Monday, October 30, 2006

A society without crosses or veils

So the ideal of a society where no visible public signs of religion would be seen -- no crosses around necks, no sidelocks, turbans or veils -- is a politically dangerous one. It assumes that what comes first in society is the central political “licensing authority”, which has all the resource it needs to create a workable public morality.
While there is truth in this, in that it is disturbing for a government to have the authority to regulate religion, the reverse is also treacherous.

Gang symbols have been outlawed in many contexts, and religions -- particularly the Abrahamic religions -- have become little more than street gangs, only on a much larger scale. Nations that are primarily Christian or Jewish are at war with the Islamic world, and the crosses and turbans have been reduced to the equivalent of red and blue bandanas, and like these rival street gangs, the Christian Right in the U.S. and the "Islamo-fascists" of the Middle East have far more in common than either side would ever admit. The prohibition of such religious symbols in public would make sense for the same reasons.

read more | digg story

Friday, October 27, 2006

NBC Sides with the Rednecks

NBC has rejected an ad for "Shut Up & Sing," a documentary about the Dixie Chicks, because it "cannot accept these spots as they are disparaging to President Bush." From the variety.com article:

"It's a sad commentary about the level of fear in our society that a movie about a group of courageous entertainers who were blacklisted for exercising their right of free speech is now itself being blacklisted by corporate America," Harvey Weinstein said in a statement. "The idea that anyone should be penalized for criticizing the president is profoundly un-American."
Now, let me be clear, NBC is a corporation, and has the right to decide what content to broadcast according to the best interest of its shareholders. That said, their stated reason for this action is a bunch of crap.

It was courageous of the Dixie Chicks to speak out against the aspiring dictator in spite of the fact that their target demographic is the very same nascar-watching, gun-rack-owning Red State inhabitants who would (and did) boycott them for speaking ill of the current administration. Given the current level of Bush's disapproval (pdf link), it wouldn't take any such courage for a national network like NBC to air this now, unless of course they've received some secret warnings against doing so from Bush's Ministry of Truth.

This action is at best cowardly, and at worst evidence of not just a conservative bias, but a bias in favor of the evil man in the Oval Office.

Update: As Bill Maher pointed out on his show last night, in order to avoid disparaging President Bush, NBC would have to take their evening newscast off the air (5:20 in this video).

read story | digg story

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Free Will

As another followup to tuesday's post, I thought I'd take on the question of free will. It's often asked whether humans have free will, or whether we are just, as Scott Adams likes to say, "moist robots". The answer, of course, is that both are true.

Free will, as the absence of some sort of predetermination, is in the context of humanity because that predetermination is not. If there is predetermination -- be it in a scientific "moist robot" form or something more transcendental -- humanity is entirely within that bubble, and predetermination has only meta-existence in that context.

In a more objective sense, it could be argued that this means that free will is an illusion, but this does not mean that we are not responsible for our (predetermined) actions. Everything you do is within the context of humanity, in which there is free will. On a larger scale, the action may be predetermined, but that predetermination takes into account your choices and the incalculable number of factors that lead to them.

This writing is predetermined and your reading (perception), interpretation, acceptance, and application of the ideas are all predetermined. You have the choice of whether or not to make your choices based on the belief that those decisions don't matter because they are predetermined, or based on the belief that you do have free will and that your decisions matter. These beliefs themselves are predetermined, but because you and your influences are all the creation and the tool of that predetermination, and because you do not know what is predetermined to be, it is useless to speculate as to what it is, or to introduce it into your decision-making process.

If predetermination is scientific, it would theoretically be possible to calculate every occurrence ahead of time given enough processing power and information about the influencing factors. Of course, this would realistically be impossible, since this would require a computer with enough computing power to not only calculate the physics of everything happening in the world, but in addition it would require the combined processing power of the brains of every human being and the ability to recursively precompute its own computations to factor its output into the computation of that output, a feat that's unlikely to be possible even for a quantum computer.

Time travel, then, would be the only possible method of discovering predetermination, but that's a can of worms for a future post.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Followup to "What is god?"

Well, it seems my last post was met with incredulity. Lou responded with the following:

"Given this model of reality" nothing exists. You don't exist. By that logic, your existence is subject to my perception and interpretation of you. That is the kind of useless drivel that you hear from philosophy majors (a/k/a future McDonalds workers). You do exist. Trust me on this one.
Yes, I do exist. My existence is not subject to your perception and interpretation because I also exist outside that context, just like you exist outside mine.
Let me ask you a question: Who was the first president of the United States? George Washington, you say? Are you sure?

