Thursday, February 24, 2005

Ah, Crazy Old Iran

So this is why Iran needs nuclear weapons? Where will Rushdie hide now?

You know, getting that fatwa placed on his head not only made Rushdie a household name, but solds millions of copies of his books and made him millions of dollars. Maybe I will someday be lucky enough to get my own fatwa...

Just kidding, Iran. Really.

Yet Another Post on "Judicial Activism"

Apparently, according to conservatives, when gays go to the courts in protection of their civil rights, they are "thwarting the will of the people," but when the people vote to fund stem cell research in California, what do conservatives do?

Three guesses and the first two don't count. They run to the courts.

Stop Playing With That Soccer Ball and Make Me a Steak, Woman!

According to the wingnut who wrote this article, women shouldn't play sports because "sports greatly hinders the development of godly, Biblical, feminine character," that playing sports leaves women, "ill-prepared to be Biblically obedient wives and mothers," teaches them "to be like men so they can better compete with men in traditionally masculine roles - i.e., compete with them in the workforce, in politics, in the military..." and that "One of the reasons so many women today enter the armed forces (and workplace) is due to their participation in sports, which have helped prepare them for that endeavor."

Oh, my, no! We must ban women's sports right now! We obviously don't want women living as if they were human beings and not just so much chattel for men to trade and have wait on them.

Most men I know admire a woman who is reasonably healthy and fit; they are also
attracted to a woman who is somewhat "soft" and cuddly... Female athletes also
sneer, wince, push, and fight just like the men. I notice these things all the
time in pictures in our hometown newspaper. The sneers are most obvious; they
make young women very unfeminine. The masculine uniforms and sweaty bodies
aren’t very attractive, either.

Don't women know that they must live their entire lives with the goal of making sure they always to look attractive for men? Duh.

...young girls are trained in sports right along with the boys. To me, this can
only be degrading to the boys...

Well, naturally, since women are inferior, right? Just like them blacks. We shoulda never let them play sports, either.

But this one really cracks me up:

[A] telltale sign of paganism is nudity. It shouldn’t be a secret that
women’s sports promote immodest attire. The pressure to be immodest is just one
more reason women should avoid sports...

Because, you know, all the neo-pagans and Wiccans that I have ever met were mannish sports stars. Oh, wait, no. They are usually about as far from jocks as you can get. It's hard to play soccer and also spend a lot of time brooding dressed in black smoking clove cigarettes. They just don't go together, time management wise.

But this is an example of why religion, and Christianity in particular, are dangerous. This isn't just some isolated kook that we can shrug our shoulders and ignore. There are lots and lots of people like this, out there fighting for theocracy, and now that they are getting legalized discrimination against gays put down as law, do you think women are far behind? Don't think these people don't want to repeal women's suffrage. If playing soccer is a problem for this guy, voting is obviously beyond the pale.

I'm From Dayton, Not Cincinnati! No, Really!

A University of Cincinnati (as opposed to the University of Dayton, where I attended) student recently wrote this screed against evolution, trying to prove that evolutionary theory is inherently racist and thus those who accept evolution as the best explanation for speciation are racists. I'm not going to refute the entire article; Ed Brayton of Dispatches from the Culture Wars has already done so. I want to focus in on a single paragraph of this remarkably stupid article:

Possibly a more recent example happened in Rwanda with the Hutu-Tutsi
slayings. We can trace this back to when Belgium took over Rwanda in 1917.
Belgian Roman Catholic missionaries began working there, establishing many
social projects. However, this "church/state" alliance held to the belief that
one tribal group involved with its work was superior to the other tribes having
"less evolved" tribal members.

The author, one Scott Foust, seems to have missed in his Bible reading the part about not condemning another for the splinter in his or her eye but instead worrying about the tree in one's own. Guess what? Racists have, and still do, use any scientific theory, ideology, or religion to validate their views that their race is superior and all other races inferior.

Did evolution motivate Columbus and Cortez to claim that the Native Americans were of an inferior race? Did evolution motivate the Israelites to exterminate the inferior race of Amalekites? Did evolution motivate the Egyptians to keep slaves of the inferior Israelite race? Did evolution make medieval Christians and Muslims decide that each other were inferior races? Did evolution make the Romans claim superiority over the Goths, Visigoths, Vandals, and other Germanic tribes?

No. Religion and national identity did.

So, let's consider Mr. Foust's example. He claims that "Belgian Roman Catholic missionaries" practiced racism in Rwanda in 1917 and that evolution is to blame. Hmm. One would think that white Europeans had only been oppressing and exploiting Africans for the sixty or so years since the publication of "On the Origins of Species" in 1859. But, it turns out, no! Europeans were already exploiting Africans and decrying them as an inferior breed of man openly for hundreds of years! Imagine my (and Mr. Foust's) surprise!

Hmm. So, religion, in this case Christianity, has been used to support the exploitation of Africans since long before the publication of "On the Origins of Species," and the people who Foust accuses of evolution-based racism are, themselves, missionaries, tasked by the Catholic freakin' Church to carry out the God-appointed task of bringing the Gospel to African heathens. Could it possibly, just maybe, be that the racism of Roman Catholic missionaries was motivated more by the word they were sent to preach than by a scientific theory that the missionaries' own Church, at the time, rejected as heretical? Which is more likely, Mr. Foust?

But even were it not plain from the above argument that Mr. Foust's claim is specious, there is another reason it makes no sense. He has accepted the Hotel Rwanda explanation for the division of Africans in and around Rwanda (there are Hutus and Tutsis in Burundi, the Congo, and other nations as well), which is that Belgians created the groupings by choosing those who looked the most like Europeans to form the ruling Tutsi class and the others to form the subservient Hutu class. But, according to Philip Gourevitch's we wish to inform you that tomorrow we will be killed with our families: Stories of Rwanda, the story is a bit more complex.

You see, the racial division between the Hutus and Tutsis existed long before 1917. It preexisted Darwin's publication of "On the Origins of Species." Rather, in fact, it was based on Biblical interpretation!

You see, the ruling Tutsi class, after having been brought into contact with the Bible long before 1917, believed that it was descended directly from one of Noah's sons following the great Flood, and therefore had a noble lineage. The Hutus had no such tradition. Christianity was the support used to foster division and prop up the framework of Tutsi superiority long before the Theory of Evolution ever existed.

Is it a coincidence that contact with white European Christians caused the ethnic group with more "European" features to believe that it was directly descended from Noah, who, of course, they were told, was a white guy? Or do you think the Europeans might have encouraged this view, even though they had never read the as yet unwritten "On the Origin of Species?"

I'll give you three guesses and the first two don't count. (Hint: The answer is yes).

The title of Foust's article is "Evolution perpetuates racist ideologies." But, ironically enough, his example proves the exact opposite. The article should have been titled, "Religion, Christianity in particular, perpetuates racist ideologies."

Stick that in your pipe and smoke it, Foust!

Big, Fat Idiot

So, Rush Limbaugh recently said to troops in Afghanistan:

There are a lot of people in America who don't trust free people to do the right
thing. I won't mention a political party -- you all know it -- and I won't
mention the ideology -- you all know it.

First off, if the right "trust[ed] free people to do the right thing," the US could have pulled out of Iraq as soon as Saddam had been toppled. If the right "trust[ed] free people to do the right thing," the US wouldn't be fighting the insurgents who want to turn the country in an Islamic theocracy.

But that's not even my point here. My point is that if Rush "trust[s] free people to do the right thing," how come he spent eight years telling us that President Clinton and the Democrats, free people all, were doing the wrong thing? He's accusing the Democrats of not trusting Afghan warlords to "do the right thing," but he doesn't believe Americans in power will "do the right thing."

Quite a patriot, this man who trusts Afghani warlords more than a duly elected President of the United States.

O'Reilly In Wonderland

As reported over at Media Matters, Bill O'Reilly recently echoed the claim coming from the right that the left did not decry civilian casualties when Clinton ordered the bombing of Yugoslavia.

Bullshit! Bullshit, I say! I call bullshit!

I was concerned about civilian casualties in Yugoslavia. I worried about whether US intervention was going to improve the situation or not, especially with Clinton's plan to bomb those carrying out ethnic cleansing into submission. It seemed to be the cowardly way out; the amount of bombing necessary to stop the ethnic cleansing seemed certain to kill and/or displace thousands upon thousands of civilians. I had my fears and doubts the whole time. Most of the people who didn't, ironically enough, seemed to be people who were more conservative than me.

The difference between Yugoslavia and Iraq, Mr. O'Reilly, is that in Yugoslavia there was a clear reason to attack -- to stop the ongoing genocide as required by the UN Genocide Convention. And Clinton actually told the American people the truth about why he wanted to go in. Bush didn't. So, naturally, when it turns out that the US' whole reason for going to war in Iraq was faulty, naturally some American become concerned about what is being done in their name for reasons they were never made aware of.

Also, I am very critical of Clinton's failure to intervene in the Rwandan genocide. I believe that it is right and proper, as the US agreed when it signed the Genocide Convention, for the US to intervene to stop genocides, as Clinton did in Yugoslavia and failed to do in Rwanda, and as Bush has failed to do in the Sudan.

I do not believe in invading countries because of ideologies that conted that the US can use military force to make other nations become democracies. I do not believe in invading countries in order to assuage the pride of the US or to settle a score with a foreign leader who tried to kill the President's father. I do not believe in invading countries just because we don't like them. And I especially don't agree with invading countries when it is not in the country's interest to do so, as was the case in Iraq.

