Don't like Gays? Soon you won't need to help them - even if you're a paramedic!

In an effort to clear the backlog of diaries I want to get posted in preparation for tonight's State of the Union Address, I have managed a Blogging Hat Trick - three unrelated posts in one day!

The Washington Post has an article discussing one of the more frightening aspects of modern Republicanism. It seems that at least twelve states are considering legislation that would protect health workers from being forced to provide care that "conflicts with their personal beliefs."

These laws cover a wide range of procedures and 'ethical quagmires' that may face your friendly neighborhood health care ideologue. About half provide a legal defense for pharmacists who won't hand out the 'morning after' pill. The idiocy of both the pharmacist for not knowing that the pill isn't an 'abortion' pill (it simply prevents the egg from attaching to the wall of the uterus - nothing happens that doesn't happen every time the woman ovulates) and the legislators for creating a precedent that is dangerous and un-American. Pharmacy is a 4 year degree and anybody who is qualified to dispense drugs should know enough about them to know that their position is ridiculous. Lawmakers, well, the kind that are putting forth this kind of legislation, aren't really known for high powered thought. Their constituencies, however, should be smart enough to vote them out of office.

That in itself is bad enough. The remainder "are far broader measures that would shelter a doctor, nurse, aide, technician or other employee who objects to any therapy. That might include in-vitro fertilization, physician-assisted suicide, embryonic stem cells and perhaps even providing treatment to gays and lesbians."

That's right, ladies and gentlemen, "even providing treatment to gays and lesbians."

Now it seems to me that in-vitro fertilization, physician-assisted suicide, and research involving stem cells are already fields that are self selecting for people who agree that these are good things. If your doctor doesn't believe in physician-assisted suicide, you can find another one that does. The same concept applies to stem cell therapy and in-vitro fertilization. (Any in-vitro doctor that won't provide the same services for any woman of equal medical fitness is a bigot that should be run out of the profession.) But "providing treatment to gays and lesbians" is a shocking and frightening addition to the list.

Can an ER doctor refuse to treat a victim of a car crash because they're gay? Does that person just lay there and die? While there is time for a lesbian couple to shop around for a doctor that will provide in-vitro fertilization if the same couple is hit by a truck on their way home, they deserve the same treatment.

It shocks me that I even have to write that down.

Once we've crossed this line, where does it end? What if a person is unconscious upon arrival - is it enough that the victim 'look' gay? Will it say "GAY" on the person's chart in large enough letters to prevent any unsuspecting nurse or orderly from having to actually having to say hello to a homosexual?

This is so wrong and so un-American it boggles the mind. Every person is within their rights to believe what they want about homosexuality. The moment you become a doctor or nurse or any other person that may provide medical care, you have an obligation to put those beliefs aside to do your job or you don't get into a profession that puts you in that situation.

This country is going backwards at a rate that scares me.

Also, condolences to the family of Coretta Scot King. This country and the world is diminished without her.

Come on. You know he thought about it...

The Washington Post reports on Del. John S. "Jack" Reid's accidental discharging of a handgun in the Virginia General Assembly Building.

It seems "Jack" was sitting at his desk, unloading his side arm (which he carries for protection) and preparing to place the weapon in a desk drawer. "Accidentally" the gun went off, the bullet lodging in the bullet-proof vest hanging on the back of his office door. Bullshit. How incredibly lucky that the bullet would end up in the bullet proof vest. I'm sure nowhere in his GOP-addled brain did it occur to him 'wonder if that vest actually works...'

This post isn't about how bad guns are for society. I'm not as anti-gun as most people would guess someone as liberal as I am would be. I grew up around guns and was taught how to use them safely. (I'm not, however, so pro-gun that I don't think a bit more regulation and registration would benefit us greatly.) This post is about how bad idiots are for society and how the GOP tends to seek out, elect, and promote them.

The Founding Fathers, a group of men the Republican Party loves to compare themselves to, would not have condemned "Jack" for carrying a gun. They wouldn't really be familiar with any society that didn't have good reason to be have guns around. That said, they managed to set up a nation, fight for it, and then govern it for a couple of decades without "accidentally" shooting at doors in the Virginia Assembly.

At its root, this is a throw-away diary that only points out the fact that elected office isn't attracting the best and the brightest of our nation anymore.

Bush Supporters More Likely to be Racists

The Washington Post had an article yesterday that confirms what we've all known all along; the Republican Party has a base that includes a significant number of racists.

I'm not claiming all Republicans are racists. My brother is a Republican and I know that he is NOT a racists. Nixon's Southern Strategy, however, continues to provide for the GOP.

Of the five states with the highest percentage of African American citizens, Mississippi (37%), Louisiana (33%), Georgia, Maryland, and South Carolina (30% each), all but Maryland are represented exclusively by white Republicans.

In what has to be some sort of record, Bush's approval rating among African Americans is TWO PERCENT. So much for the 'big-tent' party.

This before the Republicans role out their new immigration initiative, no doubt shaped to lionize groups like the 'Minute Men.' Leave it to the GOP to try to use old fashioned nativism to get votes. Sad fact: It will work.

Oh, one more thing. A complaint about the article itself: If there is scientific evidence of Racism on the part of Bush supporters, the logical counter-balance (always fair and balanced!) is... a quote from the Head of the Republican National Convention? He's obviously a scientist who can back up his party rhetoric with verifiable scientific data.

UPDATE: Check out the quotes from Freeper-ville here about Bush's reaction to the Coretta Scott King Funeral.


Welcome to the Theocracy

The Nebraska State Paper reports on a pre-session prayer offered up by The Reverend Tom Swartly in The Unicameral Chamber. To its credit, the State Paper had this to say about it.

"Swartley was invited to the Unicameral to offer a nonpolitical, nondenominational prayer in the legislative chamber. He knew he was supposed to avoid topics that could be construed as political. That is the rule imposed on all clergy invited to offer prayers prior to the Legislature's official convening each day.

The preacher from the First Christian Church in Elk Creek promptly showed himself to be a guileful, calculating, political agent, willing to abuse the trust of his host to do his religious politicking under a false flag."

A few choice quotes:

"Almighty God, we come humbly into your presence this morning, seeking your favor.


Open our eyes to the other aspects of this 33-year-long bloody nightmare. Open our eyes to see that we've killed 47 million young American taxpayers, and indeed Social Security is in crisis. Open our eyes to see that 47 million of our countrymen are gone - doctors, lawyers, inventors, authors, musicians and artists. Forgive us, oh God, and open our eyes and change our path. Comfort the mothers and fathers who have great wonder and regret. Heal us, oh God.


Forgive us also, Lord, for the teaching of the religion of evolution to our young citizens, a religion that tells us that we are only here by chance; that we are here for no reason and human life means nothing more than any other life; that we will never face a Judgment Day. We've put our children into the same category as other mammals, and we wonder why sometimes they act like animals. Forgive us for sowing the seeds of anarchy in the hearts of children."

Just one example of what Jerry Falwell has begun calling Assault Ministry. (Check out the MSNBC article here.) I'll be perfectly honest. This stuff scares the shit out of me.

This blog has always seemed to end up coming back around to religion as a topic. It seems that I always come down strongly against religion. This is unfortunate.

Religion can be a great force for love, understanding, respect, and humanity in the world. This, perhaps, is the reason I find the current Religious Right so abhorrent. They fail to reflect their religion, Christianity, and instead use it as a shield for nefarious power-grabs and as a club to assault those who they dislike or those who disagree. The effort to ban same sex marriage (which will be coming up in the Senate again) has very little to do with marriage. The government wasn't going to force churches that disapprove of same sex marriage to perform ceremonies, it was simply allowing two people who love each other the same benefits, such as inheritance, visiting rights, and health coverage, that married couples receive. The effort was about divisiveness, just like laws against interracial marriage.