How can you be sure that there even was a George Washington? You couldn't have met him - he died 200 years before you were born. Yet you still believe that, not only did he exist, but he was the first president? What a shocking leap of faith!
You're right, it is faith. I never experienced the existence of George Washington personally. I rely on my belief in the accuracy of historical record -- which, as Nineteen Eighty-Four teaches us, may not resemble actual events at all -- for my belief that George Washington was the first president of the United States. That historical record exists both within and outside my bubble, so it meets the qualifications for objective existence in the context of that bubble, whether it is true or not.
Another question: You have blogged about President Bush. Do you really believe that he is president? How do you know? Have you ever met him? Sure you see him on TV, but you see lots of things on TV that aren't real, don't you? How can you be so sure that there even is a George W. Bush? What? Another leap of faith?
That brings up another question. How would meeting him make me any more sure of his existence than seeing him on TV? Sure, it may be more difficult to pass fiction off as truth under those circumstances, but those experiences could just as easily be some sort of hallucination. He exists either way.

I have also quoted Apollo from Battlestar Galactica, whom I've also seen on TV but never met. Apollo exists in the form of a fictional character, both within and outside my bubble, but I rely on historical records of more recent events for my knowledge of that existence. If those records were false, Apollo could be real and Bush fictional (and we'd all be a lot better-off), but I have faith that that's not the case.
Put down the symbolic logic textbook and come back to earth for a minute. Three facts: George Washington was the first president, George W. Bush is the current president, and God exists. People who don't believe the first two facts are called uneducated. Why is the third any different?
The difference, of course, is that those who claim to know about the first two facts almost unanimously agree, but the existence of the christian god (as a true being, existing outside of humanity rather than as fiction) is much more widely disputed.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

What is god?

There is no doubt in my mind that god exists. In fact, every god exists, and every variation of each exists. Every thought that anyone's ever had exists, in the sense that a sketch on a piece of paper exists, in that their existence is subject to the perception and interpretation of them, whereas the paper exists on a lower, more absolute level. Paper, though, it just a name given to a certain range of configurations of molecules, and so it is just as abstract in its own way.

Perhaps "exist" is the wrong word... these things are, they have being, even if that being is not objective enough to fully constitute existence. Then again, for every layer of being, there is a corresponding layer of objectivity, so it could be argued that at any given layer of being, things which are on that level exist, while things that are on higher, more abstract layers merely are. Existence is a subset of being.

Logically, given this model of reality, for any given layer of being, the lower, less abstract things -- while in absolute terms would have some sort of meta-existence -- for all intents and purposes do not exist or have being. That is, they do not exist in the sense that pi does not exist in "2+2=4". While each two may or may not be the area of a circle, of which pi is a factor, pi is not observable as a component of the equation, and has been canceled-out of it if it was ever there. Of course, on lower levels, pi still exists, but as it is not observable from the equation and cannot be proven to exist based upon it, the existence of pi is neither confirmable nor relevant on the layer of the equation, so it is not.

Or perhaps layers are not the best model. Pi and the Golden Ratio can appear in the same equation, both being within a common layer, but each can also appear in its own equation, in which the existence of the other is neither confirmable nor relevant, so while their level of being is at least comparable, it is an oversimplification to say that they are on the same layer, except as part of some perceived and interpreted hierarchy. The existence of the layers is a layer of its own.

Holy crap, that was meta...

Anyway, perhaps a better model is a massive Venn diagram. This diagram would be composed of bubbles of irregular shapes and sizes, intersecting in an infinite number of dimensions, but the dimensions are unimportant. What's important is that, as with any other Venn diagram, there are only four possible relations that any bubble can have to any other: it can intersect it as a peer, it can be a superset that completely contains the other, it can be a subset that is completely contained by the other, or it can have no direct relationship.

In this bubble model, in the context of any given bubble, another bubble is if any part of it is within the context bubble; a bubble's subsets are in the context of that bubble. If it also exists outside that bubble -- that is, they intersect as peers -- the bubble meets the qualifications for objective being; a bubble's peers exist in the context of that bubble. Bubbles with no relation, of course, have neither existence nor being in the context of that bubble, but supersets can only have the irrelevant meta-existence, so these things do not have being or existence either. This all means that in order for A to be, in reference to B, B must include both A and not-A.