And so, O'Reilly is not only lying about the lack of concern on the left about Clinton's policy in Yugoslavia, he is also intentionally comparing events of different kinds (that is to say, comparing apples to oranges). Comparing one's support for a war to stop a genocide to one's support of a war fought to prevent illusory WMD from falling into the hands of terrorists (despite the fact that Saddam was an enemy of the very terrorists he was supposedly going to give the WMD to) is just not an apt comparison. That is like accusing someone of being inconsistent because they supported WWII but didn't support the South seceding from the US at the beginning of the Civil War. They're different situations and one's opinions of them are bound to be different, as O'Reilly well knows.

My Weird, Geeky Race-Relations Moment

A few months ago, I was wearing one of my Jedi Knight costumes to a local convention. Yes, I said one of my Jedi Knight costumes. Anyway, I went into a convenience store to buy a soda and the guy behind the counter said something like, "Cool Star Wars Jedi. Who are you supposed to be?"

I replied, "Well, it's more or less based on Mace Windu's -- Samuel L. Jackson's -- costume."

The clerk's eyes lit up and he said, "Dude! Samuel L. Jackson rocks!"

He was black. I am white. As often pointed out by minority groups, there aren't very many positive role models for minorities in movies and on TV. And, since white role models are all over the place, the chances that a black person would ever run into a white person dressed like a black character are pretty damn slim. If I read the clerk correctly, I think he was pretty happy to meet someone who had chosen a black character to pattern a costume after, but even more pleasantly surprised that a white guy had done so.

The funny thing is that I made the costume without even thinking about the race implications at all. I just liked Mace Windu's costume and wanted something different than the standard tan Obi-Wan/Qui-Gon Jedi costume most people wear (and one of which I already had). And it made no difference to me that Mace Windu is black. He was a Jedi and I liked his costume.

I don't claim to be a warrior fighting on the front lines for racial equality, though I do believe in equality and speak loudly whenever I see racial injustice. Rather, what I think I learned from this is that geekiness trumps race. A geek of another race is still a geek and SF/fantasy heroes' race matters less than the cool stuff the hero can do. Geeks hate each other for even stupider reasons than regular people, such as whether Captain America can beat up Batman or because someone killed his or her D&D character, but I don't think racism is prevalent in the geek community.

Unless it's racism against Gungans. Everyone hates Jar-Jar.


I recently learned that I had this blog set so that only blogger members could post comments. I now have it set so that anyone can post comments, so feel free.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

In Which We Learn That You Can Be a Victim of Real "Judicial Activism" Because You Can't Understand the Words "Judicial Activism"

A judge in Tennessee has ordered non-English-speaking parents to learn English or lose their parental rights. Now, I understand that parental "rights" aren't so much rights as privileges that can be taken away if it is deemed in the best interests of the child.

But, given the horrible state of child protection services and foster care systems in this country, how can anyone possibly believe that putting a child through tremendous emotional trauma from separation from his or her non-abusive mother (or father) in order to place them in a system where abuse and neglect, while not common, certainly are not rare is more in the child's interest than remaining with a parent who doesn't speak English?

Can this judge seriously believe that growing up with a non-English speaking mother is going to scar and hinder the child's development more than shuffling through the foster care system until he or she is eighteen? That the benefit of the love, attention, and care of one's mother or father is diminished if the mother or father does not speak English? Woe to all the children not born in the English-speaking world! Hell, most of the world is committing child abuse on a regular basis according to this judge!

It's interesting that discrimination against non-English speakers in the new millennium is mostly limited to discrimination against hispanics. Now that the perception that Asian immigrants, for example, are good, hardworking, often skilled citizens, could you imagine a judge threatening to take a child living in a city's Chinatown away from his or her Chinese speaking mother? Or Japanese speaking mother? Does this judge really believe that parents who don't speak English are a danger to a child's welfare, or that hispanics and hispanic culture in general is "bad", being associated with laziness, unlawfulness, and taking jobs away from white America?

As far as I can tell, this judge seems to be utterly missing the point of his job in order to pursue a pet theory of social engineering. If a mother fails to get take her child to get immunized (leaving aside the issue of her failure to go to "appointments" the nature of which, and therefore the legal obligation to attend, are not made clear), the remedy is to tell her to get her kid immunized and order/facilitate her to become aware of her parental responsibilities under Tennessee law. After all, the only child welfare issue before the court was that the mother failed to immunize the child, not whether the child's quality of life will somehow be diminished if the mother doesn't learn English. If the mother had taken the kid to be immunized, then the issue of her ability, or lack thereof, to speak English would have never even been an issue.

By the same token, in another case, the article notes:

Last October, Tatum gave a similar order to a Mexican woman who had been cited
for neglect of her 11-year-old daughter, said a lawyer who is representing the
woman in her appeal. Setting a court date six months away, the judge told the
woman she should be able to speak English at a fourth-grade level by that
meeting. If she failed, he warned, he would begin the process of termination of
parental rights.

Shouldn't the issue be whether or not the woman stops neglecting her child rather than whether she learns English? I note that none of the judge's statements in the article, nor any part of his judgments, actually indicate that not speaking English was the cause of the mother's failure to immunize the child. But rather, the judge's central argument seems to be*:

Here we have an American citizen who runs the risk of losing out on all the
opportunities if she's not assimilated into the culture[.]

But, of course, all kinds of parental circumstances can limit a child's future opportunities other than the failure of the child's parent to "assimilate into the culture" by learning English. Is the judge going to remove children from the custody of parents who smoke, for instance?

Not only do studies indicate that mothers who smoke while pregnant or are exposed to second-hand smoke (say, from a significant other who smokes or from working in a bar) are more likely to have children with emotional, agression, and impulse-control problems, but also that children exposed to second-hand smoke can have their development retarded. That's on top of the fact that second-hand smoke can, at some point, kill the child, which severely limits the child's opportunities, I would say.

In addition, parents who smoke are setting an example for any children, making them, potentially, more likely to smoke themselves.** Is Judge Tatum going to start testing parents for nicotine and removing children on that basis? Somehow, given that his court is in Tennessee, I doubt it.

What about lack of education? Uneducated parents, being less able, perhaps, to spark the love of learning in a child, could be seen as limiting the child's opportunities. Is Judge Tatum going to start ordering that parents be able to pass some kind of general knowledge test or lose parental rights? What about the poor? The financial situation one grows up in is one of the best indicators of a child's future success. Is Judge Tatum going to start ordering parents to make more money or lose their kids?

Heck, what about growing up in a Pentecostal, fundamentalist, or evangelical Christian family? That could limit the child's opportunities as well, for instance, to become an evolutionary biologist. Freedom of religion is guaranteed by the First Amendment, but courts have decided that the First Amendment doesn't protect Christian Scientists who won't take their kids to a doctor. And, since the First Amendment guarantee of freedom of speech doesn't specify that this right is only to be exercised in English, one could easily argue (and I, in fact, would argue) that the First Amendment protects a non-English speaker as much as a Pentecostal, fundamentalist, or evangelical Christian. Is Judge Tatum going to start ordering people to convert or face termination of parental rights?

Further, Judge Tatum is making a big, unproven assumption with his line of logic, that just because the parent does not speak English the child will not "assimilate into the culture." But I have encountered many adult children of immigrant parents who speak to their parents in their parents' native tongue and also speak fluent English, who dress according to American "culture," have jobs like other Americans, and are fully "assimilated" into American culture, at least to the extent that it does not hinder his or her "opportunities." Once again, this seems fairly common in, for example, the Asian community. Does speaking Spanish or Mixteco in and of itself make one less likely to assimilate than speaking Chinese or Korean?

Of course, I think the talk about the child's "opportunities" is just an excuse for what Tatum is really interested in: Getting hispanics to assimilate. But guess what? It isn't the government's job to make immigrants assimilate. If anything, that should be the province of the right's cherished "free market." If non-English speaking people can survive in America without learning English, great for them. If they can't, and therefore have to learn English, that's fine too. In much the same way, a grocer should be able to decide, as does one in the article, not to cater to non-English speakers. He or she will simply lose business to the grocers who do.

Then, some other jackass jumps in with this:

Though the judge's order may have been a mistake, "the general sentiment
is, if people are going to be in this country, we all have a moral obligation to
learn to speak the language," said Bob Bright, 61, who runs an insurance agency
in Lebanon.

Do what? "[A] moral obligation?" Is he kidding? By what standard? Even the Bible doesn't order people to learn the dominant language! Besides, if we're going to start using the power of government to coerce people into fulfilling "moral obligations," then judges better start ordering people to give to charity, to volunteer, to help the needy, not to smoke anywhere that anyone else might have to breathe it, not to use more than our fair share of resources, and to provide aid and assistance whenever someone else needs it. I don't see that happening. Not fulfilling one's moral obligations is a cherished American right, especially with the right-wing. You can't pick and choose, Bob. Even if we accept that learning the dominant language is a "moral obligation," which I don't, we can't start ordering people to do that without ordering them to fulfill all their moral obligations.

A supporter of Tatum's lunacy says:

He recalled his alarm at visiting a trailer owned by one such family. The
mother had never lived in a home with a carpet, and the floor of the trailer was
so dirty he feared for the health of her children. Andino taught her how to use
a vacuum.

Once again, what the hell does this have to do with speaking English? The woman didn't know to vacuum, by the supporter's own account, because she grew up so poor she never had carpet. Which could just as easily have been true if she had spoken English. The argument doesn't follow. The conclusion doesn't match the argument leading up to it.

