not. Both have reached the ear of Him Who heareth all supplications, the spoken and the unspoken. Ponder this—keep it in mind. If you would beseech a blessing upon yourself, beware! lest without intent you invoke a curse upon a neighbor at the same time. If you pray for the blessing of rain upon your crop which needs it, by that act you are possibly praying for a curse upon some neighbor’s crop which may not need rain and can be injured by it. “You have heard your servant’s prayer—the uttered part of it. I am commissioned of God to put into words the other part of it—that part which the pastor—and also you in your hearts—fervently prayed silently. And ignorantly and unthinkingly? God grant that it was so! You heard these words: ‘Grant us the victory, O Lord our God!’ That is sufficient. The whole of the uttered prayer is compact into those pregnant words. Elaborations were not necessary. When you have prayed for victory you have prayed for many unmentioned results which follow victory—must follow it, cannot help but follow it. Upon the listening spirit of God fell also the unspoken part of the prayer. He commandeth me to put it into words. Listen! “O Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our hearts, go forth to battle—be Thou near them! With them—in spirit—we also go forth from the sweet peace of our beloved firesides to smite the foe. O Lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the shrieks of their wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with little children to wander unfriended the wastes of their desolated land in rags and hunger and thirst, sports of the sun flames of summer and the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring Thee for the refuge of the grave and denied it—for our sakes who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet! We ask it, in the spirit of love, of Him Who is the Source of Love, and Who is the ever-faithful refuge and friend of all that are sore beset and seek His aid with humble and contrite hearts. Amen.

(After a pause.) “Ye have prayed it; if ye still desire it, speak!—The messenger of the Most High waits!”

It was believed afterward that the man was a lunatic, because there was no sense in what he said.

*From The War Prayer by Mark Twain

Saturday, March 11, 2006

A tale of two reviews

Powerline quoting The Weekly Standard review of Our Endangered Values vs. me quoting The New York Review of Books review of the same.

See all those facts and figures in the Wills review? Those are just "liberal cliches" to be dismissed with handwaving and ad hominems.

Weekly Standard says

Carter's previously meager theological reflections shrivel to nothingness in Our Endangered Values. He equates fundamentalist Christianity in the United States with radical Islamist fundamentalism, as though Southern Baptists were about to sign up for flight school
Can you see the error in reasoning here? The reviewer asserts comparison is absurd because Christian fundamentalists are not actively engaging in suicide bombings, yet Carter was clearly comparing them in a different regard, specifically, he was comparing the tendency of both forms of fundamentalism towards "rigidity, self-righteousness, and an eagerness to use compulsion (including political compulsion)."

Take a look at this quote from Dominionist D. James Kennedy and judge for yourself whether such a comparison has any merit.

"Our job is to reclaim America for Christ, whatever the cost. As the vice regents of God, we are to exercise godly dominion and influence over our neighborhoods, our schools, our government, our literature and arts, our sports arenas, our entertainment media, our news media, our scientific endeavors -- in short, over every aspect and institution of human society."

Literary trivia of the Day

Question: What is the origin of the Tin Woodman of Oz?

Answer: He was once a flesh and blood woodman, but the Wicked Witch of the East cast an enchantment on his axe that caused it to chop off a limb every time he used it. Every time he lost a limb, he would then replace it with a tin counterpart produced by his tinsmith friend. After he has had both his arms and legs replaced with tin parts, he is cut in half by the still enchanted axe, at which point the Witch takes up the axe and chops the woodman into small pieces.The tinsmith then fashioned a complete tin body for the woodman from the gathered pieces. At this point, the woodman was completely tin, except for his head.

The woodman, being perhaps one of the greatest fools in literary history, apparently attempted to use the same axe again and had his head cut off. The tinsmith finally finished the transformation from man to tinman by fashioning a tin head for the woodman.

You can read the whole strange story in The Tin Woodman of Oz

Memory challenge

No, not that kind of memory challenge, this kind. The challenge is to provide a written example of a repressed memory from before 1800. The authors have an interesting theory that the concept of repressed memories originated as a 19th century Romantic notion.

Whatever their origin, they were popularized in the psuedoscientific psychonalytic theories of Sigmund Freud, and have done much harm in the 20th century in the form of false memories implanted by therapists.

Friday, March 10, 2006

"Dr. Strangedeal"

The Economist thinks giving India a cushy nuclear deal is a bad idea.

Instead of a virtuous anti-nuclear cycle, there is now more likely to be a vicious nuclear one. China can be expected to insist on doing for proliferation-prone Pakistan what America wants to do for India, adding to a regional arms race that has led to a cascade of proliferation in the past. Giving India a freer ride is also likely to embolden Iran and North Korea in their defiance, with potential repercussions for the security of all their neighbours, from Saudi Arabia and Egypt to Japan, South Korea and Taiwan.

Rolling back the Toxic Release Inventory

Remember Bhopal? President Bush does not.

President Bush and the Environmental Protection Agency want to weaken the largely successful Toxics Release Inventory program, which requires companies to tell the public how they dispose of or release nearly 650 chemicals that may harm human health and the environment. The disclosure program makes data available for anyone — journalists, policymakers, investors or parents — to learn exactly which chemicals are being released from corporate smokestacks and discharge pipes.