When I was growing up, I remember Pastor Ciampa, who I have a great respect for, giving a sermon on the dangers of becoming a proud Christian.

The reason I find the Christianist Right in this country so frightening is that they do not think. I mean that literally. They believe. It isn't their belief in God or Jesus, or even the coming of Judgment Day that frightens me, though. This country has long had a vast majority that believes in all of those things. My problem is that they believe that their leaders are infallible profits sent by God. They do not question the authorities within their own organizations. Any person who who claims to be a Christian (::Cough::) is instantly beyond reproach or question even while their actions are as far from Christian as humanly possible.

These people will tell you that "homosexuality is a sin before God" until they're blue in the face, but couldn't tell you where to find scripture to defend that position. They just know somebody 'that would know' told them it was, and that's good enough for them. They'll probably swear that Jesus spent more time preaching the evils of homosexuality and said little to nothing about the dangers of being rich and the importance of helping the poor and disadvantaged.

Most people tend to find a middle ground when left to their own experiences. Insulary religions that close people to the world and seek to control a person's ability to find a personal understanding of spirituality are fundamentally dangerous.

My brother dated a girl for about two years that was very conservative. (My brother is more conservative than I am.) She had been raised by a very conservative family that attended a church much more conservative than my own. She spent a semester in Chile and my brother went to visit her at the end of her trip. He remarked that she had 'become a lot less conservative.'

My problem is not with religion, it's with the blind followers it tends to create. Leaders like Rev. Swartly do no service for our country or for his congregation. He doesn't inspire thoughtfulness or soul-searching. His message is not one that empowers people to consider these issues for themselves.


Terroristic Threats

Anne (is a man) Coulter made terroristic threats today, but because she's a right-winger, it doesn't count.

Read about it here.

The Senate Sucks plus Memes

I promised that 500 word manifesto on "What I believe (Politically)" yesterday, but I've found that without some time to actually sit down and write, it's not going to happen. I write this blog at work and I don't always have the time to really sit and write and think. So today's Lazy Friday blog will NOT be my manifesto's debut.

It will, however, have two very interesting parts.

First, a quick numerical examination of the U.S. Senate: I took census data for July 2005 (estimated) and assigned each state's population according to its Senate delegation. For example, if a state has 2,000,000 residents and two Democratic Senators, I gave a population score of 2,000,000 to the Democrats. Likewise, if that state had one Democrat and one Republican, I would assign 1,000,000 to the Democratic Party and 1,000,000 to the GOP.

Adding it all up, one finds that Democratic Senators (including Jeffords) represent a total population of 149,237,080 Americans, or 50.4% of the population. Republican Senators represent 146,622,809 Americans, or 49.6% of the population. Yet due to the number of small states with solid GOP majorities, we have a Senate with 55% Republicans and 45% Democrats. Damn fly-over states.

Second, the blogoshpere has 'memes' (rhymes with 'theme' and is only vaguely related to the actual scientific 'meme') that get passed around, each blogger giving his or her interpretation/answer/analysis/comments on a question or statement or whatever that is passed around organically, from blog to blog as bloggers read each other's posts. I found one that's actually interesting, as opposed to the sort of chain letter, what's your favorite movie, best/worst band names, kinda thing that usually make up the 'memes' passed around the 'sphere.

Incidently, Memetics, the study of memes and how they operate, is a fascinating. My thesis involved the memetic interpretation of history and how it applies to architecture. But that's another post...

Anyway, the meme.

Ten Views I Hold without Evidence
1. That Democrats actually have spines.
2. That somebody at the gym stole my towel and shampoo/soap bag while I wasn't looking and that I didn't just leave them in the locker room by accident.
3. That the American public was tricked by the Republicans into believing that the GOP has their best interests at heart. They can't really be that stupid, can they?
4. Art can make the world better.
5. Shushi is an essential part of a healthy diet.
6. Some time in the future I will have enough time to read all the books I have purchased.
7. My fiance will say 'yes' when I say I want our apartment to be all mid-century modern.
8. A 1972 Lotus, a 1968 Alfa Romeo GTV, or a Triumph TR7 would be a wonderfully practical form of everyday transportation and the purchase of said cars is both logical and reasonable.
9. Furniture making could be a profitable career.
10. People read this blog.

Daily Bonus Link:
Well, George, I guess Democracy in the Middle East didn't work out exactly the way you planned. Of course, this is just a preview of what will happen in Iraq.


Top Ten Reasons BushCo. Has Failed in the GWOT

As much as it pains me, a Penn State Graduate, to link to a professor at the University of Michigan, Mr. Cole is always a good read at Informed Comment and I will now shamelessly reproduce his work here, because I'm busy today and don't have the time to put together a decent post. I will, however, give a sneak-peak (no warrant required) at tomorrow's post.

Ever since Pandagon published a post called "What is a Progressive?" and I read a bit somewhere (maybe Slate.com?) about defining your political prerogative in 500 words, I've been anxious to try it. First look tomorrow. Without further delay, directly from Juan Cole's blog...

Top Ten Mistakes of the Bush Administration in Reacting to Al-Qaeda

Usamah Bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri murdered 3,000 Americans, and they both issued tapes in the past week, blustering and threatening us with more of the same. Most of us aren't wild about paying for the Bush administration with our taxes, but one thing we have a right to expect is that our government would protect us from mass murderers and would chase them down and arrest them. It has not done that. When asked why he hasn't caught Bin Laden, Bush replies, "Because he's hidin'." Is Bush laughing at us?

On September 11, 2001, the question was whether we had underestimated al-Qaeda. It appeared to be a Muslim version of the radical seventies groups like the Baader Meinhoff gang or the Japanese Red Army. It was small, only a few hundred really committed members who had sworn fealty to Bin Laden and would actually kill themselves in suicide attacks. There were a few thousand close sympathizers, who had passed through the Afghanistan training camps or otherwise been inducted into the world view. But could a small terrorist group commit mayhem on that scale? Might there be something more to it? Was this the beginning of a new political force in the Middle East that could hope to roll in and take over, the way the Taliban had taken over Afghanistan in the 1990s? People asked such questions.

Over four years later, there is no doubt. Al-Qaeda is a small terrorist network that has spawned a few copy-cats and wannabes. Its breakthrough was to recruit some high-powered engineers in Hamburg, which it immediately used up. Most al-Qaeda recruits are marginal people, people like Zacarias Moussawi and Richard Reid, who would be mere cranks if they hadn't been manipulated into trying something dangerous. Muhammad al-Amir (a.k.a Atta) and Ziad Jarrah were highly competent scientists, who could figure the kinetic energy of a jet plane loaded with fuel. There don't seem to be significant numbers of such people in the organization. They are left mostly with cranks, petty thieves, drug smugglers, bored bank tellers, shopkeepers, and so forth, persons who could pull off a bombing of trains in Madrid or London, but who could not for the life of them do a really big operation.

The Bush administration and the American Right generally has refused to acknowledge what we now know. Al-Qaeda is dangerous. All small terrorist groups can do damage. But it is not an epochal threat to the United States or its allies of the sort the Soviet Union was (and that threat was consistently exaggerated, as well).

In fact, the United States invaded a major Muslim country, occupied it militarily, tortured its citizens, killed tens of thousands, tinkered with the economy-- did all those things that Muslim nationalists had feared and warned against, and there hasn't even been much of a reaction from the Muslim world. Only a few thousand volunteers went to fight. Most people just seem worried that the US will destabilize their region and leave a lot of trouble behind them. People are used to seeing Great Powers do as they will. A Syrian official before the war told a journalist friend of mine that people in the Middle East had been seeing these sorts of invasions since Napoleon took Egypt in 1798. "Well," he shrugged, "usually they leave behind a few good things when they finally leave."