Tatum also ordered a mother to start taking birth control in addition to learning English. If the woman's only "crime" was failing to get her child immunized and to show up for some "appointments," why is she being ordered to take birth control? Is Tatum saying that not knowing that one is supposed to get a child immunized is sufficient to revoke that person's right to reproduce? Is enough to force a woman to take medication that can be dangerous against her will? What if she isn't having sex? Would it still be right to order her to take a medication that might give her breast cancer against her will?

This guy needs to hit himself in the head with a tack hammer, because he is an idiot with no regard for human rights. He is pursuing a personal political agenda in the guise of protecting children, and it is nothing less than sickening.

* Assuming that the article fairly represents Judge Tatum's views, which I have no reason to doubt.
** I don't know if such studies have been done or what the results were, but if we're taking kids away from parents whose activites we suspect might one day harm the child, we don't need any proof, just like Judge Tatum didn't, right?

Oranges and Toy Poodles

The other day, I saw a commercial for some orange juice or another, and one of the lines in it was something to the effect of, "We'd like to take credit, but Mother Nature did most of the work."

No, she didn't. This is one of the biggest misconceptions, I think, in modern society, and leads to some pretty bad ideas, such as the idea that "nature provides" what we need and that "natural" things like "organic" fruits and vegetables are inherently better than anything tampered with by humans.

But, the fact is, virtually nothing humans eat, plant or animal, is "natural." Take tomatoes, for instance. In their wild, natural state, tomatoes are hard little things with very little flesh or juice. They came to be the tomatoes we all know, much fleshier than necessary to protect and nourish their seeds, through human intervention. Humans bred and selected for fleshy, juicy tomatoes. Nature didn't give us tomatoes as we know them. Our ancestors did.

By the same token, nature didn't just make oranges in a way that happened to be a perfect hand fruit for humans. The orange juice company was, in part, honest when it said it couldn't take credit. But it attributed credit to nature that more properly should have gone to our ancestors, and thereby propogated this Edenic myth that so many believe.

This myth is so powerful that theists, Christians in this case, use it as proof that god exists! They say, "Look at the banana. It is the perfect hand fruit. It is curved to fit easily in the hand and even comes with its own wrapper to peel back. How could this have happened naturally? Obviously, someone must have made bananas to be perfect for humans to eat. God." They got the first part right: The modern banana isn't an accident. But the modern banana never existed in nature and therefore no supernatural being is needed to create it. Humans didn't create the banana, but they did create the version of the banana that happens to be so perfectly suited for our needs.

To look at the banana and make that argument is like looking at a toy poodle and saying, "Look at this little guy! He could never survive in the wild. He's perfect for picking up and carrying around. He's perfect for being a pet for a human. That couldn't be an accident. God must have done it."

But this argument makes no sense at all, since there aren't any toy poodles in the wild and never were. All dogs are descended from wolves that humans domesticated and bred to create breeds like the toy poodle, just as humans domesticated and bred the fruits, vegetables, and livestock that so many now think are "natural." And a toy poodle is to a wild wolf as the banana in the supermarket is to the wild banana.

But this is just another example of how ignorance leads to fallacious, and oftentimes dangerous, beliefs.

Here In The "Reality-based" World...

I am linking to this article about women's rights in post-Saddam Iraq both because you should read it, and because it gives lie to something Laura Ingraham said on her radio show the other day. She said something to the effect of, "Why aren't feminists and women's rights groups supporting the war? We're freeing the women of Iraq and they don't care."

It's because we aren't freeing the women of Iraq, Laura, and we aren't going to. In the Iraqi election, women running for office had to do so anonymously or face being killed by disapproving men (as some candidates were) or having harm come to their families. You aren't going to win many campaigns if the voters don't know who you are, and democracy is something of a farce if don't know who the candidate you're voting for is (he or she could, in the end, be anyone). You have to know what your choices are in order to reasonably choose who you want to represent you.

Being oppressed by a single dictator and his regime isn't much different, if at all, from being oppressed by another segment of the population. Both use terror and violence to coerce and control women. There is little difference.

If women are not full and equal partners in the political process, they will be oppressed. History tells us that there is little doubt of this. Under Saddam, both men and women were oppressed, but women, in many ways, were less oppressed then than now, as Saddam's regime as not a strict Islamist regime, enforcing Koranic Shariah law like the Taliban, and could choose not to wear headscarves in public, for example, in relative safety.

Women's rights and feminist groups haven't been supporting the war because they aren't blind to the fact that neither liberating Iraq from Saddam's clutches nor introducing democracy necessarily, in and of themselves, improve the situation for women. So far, in fact, both moves have caused the situation for women in Iraq to deteriorate. They will applaud the role of the US in freeing Iraqi women from terror, oppression, and violence only when the US has actually done something that has freed Iraqi women from terror, oppression, and violence.

Being oppressed in a democracy is no better than being oppressed in a dictatorship. Ask the slaves.

Veggie Tales

This article over at Alas, along with this week's episode of ER, reminded me of something I had been meaning to write a post about. That is the issue of keeping those that lay persons call "brain dead"*, or in a persistent vegatative state, alive with ventilators and feeding tubes. A lot of the discussion seems to revolve around what the victim would want. "I don't want to be alive as a vegetable," we often hear people state when considering such a fate.

But you know what? I don't care. If my cerebral cortex and the other parts of my brain that contain everything that is "me" are dead, if I am unaware and unfeeling without any reasonable hope of recovery, I am dead. It's no skin off my back whether my body is kept alive or not. I'm not there anymore anyway. Whether my body continues to live, atrophying, ridden with bed sores, or is rotting away in the ground, neither option is particularly pleasing, but neither one is really any different than the other. Either way, I am dead.

I mean, in the afore-linked Terri Schiavo case, she has been in a persistent vegatative state for 15 years. There is no brain activity. The chances of her ever recovering or even opening her eyes or speaking again are about as remote as my chances of ever playing in the NFL. Sure, either one could happen, but realistically, it doesn't make much sense to force people to base choices on such remote possibilities. Otherwise, parents should be thrilled when their sons or daughters announce that they want to be professional atheletes or movie or rock stars and therefore don't need to go to college.

If I'm in such a state, I'm dead. If my family wants to keep me alive so they can hope, whatever. Good for them. If they want to pull the plug so they can move on with their lives -- as I feel rather certain they would quickly decide to do -- that's fine too. The only reason I wouldn't want to be kept alive is because it's a stupid use of medical resources and money, but, frankly, after I'm dead, what the living decide to do with their resources and money isn't my concern anymore. It's no skin off my back for my empty shell to sit in a room for thirty years and if that's what my family wants. They are doing it for themselves, not for me, so I wouldn't be using up those resources. They would.

Now, I'm not talking about cases where this a reasonable statistical chance that I might recover, as opposed to a snowball's chance in hell. And I'm not talking about when I'm still alive and aware but simply cannot stay alive without a ventilator and feeding tube. I really don't know what I would want then, frankly, because it's just too hard to really imagine myself in that situation and really know. And I'm not talking about something like Alzheimer's, where whatever part of me still exists is very likely suffering.

But Terri Schiavo can't suffer anymore. Only her family can. In these kinds of case, the focus seems to be on the victim and his or her theoretical wish to die versus her right to continue to live even if she never recovers. But I don't think it's about the victim anymore once it becomes clear that the person is never going to wake up. Terri Schiavo is dead. As noted at Alas, she has been dead for fifteen years. The question, in my mind, shouldn't be about what she would have wanted or whether she has a right, as a living thing, to continue living. It should be about doing the least suffering and harm to those still living, particularly his or her family.

And, as such, though taking Terri off the feeding tube may cause some suffering to the right-to-lifers who want her to continue living, I think it pales in comparison to the suffering caused to the family who will have to keep on living in a shadowy world of grey where Terri is gone but they cannot yet finally let go and grieve. I think the harm to society, if any, of letting families decide it is time to say goodbye is just not sufficiently grievous to warrant forcing them to live in that shadowy world for the convenience of the rest of us.

As for me, whether I have rights in this regard or not, I don't care. Once I'm gone, baby, I'm gone, and even if an angry mob cuts off my head and kicks it down the street (as I hope will happen, but only after my death from natural causes at the end of years of my totalitarian rule) or a necrophiliac has his way with my remains, it makes little difference to me. A person must exist to be humiliated, and after I die, I no longer exist. The living can desecrate my memory, they can humiliate my family and those who care for me, but they can't do anything to me. There won't be any "me" to humiliate.

* The term "brain dead" is nonsensical in the medical sense. Once a person's brain is dead, the person is dead. Cessation of all brain functions is pretty much the medical criteria for determining death. The lay term "brain dead" is actually referring to the death or permanent disabling not of the brain as a whole, but of the higher functions of the brain. A "brain dead" person's brain is actually not entirely dead; even if the person cannot breathe on his or her own, some parts of the brain's regulatory centers must still be alive and functioning in order for the person to continue to live. The body cannot continue to live if the entire brain is dead and all its functions have ceased, for it cannot sustain life without the brain to regulate it.

...Keep Your Enemies Closer

Of course, I think the membership of the AARP, who are generally conservative on most issues other than Social Security, would be surprised to learn that the AARP is one of the Bush regime's enemies.