Discovery is the expansion of B to include either A or not-A, where before only one was included, and A did not have being in the context of B, either because it had no relationship or because it was a superset.

God -- as an abstract concept -- is, but in the context of humanity, an omnipresent creator of all things can only ever have meta-existence and cannot ever be, and thus is unconfirmable and irrelevant.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Bush's "Stay the Course" Flip-Flop

First, I'd like to take a moment to commend President Bush for finally realizing that "Stay the course" is stupid.

Ok, the moment's over.

It's ironic that Bush -- who famously called his opponent in the 2004 election a "flip-flopper" for changing his opinion on the Iraq war -- is now denying his own former position on the same issue. Contrary to Bush's implication, changing policies as a result of new evidence and admitting one's mistakes is always a good thing. Of course, it's preferable not to make those mistakes in the first place, but because nobody's perfect, the ability to admit mistakes and work to correct them is more important than the ability to avoid making mistakes.

Bush does not admit his mistakes. Instead -- in true Nineteen Eighty-Four, Oceana-has-always-been-at-war-with-Eastasia form -- Bush now denies that "stay the course" was ever his position, despite a mountain of proof that includes transcripts on the Whitehouse's own website of six different occasions on which he used those exact words to describe his plan for Iraq (detailed by thinkprogress) and video of even more that just appeared on Countdown with Keith Olbermann (video).

read more | digg story

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Weekends

I didn't forget to post yesterday. Well, ok, I did, but I've been thinking about switching to weekdays-only for a while. So, until further notice, don't expect new posts on the weekends.

Friday, October 20, 2006

More dirty trickes from the GOP

On the October 18 edition of his nationally syndicated radio program, Fox News host Sean Hannity encouraged Democratic voters to "stay home on Election Day," adding that, "your vote doesn't matter anyway." He added that Democrats should not turn out to vote "for the sake of the nation" because Democrats' votes "won't change who occupies the White House" and Democratic "candidates have absolutely no idea how to win the war on terrorism." Hannity also appeared to predict he would be criticized for his remarks, stating: "This is how the press is going to report this: 'Hannity says Democrats should stay home on Election Day.' " He did not explain how that would be a mischaracterization of his comments.
Is there anything more un-American than telling the opposition not to vote? Well, maybe trying to trick them into not voting.

It's one thing to debate in the hopes of convincing them to change their vote. The dissemination of ideas, good or bad, should always be welcome. Telling people not to vote because you disagree with their ideas is quite another, and if Hannity had any intention of making a good-faith attempt to argue against the the platform of any democratic candidate, his focus would have been on changing votes, rather than discouraging them.

While there is something to the argument that the result of a vote will be better without uninformed voters participating, discouraging them from voting rather than encouraging them to become informed is immoral. Encouraging people not to vote because they have an informed opinion that you disagree with is downright unscrupulous.

read more | digg story

Thursday, October 19, 2006

As habeas corpus goes, so goes the nation

With habeas corpus now only a memory, Keith Olbermann argues that this is the beginning of the end of the United States. Below are a few excerpts from his most recent special comment, followed by a video of the entire segment. This comment speaks for itself.

[T]onight have we truly become the inheritors of our American legacy.

For, on this first full day that the Military Commissions Act is in force, we now face what our ancestors faced, at other times of exaggerated crisis and melodramatic fear-mongering:

A government more dangerous to our liberty, than is the enemy it claims to protect us from.

...

We have listened to the little voice inside that has said, "the wolf is at the door; this will be temporary; this will be precise; this too shall pass."

We have accepted that the only way to stop the terrorists is to let the government become just a little bit like the terrorists.

...

(addressing President Bush: ) "With the distance of history, the questions will be narrowed and few: Did this generation of Americans take the threat seriously, and did we do what it takes to defeat that threat?"

Wise words.

And ironic ones, Mr. Bush.

Your own, of course, yesterday, in signing the Military Commissions Act.

You spoke so much more than you know, Sir.

Sadly—of course—the distance of history will recognize that the threat this generation of Americans needed to take seriously was you.

We have a long and painful history of ignoring the prophecy attributed to Benjamin Franklin that "those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety."