Because they exaggerate the scale of the conflict, and because they use it cynically, Bush and Cheney have grossly mismanaged the struggle against al-Qaeda and Muslim radicalism after September 11. Here are their chief errors:

1. Bush vastly exaggerates al-Qaeda's size, sweep and importance, while failing to invest in genuine counterterrorist measures such as port security or security for US nuclear plants.

2. Bush could have eradicated the core al-Qaeda group by putting resources into the effort in 2002. He did not, leaving al-Zawahiri and Bin Laden to taunt us, inspire our enemies and organize for years after the Taliban were defeated. It would be as though Truman had allowed Hitler to broadcast calls for terrorism against the US from some hiding place as late as 1949.

3. Bush opened a second front against Iraq before he had put Afghanistan on a sound footing.

4. Bush gutted the US constitution, tossing out the Fourth Amendment, by assiduously spying on Americans without warrants. None of those spying efforts has been shown to have resulted in any security benefits for the United States. Bush says that he wants to watch anyone who calls the phone numbers associated with al-Qaeda. But some of those phone numbers were for food delivery or laundry. We want a judge to sign off on a wire tap so that innocent Americans are not spied on by the government.

5. Bush attempted to associate the threat from al-Qaeda with Iran and Syria. Iran is a fundamentalist Shiite country that hates al-Qaeda. Syria is a secular Arab nationalist country that hates al-Qaeda. Indeed, Syria tortured al-Qaeda operatives for Bush, until Bush decided to get Syria itself. Bush and Cheney have cynically used a national tragedy to further their aggressive policies of Great Power domination.

6. Bush by invading Iraq pushed the Iraqi Sunni Arabs to desert secular Arab nationalism. Four fifths of the Sunni Arab vote in the recent election went to hard line Sunni fundamentalist parties. This development is unprecedented in Iraqi history. Iraqi Sunni Arabs are nationalists, whether secular or religious, and there is no real danger of most of them joining al-Qaeda. But Bush has spread political Islam and has strengthened its influence.

7. Bush diverted at least one trillion dollars in US security spending from the counter-terrorism struggle against al-Qaeda to the Iraq debacle, at the same time that he has run up half a trillion dollar annual deficits, contributing to a spike in inflation, harming the US economy, and making the US less effective in counterterrorism.

8. Counterterrorism requires friendly allies and close cooperation. The Bush administration alienated France, Germany and Spain, along with many Middle Eastern nations that had long waged struggles of their own against terrorist groups. Bush is widely despised and has left America isolated in the world. Virtually all the publics of all major nations hate US policy. One poll showed that in secular Turkey where Muslim extremism is widely reviled and Bin Laden is generally disliked, the public preferred Bin Laden to Bush. Bush is widely seen as more dangerous than al-Qaeda. This image is bad for US counterterrorism efforts.

9. Bush transported detainees to torture sites in Eastern Europe. Under European Union laws, both torture and involvement in torture are illegal,and European officials can be tried for these crimes. How many European counterterrorism officials will want to work closely with the Americans if, for all they know, this association could end in jail time? Indeed, in Washington it is said that a lot of our best CIA officers are leaving, afraid that they are being ordered to do things that are illegal, and for which they could be tried once another administration comes to power in Washington.

10. Bush's failure to capture Bin Laden and al-Zawahiri allows them to continue to grandstand, to continue to frighten the public, to continue to affect financial markets, and to continue to plot. Al-Zawahiri almost certainly plotted the 7/7 London subway bombings himself, and gloated about it when he issued Muhammad Siddique Khan's suicide statement. Misplaced Bush priorities are getting our allies hit. The CIA is reduced to firing predators at villages because our counterterrorism efforts have been starved for funds by the Iraq quagmire. If al-Qaeda does pull off another American operation, it may well give Bush and Cheney an opportunity to destroy the US constitution altogether, finally giving Bin Laden his long-sought revenge on Americans for the way he believes they have forced Palestinians and other Muslims to live under lawless foreign domination or local tyranny.

Daily Bonus Link:
Dick Cheney contradicts his own generals. Read all about it Here.


Santorum: Bumper Stickers = Military Service (if it's my bumper sticker)

"And yet we have brave men and women who are willing to step forward because they know what's at stake. They're willing to sacrifice their lives for this great country.

What I am asking all of you tonight, is not to put on a uniform. Put on a bumper sticker. Is it that much to ask? Is it that much to ask to step up and serve your country, to fight for what we believe in. To fight for the values that have made this the country the greatest count- we got her not because we were doing things really wrong, that our traditions and our morals were way out of whack, we got here because we were a good decent county. A country guided by divine Providence.

We will only stay that great country if we continue that fight. I'm asking ya to help me do that. God Bless you. Thank you."

-Rick Santorum

Find video evidence here.

Apologies for a short post, but I think this quote speaks for itself.


Can I put my savings in Euros, please?

I finished The Untied States of America : Polarization, Fracturing, and Our Future by Juan Enriquez last night.

The book opens with and revolves around the very thought provoking question, "How many stars with the U.S. flag have in 50 years?" Most Americans would respond "fifty, of course" without any thought. Mr. Enriquez spends the remainder of the book providing insightful examples of how other countries have 'untied' (his term for the breakup of a nation into smaller, independent parts) and lines along which and reasons for the U.S. to 'untie.'

Alaska and Hawaii became a states in 1959. The ensuing 47 years make up the longest period in American history without the addition of a additional states. No American president has ever had the same flag fly at his swearing in as was flying the day he was born. Knowing this, the author provides examples of new stars that could be added and stars that could be lost in the next 50 years and beyond.

First, stars that could be added. Aside from Puerto Rico, the District of Columbia, and other territories already under U.S. control, there are a number of foreseeable situations in which the U.S. could gain territory currently under the control of another nation. Quebec has a long history of seperatist sentiments and has only narrowly failed to come up with enough votes to 'untie' Canada. Should this happen, there are circumstances that could result in new states.

Quebec is centrally located. (The orange province labeled 'QC') It would effectively cut Newfoundland, New Brunswick, Prince Edwards Island, and Nova Scotia off from the rest of Canada. Some of these provinces only became provinces after WWII and considered either independence or being a part of the United States at that time. If these provinces were to be cut off from the rest of Canada, the rich western part and the industrialized areas in Ontario, it is conceivable that they could be added to the United States.

Similar things could happen on the southern border. A great deal of the Baja Peninsula is owned (in trust) by Americans. Its economy is far more connected to California than it is to Mexico. Should any sort of political upheaval break up Mexico, Baja especially, along with other border areas could either form an independent 'transition' nation on the Mexican-American border or seek American statehood.

Admittedly, the concept of Canadian territory becoming part of the U.S. seems more likely. Many Americans consider Canada a sort of '51st state' anyway. The sad fact is that the population of these coastal territories would have a better chance at statehood due to their largely Northern European ancestry...

Perhaps more likely, given recent trends in Europe, Asia, and Africa, is that the United States would loose stars.

Vermont, Hawaii, have active secessionist movements. Other states, especially those along our southern border, are both culturally dissimilar to the majority of America and were formerly part of a nation that shares that culture. Mr. Enriquez notes that all across Europe, borders have a tendency to 'snap back' even if those borders had been erased centuries ago. (Increased independence for Wales and Scotland, for example.)

The 'Blue State vs. Red State' divide is also examined. The author observes that when populations within a nation become sufficiently self identifying and unintegrated, splits often occur, but not in the way that might seem most likely. Given that The South has already seceded once and makes up a significant part of 'Red America' one would think it most likely for the 'Red States' to secede again. Mr. Enriquez contends that this isn't the case. Most secessionist are by the more eoonomically viable portion. When a population or region becomes convinced that the could be richer by themselves, they secede.

The North East and West Coast is certainly more viable than the remaining states. 'Blue' states are overwhelmingly tax 'givers,' receiving less federal money than they pay in taxes. 'Red' states are almost exclusively 'takers.'