Members like my grandfather, who is both a member of AARP and the NRA. I'm sure that my grandfather would also be surprised to learn that he and the other members of AARP who fought in WWII, as well as those who fought in Korea, Vietnam, or had family who did, to find that they are anti-military. And I guess all that gay nursing home sex is why the AARP has suddenly turned pro-gay.

But, like I said regarding the evangelicals, the elderly voters who helped put Bush back in office have little right to be upset by the regime's sudden slander of the organization fighting to preserve their Social Security benefits.

The Bush regime brooks no dissent with its policies, and will sweet talk you all the way to the voting booth and then jam a shiv in your back when you step out. In fact, this is a regime that will do things like using elder's dislike of gay marriage to get them to vote for its candidate, and then turn around and accuse elders of being pro-gay!

There is no shame or honor with this bunch. Poor evangelicals and the elderly slit their own throats when they fell for Bush's campaign lies and voted against their own economic self-interest. He played them like a violin, scaring them with the gay marriage and terrorism boogey-men, all the while sharpening his dagger for the kill.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Every Which Way But Darwin

This is pretty damned hilarious.

Jimmy Carter Worse Than Nixon?

The Washington Monthly has a good little piece about how the right-wingers hate the left so much that they are pissed that a new attack submarine is going to be christened USS Jimmy Carter. In the comments to the piece, some right-wingnuts even go so far as saying that Carter was the worst president of the past 100 years or the post-WWII era, apparently ranking him below Nixon.

Uh... even if we were to accept that Carter was as incompetent as the right-wingnuts claim, how is an incompetent president worse than a president who actively tries to subvert the constitution and the democratic process? How is an incompetent president worse than one who wants to make himself "El Presidente for Life"?

Also, down in the comments, is a great quote from H.L. Mencken:

As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.

That's just prescient, isn't it?

Gay Marriage, Bad... Gay Prostitution, Good

So, it turns out that Jeff Gannon, aka James Dale Guckert, the guy the White House planted in the press corps to ask Bush and McClellan softball questions, not only has no press credentials whatsoever, but is also a gay male prostitute on the side. But, even more disturbing, the FBI never uncovered this little factoid during its customary background security check because the White House issued Gannon temporary one-day press passes in order to bypass the security check, which is only done on those requesting permanent passes.

Now, I don't have a problem with gay male prostitutes. I think prostitution should be legal. But if you or I were a gay male prostitute and tried to get a job requiring an FBI check, we would be out on our ears in a second. For that matter, if you or I had a DUI or two, like Bush and Cheney, we would be laughed out of the building, and no one would come to our rescue.

But, if you're a fake reporter who is taking money to throw softballs, you get special treatment. The rules don't apply to you like they do to everyone else.

This is the "rule of law" party? This is the "personal responsibility" president?

Do you think hiring gay male prostitutes is what all those "moral values" voters voted for last November?

Did you know that it is illegal for government funds to be used for propaganda? Why is there no special prosecutor looking into this, along with Armstrong Williams and the other reporters the White House secretly paid to endorse White House positions? These are illegal acts! Why isn't this a scandal of the first order? Clinton gets impeached for lying about getting a blowjob, but Bush uses Federal money for propaganda in an attempt to derail the free flow of communication that makes democracy work, a classic move of fascist and totalitarian dictators, and nothing happens?

How can America not see that this guy cares nothing for morality or the rule of law? That this regime does not believe in "a government of the people, for the people, by the people," but rather that they are absolute rulers and can lie, cheat, and steal the American people as much as they want?


Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Ever Heard of Hormones, Dawn?

Via Mouse Words I got a scary glimpse into the minds of conservatives. I suspect that the author of this National Review article, Dawn Eden, is actually an extraterrestrial disguised (barely) as a human, because she obviously has no concept of human biology. In regard to "Consent is Sexy" buttons distributed as part of a campus anti-rape campaign, she says:

The "Consent is Sexy" campaign means to show that sex should only be consensual. Fair enough. But changing the concept of consent in teenagers' eyes to something "sexy" and therefore desirable — as in "everybody's doing it" — gives them the false message that their best option is to engage in premarital sexual activity.

This is perhaps one of the stupidest things I have read since that book review about how the Nephilim built the pyramids. She is saying that kids who wouldn't have had sex otherwise will now have sex because someone wore a button that said, "Consent is Sexy." But here's what our alien friend Dawn Eden, if that is her real name, does not know about the creatures whose planet she is infiltrating: Young humans don't need anyone to convince them that sex is "desirable." Millions of years of evolution (which Dawn likely will claim never happened, as part of her alien overlord's scheme to disrupt human development so we will be an easy conquest) have seen to that.

There is no way to make consent, in and of itself, more desirable than sex. No one who isn't interested in having sex is going to say, "Well, I'm not interested in sex, but consent is sexy, so let's do it!" That makes no sense whatsoever. What our alien friend Dawn Eden wants to do is pretend that abstinence-based programs will stop all young people from having sex, ever, and therefore anything other than preaching abstinence is encouraging sex.

But, of course, we humans know that some kids are going to have sex no matter what adults tell them. Refusing to accept this fact, on moral grounds, doesn't make it any less true. Dawn Eden can stick her fingers in her ears and go "Blahblahblah!" pretending she can't hear us, but meanwhile her abstinence-based education will not only have not stopped kids from having sex, but it won't have done a damned thing to stop rape either, which is the freakin' point of the buttons in the first place!

Eden says, "In other words, students are being told that they're safe from violence — if only they consent to sex." No, it's telling students that it is better to have consensual sex than nonconsensual sex. That's all. Does Dawn Eden disagree with this? Is it better to rape someone than to have sex with a slut? That seems to be Dawn Eden's position here.

Besides, in any case, Eden's answer boils down to, "You are safe from violence if you aren't a slut." Maybe on Eden's planet this is true, but here on Earth, it isn't. Being abstinent one's self does not protect a person from being raped by someone else who isn't abstinent. And, if someone is not deterred from committing rape by the social and legal consequences, does Dawn Eden really think that a little abstinence education is going to stop him or her?

[M]ore women die of cervical cancer — caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV),
against which condoms offer no protection — than die of AIDS. Now, that's
violence against women — and its name is "consent."

Gee, is it just a coincidence that Dawn Eden is equating women having sex with women being raped as both being "violence against women," or do you think it's because Dawn Eden's Bible told her that sluts deserve what they get, be it rape or cervical cancer? I mean, if 4,921 deaths from HPV is "violence against women," what about the much greater number of women who die in car accidents each year? Or heart disease? If consenting to sex, that is to say, choosing to have sex, constitutes "violence against women," then women who choose ("consent") to drive, smoke, and eat fatty foods are "violence against women" of a vastly greater magnitude than having sex. But where is Dawn Eden's screed against those things? There isn't one, because the fact is that Ms. Eden is simply trying to make us believe that her personal morality and distaste for sluts is not the real reason she is preaching against slutiness. But it is.

For that matter, many more women every year are killed by their husbands than die of HPV. Dawn Eden wants us to tell women that having sex outside of a married, monogamous (as if you can ever really know) relationship will kill them, and therefore they should get married before having sex. But she doesn't tell them that, by the same standard, getting married will kill you too, and therefore, in comparison, it is much safer to have premarital sex than get married.

Faced with such a high rate of death and illness from sexual diseases —
particularly ones that, like HPV, are preventable only through abstinence and
monogamy — the Planned Parenthood-led anti-abstinence stance betrays an agenda
that steamrolls over any real concern for women's health.

Planned Parenthood and the other groups who work with them are not anti-abstinence and Dawn Eden knows it. They are pro-abstinence, but against pretending that abstinence education is 100% effective and therefore no other education is needed.

Using my conservative-to-English dictionary, I have translated what Dawn Eden is really saying: "Faced with the just punishment of sluts through contracting sexual diseases — particularly ones that, like HPV, are preventable only through getting married and becoming frigid — the Planned Parenthood-led slut-friendly stance betrays an agenda that steamrolls over letting sluts die of horrible diseases as they deserve to."

If I Can Read 'Hanes' You're Totally Getting Fined

Is it just me, or a lot of crazy shit going on in Virginia? First, anti-gay license plates, and now the Virginia legislature has passed a bill to fine people $50 for letting their underwear peek out. I am not making this up.

Leaving aside the obvious issues of how this bill, if signed into law, would become the greatest excuse in the world for cops to stop young black men whenever they want and turn Virginia into a haven for racial profiling, let's examine the rationale of the bill's sponsor in proposing the bill:

After the vote, Howell repeated his contention that the bill is about
building character in young people. The baggy-pants mode of dress, he said, is

Since when in the "Land of the Free" is being "disrespectful" a crime that can be punished with a fine? I believe this country, as a matter of fact, was founded by men who were very disrespectful of the authority of the time. I mean, they wrote damning, disrespectful screeds about the King such as the Declaration of Independence, they threw a bunch of tea into Boston harbor, and refused to pay their taxes. A disrespectful bunch if ever I heard of one.

Moreover, who the hell does this guy think he is to decide what is and isn't disrespectful? It's a style, for chrissake! Most of the guys who wear baggy pants with their underwear showing are neither trying to show respect nor disrespect. It's just what the kids are wearing these days.

Hey, Mr. Howell, why don't you introduce a law forbidding miniskirts while you're at it? Hey, why don't you insist on prosecutors indicting Sally Field for showing too much skin on "Gidget" or Elvis gyrating his hips too much? Jeesh.

Just because you don't like it doesn't mean you have the right to make it against the law. If that were so, people who introduce idiotic bills like this would be taken out into the woods and sodomized with a GI Joe with Kung Fu grip.