...

And if you somehow think habeas corpus has not been suspended for American citizens but only for everybody else, ask yourself this: If you are pulled off the street tomorrow, and they call you an alien or an undocumented immigrant or an "unlawful enemy combatant"—exactly how are you going to convince them to give you a court hearing to prove you are not? Do you think this attorney general is going to help you?

...

(addressing President Bush: ) "One of the terrorists believed to have planned the 9/11 attacks," you told us yesterday, "said he hoped the attacks would be the beginning of the end of America."

That terrorist, sir, could only hope.

Not his actions, nor the actions of a ceaseless line of terrorists (real or imagined), could measure up to what you have wrought.

Habeas corpus? Gone.

The Geneva Conventions? Optional.

The moral force we shined outwards to the world as an eternal beacon, and inwards at ourselves as an eternal protection? Snuffed out.

These things you have done, Mr. Bush, they would be "the beginning of the end of America."


full transcript | digg story

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The Proposition, the Opposition, and the Truth

You know, propaganda's not really so bad. It can be dangerous if you only get one side because it may be difficult to recognize the bias, but propaganda from two or more opposing sides can be a much more efficient and reliable way to get the truth than getting your information from one supposedly objective source.

A truly objective source is hard to come by. There are a lot of sources that try to appear objective, but that just means that they try harder to disguise their bias. An obvious bias is easier to filter out, especially when you have an equally obvious opposing bias to use a reference point. It's like the ultimate 'pro' and 'con' list.

With information from both sides, you can see the inconsistencies and boil the information down to distill truth. This method also gives you a more complete picture. For instance, in the case of a piece of legislation, if there's something important in the "fine print", one side or the other will usually point it out, whereas it might have gone unnoticed even if you read the bill for yourself. This was especially apparent when I was researching California Proposition 89. The government-provided summary was far less informative than the combining the bullet-point lists on the "yes on 89" and "no on 89" websites.

Of course, you still have to think for yourself in order to tell the truth from the lies and half-truths presented in propaganda, but an obvious bias makes this easier to distinguish, and this requires less thought than finding a truly balanced source.

Now, if you wanna be really sneaky, what you should do is create propaganda against your position, and do a shitty job of making the case, in order to discredit the opposition.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The Reliability of Electronic Elections

Sometimes, paranoids are right. And sometimes even when paranoids are wrong, it's worth considering what they're worried about.

I speak here of all who are worried sick that those new, fancy high-tech voting systems can be hacked, fiddled with and otherwise made to record votes that aren't cast or fail to record votes that are.
This article discusses a House bill to require electronic voting machines to produce voter-readable paper verification, and for those paper ballots to be used to audit a random 2% of the precincts in which they are used. This will go a long way toward making these machines reliable, but there's a long way to go.

The software for these machines should be open-source, so that any voter (with sufficient technical knowledge) can verify it, unlike the secret last-minute patch distributed to Diebold machines at the last minute in 2002 that was verified by no one. Of course, there must also be safeguards in place to ensure that the publicly verified software is actually what the machines are running, and that there are no open I/O mechanisms that can be used to subvert this. All this is required for a voter to have a comparable level of confidence to reading a paper ballot and seeing it placed in a locked ballot box.

Lower-tech forms of vote manipulation, -- such as those used in 2004 in places like Ohio -- must also be stopped, but at least voters disenfranchised through such means are generally aware that their votes have not been counted, unlike electronic manipulation, which can result in votes being thrown out without leaving a trace that they were ever cast.

read more | digg story

Monday, October 16, 2006

Baby Steps

Nancy Pelosi, congresswoman from California's 8th district and current minority leader, is poised to become the first female Speaker of the House if the Democrats take control of the House in the coming election. In the digg story linked below, a few of the commenters asked why her gender is important.

It's important because it's a milestone in the agonizingly slow progress in weeding out misogyny from our society. Between that, the racism, the homophobia, and other forms of hate in our political process, I'm embarrassed to be American.

Now, that's not to say that all Americans are sexist, racist, and/or homophobic, but the fact that a large enough percentage of the electorate is that parties need to take those factors into account when selecting candidates is deplorable. The fact that that is more true among conservatives should be enough to make any reasonable person think twice before voting Republican.