If divisive politics continue to drive 'Red' and 'Blue' further away from each other, an Untied States of America could easily result. As a nation, we've existed for only 5 lifetimes. The author reminds us that there is no reason that The United States of America must exist in the future.

As economies become increasingly knowledge based, small nations (cough, cough, South Korea, cough) can easily compete with larger nations. Shedding regions that don't 'pull their weight' becomes an increasingly attractive option. The Northern Italians want to ditch their Southern portion, the Western Canadians would like to stop paying for their Eastern Provinces, Northern Mexico would be better off discarding the south. It is not unlikely that if cultures and economics continue to diverge that there may come a point when parts of the United States would seek to disentangle themselves from less productive parts of the country.

Enriquez touches on many other important topics including the problems associated with increased national debt and the emergence of Native Americans as important players in politics. These tribes, ignored for so long, are beginning to establish their rights as sovereign nations, a position recognized by treaties signed but forgotten.

Perhaps the most fascinating part of this book isn't even what's printed on the page - it's HOW its printed on the page. There are no paragraphs. The entire work is an assembly of short declaratory sentences (or less) arranged, spaced, and sized for maximum impact. Charts and graphs abound. It is clear that the author conceived the entire page, not just his words. This probably bothers some people (it certainly did for at least one reviewer on Amazon.com) but I find it not just readable but incredibly informative, cluing the reader in to the author's ideas about what's important and how certain concepts mesh together or can be juxtaposed for power and insight.

I highly recommend this book, especially as a gift to moderates and center-right types. It exposes the faults in the programs and agendas in the modern Conservative movement without sounding like, or really being, a broadcasting of progressive talking points. It accentuates that Progressive positions are better not (only) for their philosophical and ideological content, but because they will be more effective. American pragmatism at its best.


Tom DeLay is a (Corrupt) Moron

"Our school systems teach the children that they are nothing but glorified apes who have evolutionized out of some primordial soup of mud."

While sermonizing on the school shooting in Littleton, Ohio, Tom DeLay proves he's an idiot.

I have no patience for people who 'don't buy evolution.' Anybody who won't accept a scientific conclusion like evolution is a willfully ignorant, antediluvian, drag on our society.

And what pisses me off the most is the "it's only a theory" defense. Not only does this expose the person making the argument as an uninformed, ignorant, mouth-breathing moron, it's disingenuous. Gravity is "just a theory" as far a science is concerned. What's next - Intelligent Falling?

If you want to interpret a story literally that was meant to be taken symbolically (like the mustard seed thing) that's your own problem. If it makes you feel better to think you were special because God created you like a magician pulling a rabbit out of a hat rather than being the peak of billions of years of constant refinement, I guess that's your choice too.

But for the love of God, don't force your Dark Ages ignorance on my kids.

This is a secular country. For all the talk of 'Christian Nation,' Christianists really aren't that concerned about building a society based on the ideals of Jesus Christ. "Turn the other Cheek?" "Render unto Ceasar what is Ceasar's?" "That which you do for the least amongst you, you do for me?" Those don't really sound like NeoConservative talking points.

"“I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ."
- Mahatma Gandhi

Christianists are not concerned with Christianity anymore than Islamicists are concerned with Islam. They seek to protect or create a powerful position in the society in which they live. They seek to reinforce their prejudices and justify their violence (physical or more subtle versions) against the 'others' that threaten them. The are both attempting to create a bygone 'golden age.'

We are suspicious and fearful of political Islam being preached in Mosques around the world but Senators and Congressmen tripped over each other to be seen at Justice Sunday III right here in our own country so that they could absorb some of the political Christianity preached there. Religious fundamentalism is Religious fundamentalism no matter what religion is preached, what language is spoken, or what part of the world it resides in. All Religionists are at best dangerous and at worst, the most hideous sort of evil imaginable.

The Christianists in this country won't stop with Evolution. (Or sex-ed, for that matter.) How far backwards will we allow ourselves to be dragged by these hold-overs from the Dark Ages? Our future is one of a knowledge based economy and society. These Christian fundamentalists will destroy our ability to compete in the international community. Fundamentalism didn't really work out for Afghanistan, why should it do any better here?


I missed it the first time...

Lazy Friday Post:

Found this little bit of commentary and, though I'd like to take credit for it, I can't. I will, however, reproduce it here for your perusal.

Dick Cheney deserves a Golden Globe for best director of a period piece. On his watch, the Bush White House has done a masterful job of recreating the 1970s: from rogue intelligence-gathering, energy shocks, and widespread corruption to war protests and fears about Big Brother.

Cheney certainly isn't playing to the crowd. Parents want to relive the '50s; liberals want to relive the '60s; conservatives want to relive the '80s; Has-Beens want to relive the '90s, but nobody wants to relive the 70s.

Yet even the opposition goes along. The nonfiction book atop the New York Times best-seller list is Our Endangered Values by Jimmy Carter. Carter is simply reprising the most successful role of his career: campaigning against the Nixonian excesses of Washington.

At every stop on the campaign trail in 1992, Al Gore would ask, "What time is it?" The answer then was, "It's time for them to go." The answer now is, "1974."

Executive Privilege: I was a teenage Nixon hater. But I can't help wishing Democrats could shed our Nixon reflex. Nixon and his followers committed a host of sins against democracy: Watergate, "Peace is at hand," the racist Southern strategy, and the first wedge issue, law and order. But perhaps the greatest harm Nixon did Democrats was to make our party lose faith in the presidency. We're still getting over it.

"Nixon's destiny was to carry the logic of the imperial presidency to the point of no return," Arthur Schlesinger Jr. wrote in The Imperial Presidency, his 1973 treatise on the abuse of presidential power. The Nixon White House broke laws, kept secrets, obstructed justice, and trampled civil liberties. Most leaders wrestle with the tradeoff between the ends and the means. For Nixon, the ends and means were the same: his administration abused power simply to hold onto power. And for four years, he not only got away with it, but was rewarded with a 49-state victory.

The anguish of George W. Bush's re-election still pales in comparison to the liberal crisis of faith over watching a crook win the biggest Republican landslide in history. With nowhere else to turn, Democrats learned to love Congress, a branch of government liberals had largely despised well into the 1960s. Democrats also began to depend on the Supreme Court to check the White House, a dependence that would come back to haunt us as we discovered how losing one would eventually cost us the other.

In the 1970s, Democrats passed a number of laws to rein in the executive branch, from campaign finance to CIA and FBI reforms to the Foreign Intelligence and Surveillance Act that Bush skirted in the current flap over domestic spying. Even with Carter in the White House, Democrats were more comfortable with the role of congressional oversight than with presidential leadership. Our heroes were referees and whistle-blowers like Sam Ervin, John Dean, Judge Sirica, and Woodward and Bernstein, not rogues and swashbucklers in the great American tradition of Teddy Roosevelt and John Kennedy.

That was an understandable and necessary reaction to a constitutional crisis that had shaken public confidence in government to its core. But it had unfortunate side effects. Before Nixon came along, Democrats had controlled the White House for 28 of the previous 36 years. After Nixon, many Democrats came to wonder whether the presidency was worth having.

Despite landslide defeats in 1980, 1984, and 1988—or perhaps because of them—Democrats in Washington became far more concerned with holding onto Congress than with taking back the White House. As the first Democratic president to win re-election since FDR, Bill Clinton tried his best to transform Democrats into a presidential party. But to this day, most Democrats think of themselves first as the party that used to control Congress.

It's a paradox: The party with grand ambitions for government is suspicious of the office that could best achieve them, while the party broadly opposed to the use of government power wants to get its hands on as much of it as possible.

For that, we can blame Richard Nixon. By following in Nixon's footsteps, Bush seems determined to make Democrats hate the presidency for another generation. That would be a terrible shame. Under FDR, the Democratic Party virtually invented the sweeping, modern presidency. The success of Democratic presidents like Truman and Clinton was their determination to tame a rotten Congress, not submit to one.