Open and Shut Case

I learned of this story via the Atheism blog. The story's headline asks, "Can a mission refuse to wed non-Catholics?" Well, of course, the answer to that question is yes. But the real question of the article is, "Is a mission that refuses to wed non-Catholics eligible for Federal funding to restore the building?" In this case, the answer is quite clearly no.

Knox Mellon, executive director of the California Missions Foundation, said,
"...I don't know what the response should be to asking to be married in the
sanctuary of a denomination that may . . . have restrictions on who
can be married..."

There's no question here. Either the missions are solely religious centers, in which case the Catholic Church can allow only Catholic marriages in them but they are then ineligible for Federal funding, or they are historic sites, in which case they are open to all without discrimination on basis of religion and are eligible for Federal funds. Simple as that. If Catholics can exercise their religion in the mission, including controlling who gets married there, but no one else can, then using Federal funds to restore the mission is clearly supporting an establishment of religion, which is forbidden by the First Amendment.

In other words, if only Catholics can get married in the mission, then Catholics are responsible for contributing money for the mission's upkeep. If all of us, through our tax dollars, are going to pay for the upkeep of the missions, then all of us must be able to use them equally. End of story.

What is so difficult about that?

A spokesman for California Sen. Barbara Boxer, the Democrat who wrote the
mission-funding bill, said taxpayer money will not support discriminatory
practices because the money will pay for "the preservation of historic landmarks
– not for the church, and not for religious services performed by the church."

A "historic landmark" is something that can be used by the public equally, without discriminating on the basis of religion. If Catholics are allowed to marry at a "historic landmark," then Jews, Protestants, Scientologists, and atheists must be allowed to marry there too. If the use of a site is limited to those of a single religion, it is not a "historic landmark." It is a church. Restoring these missions while their use is limited to Catholics, even if only in marrying, benefits the Catholic Church and Catholics disproportionately to everyone else.

In an e-mail response to questions from Copley New Service, the couple said
after their wedding request for the church was rejected, "We asked if we could
use some part of the mission with our own priest hired for the occasion, and
were again told 'no.' "

I think this is crucial. The couple was not asking that the Catholic Church wed two non-Catholics, nor that a Catholic priest perform the ceremony. They simply wanted to marry on the site of a "historic landmark." And yet were denied on the basis that non-Catholics cannot marry in a Catholic Church. If the mission's function as a Catholic Church overrules its function as a "historic landmark," then it is an establishment of religion, not history, and cannot be maintained with Federal funds, pursuant to the First Amendment.

Why is this so hard? Seems obvious and simple to me.

Where Are Your Family Values Now?

Until today, it would have been hard for me to come up with someone who, in comparison with Dick Cheney, made Cheney look noble. Well, outside of those beyond the pale like Hitler or Stalin. But Alan Keyes has managed it. Yep, in comparison to Keyes, Cheney is positively gay friendly.

You see, Keyes has disowned his daughter for being a lesbian. This shows Keyes' true view of family values. Families don't stick together through thick or thin, no matter what. No. When someone in the family does something Keyes doesn't like, he tells them not to let the door hit them in the ass.

Which brings up an interesting point. Keyes, for all his talk of morality and family values, doesn't seem to understand the obligations involved with bringing a child into the world. Making a person isn't like writing a book where you have complete control over how it turns out. It is implicit in the act of making a child that one day that child will turn into an adult person, and that, as a free person, he or she may (will) make decisions you don't like. But, by having a child, you become that child's parent for the rest of your life and that entails certain obligations, like providing love and support. You can never not be that child's mother or father, and so those obligations do not disappear no matter how much you disagree with the child's choices.

If you don't want to have potentially deal with a gay son or a lesbian daughter, you have a choice: Don't have kids. Once you choose to have them anyway, you have undertaken the obligation of being that kid's parent in the full knowledge that the kid could turn out gay, lesbian, or something else you don't like, and you have to fulfill that obligation regardless.

The right likes to talk about personal responsibility. Well, Dick Cheney is fulfilling his responsibility to his gay daughter. Alan Keyes is not.

Monday, February 14, 2005

If That's What You Want...

Be intolerant? No problem. Now, come on over here so I can kick you in the pouch, dumbass.

Is It Just Me?

Personally, I not only think this image (from this article from the Common Dreams site) is pretty funny, but it really wouldn't have been much skin off my back if it happened to me:

[A] boy of about 13 ("the age of accountability") is walking home from school. As he enters the house, he finds it empty. "Mom? Mom!", the boy calls, but she doesn't answer. He shrugs and goes to the kitchen to get his own snack, looking annoyed.

Then the music shifts to an ominous minor key, horror-movie style, and he begins to search the house. Holding a sandwich, he races through the house calling desperately, "Mom! Mom! Where are you?!"

Then the narrator explains--Mom has been raptured up into the heavens to be with God, leaving the boy bereft to regret his sinful ways, then burn in hell for all eternity.

I mean, I think it's just hilarious that some people actually think this is going to happen some day. And that their "just, loving God" is the one who whisked this kid's parents away and left the kid to fend for himself as if God were a Sandanista death squad or something.

Also funny, but sad at the same time, is that the people who freak out because their kids might have seen a bare breast for a split-second on TV think it is okay to psychologically scar their kids for life by telling them stories like this and that it is better to let their kids get a sexually transmitted infection or pregnant as a teen than "promote sex" by teaching their kids about condoms. Even evangelical, Pentecostal, and fundamentalist Christians act like Christian Scientists refuse to give their sick kids medicine because of their religious beliefs. But, to my mind, not telling a kid about how condoms can keep him or her from contracting HIV and eventually dying from AIDS is no different or less crazy.

But, I tell you, I wish the Rapture (which has very little biblical support, BTW) would happen already, because then I wouldn't have to hear about it any more! Plus, we'd get ourselves a bunch of new blue states and a brand new President! And, there'd be all this stuff lying around for the taking. I'm gonna get myself a Mercedes, because even though Jesus said that it's easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than a rich man to get into heaven, a lot of Mercedes owners seem to think they're gonna be selected...

(On a side note, wouldn't the Secret Service have to try to stop God from taking Dubya if the Rapture happened tomorrow? And wouldn't God be committing a Federal offense by spiriting the President out of the country? For that matter, God would be committing all kinds of Federal offenses for kidnapping and fleeing the country... I guess God isn't as big on "the rule of law" as the right-wingers, eh?)

Takes One To Know One

Once again via Jesus Politics, take a look at this article on what Ed Brayton from Dispatches from the Culture Wars calls WorldNutDaily.

I find it rather amazing that an advertisement created by an Islamic group to invite Christians to a forum where Muslims and Christians can have a dialogue to develop mutual understanding is, according to the evangelical owners of the radio station refusing to run it, so obviously a Muslim group "trying to promote... its faith," and yet Christians trying to put prayer, the Ten Commandments, and so-called "Intelligent Design" in the schools is not Christians "trying to promote [their] faith" but just exercising "freedom of religion." I guess evangelicals are so used to Lying for Jesus that they just assume that Muslims must have ulterior motives just like evangelicals do and therefore are Lying for Mohammed.

In fact, that probably explains why evangelicals are so insistent that the teaching of the Theory of Evolution (that is to say, teaching SCIENCE) in public school science classes is really an atheist plot to destroy Christianity! Since "Intelligent Design," presented by evangelicals and other nutty Christians sects as science, is actually part of The Wedge Strategy (which, alas, has nothing to do with Wedge Antilles) to force Christianity into public schools and thereby onto all public school children, they assume that "atheists" and "secular humanists" (ie, scientists, many of whom are themselves Christians, just not nutty ones) are purusing their own surreptitious version of the Wedge Strategy.

To all you evangelicals, fundamentalists, Pentacostals, and any other crazy-ass Christian sect out there, let me say this once and for all: Teaching the Theory of Evolution is not part of an atheist or secular humanist plot to turn your children into atheists.* Evolution says nothing about your God, about the origins of the universe, or even the origins of life. And let's be clear: Just because something doesn't mention your God doesn't mean it is opposed to your God. Some ideas are neither pro- nor anti-Christianity. They are neutral with regards to Christianity.

One other thing. In general, I would say that a Christian radio station has the right not to take the advertising business of a Muslim group, despite the ignorance and hypocrisy of doing so. Except for the fact that, in the past year or so since the Janet Jackson Superbowl "wardrobe malfunction," all I hear from the White House, Congress, and the FCC is how the airwaves are "public airwaves" and therefore, in an effort to "protect the public," I guess, they have to mount witch trials against Howard Stern and anyone else who isn't toeing the Bush regime's line on creating a Christians-only culture in the US. So, if these are the "public's airwaves," then why the hell does an evangelical station manager get to say "We're here to serve evangelical Christians"? Bullshit, I say! Why, by the same token, can't Howard Stern say, "We're here to serve those not easily offended," and therefore be immune to fines? Why do Christian radio stations get to use the "public's airwaves" to promote their evangelical, intolerant views and yet Howard Stern gets fined because some conservative Christian idiot in Iowa has to write in a letter instead of just changing the channel?

I mean, come on.

The public consists of many who aren't evangelical Christians. So, why isn't this radio station forced to serve the public instead of a thin slice of the public while using the "public's airwaves?"

*That's what "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" and "Will & Grace" are for. Duh!