I long for the day when being sexist is more damaging to a candidate than being female, being racist is more damaging than not being caucasian, and being homophobic is more damaging than being homosexual. At the current rate, the nation, if not the entire human race, is likely to destroy itself before that day comes.

read more | digg story

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Wake up, and smell the conspiracy

According to a recent New York Times/CBS poll (pdf link), question 81:

When it comes to what they knew prior to September 11th, 2001, about possible terrorist attacks against the United States, do you think members of the Bush Administration are telling the truth, are mostly telling the truth but hiding something, or are they mostly lying?
Only 16% (down 8 points from 2004) of Americans believe the Bush administration's official story, and the belief that they are "mostly lying" has been accelerating to rise 20 points since 2002, for a total of 28%. Of the remaining 56%, a shrinking 3% are unsure, for a total of 81% who believe that the administration is not being entirely truthful.

Given the overwhelming convenience of the attack to the plan (pdf link) that was released in 2000 by PNAC (of which Dick Cheney is a founding member) and that the administration has since been following. This is not conspiracy nut stuff. The document, linked above on PNAC's own website, expresses the need for "some catastrophic and catalyzing event -- like a
new Pearl Harbor" -- which, as I've previously discussed, would be more accurately called a new Reichstag Fire.

At 81%, the belief that the Bush administration is being at least partially dishonest about having had information that might have allowed it to prevent the 9/11 attack is not only mainstream, it is a vast majority. The question is, given this information, how can 34% still approve of Bush as president?

read more | digg story

Saturday, October 14, 2006

October 14th's post

What? I didn't forget to post yesterd- I mean today. See? This post is proof. It was posted on the 14th, see the date?

Hey, if Bush can rewrite the past, why can't I?

Friday, October 13, 2006

The Gullible Right

Keith Olbermann is at it again. He's done several stories over the last couple of days on the new book, "Tempting Faith: An Inside Story of Political Seduction". This book exposes the GOP plot to dupe evangelical christians into voting Republican while referring to them as "the nuts" and regarding them with contempt behind closed doors. For the Bush administration, The Office of Faith-Based Initiatives -- or in the words of Karl Rove, "a f-ing faith-based thing" (it's unclear where the term "f-ing" originated, but the indefinite article used suggests that Rove did not censor himself) -- was promised and established for the sole purpose of winning votes, and once those votes were won, the administration did nothing but undermine and complain about it.

In light of the administration's true position on these "Faith-Based Initiatives" -- programs to provide funding for humanitarian organizations -- which violate the constitutional separation of church and state by exclusively funding christian organizations rather than secular ones or those established by other religious groups, we must question their other unconstitutionally religious policies like the campaign against same-sex marriage. Is Bush really a homophobe, or is he just after the homophobe vote?

This is why the Constitution requires the separation of church and state. These abuses and manipulations of the electorate, whether a candidate legitimately shares their beliefs or not, is the inevitable result of mixing religion and politics.

read more | digg story

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Accountability is "silly" and "gratuitous"

White House Press Secretary Tony Snow, when asked if President Bush believed he had made any mistakes in his dealing with North Korea, responded by calling the question "silly" and "gratuitous".

What you do as president of the United States -- and I have said this repeatedly from this podium, and you need to give presidents the benefit of the doubt when national security is involved -- is the very best, in their judgment, of what they can do.
When it comes to the president, there should never be any doubt. The public needs to know what's going at the desk in the Oval Office (no, not under the desk, as long as it doesn't affect what happens above). If there is doubt, the president should most certainly not receive the benefit of it. The only reason there would be doubt is if the president has something to hide.

From Iraq to Foley to the usurpation of our Constitutional rights, the GOP has become the party of no accountability. As I've previously discussed, corruption turns good governments into bad ones, and accountability is a must if corruption is to be combatted.

read more | digg story

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Keith Olbermann on the Death of Habeas Corpus

Last night, Keith Olbermann did a brilliant piece (video below) on the unconstitutional atrocity known as the Military Commissions Act of 2006, whose nicknames include "The Torture Bill" and "The Death Warrant for Habeas Corpus". He begins by noting that -- despite the fact that this is "his bill" (in fact, it even pardons him retroactively for several of his many impeachable offenses), and he rushed it through too quickly for many members of Congress to read it, much less allow for proper debate -- he hasn't been able to be bothered to sign it into law in the two weeks since it was passed by Congress.