I share Gore's opinion of the current administration and Congress. "The Congress we have today is structurally unrecognizable compared to the one in which my father served," he says. "The legislative branch of government, as a whole, under its current leadership now operates as if it were entirely subservient to the Executive branch."

But in my view, that's not a constitutional crisis—it's an argument for a new Congress. Gore worries that "we have for decades been witnessing the slow and steady accumulation of presidential power." But checks and balances don't have to be a zero-sum game. It is possible to have energy in the executive and energy in the legislative. Indeed, given the obstacles to progress in today's sclerotic political environment, we may need both branches to push the envelope before we can get anything done.

Now More than Ever: We could get by without a strong, assertive presidency in the '70s, but we desperately need one today. As Gore recognizes, we won't win the war on terror with congressional hearings. To win it, we need commanders in chief with panache and integrity, who can inspire confidence at home and abroad, win the respect of our allies, and instill fear in our foes.

On the home front, it will take an unapologetically powerful leader to break Washington from its transactional rut. At the same time, we need a vigorous Congress with a sense of urgency that can hold the executive branch accountable not only for the rule of law but for results.

Al Gore is right that like Nixon, Bush acts like an imperial president. But the best way to curb the imperial presidency isn't for Congress to tie the next president's hands. It's for Americans to elect a new president and Congress who will go all-out to earn the public's trust.

I copied this as left work yesterday and didn't remmber to get the link back to the original post. For whoever wrote this, thank you and my appologies for not being able to give you credit...

I missed the Seventies the first time around and if this is what they were like, I'm glad I missed them.

CURRENT READING: The Untied States of America : Polarization, Fracturing, and Our Future by Juan Enriquez.

This book is not like other books you've read. The page layout is not standard left justified paragraphs, complete sentences, etc. It's a collection of declaritory sentences and clauses spread across the page in various fonts, sizes, and arraingements. This drove some of the reviewers on Amazon a bit crazy, but it's really a great way to have the page itself contribute to the power of the words.

Enriques raises interesting questions like "how many stars will the US flag have in 50 years?" and points out the fact that citizenship can be understood as 'brand loyalty' to the nation. It collects and distills alarming trends and compares America to less stable areas in the world. Fascinating. More analysis and commentary when I've finished it.


Myth Busting! The Hollywood Liberals

Myth: "Hollywood Liberals push their agenda on middle America."

Right wing blow-hards and 'Organization for the Deification of Arch-Typical Family and Gender Roles' types have been trying to convince us that the reason that ticket sales have been slumping for the last few years is that the liberals out in Hollywood are no longer in touch with Middle America. They tell us that the movies being released are practically liberal propaganda, a turnoff for the (imaginary) conservative majority in America.

Although most wing-nuts are going to ignore things like science and facts, willing to embrace an idea 'because it feels right,' we're members of the reality based community and will examine the evidence.

Below are the top 15 Movies from each year under Bush:

Top 15 movies in 2005:

Revenge of the Sith -- This movie is praised & condemned by both sides for various reasons. In reality, it's a money machine for George Lucas. Nothing more.
Hitch - Romantic comedy with no possible political overtones. Or any tones, for that matter.
Madagascar - This one IS a liberal propaganda film. The Right doesn't want people knowing that there are actually countries other than the USA (and possibly Canada.)
Batman Begins -- Pro-torture/vigilanteism. Rich people are portrayed as caring for those less fortunate. This is conservative propaganda.
War of the Worlds - Didn't see it. As a remake of a book that reaffirms man's status as the strongest life form known to man, doesn't seem to be a leftist screed.
Fantastic Four - Another Comic book turned movie. These guys have been around since the 50s. The 50s! The perfect decade! Also a Republican plot to return us to the Cleavers.
Mr. and Mrs. Smith - A couple who decide that divorce ISN'T the answer to their marrital problems. Pro-gun AND pro gender-rolls.
The Longest Yard - comedy remake. Didn't see it.
Robots - Ok, Robin Williams was a character in this animated children's movie. His presence alone is mildly subversive.
The Pacifier - Shows the military in a peaceful, pro-family, protecting Americans kinda way. How bad could THAT be?
Are We There Yet? -- Guy bonds with Girlfriend's kids. Pro-Family.
Monster-in-Law -- Hanoi Jane is in it, but all she betrays is J-Lo. Hardly a Hollywood staple anymore, her first movie in fifteen years.
The Ring Two -- horror sequel, but theme is about mother saving son
Constantine -- Pro-heaven in the whole God v. Satan thing. Definitely Christian and 'fire and brimstone.'
Sin City -- Okay, morally bankrupt characters abound. Violence, sex and combinations thereof. However, please note it was made outside the studio system. Rodriguez shot it as an indie.

Top 15 in 2004:

Shrek 2 -- animated family film with acceptance as a theme. That's a dangerous message for Hollywood to be sending our children.
Spiderman 2 -- objectively pro-science and the whole 'with great power...' thing. Subversive only because George W. Bush would be the bad guy.
Passion of Christ -- The kind of entertainment the Christianist Right wants us to be watching even if it is anti-Semitic.
Meet the Fockers -- Barbara Striesand and the name 'Gaylord Focker.' How could they possibly object?
The Incredibles -- Value of family theme. Dad as the strongest man in the universe. How much more conservative can you get?
Harry Potter and Prisoner of Azkaban -- Good triumphing over evil.
The Day After Tomorrow -- Hmm. I guess if you're someone who believes this movie is pitching the whole climate change issue as its central theme rather than a convenient way to bring about big-budget mayhem, I'll give you this one. Of course, you then have to argue that Roland Emmerich is objectively pro-alien, and Independence Day was a vicious assault on the Clinton's administration's lack of a coherent anti-alien policy.
The Bourne Supremacy -- sequel, spy thriller. Don't remember it...
National Treasure -- The founding fathers didn't just write a great Constitution and found a country, the protected the world like superheros!
Polar Express -- Animated movie about a Christmas book. Objections?
Shark Tale -- animated children's movie. Don't know anything about it.
I, Robot -- Anti-science and anti-technology. Seems pretty conservative to me.
Troy -- This movie lied MORE about the Iliad than the Bush Administration lies about OUR war in Asia. That should be good Bush...
Ocean's Twelve -- sequel to a remake. Look, celebrities! Looking cool!
Fifty First Dates -- This is what the Bush Administration WANTS America to do. Forget everything that happened the day before...

Fahrenheit 9/11 is down at 17 here, by the way -- between Van Helsing and Lemony Snicket. It was an indie film, not a studio (Hollywood) film.

There was controversy, primarily by people who missed the entire point of the movie, about whether Million Dollar Baby was pro-euthanasia, but seeing as it's just a notch above Princess Diaries Two, let's null those two out.

Top 15 of 2003:

Return of the King -- Adopted by conservatives, if I remember. "Men of the West..."
Finding Nemo -- This is about accepting people with disabilities and finding the value of family. But Ellen's voice is in it, infecting our children with gay-ness. SHAME! SHAME!
Pirates of the Caribbean -- About a ride in Disney World/Land, the most conservative place on earth.
Matrix Reloaded -- maybe, kinda, Zen existentialism?
Bruce Almighty -- Christians generally thought this was a positive portrayal of God and faith. Hunh.
X-Men 2 -- Again, main theme is accepting people who are different from you. This is NOT the lesson the conservative establishment wants coming out of Hollywood.
Elf -- It's about Christmas. It functions on the assumption that Santa is real, like the WMD in Iraq. Bush loved it.
Terminator 3 -- sequel, sci fi actioner
Matrix Revolutions -- ok, encourages people to question reality. Could be bad for Scott McClellan, he's good at ignoring reality...
Cheaper by the Dozen -- Again, pro-family fluff stuff. This is what ALL movies should be. Wholesome and family oriented. No Swear words.
Anger Management -- buddy comedy... I'm not remembering any political overtones...
Hulk -- So fantastically bad that nobody saw the whole thing. Doesn't count.
2 Fast 2 Furious -- Encourages High risk driving?
Something's Gotta Give -- Old people like sex too! GASP!
Seabiscuit -- inspiring historical epic. Does have the little guy beating the establishment. BAD! The establishment ALWAYS wins.
The Last Samurai -- The old ways are more honorable and better and more heroic. Conservative to the Hilt.