Minimum Wage and Social Justice

Via Jesus Politics, this quiz on social justice reveals some pretty shocking statistics. For instance:

In four of the nation's 3,066 counties can someone who works full-time and
earns the federal minimum wage afford to pay rent and utilities on a
one-bedroom apartment. New York Times, "Study Finds Gap in Wages and Housing
Costs," December 25, 2004.

Think about that for a second. And then think about why in the hell we bother to have a minimum wage at all. Because, as it is set now, there's no point to it whatsoever. And we should have a minimum wage, one set at a level that a person can live on the minimum wage. But a minimum wage this low is just smoke-and-mirrors: it makes it look like we care about the working poor, but really we don't, since we can point to minimum wage as an effort to help the working poor when we we know that it is low enough that it really doesn't matter.

Yeah, I've heard all the arguments about how minimum wage reduces the number of low-paying jobs and hurts small businesses that can't afford to pay the minimum wage. I am even willing to stipulate that both these things are true. My question, then, is so what?

Do we want an economy that produces lots and lots of jobs that pay less than a living wage? Why in the hell would we want that? That doesn't do anyone any good except the business owner who can essentially engage in slave labor. Also, it produces a system that is the antithesis of capitalism, at least as the definition of capitalism as I was taught in sixth grade.

You see, there was a contest of some sort, and the winner got a bottle of Coke (and you should feel just as old as I do if you remember the days when it was common to see a bottle of Coke). The teacher then explained to us that the contest worked the way capitalism worked: The winner got the whole bottle. Under communism, the teacher told us, we would have split the bottle up between all thirty or so kids, so we'd each basically get a sip, and no one would be satisfied. Why wouldn't it be better to create a smaller number of jobs that pay a living wage for the workers most qualified to get them rather than to create bunches and bunches of jobs that no one can live on? Are the supposed "capitalists" of the right really communists? (I'm not entirely certain that I like this logic, BTW, but I am simply pointing out that the right, when saying that minimum wage will reduce jobs, has not proven that reducing the number of non-living wage jobs but is a bad thing, especially as it would, one hopes, increase the number of living wage jobs. Those on the right beg the question with this argument).

Secondly, with regards to the "it will hurt small business" argument, why should we want to encourage people to open businesses that can only exist on the backs of laborers making less than a living wage? How does that help the economy? The laborers making less than a living wage aren't going to have enough money to spend to be much boost to the economy, and neither are businesses who have such a slim profit margin that they can't afford to pay living wages.

Further, did ever occur to anyone on the right that, without minimum wage, the really good business owners, the ones with "merit" in this supposed "meritocracy", who know how to run businesses that are profitable enough to pay a living wage, have to compete with the slave laborers and so can't ever afford to pay a living wage? Maybe, rather than worrying about how a living minimum wage would hurt start-up businesses, we should see a living minimum wage as a method of weeding out small businesses and small business owners who aren't helping the economy and shouldn't be in business at all. Maybe we should set our standards higher, so that those entering business who want to be considered successful know they have a certain threshold to meet: being able to pay living wages.

Of course, the right will holler about government hindering "the rights of small business owners." But since when do aspiring business owners have the absolute right to start up businesses regardless of the effects upon other people, the community, or the environment? Since when does the right to start up a business include the right to pay slave wages? Don't people have the right to make an honest wage for an honest day's work (hint: the Bible says yes. Of course, the Bible also says you have to pay workers at the end of each day, and yet I don't notice those who condemn gays based on biblical scripts picketing the ubiquitous businesses that pay weekly or biweekly in direct contravention of biblical law).

The median financial wealth for blacks was $1,100, less than 3% of the
corresponding figure for whites. "Minorities," in State of Working America
2004-2005, Economic Policy Institute

But all the inequities of slavery and discrimination have been corrected, right? So what the hell are the blacks complaining about? As if over 200 years of being property and second-class citizens is erased in thirty years. As if it doesn't make any difference at all that most of the capital in the country was already locked up by whites before blacks were even given the right to amass capital. As if it growing up in a good neighborhood with good schools and well-off parents is just the same as growing up in Compton to a single mother making minimum (therefore, less than living) wage.

Where does the US rank worldwide in the imprisonment of its citizens?
First. The US imprisons over 700 persons per 100,000. Russia is second with 584.
Sentencing Project, Facts About Prisons and Prisoners.

This one I already knew. I think the US' world-leading incarceration rate is a symptom of the same disease that causes Americans to support banning gay marriages: Americans are some of the most judgmental freakin' people in the world. The US uses the power of government to enforce morality on its citizens in a way unheard of in the rest of the western world. The US' extremely harsh drug laws, which are a large part of the reason for the US' sky-high incarceration rate, are a good example. When the US puts a guy caught with 10 ounces of cocaine in prison longer than a guy who murdered someone, it is because the US is using the justice system to punish the drug offender for a lapse in morality. Americans want their government to punish people for doing things they think are "bad," and aren't above using the justice system, as well as government coercion (only in the US does the government spend money to "promote marriage" and other dumb things like that), to do it.

In 2003, the US military budget was more than 8 times larger than the Chinese
budget, the second largest spender... The US military budget was more than 29
times as large as the combined spending of the seven "rogue" states (Cuba, Iran,
Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Sudan and Syria). Even if you add China and Russiaís
military spending to that of the seven potential enemies, all nine nations
together spent $116.2 billion, 27% of the U.S. military budget. The US military
budget is more than the combined spending of the next twenty three nations.

Yes, Mr. Rumsfeld, you go to war with "the army you have." But that isn't a defense: It is the proof of your incompetence. I mean, what else, exactly, could the taxpayers of the US provided you with that you didn't get? We bought you stealth aircraft, super-advanced smart bombs, the world's first (USAF) and second (US Navy) largest air forces in the world, the world's biggest navy, the world's best spy satellites and plans, the best equipped, best trained soldiers and marines in the world... What, did we need to buy you a Death Star too? Just to successfully defeat and occupy a country using obsolete Soviet-era equipment manned by guys who don't have enough to eat? Would you like a pink unicorn with that, too?

Where does the US contribution [of aid to poor countries] rank in the top 22 countries in proportion to our economy? Last.

I already knew this one too. But it is interesting, in light of how Americans are willing to throw people in prison for fifty years for moral offenses, that Americans don't walk the walk when it comes down to it. Sure, the US gives a lot of aid in absolute numbers, which lets us feel all warm and fuzzy, but that's like Michael Jordan giving the United Way $25 compared to your $20 and feeling morally superior.

Sunday, February 13, 2005


Star Trek: Enterprise is being cancelled at the end of this season, so I suppose criticizing it at this point is literally like beating a dead horse. But I've never been one not to jump on someone when he or she is down, so...

This season, the show has gotten back to what it should have been about the whole time: The interactions between Earth and the various races (Vulcans, Andorians, Tellarites) who will end up forming the Federation. Of course, the producers got back to basics too late, when no one was watching anymore anyway.

And yet, even with this, they still manage to keep pissing on the Star Trek timeline, pissing off the few of us who have stuck with the show this long. The most recent cycle of episodes dealt with the Romulans trying to destabilize relations between the Andorians and Tellarites. That works. The Romulans were around back then. No one knew who they were or what they looked like, but they were around. The Federation fought a war with them in its early days, in fact, according to TOS episode "Balance of Terror." So far, so good.

The method by which the Romulans are doing this is with a special ship that can holographically appear to be some other ship. Thus, they can make it look like Tellarite ships are attacking Andorian ships and vice-versa. That's fine too. The only problem is that the Romulan ships in these recent episodes have warp drive.

Why does that matter? Well, you see, in the first appearance of the Romulans, the aforementioned TOS episode "Balance of Terror," the Romulans have invented the cloaking device but what they don't have is warp drive. Later, in a TOS episode called "The Enterprise Incident," we see that the Romulans are using modified Klingon D7 battlecruisers purchased from the Klingons. That is how the Romulans get warp drive: they buy it from the Klingons, more than a hundred years in the future of the recent cycle of Enterprise episodes. (The Klingons get cloaking technology in the exchange, which is why they don't have cloaking devices throughout TOS but then have them in the movies). The Romulans invented the cloaking device but never managed to invent warp drive themselves.

So, by giving the Romulans warp drive way back when, Enterprise has screwed up the whole history of the Romulans in the Star Trek timeline. But, then again, I suppose it doesn't really matter, because they screwed up the Romulan timeline completely in an earlier episode anyway, where a Romulan warbird cloaks in full sight of Enterprise, thus making the fact that Captain Kirk knows nothing of the Romulan cloaking device in "Balance of Terror" nonsensical.


I know that continuity is not the most important thing in a long-running series. Sometimes, in order to tell a good story, you futz around with things a little bit. But here, the producers chose to do a series set during the years prior to the founding of the Federation, so they intentionally put themselves in a situation where there is all kinds of preestablished continuity that they would have to keep in mind. And the fans are going to notice, because these aren't things that come up in a single episode then aren't mentioned again or something, but these are continuity issues that inform how the whole freakin' series progressed from TOS to TNG to DS9. As such, I have no sympathy. If you don't want to be constrained by continuity so much, don't decide to do a show set in the past of a well-established timeline. Jeesh.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Who Needs the Constitution?

Apparently, Laura Ingraham doesn't. On her despicable radio show last night, in response to a caller who asserted that our civil rights stem from the Constitution, she said, "I don't think our rights come from the Constitution. They come from a higher power."

Three guesses who that higher power is.

Hmmm. Let's see. Given how God has acted throughout history, what "rights," exactly, has God granted us?