Still, getting the Military Commissions Act to the President so he could immediately mull it over for two weeks was so important, some members of Congress didn't even read the bill before voting on it. Thus, has some of its minutiae, escaped scrutiny.

One bit of trivia that caught our eye was the elimination of habeas corpus. which apparently used to be the right of anyone who's tossed in prison, to appear in court and say, "Hey, why am I in prison?"
He explains, using a deliciously satirical video entitled "Why does habeas corpus hate America", that the bill violates the constitution, which says "The privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it." After which he shows footage of Patrick Leahy (D-VT) arguing before the Senate that the act "would not merely suspend the great writ, the great writ of habeas corpus, it would eliminate it permanently." Well, I guess since the Constitution does not explicitly mention the elimination of habeas corpus, only its suspension, this bill is ok. It's the Founding Fathers' fault for not foreseeing such usurpation of the government.

Olbermann goes on to explain how each amendment in the Bill of Rights, save the third, is neutered by this elimination of habeas corpus, ending on the sardonic note:
So as you can see, even without habeas corpus, at least one tenth of the Bill of Rights, I guess that's the Bill of "Right" now… remains virtually intact.

And we can rest easy knowing we will never, ever have to quarter soldiers in our homes… as long as the Third Amendment still stands strong.

The President can take care of that with a Signing Statement.

read more | digg story

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

"DIY Impeachment"

The following quickly appeared as a comment on my last entry. For anyone who might be reading the RSS but not watching for comments, I thought I'd share:

Do-It-Yourself Impeachment Due this Thursday!!! (Oct 12)

The day the nation demands impeachment is almost upon us. This coming Thursday (Oct 12), sacks and sacks of mail will be sent to congress demanding impeachment via the House of Representative's own rules. This legal document is as binding as if a State or if the House itself passed the impeachment resolution (H.R. 635).

There's a little known and rarely used clause of the "Jefferson Manual" in the rules for the House of Representatives which sets forth the various ways in which a president can be impeached. Only the House Judiciary Committee puts together the Articles of Impeachment, but before that happens, someone has to initiate the process.

That's where we come in. In addition to the State-by-State method, one of the ways to get impeachment going is for individual citizens like you and me to submit a memorial. ImpeachforPeace.org, part of the movement to impeach the president, has created a new memorial based on one which was successful in impeaching a federal official in the past. You can find it on their website as a PDF.

STOP WAITING FOR YOUR MEMBERS OF CONGRESS TO ACT FOR YOU.

You can initiate the impeachment process yourself by downloading the memorial, filling in the relevant information in the blanks (your name, state, etc.), and sending it in. Be a part of history.

http://ImpeachForPeace.org/ImpeachNow.html
I'm in.

Monday, October 09, 2006

In for a penny...

In theory, a democratic system with impeachment at its heart creates an obvious conflict in the wake of any (honest and credible) presidential election. How could the people's representatives impeach, and ask the Senate to consider removing from office, a president whom the people have just elected? In practice at present, quite a different conflict takes center stage: How can a Congress complicit in many of this President's criminal acts be asked to impeach him? Perhaps by focusing on crimes Congress was not complicit in, by allowing Congressional representatives to plead ignorance or remorse, and by electing new representatives better tuned to the present will of the people.

And how do we get the media to cover investigations of crimes the media too have been complicit in? Same answer (minus, of course, the elections).
To all of the members of Congress and the media referred to in this statement, I have one thing to say: You suck.

The cowardice of this "in for a penny, in for a pound" mentality is arguably even worse than the party loyalty that has caused the Republican majority in Congress to facilitate the president's atrocities rather than rather doing what is right for their country and their constituents. Congress has fucked up, and rather than admit their mistakes and attempt to rectify them, they have "stayed the course", acting as enablers for Dubya's vice, compounding the problems and creating new ones in the process. We need a Congress that will stand up to the president -- any president -- when he's wrong, regardless of party affiliation. While the Supreme court has done better, they too have not managed to put a stop to Bush's unconstitutional abuses of power. It has been argued that if Bush were impeached and removed from office, we would be left with a president who was just as bad, if not worse, but getting him out of office is the first step to repairing the damage he has done at home and abroad, not to mention the only way to begin to restore our credibility with the rest of the world.

read more | digg story

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Republicans giving new meaning to "Make love, not war"

From Andrew Sullivan's "Now the Iraq war hinges on a sex scandal":

The base of the Grand Old Party has been fed homophobia for years now. It was partly how Karl Rove, the president’s chief aide, won Ohio and the presidency in 2004.