Top 15 of 2002

Spider-Man -- Flag waving wonderful-ness.
The Two Towers -- book adaptation, but seen as very patriotic post 9/11
Attack of the Clones -- sci-fi fluff. Vaguely political. Like the other Star Wars, claimed by both sides.
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets -- again, good triumphs over evil.
My Big Fat Greek Wedding -- surprise indie. Pro-marriage, pro-family, pro-tradition.
Signs -- God may not play dice with the universe, but apparently he does play charades. Family sci-fi movie, very pro-faith.
Goldmember -- comedy sequel. Naughty in a Benny Hill way. Good Conservatives know that there are no naughty-bits. We're all like Ken and Barbie dolls.
Men in Black 2 -- Government Agency protects Americans from invading Aliens. Maybe the first part of Bush's new campaign on immigration.
Ice Age -- Children's film morality.
Chicago -- musical remake. strong political message ... for 1933.
Catch Me if You Can -- biopic. Can't run from the law, even if you're Leonardo DiCaprio, you'll still get caught.
Die Another Day -- 007 protects the world again. Pre-marital sex, though...
Scooby Doo -- OK, this IS a leftist propaganda film. Damn dirty hippies.
Lilo and Stitch -- importance of family & love.

That was a lot of movies. By and large, they didn't seem to be all that subversive or leftist or liberal. The exceptions, such as Fahrenheit 9/11, weren't made by the studio system. This leads me to two separate conclusions:

1. The people in Hollywood may have liberal tendencies but that doesn't seem to be reflected in their movies to any great degree. The reason Hollywood doesn't make flag-waving, Pro-America epics anymore is because these movies are released world wide and if you haven't noticed, THE REST OF THE WORLD HATES US.

2. The further from the Hollywood Establishment (studios) you get, the more 'Liberal' the movies become. Essentially, artists creating powerful cinema DO tend towards Liberalism and allow that to show through in their art. These artists are reacting to the politically charged world around them. If their work is powerful enough to transcend the usual art-film / studio-box office divide and gain a large audience, it's not because liberal Hollywood is pushing it, it's because the public wants to see it.

Brokeback Mountain is actually causing less controversy than I had hoped. I haven't seen it yet, though I intend to. By all accounts, it is a powerful story acted with enough force to communicate to audiences that might not normally go for the whole 'gay cowboy movie' scene. This is an example of two things; the power of art to communicate and the growing acceptance by the vast majority of Americans of people with different sexual orientations.

The current Conservative push is a reflection of the failure of Conservatism, not the failure of Liberalism. Reactionary periods like this one are a sort of final gasp by a portion of society that sees its views / traditions / values falling by the wayside. In a recent poll by Rutgers University, self identifying Republicans made up only 22% of registered voters (37% for Democrats and 29% independent) and things like the Gay Marriage bans got the Republican base out. 9/11 was also an aberration that will not be useful to the Republicans if they wish to continue their reactionary policies. The louder the Right is yelling, the more their failing. The more they have to complain about, the less they have in common with the rest of society.

Turn in your teacher for cash reward.

Vatican says 'Intelligent Design' is bullshit.


Bush has a (new) Problem

It seems that the calls for hearings on illegal wiretaps aren't limited to 'Blame America Liberals' playing politics with National Security. The U.S. Newswire is reporting that "Patriots to Restore Checks and Balances (PRCB) today called upon Congress to hold open, substantive oversight hearings examining the President's authorization of the National Security Agency (NSA) to violate domestic surveillance requirements outlined in the Federal Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA)."

At first glance, this does not seem all that earth shattering. It certainly wouldn't scare President "I don't read newspapers" Bush. So a bunch of liberal loonies want to hold hearings. The president can just brush them off and repeat his Presidential Mantra: '9/11 changed everything.' A closer examination, however, reveals some serious problems for the Bush Administration. Check out some of these quotes.

"I believe that our executive branch cannot continue to operate without the checks of the other branches. However, I stand behind the President in encouraging Congress to operate cautiously during the hearings so that sensitive government intelligence is not given to our enemies." -- Paul Weyrich, chairman and CEO, Free Congress Foundation

"Public hearings on this issue are essential to addressing the serious concerns raised by alarming revelations of NSA electronic eavesdropping." -- Grover Norquist, president, Americans for Tax Reform

"The need to reform surveillance laws and practices adopted since 9/11 is more apparent now than ever. No one would deny the government the power it needs to protect us all, but when that power poses a threat to the basic rights that make our nation unique, its exercise must be carefully monitored by Congress and the courts. This is not a partisan issue; it is an issue of safeguarding the fundamental freedoms of all Americans so that future administrations do not interpret our laws in ways that pose constitutional concerns." -- David Keene, chairman, American Conservative Union

This was bound to happen sooner or later. Conservatives, perhaps in a different way than liberals, have always guarded their freedoms and rights (especially the one to keep and bear arms) closely. Conservatism is at its root distrustful of any government authority. Grover Norquist famous promise to reduce government to a size small enough to drown it in a bath tub is typical of this streak of distrust.

Thinking conservatives (as in NOT Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Rielly, or a Ditto-Head) realize that our enumerated rights and freedoms are essentially hard limits on what the government can do. The 'limited government' concept appeals to conservatives, even if they find certain rights inconvenient at times. Now that President Bush has taken to ignoring limits when he finds them inconvenient, we'll see an increasing number of conservatives begin to move further away from the President.

The Presidents poll numbers are at about 40% approval, give or take two points. His approval among Democrats is something like 5%. His approval among Independents is also low, about 30%, which means that most of the approval variations you'll see over the next three years will reflect changes in Bush's approval by his own party. As more self described conservatives and Republicans catch on to Bush's game, they'll desert him.


Where was this in 2000?

Al Gore won the 2000 election. Unfortunately, due to an antiquated and idiotic Electoral College, our Commander in Chimp for the last 5 years has not been Al Gore.

Collective wisdom has been that Al Gore seemed to be lacking in the all important "Who would you rather have beer with" area of the Presidential skill-set. The resulting presidency of George W. Bush has, however, taught us all the consequences of electing a man to be "The Leader of the Free World" based on the comfort you would feel with him at Joe's Bar & Grill for Monday Night Football.

Because presidential elections now function on the same principal as student council elections (vote for who's coolest!) we are bogged down in a war the international community abhors (and fewer and fewer Americans support), trillions in debt, destroying our own environment, kowtowing to the interests of large corporations, watching the gap between rich and poor grow at alarming rates and ignoring federal law at will, spying without warrants on our own citizens.

Buyer's remorse aside, Al Gore "lost" the 2000 election because nobody could detect any sort of personality belonging to the then-Vice President. His speech on MLK day left me wondering where THIS Al Gore was five years ago.

"As we begin this new year, the Executive Branch of our government has been caught eavesdropping on huge numbers of American citizens and has brazenly declared that it has the unilateral right to continue without regard to the established law enacted by Congress precisely to prevent such abuses. It is imperative that respect for the rule of law be restored in our country."

A president who breaks the law is a threat to the very structure of our government. Our Founding Fathers were adamant that they had established a government of laws and not men. They recognized that the structure of government they had enshrined in our Constitution - our system of checks and balances - was designed with a central purpose of ensuring that it would govern through the rule of law. As John Adams said: "The executive shall never exercise the legislative and judicial powers, or either of them, to the end that it may be a government of laws and not of men."