Well, we don't have the right not to be obliterated by genocide. Ask the Amalekties.

We don't have the right not to be punished for crimes by association or the crimes of our parents. Ask the first-born children of Egypt.

We don't have religious freedom. Ask the people who worshipped the golden calf.

We don't have the right to protection from the authorities if we're innocent. Ask those who were killed during the Inquisition under the theory of, "Kill them all. God will know his own."

We don't have the right not to be enslaved. Ask all the slaves whose owners justified keeping them with the Bible.

We don't have any property rights. Ask the Philistines and Canaanites.

So, ultimately, I'm not quite sure what "rights," exactly, God grants us. Certainly not the ones found in the Bill of Rights.

Now, let's consider how safe Ingraham should feel in the rights granted her by God, the ones she thinks are more important and better than those provided by the Constitution. How has God stood up and protected our rights?

Well, there was that whole Holocaust thing. Didn't see God stepping in because of rights violations there.

Stalin purged something like 16 million of his own people. God's response? Silence.

When Captain Dreyfus was falsely convicted of treason and sent to Devil's Island? Nothing.

The boys molested by priests over the past fifty years? Not a problem by God's judgment.

All the little girls and boys kidnapped and murdered in the world each year? No rights violated there, according to God, I guess.

And so on.

Personally, I think I will stick with the rights granted me by the Constitution. As screwed up the system may be, as bad as some of the interpretations of the Bill of Rights have been over the past 200 years, as much as I think the government has whittled our rights down, they're still better than the "rights" granted by God and backed up by Him.

I tell you what, Laura. Why don't you go to Darfour with nothing but the clothes on your back and God's "rights" and see where that gets you. I think you'll be longing for the Constitution pretty quickly.

Put Your Discrimination Where It Belongs... On Your License Plate!

Via the atheism blog, the Virginia House of Delegates has passed a bill to allow people to get special "Traditional Marriage" license plates bearing those words over a red heart and interlocking gold rings. This is the latest anti-gay move made by a state that passed an amendment not only forbidding gay marriage or civil unions, but also keeping gay couples from entering into contracts as well!

Once again, I must say that I am not surprised that no aliens have contacted us. I mean, here, in the most powerful nation on Earth, a nation founded on religious freedom and equality, a nation that claims to be a beacon of freedom to the rest of the world, we have a bunch of people who were told by an invisible man in the sky and his son (who are both the same entity) who was born of a virgin and executed 2000 years ago in a remote corner of the long-fallen Roman Empire that it is wrong to partner with someone of your own sex, and therefore spend their time making up laws to keep people from doing that instead of important issues like feeding and housing the poor or making sure the elderly are well-cared for.

Not only can these Virginians not mind their own damn business, but they care so much about what other people do in the privacy of their homes that they have to have a special license plate to say, "Traditional marriage is good for me, and it's good for you too, fags!"


North Korea

"This is why I think the US probably needs to kick North Korea's ass first [rather than Iraq's]... North Korea is already what we're afraid Iraq will become."

In a move that should be a shock to no one, North Korea has announced that it has nuclear weapons and is pulling out of the six-party disarmament talks that Bush hyped so much during the campaign. Just so no one thinks I am using hindsight to say that invading Iraq and letting North Korea linger was a huge mistake, the above quote is mine, from a post on a political discussion group on March 4th, 2003.

Without the knowledge that the Bush administration was lying and decieving the American people about the threat of WMD in Iraq, it was still obvious to me that North Korea, whose nuclear aspirations were already fulfilled, was a much greater danger than Iraq. Iraq's economy and military strength had been crippled by ten years of sanctions, despite the corruption in the UN Oil-for-Food program and violations of the sanctions by some of America's erstwhile allies. It was doubtful that Iraq had been able to reconstitute its WMD programs and doubtful that Saddam, one of the secular leaders hated by al-Qaeda, would give WMD to terrorists if he had them. In short, Iraq presented little threat to the US in comparison to al-Qaeda and North Korea.

To be clear, I didn't think invading North Korea was such a hot idea either. But I thought North Korea needed to be kept in check. As such, I predicted that invading Iraq would take US attention away from North Korea, and that, along with the depletion of our military resources by being expended in Iraq, the invasion would create an opening for North Korea to make its nuclear capability -- and intention not to part with it -- known without risk of being invaded by the US. In essence, by invading Iraq, I said that the US would be giving North Korea free reign to fulfill its nuclear ambitions.

A nuclear-armed North Korea not only threatens our allies South Korea and Japan, not only threatens to destabilize southeast Asia (whereas the Middle East was unstable with or without a US invasion of Iraq), but it puts the US itself at risk, as Kim Jong Il is much more likely to give nuclear weapons to terrorists or to nations unfriendly to the US, and also because North Korea is not far from ballistic missile technology that would allow nuclear-tipped North Korean missiles to reach Alaska and maybe even the West Coast. No one disputes that Iraq was nowhere near having the ballistic missile capability to strike the US, and, as noted above, Saddam was highly unlikely to give nuclear weapons to al-Qaeda or anyone else who might use it against him.

The invasion of Iraq was nothing more than a crusade by Bush to punish the man who tried to kill his father, and by the neocons who made the invasion the centerpiece of their Imperial American ideology and agenda. But taking our eyes off North Korea in order to invade a country who couldn't really threaten us if it tried was one of the great foreign policy blunders of all time.

And, of course, the threat from North Korea is only going to make the Bush regime argue even more forcefully for further funding for the unworkable National Missile Defense boondoggle. Bush hopes to intimidate North Korea with NMD the same way Reagan intimidated the Soviets with SDI, but there's a difference: Kim Jong Il isn't as rational as the Soviet leaders were, and if he actually believes that the US is going to have a missile shield at some point (though I don't think NMD will ever work), he may very well go ahead and attack in advance of when he thinks his missiles will no longer be effective. In short, Bush may actually provoke North Korea into a nuclear attack.

I hope it doesn't come to that. But my predictions have been pretty accurate thus far.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

The Liberal Bias on College Campuses

MSNBC pundit Joe Scarborough posted this (scroll down to "Time is up for radical professors like Ward Churchill") in response to Colorado professor Ward Churchill's likening the victims of the 9/11 attacks to Eichmann.

Now, on the immediate issue, let me say that I disagree with Churchill. While a case can be made that all Americans are complicit in the immoral foreign policy decisions the US has made regarding the Muslim world in the same way that ordinary Germans were responsible for the crimes of the Third Reich. But Eichmann was not a passive citizen but one of the architects of the Holocaust, and therefore the analogy is not apt. For it to be apt, the 9/11 victims would have had to have been principles in forming and implementing the Middle East policies in question. They weren't. And, just as the Allies did not kill average Germans in response to the Holocaust*, it wasn't right for al-Qaeda to kill Americans indiscriminately in response to America's sometimes oppressive foreign policy.

But I don't think Churchill should be fired for his views either. If we try to impose intellectual orthodoxy on the faculties of state colleges and universities, the quality of professors and education at those institutions will drop. Churchill's ideas my be offensive, but by allowing him to say them, we learn something about ourselves.

On Scarborough's bitching about the issue of liberal bias and slant on college campuses, however, Scarborough needs to shut the hell up. He's assuming that the reason that the majority of college professors in the US are liberal is some vast, left-wing conspiracy to keep conservatives out. Well, until and unless Scarborough and his cronies come up with some evidence to the contrary, Occam's Razor suggests a simpler explanation: Academia is not an upwardly mobile career field in the US, and so conservatives, whose political ideologies greatly revolve around the means and ability of people to amass wealth, self-select themselves out of the profession. They choose to do something else.

Like, oh, say, Joe freakin' Scarborough! If he's really so concerned about the lack of conservatives in academia, he and his pundit friends can do something about it. They, themselves, can enter the ranks of the academics. But they won't, because they've already got a better gig. Well, guess what, Joe? So do all the rest of the conservatives.

Show me the vast ranks of conservatives who desperately want to spend years getting a doctorate so that they can be paid poorly, subjected to academia's "publish or perish" tenure paradigm, fight tooth-and-nail for increasingly dwindling grant money, and deal with the incessant politics that pervade the modern American campus, but are being shut out. Show me all the conservatives that have been turned away from the ivy-covered halls of our institutions of higher learning. Then, and only then, can you complain, Scarborough.

Until then, shut the hell up about it. It's not the job of liberals to make conservatives become professors. You conservatives are responsible for that.

*Well, other than the firebombing of Dresden and other German cities.

Not Retarded Enough?

A retarded man in Virginia appealed his death sentence conviction up to the Supreme Court. Surprisingly, the Supreme Court actually ruled that it wasn't okay to execute retarded people in the US. But, it seems, the defendant's IQ score has gone up from all the work he did on his own case.

So, now, ironically, he is being tried again and may be executed now because he scores a 74-76 on IQ tests and the legal limit in Virginia is 70.

First off, if we weren't the only barbarians in the Western world, we wouldn't even be discussing whether or not we should be executing the retarded. We wouldn't be executing anyone. But we're not only still imposing the death penalty despite volumes of evidence that it does not deter crime, that there is bias in how and when it is applied, and that innocent people have been executed, we are such goddamned barbarians that we're still trying to execute people who we think are only borderline retarded.