Now, the very homophobia he stoked is suddenly turning back on him with fury. The Christian right, led to believe that the Republicans were keeping gays out of power, now discover that their own leaders may even have turned a blind eye to gay sleaze in their own ranks.

So it’s payback time. Internal Republican polls are now showing that this scandal could cost them up to 50 seats in next month’s election, as their base is so disgusted.
Republicans are making sex, not war, the issue. Scandals, especially sex scandals, should not be allowed to affect politics as long as there are real issues to discuss. It's always fun to see someone knocked off of their high horse, but to allow it to distract from real issues is stupid.

That said, homophobia is evil, and the way the GOP has encouraged and exploited it is deplorable. The party's handling of the issue has also been disgraceful, but regardless of whether the timing of the issue is politically motivated as Republican finger-pointers allege, if the party's own hatred and small-mindedness work against it in the upcoming election, they will deserve what they get.

read more | digg story

Saturday, October 07, 2006

The Patriotism of Dissent

Dissent is the highest form of patriotism.
This quote is often misattributed to Thomas Jefferson (they are actually the words of historian Howard Zinn), but regardless of who actually said it, it couldn't be more true. Now, some will argue that not all dissent is patriotic (such as dissent against an ongoing war), while others (like Bush) seem to think that patriotism means never questioning one's government, but both groups are dead wrong.

Waving a flag as so many did after 9/11 doesn't make you a patriot. A patriot is "a person who vigorously supports their country and is prepared to defend it against enemies or detractors" (Oxford American Dictionary). People like Bush seem to be under the mistaken impression dissent is a form of detraction. On the contrary, dissent is an attempt to protect a nation from potential threats from its own government by righting or averting a perceived wrong. While it's true that not all dissenting opinions are actually beneficial, even those that aren't require a conscious effort to attempt to better one's nation rather than following blindly, and that is patriotism. Supporting the government's decision can also be patriotic, but only when one does so after analyzing that decision and coming to the conclusion that it is a good one. Blind loyalty is unpatriotic. As the preceding implies, patriots can be on either side of an issue, and can even disagree with one another. Patriotism speaks only to ones effort and intentions, and a vehement but misguided patriot can also be an enemy of his country, from whom other patriots try to protect the nation.

President Bush is such an individual. I believe that he is convinced that he is doing good, but the road to hell is paved with good intentions, and he is doing more harm than terrorist or military force ever could.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Molding Young Minds

As I mentioned, I was at the World Can't Wait protest yesterday. There were a lot of people there, but it was the young children with their parents that got me thinking.

I had a mixed reaction when I saw a few young children walking around with their parents at the protest. While I thought it was good that these children were being exposed to some positive principles (even the average Bush supporter would agree that war is generally bad and standing up for what you believe is generally good), but then I started thinking about the children that weren't there. Specifically, I thought of the children from the Jesus Camp documentary, and how they were being exposed to (if not indoctrinated with) values opposing those of the protesters. This lead to issues that I had previously pondered of the dynamics and ethics of parents attempting to instill their own values in their children.

I believe that parents' influence on their children is one of the biggest reasons that the evils -- especially flavors of hate like racism, sexism, homophobia and xenophobia -- in the world are still around today. Not that hate is always inherited, but parents who hate raise their children to hate (some more effectively than others), and children who are not raised to hate at least have a fair chance to grow up not hating. The impractical solution to nepotism that I discussed in a previous entry would seem to solve this, but I think we can all agree that having the government raise children is something that must be avoided, lest we risk ending up with our own version of the Hitler Youth. If we could trust all parents to expose their children to as many different beliefs as possible and raise them to be open-minded and make their own decisions, the issue would be moot, but that requires a level of altruism that is hard to find.

Or is that just me? My parents exposed me to different beliefs and raised me to be open-minded and make my own decisions, so how can I be sure that my belief that children should should be raised that way rather than with rigid religious dogmas is my own decision and not just a product of my own upbringing?