Congress developed this critical program in 1986, in response to the catastrophic deaths of thousands of people after a spill of toxic chemicals at a Union Carbide plant in Bhopal, India. It has worked well since its inception, but the Environmental Protection Agency is now proposing three detrimental changes that could go into effect within the next year.

The first would relax the current annual reporting requirement and let companies make reports every other year instead; the second would allow polluters to release 10 times more toxic chemicals — up to 5,000 pounds annually — without disclosing the volume released or where the pollutants went; and the third would permit companies to conceal releases of up to 500 pounds annually of particularly dangerous toxic materials, like PCB's, lead and mercury, which can accumulate in people's bodies. All three changes effectively increase the amount of pollution that companies can emit without telling anyone.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Quote of the Day

"The Bush Administration is not seeking to deceive the enemy in the war on terror as much as [it] is attempting to deceive the American voter. In this, the Bush Administration is subverting democracy. It is trying to [get] people to vote for something by hiding the fact that it contains elements that those same people would vote against. In short, it seeks to gain votes under false pretext, creating a government that does not, in fact, represent the will of the people." - Alonzo Fyfe

Satire of the day

The White House's revised Bill of Rights

Senate Republicans vote against accountability

In an 8-7 vote split along party lines the Senate Intelligence Committee decided not to investigate the White House's NSA surveillance program, and instead will create an oversight subcommittee comprised of 4 Republicans and 3 Democrats, all but assuring that the extent to which our 4th Amendment rights have been violated by the President's authorization of surveillance outside the scope of the FISA courts will remain a mystery to the public.

This is an outrage. And at this point, to say such almost seems trite since there are so many. Glenn Greenwald points out how truly craven it was for Republicans like Chuck Hagel to vote for this when they had previously expressed concern over the legality of the program.

I'm finding it hard to view these politicians as anything but enemies of democracy, despite having Sydney Hooke's exhortation to do otherwise in the back of my mind. It is an insult for these politicians to talk as if they are for one thing, and then act as if they are for another. It makes a mockery of democracy.

This is an insult to the people whom these politicians are supposed to represent the interests of. It is not their job to protect the President from accountability. Are there no men of conscience left in the Republican Party? Are there no men or women willing to stand against the President on principle? The 4th Amendment rights of the entire nation may have been violated, yet these Senators can't be bothered to call for an investigation.

How can the true constituents of these Senators tolerate them when they do not have the backbone that is necessary to speak for the people they were elected to represent?

Blogger's Note - The comments section of the Greenwald post are worth looking at, as several of the commenters identify the problems that allow this sort of activity to occur unchecked.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

No time for blogging

I'll be busy the remainder of the week, and I'm not certain whether or not I'll have any time for blogging, so here is a link to the Secular Web's library. There is a lot of good stuff there.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Strange visitor from the Dark Ages gets elected to South Dakota state senate

"A real-life description to me would be a rape victim, brutally raped, savaged. The girl was a virgin. She was religious. She planned on saving her virginity until she was married. She was brutalized and raped, sodomized as bad as you can possibly make it, and is impregnated. I mean, that girl could be so messed up, physically and psychologically, that carrying that child could very well threaten her life." - South Dakota Republican state senator Bill Napoli explaining under what circumstances he'd allow a rape victim to get an abortion (via Shakespeare's Sister)

This is not about state's rights. If the Religious Right could ban abortion at the federal level they'd be more than willing to overstep state's rights, as they were in the Terry Schiavo case. What it is about is the desire to force their religious morality on everyone else. Napoli reflects a mindset where a woman is the property of her husband, where her body is not under her own control. It is no coincedence that women were not able to achieve an equal place in society until they were able to achieve reproductive freedom. This man, and this law, is reactionary in the worst sense of the word. It is an attempt to turn back the clock on a woman's right to control her own reproductive fate.

Link restoration

I've added The Economist back to the Links section since the website now offers a Day Pass feature similar to the one at Salon which allows you access to Premium content after viewing a brief add. The Economist is one of the premier news magazines in the world, so I recommend taking advantage of this feature.

How much does it cost to fight and defend ourselves from terrorists?

They blow themselves up, hide in caves, steal planes with boxcutters and fly them into buildings. Does it really take Cold War level military spending to protect ourselves from them? Just look at some of these figures. In 2005 the U.S. accounted for 43% of the word's total military spending; the next highest nation, China, accounted for 6%. If the hundreds of billions dollars we already spend on military can not stop a terrorist attack, why will another hundred billion make a difference?

Isn't this a problem of approach rather than resources? And isn't it clear that our approach is not working? The "axis of evil" is more dangerous today than it was in 2003. Muslim world opinion of the United States is less favorable today than it was in 2001. Radical Islamic anger over American military prescence in the Middle East has been stoked by the invasion of Iraq, which has turned a nation that did not hosts terrorists prior to the invasion into the terrorist capital of the world. Global terrorist activity has increased. Nuclear proliferation has increased and the United States itself has helped weaken the Non-Proliferation treaty. We have undone decades of diplomacy and earned the scorn of our allies for our unilateralism and abandonment of the human rights standards of the Geneva Convention and international law.

Our approach to terrorism seems the equivalent of pouring gasoline on a fire.