Secondly, as anyone who has read Stephen Jay Gould's The Mismeasure of Man, or who has ever thought about the nature of intelligence, knows that it is impossible to gauge a person's intelligence in such a way that it can be defined as a single, monolithic number. Intelligence tests measure certain types of intelligence, even if their designers don't realize it. Each "intelligence" test defines intelligence by the very nature of how the test tries to measure it. But we all know that some people are really good at, say, debate and rhetoric, while being miserable at math. Others are wizards in science class but can't construct a philosophical argument to save their lives. Some people are genuises at theoretical physics but don't have the common sense to feed themselves. Which of these "intelligences" is the one by which we should measure whether people are retarded enough not to be executed?

It's a farce. A joke. Whether a person scores a 69 or a 71 on some standardized intelligence test tells us only how good that person is at taking that test. It's ludicrous.

Privacy Rights of Workers

Brian sent me this article the other day. I already knew about it, but I hadn't yet posted about it here because I wasn't sure what I thought about it. But, a long discussion of the topic with my friend Ron helped me to come to a position.

Basically, the question is whether an employer can proscribe activities not only at the workplace but also when employees are not at work. The specific situation is that some companies and governments have been firing workers who smoke, even if they smoke only during non-working hours.

First off, the article does mention firefighters and police officers being fired for smoking when not on duty. I think this is a separate issue, because smoking can and does have an adverse effect upon one's physical ability to perform those jobs. Smoking reduces lung capacity, which reduces endurance. Therefore, I think there is a case to be made that the public should not have to trust their safety and life to police officers and firefighters whose performance may be compromised by smoking.

However, those are special circumstances. For the average rank-and-file worker, whose performance is not noticeably affected by smoking, does an employer have the right to tell employees what to do at home in order to cut healthcare costs (or for some other financial reason?)

I'm not going to get into the whole GATTACA argument here, questioning where it ends (can you choose not hire the obese? What if obesity is a disease, then can you discriminate? Or can you discriminate against anyone with a disease? What about people who are genetically prone to cancer? What about people who play sports or participate in extreme sports, since they are likely to get injured and need expensive medical treatment, Etc., etc.) Because I don't think any of that matters. I don't think this is about what companies have a right to do as much as what companies have a right to know.

Here's my answer: If it isn't illegal, the employer has no right to know about it. The employer shouldn't be allowed to ask the question in the first place unless the employer can demonstrate that it is pertinent to the job duties of the employee. The employer should not be allowed to become essentially a peeping tom by using economic power against the employee. If Americans are to have a right to privacy at all, we cannot allow employers to use economic coercion to force employees to give that right up.

But don't businesses have the right to hire who they want? Well, the answer to that is no, even as it stands now. Businesses can't choose to hire only men, only whites, or to discriminate in a number of different ways. And we no longer allow businesses to use economic coercion to control their employees, for instance, we no longer allow companies to force employees to live in company houses in a company town and shop in the company store by paying them in company scrip. If businesses are allowed to hire whomever they want, they could still do that, they could choose to hire only Republicans or only Democrats, they could tell people how to vote, they could infringe on any aspect of life they so chose.

The constitution guarantees rights not to businesses, companies, or corporations, but to individuals. Businesses have only the rights we, the people, give them, because the US government, despite how it has turned, is a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. The Bill of Rights guarantees Americans the right to privacy (admittedly, by implication, since it doesn't spell out a right to privacy but simply the rights that are spelled out are impossible without a right to privacy). If we go back to allowing economic coercion to force us to give up our rights, then we end up, essentially, in a monarchy.

That's what these businesses want to be. They want to be the feudal lords of their employees, telling them what to do, how to think, owning them every waking moment.

I say no to that.

Bush Tells World US Treasury Notes are Worthless

In this article over at Media Matters, it seems that Bush is telling us that the Social Security trust fund which was paid for by every American who participates in Social Security doesn't really exist.

The Souls of Embryos

Via Alas, it appears that 60% to 80% of all naturally conceived embryos fail to implant in the uterus and end up in womens' monthly menstrual flow. If, as pro-life abortion opponents contend, embryos are human and have souls from the moment of conception, this would mean that the deaths from abortion pale in comparison to the number of humans who die naturally during menstruation. Logically, pro-life advocates should be freaking out over this loss of life, but they aren't.

Also, if embryos are automatically ensouled, then fertility clinics commit multiple murders for every couple they help, because more eggs are fertilized -- and embryos created -- than are implanted. The extras are simply thrown out. They could be used for stem cell research, but the Federal government has banned funding for fetal stem cell research in order to "save lives." But these embryos are created and destroyed regardless of whether they are used for stem cell research, and thus no lives are saved by Bush's stem cell research funding ban.

If you go down and read the comments on this article on Alas, it becomes quickly clear that pro-life advocates have no consistent position on whether an embryo is truly a human life. For instance, one pro-life advocate claims that there is not the same moral urgency in "natural" deaths of embryos and abortion, since abortion is an intentional sin and "natural" loss of embryos isn't. Which is like saying that it is better to spend millions to stop a single murder rather than using the money to provide food for millions who are starving due to drought (a natural condition). This is nothing more than a flimsy rationalization.

By the same token, when asked if they would save ten embryos in a petri dish or a three-year-old from a fire, the pro-life advocates choose the three-year-old, trying to justify it with language about how the three-year-old can feel pain and such. But this, too, is a rationalization, a way of explaining what pro-life advocates don't want to admit:

They don't think embryos are fully human and equivalent to a person either.

They see the difference. But they choose to ignore it in the case of abortion because it would conflict with their agenda, the agenda of controlling the sexuality of women. If pro-life advocates really were concerned with lowering the abortion rate, or "saving lives" as they put it, they would be in favor of birth-control and in favor of sex education, both of which are proven to be effective at lowering abortion rates. But, instead, the pro-life movement pushes "abstinence-only" education, which has been shown to do nothing to stem sexuality in young people, and increases unwanted pregnancies.

If pro-life advocates really believe embryos have souls, they would have to see the "natural" loss of so many embryos as the equivalent of Mount Vesuvius burying Pompeii every single day. But they don't, because if they tried to save all those embryos they wouldn't just be punishing the slutty women who have casual sex, but also married women with families. Since the whole point is to control the sexuality of slutty women in order to force them to become good, family-oriented breeders, they don't actually care about whether all these "naturally" lost embryos have souls or not.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Sovereignty, Schmovereignty

Tonight on the way home, I heard a story on NPR's All Things Considered about the expanded role Rumsfeld and the Bush regime envision for the military's various Special Operations commands, such as the Navy SEALS and the Army's Delta Force. The story had an audio clip of the US Assistant Undersecretary of Defense for Special Operations, whose name I unfortunately cannot remember, speaking at a recent conference held to discuss Special Operations issues.

He was putting forth a new doctrine that is apparently also being endorsed by the State Department, which was something to the effect of, "If terrorists are operating in another sovereign nation, and that nation is failing to take care of the threat, then the US has the right to send in Special Operations teams to destroy the terrorists without asking the permission of that nation. If sovereign nations can't keep their own houses in order, the US will do it for them."

What a great policy! I mean, the "preemptive invasion" policy that led us into the Iraq war worked out really well, so we now know that our intelligence is always foolproof and 100% accurate, and that the US was saved from the dire consequences of Saddam Hussein's WMD stockpile falling into the hands of terrorists and being used against the US.

Oh, wait. Scratch that. Reverse it.

So, now, the US is claiming both the right to invade other nations at will on the flimsiest pretext, and also to send military forces into countries that the US doesn't even claim are enemies if the US doesn't think that country is working hard enough to fight terrorists that the US believes are operating in those countries. I seriously do not think it is hyperbole to compare the message these two doctrines send to the rest of the world with the doctrines of the Third Reich. Hitler claimed the same rights and used the same logic when he invaded his European neighbors. Hitler felt he could invade other nations with impugnity in the cause of German interests because he felt Germany was powerful enough to get away with it, just like the Bush regime thinks the US is.

Further, Hitler had a complete disregard for the sovereignty of other nations. Once a nation believes it can invade or use military force in other nations preemptively, without justification, and without the permission of those nations, that nation is, in fact, denying other nations the right to sovereignty. Despite the lip service the Undersecretary gave sovereignty by using the word "sovereign" a bunch of times in his policy outline, the message of this policy is that other nations do not have sovereignty. Only the US does, just as Hitler believed only Germany did. For, just as civil rights do not exist if the government can violate them at will, sovereignty does not exist if a nation can be lawfully invaded or have military force used within its borders without its permission.

The US is denying the right to sovereignty of the other nations of the world. I know, it sounds good, since, of course, the US is all goodness and light, and because the US is the most powerful nation in the world so that only foreign people will suffer the oppression of having their nations' sovereignty denied. For now. But the US will not always be so clearly the most powerful nation on Earth. Other powers will rise to challenge Pax Americana and the US world hegemony. And some day, when some other nation sends troops into Montana or Michigan to destroy terrorist cells like the Montana white supremacists or the Michigan militia, the US' cries that its sovereignty has been violated will fall on deaf ears. The US will find it has no recourse, because it was the nation who set the precedent in the first place.

The US is acting with the arrogance and hubris that have characterized the beginning of the collapse of empires throughout history. The people of the US will end up paying for the Bush regime's hubris someday, just as the people of the Roman Empire, the Islamic Empire, Napoleon's Empire, and the "Thousand-year Reich" did before them.

It is all too true that those who are ignorant of history are doomed to repeat it, and ignorance is the hallmark of Bush's "faith-based" regime. I fear that the citizens of the US will all suffer a disastrous history lesson because of the ignorance of Bush and his neoconservative regime.