When President Bush failed to convince Congress to give him the power he wanted when this measure was passed, he secretly assumed that power anyway, as if congressional authorization was a useless bother. But as Justice Frankfurter once wrote: "To find authority so explicitly withheld is not merely to disregard in a particular instance the clear will of Congress. It is to disrespect the whole legislative process and the constitutional division of authority between the President and the Congress."

And the Money Quote:

"A special counsel should be immediately appointed by the attorney general to remedy the obvious conflict of interest that prevents him from investigating what many believe are serious violations of law by the president."

I ask again, where was this strong and impassioned Al Gore five years ago?

Republicans went into a tizzy, attacking anything that moved and lying about facts that were inconvenient. Scott McClellan accused (wrongly) the Clinton Administration of the same sort of wiretapping.

This wiretapping scandal is bigger than Plamegate. As more evidence comes out, awareness will begin to spread in the population. This isn't a partisan issue. There are a lot of Republicans out there that will find this troubling. THIS is the issue that's going to hurt Republicans in 2006 and 2008, especially if Democratic challengers can force GOP incumbents into taking a position on the President's illegal activity. Either way, for or against, it's bad for George W. Bush.

Bonus factoid:

The U.S. Government spent $7.2 Billion dollars to classify 15.6 million documents "secret" and keep them out of public view. Both figures are record highs. Incidently, that's $461.54 a document.


Alito Confirmation


There are no Pro-Choice Republicans

The New York Times has an interesting analysis of Thomas Alito's confirmation as it applies to a number of prominent Republicans.

The problem for this group, Senators Specter, Chafee, Snowe and Collins, is springs from a particular distinction Alito made during his testimony. The New York Times tells us, "in 1985, when he was a 35-year-old government lawyer, Judge Alito stated that the Constitution did not protect abortion rights, and that he was "particularly proud" of his legal work arguing that the Constitution did not confer the right to an abortion." During his testimony this week, Sen. Feinstein questioned Judge Alito about the status of Roe v. Wade as a precedent. Alito would not label Roe "settled law," in contrast to his stance on the one-person-one-vote cases, (denounced in the same 1985 memo) - amongst other decisions.

This differs from the position of Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. took at his Supreme Court confirmation hearing last year.

Senator Arlen Specter, the committee chairman, attempted to give his party's nominee an escape. Sen. Specter allowed Judge Alito the opportunity to say that his views on Roe v. Wade pre-dated the Supreme Court's 1992 ruling in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which upheld and reaffirmed Roe. Judge Alito declined this idea of a "super-precedent," only promising to keep an open mind when deciding any change in the status of Roe v. Wade.

Exposition now complete, we can see the bind that Sen Specter of Pennsylvania, Chafee of Rhode Island, and Snowe and Collins of Maine, find themselves. All four are publicly Pro-Choice and have promised to oppose any nomination that would curtail the rights of women.

The Times editorial continues, "nearly 70 percent of Americans [say] in a recent Harris poll that they would oppose Judge Alito's confirmation if they thought he would vote against constitutional protection for abortion rights." This is especially true for these four particular Republicans, curious for their Pro-Choice stance in a party that is strongly Anti-Choice and their geographic distribution, all clustered in the cosmopolitan (and largely liberal) North-East.

We will see whether these four Senators are true to their Pro-Choice position or if they place party above their convictions and their constituencies. At the very least, these Senators should be 'no' votes. One would hope that the Democrats will mount a filibuster, in which these four should also be 'no' votes for cloture.


Government Transparency = Anarchy?

So now we're Anarchists?

A group of people in Arizona made signs and protested the purchase of touch-screen voting machines made by Diebold. Republican Secretary of State Jan Brewer, who is running for another 4 year term, referred to the protesters as "anarchists" when questioned about them by the media.

This is troublesome on a number of levels. First, why shouldn't voters be angry that the State of Arizona is purchasing voting machines that have been demonstrated to be vulnerable to hacking. There are a lot of 'tin-foil-hat' type conspiracies out there about Diebold giving elections to Republicans. The evidence is all circumstantial at best, consisting mostly of money given by Diebold exclusively to Republican candidates. I'm not sure if I buy it all, but there are certainly questions and flaws. What I do oppose is any sort of voting system that does not produce a paper trail. If you're thinking of government as a business (as Republicans love to do) you'd be insane not to have a voting system that leaves a paper trail. Think about it, if you're hiring a new CEO, wouldn't you want records of the hiring process? In the event of a close or disputed election the hard evidence of a paper trail prevents any question or dispute one they have been recounted. If nothing else, it gives voters more faith in the system, something that no democracy can function without.

So Ms. Brewer (R) was making a speech about how she decided to purchase a bunch of voting machines and a group of citizens decide that they don't like Ms. Brewer's decision. They protest this decision by standing on public property with signs, making their feelings known. Ms. Brewer's response is to call them Anarchists.

First, these people aren't Anarchists. Most people, and this seems to include Arizona's Secretary of State, don't know the first thing about the political theory of Anarchy. Anarchism, as a political theory, is NOT people running around burning things and raping and stealing while playing loud music, wearing leather pants, and sporting died hair like a scene out of a Mad Max movie. Anarchism (which literally means without a king) is a conception of society based on cooperation without coercion.

Most political thinkers would argue that the formation of a state denies its citizens of absolute freedom. This (sometimes voluntary) forfeiture is justified by the ability of the state to control violence against its citizens. Essentially, people give up absolute freedom for safety, both of their person but especially their property. Societies form states to protect themselves from people who want to take their stuff, either people within, or enemies without. The institutions of the state (courts, police, armies, etc.) have special abilities denied to the average citizen (the ability to arrest, imprison, execute, destroy property) to ensure a atmosphere conducive to life and commerce, to be able to uphold the state's part of the social contract.

Anarchists argue that this social contract between the state and the individual doesn't end violence or protect citizens from violence, it only gives the state a monopoly on the use of violence. This violence is invariably used to protect the interests of the powerful, the rich, and the elite. Anarchists don't generally support any sort of voting as voting is essentially entering into the social contract and condoning the state.

(As an aside, the first essay explicitly advocating the absence of government was "A Vindication of Natural Society" (1756) by Edmund Burke, the intellectual forefather of modern Conservatism.)

...But back to the subject at hand. These protesters wanted a more binding and verifiable voting system to ensure honesty in the social contract. They were not Anarchists in any sense of the word.

So why (other than ignorance) did Secretary of State Brewer call these protesters Anarchists? First, most people share Ms. Brewer's ignorance and wouldn't catch the fact that she's talking out of her ass. On top of that, the term 'Anarchist' carries heavy negative connotations in our society and would be useful in painting those who opposed her as 'outside the mainstream' at best and 'those seeking to destroy our peaceful way of life' at worst.

This tendency to demonize the enemy is common to all conflict, armed or otherwise. The use of 'demonization' in politics, however, is exceedingly dangerous. First, any use of logical fallacies to fool voters is dishonest. In this case, we see an implicit straw-man argument. "Don't vote for Democrats, they're going to let the Sex Pistols run the country." Sadly, our voting population is often fooled by this tactic. Whether out of indifference, ignorance, or lethargy, a portion of voters can be counted on to vote on these straw-man issues, sometimes against their own self interest.

Though the left is not innocent of these sorts of actions (the Republicans aren't really Nazis) the right has made this strategy an integral part of their campaigning. Take for example the constant implication that if any congress person fails to follow President Bush's every directive they are traitors to America. The constant accusation of Anti-Americanism, being a 'Blame-America-First-er,' not supporting the troops (when in fact only disagreeing with civilian Pentagon leadership) and being 'an aid to terrorists' is a dishonest attempt to frame Democrats, Liberals, and an increasingly large number of independents as people who are 'out of the mainstream' or 'trying to undermine the American way of life.'