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Sorry, nothing today

No blog today (this doesn't count), I spent all day at the World Can't Wait protest.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

The Foley Coverup

In case you've been living under a rock, Mark Foley, Republican Congressman from Florida's 16th district, recently resigned after news broke of his sexual email and instant messaging conversations with underaged, male Congressional pages. I don't plan on making a habit of talking about stupid scandals like "Foleygate" that have little or nothing to do with real issues. What warrants mention, however, is the Republican Party's reaction to the news.

Overwhelmingly, Republicans have tried to distance themselves from Foley. Lou says that because of his hypocrisy, he's not really a Republican at all (if that was really a qualification to be a Republican, it would be the US's smallest political party). Fox News -- the conservative propaganda machine that is perhaps more truthfully spelled "Faux News" -- seems to agree with Lou, because they went to the extreme of labeling Foley as a Democrat at least 3 times during The O'Reilly Factor (insert "O RLY?" joke here) (Update: They've done it again). Then again, they're no better, since they reportedly knew about it last year, but kept it under their hats. That's hypocrisy.

Others have tried to blame the whole thing on anyone associated with the Democratic Party. These tactics range from unfounded claims that the timing of the story's release is politically motivated (Fox News could have broken the story at any time), to attempts to downplay the issue by evoking images of Monica Lewinsky, to slurring homosexuals and blaming both Foley's actions and the cover up on America's "Tolerance And Diversity". These people don't even subscribe to the philosophy of "love the sinner, hate the sin". All they know how to do is hate.

Foley's actions may have been disgraceful, but they can't match the disgrace of his party's reaction.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Thoughtcrime

It is unacceptable to think that there is any kind of comparison between the behavior of the United States of America and the action of Islamic extremists who kill innocent women and children [...] to achieve an objective. --President George W. Bush (emphasis added)
In the video below, Keith Olbermann asks the question "Is it EVER unacceptable to think in this country?"

No. What is unacceptable is that anyone in our government -- particularly the single most powerful individual, by a rapidly widening margin -- would presume to dictate what is and is not acceptable to think. That is a duty reserved for fictional villains, the likes of Big Brother and the Though Police from George Orwell's 1984. The unrestricted right to think is not only the single most fundamental right of a democratic society, it is a basic human right. As Olbermann points out, it is not only the right, but the duty of every member of such a society to do so. As Olbermann says,
When a President says thinking is unacceptable, even on one topic, even in the heat of the moment, even in the turning of a phrase extracted from its context, he takes us toward a new and fearful path -- one heretofore the realm of science fiction authors and apocalyptic visionaries.


digg story

Monday, October 02, 2006

Don't check me

Among the many outrages in the Military Commissions Act of 2006, better known as the Torture Bill, is the following gem:

No court, justice, or judge shall have jurisdiction to hear or consider any claim or cause of action whatsoever, including any action pending on or filed after the date of the enactment of the Military Commissions Act of 2006, relating to the prosecution, trial, or judgment of a military commission under this chapter, including challenges to the lawfulness of procedures of military commissions under this chapter.
Perhaps the single most potent and important check defined by the Constitution is the Judiciary's ability to evaluate the constitutionality of legislation. This clause removes this check, removing the last recourse against this atrocity.

I think they knew that they wouldn't be able to get away with this for long. They were intentionally violating the Constitution, and they knew that the Supreme Court would eventually do the right thing, so they removed their ability to do so. These people have to be stopped.

read more | digg story

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Sworn to protect "a goddamned piece of paper"

"Stop throwing the Constitution in my face," Bush screamed back. "It's just a goddamned piece of paper!"
This same "goddamned piece of paper", in Article II, Section 1 says:
Before he enter on the Execution of his Office, he shall take the following Oath or Affirmation:

"I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."
Bush swore this oath twice, once at each of his inaugurations. The above statement alone is a failure to "preserve, protect and defend the Constitution," and constitutes a violation of that oath.

The Constitution mandates the separation of powers with checks and balances to prevent any individual or group from becoming too powerful, but Bush thinks he's above the law. Addressing members of Congress, he was quoted as saying: "I don't give a goddamn, I'm the President and the Commander-in-Chief. Do it my way."

I'm reminded of a line from Battlestar Galactica, in which Lee "Apollo" Adama said:
I swore an oath. To defend the Articles [of Colonization (the equivalent of our Constitution)]. The Articles say there is an election in seven months. Now, if you are telling me we are throwing out the law, then I am not a captain, you are not a commander, and you are not the president. And I don't owe either of you a damned explanation for anything.
read more | digg story