Other Republican trends show traces of this strategy as well. Is anybody really so anti-Christian that they would outlaw Christmas? No. The attempts to paint all people left of Ronald Reagan as 'Liberal Elites' is equally deceptive.

The point is that when elected leaders begin to label groups of their own citizens 'anarchists' they endanger our freedoms. It is a small step from 'anarchist' to 'terrorist' or 'insurgent.' President Bush has already shown that he will arrest American citizens as 'enemy combatants' and hold them for over 3 years without charge or access to family or council. Terms and labels are important. Demonizing political opponents with labels is dangerous.

When OUR elected officials falsely label their own citizens in an effort to marginalize them and their political beliefs it's shameful. This is America, not some backwater Banana Republic. When these elected officials demonize Americans for asking for more transparent government, it's frightening.


Ariel Sharon & Peace in the Middle East

Yassir Arafat and Ariel Sharon differed on so many subjects and so many levels yet will be linked together by history. Both are of the same generation, saw the same events, fought the same wars. Both, it seems, are/were to be the last of their generation and to have their greatest impact at their exits from the international stage, if in differing ways.

The news came out yesterday that Prime Minister Sharon had suffered a severe stroke and would be undergoing surgery to stop bleeding in his brain. The surgery is complete and the Prime Minister remains "under heavy anaesthesia and ventilation" while his deputy, Ehud Olmert, assumes to duties of Prime Minister until Mr. Sharon recovers or the elections already scheduled for 28 March are held. (Constitutionally, the Deputy PM is able to act as Prime Minister for only 100 days. The elections that had already been scheduled precede that cut off.)

This personal tragedy for Sharon's family (already visited often by tragedy)is not the end of the story.

First, Ariel Sharon has always been a polarizing figure. For a long time he supported the establishment of settlements and his dealings in Lebanon angered many...

Ariel Sharon was, however, the best chance for peace in the Middle East. It wouldn't be a totally just peace, but that was never going to happen anyway. The conflict, drawn out and deeply felt by both sides, has become intractable. Ariel Sharon was the only leader in Israel with the force of personality to remove settlements and give up land.

Sharon's disappearance from the political landscape (even if he does survive, he's not expected to remain in politics) will be enormously damaging to the new Centrist party Sharon had just formed. In November, the PM left his own Likud party, a party he had been part of for decades, to form Kadima. Polling showed Sharon retaining the Prime Minister position and Kadima leading other prospective parties for the March elections.

As a new party and a party so strongly identified with Sharon, Kadima's fortunes seem to have taken a disastrous turn. Major Israeli newspapers have observed that Mr. Olmert, Sharon's Deputy, does not have the same charisma or connection with the people of Israel to push through unpopular measures, such as the removal of settlements and concessions in the West Bank, that Mr. Sharon was expected pursue.

Sharon realized that Israel was at a crossroads. He addressed the question, 'how does one maintain a nation that is both a Jewish Homeland and a modern democracy with millions of Palestinians living within its borders?' by realizing that some land must be provided for an independent Palestine. This, concurrent with the understanding of a new reconciliatory Palestinian Authority that Israel has a right to exist in safety, allowed for the best hope of a lasting peace. None of these policies are particularly popular, especially among the Likud party. Seeing the need for new and bold action, Sharon struck out on his own, forming Kadima. His unfortunate and tragic exit from politics leaves this legacy, an old warrior with a changed heart working for peace, in question.

Ghazi al-Saadi, a Palestinian commentator has said, "A live Sharon is better for the Palestinians now, despite all the crimes he has committed against us," acknowledging Sharon as "the first Israeli leader who stopped claiming Israel had a right to all of the Palestinians' land." Members of the Palestinian Parliament forecast a more hardline approach from Israel in the wake of Sharon's departure from politics.

In the end, Yassir Arafat's death showed glimmers of a future where the two sides, Israeli and Palestinian, could truely negotiate. I fear that Ariel Sharon's tragic departue from politics will signal the closing of a door that was scarcely open to begin with.


Union Busting Kills Miners

I had resolved to take on more international subjects this year, but I'm going to start with one that is close to home in both the geographic and human sense.

After late night reports that 12 of the 13 trapped miners were alive, this morning finds the town of Tallmansville, West Virginia morning the death of 12 miners and praying for the recovery of the one miner rescued, Randal McCloy, as he lays in critical condition at a local hospital. The stunning reversal has cut loved ones to the bone. Church bells had been ringing and the Governor had spoken last night of a "West Virginia Miracle." Worst of all, Mine officials knew within 30 minutes that the information being circulated was false, but made no moves to correct that information for hours.

The thirteen miners had been trapped 260 feet below the surface of the Sago Mine for over 40 hours.

My family left Wales to escape the mines. My grandfather told me stories of his father leaving for the mines before sun up and returning after sundown six days a week. Sunday really was 'sun-day' for my great-grandfather. Work stoppages and seeing miners walking back from the mines during the day could only mean one thing. Wives waited for their husbands, hopping they wouldn't be the one whose husband had been killed in a collapse. Conditions in the mines were terrible. My great-grandfather drank his tea and ate his lunch on his side, the mines were only 3 feet high.

Conditions for American miners of the same period weren't any better. All through the mountains of Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky, and Kentucky, men labored and died in despicable conditions until some successful strikes signaled a shift from the pro-management stance that the US government had always taken.

After this point, Unions were able to work for better hours, better wages, safer working conditions and eventually better health care. The mine in Tallmansville, West Virginia, however, had successfully busted the Union there, leaving no one watching and protecting the safety of the miners it employed. In almost all ways, the conditions at the Sago Mine were those described by George Baer in 1902 when he sought to defeat the unions, stating that the "rights and interests of the laboring man will be protected and cared for - not by the labor agitators, but by the Christian men to whom God in His infinite wisdom has given the control of the property interests of the country." Sago Mine's safety record certainly left some room for

In 2005 the mine was cited by the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) 208 times for violating regulations, up from 68 in 2004. Of those, 96 were considered significant and substantial. Similarly, West Virginia's Office of Miners' Health, Safety and Training issued 144 citations over that year, up from 74 the previous year.

Some of those were for violations that could have had been factors in the accident, such as failure to control methane and coal-dust accumulation, failure to properly shore up shafts against collapse and overall deficiencies in emergency planning.

MSHA records also showed miners at Sago had suffered 42 injuries that resulted in lost work time since 2000. In 2004 the mine's injury rate for hours worked was nearly three times the national average. A neighbor of one of the trapped miners told the media that the man had recently expressed concern that he could be killed "because of the idiots at the mine."

As anti-Union sentiment and wildly pro-business policies in this country approach their crest, we can expect to see more safety violations and the corresponding injuries and deaths. This particular tragedy received widespread media attention because of the inherent drama of having a dozen men trapped in a mine. Other industrial tragedies, while no less terrible, will not enter the conciseness of many Americans because one death in a factory won't be news anywhere but in the town where it occurred.

Politics is a pendulum and events like these will begin the swing back to the left - if Americans stop to notice and to think about how the policies of their government and their own thoughts and feelings lead directly to the appalling events in West Virginia.


Ask not for Whom the Bell Tolls

It tolls for thee.

Not John Donne's exact words, but the phrase, by now cliche, encapsulates the divergence of Liberalism and Conservatism.

When John Donne put down his version in 1624 he defined the Liberal mind.

"No man is an Island, entire of it self; every man is a piece of the Continent, a part of the main; if a Clod be washed away by the Sea, Europe is the lesser, as well as if a Promontorie were, as well as if a Mannor of thy friends or of thine own were; any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankind; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee."

—from "Meditation XVII" of Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions

With that in mind, my New Year's resolution is to try to include more international topics. I also intend to present other topics, (art, literature, travel,) allowing red state / blue state politics to be a part of this blog rather than its focus.