Wednesday, August 31, 2005

The so-called "Wrath of God"

For all those who claimed that God was wiping out the Godless heathens last year when He sent the tsunami to southeast Asia, consider what God's message is in this:

Sen. Lott's home destroyed

Among the thousands of homes destroyed was Mississippi Sen. Trent Lott's 154-year-old oceanfront residence in Pascagoula, according to a spokeswoman from his office. A friend had boarded it up ahead of the hurricane's arrival Monday, said spokeswoman Susan Irby.

"He's been told there's nothing left," she said. "They plan to go out to see if they can recover any valuables."

The senator's wife, Tricia, told him the news Monday night. She rode out the storm in their house in Jackson.

Why did God punish the God-fearing, right-wing Christian Republican leader then?

Please, Christian right, stop making the pain and suffering of the victims of disasters worse and just look at the truth: natural disasters happen for no reason and the victims do not deserve it nor have brought it upon themselves, whether they be Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, atheist, or whatever else.

Friday, August 26, 2005

A hit! A palpable hit!

This quote from the August 23rd episode of "Real Time with Bill Maher" is perhaps the best response I have ever heard to the idea that we should teach intelligent design along with evolution in order to "present both sides of the issue":

New Rule: You don’t have to teach both sides of a debate, if one side is a load of crap.

I think that about sums it up, don't you?

Thursday, August 25, 2005

"Liberal Orthodoxy?"

I heard a caller use the term "liberal orthodoxy" on NPR recently. The term, to me, clearly smacks of the phraseology used by the right to frame and control the political discussion in the US. But, for the sake of argument, I considered whether there really is such a thing as "liberal orthodoxy."

My conclusion? Despite the frequent and loud protestations of the right, I do not believe that there is truly a "liberal orthodoxy" that is significant, especially when measured against the right's conservative orthodoxy.

For instance, SF writer and nutbag Orson Scott Card played the "liberal orthodoxy" card in an article about the legalization of gay marriage in Massachusetts, saying,

And we all know the course this thing will follow. Anyone who opposes this edict will be branded a bigot; any schoolchild who questions the legitimacy of homosexual marriage will be expelled for 'hate speech.' The fanatical Left will insist that anyone who upholds the fundamental meaning that marriage has always had, everywhere, until this generation, is a 'homophobe' and therefore mentally ill.

Were there truly anything like the liberal orthodoxy Card suggests here, then we would expect to find those on the left and in the Democratic party who oppose gay marriage to be shunned and voted out of office, or at least pilloried the way Arlen Specter was for suggesting he wouldn't approve a Supreme Court justice simply based on abortion issues. Guess what? Isn't happening. Many Democratic lawmakers in Massachusetts, the most liberal state in the US, support and have voted for a constitutional amendment to forbid gay marriage in Massachusetts. I know. My state Senator and representative when I lived in Massachusetts, both Democrats, both were against gay marriage. A significant part of the Democratic party leadership, base, and officeholders, in fact, oppose gay marriage, though they do tend to support civil unions a bit more than those on the right. Where, exactly, is the "liberal orthodoxy" here?

In this vein, Bill Frist has been pilloried for going against conservative orthodoxy by voicing support for embryonic stem cell research, but Harry Reid, the Democratic minority leader in the Senate, is not pro-choice, and yet he isn't being slammed and threatened by the "orthodox" liberal establishment.

Is there a set of core values that tend to define liberalism in the US? Yes. But the term "orthodoxy" implies a mindless obedience to a set of values, brooking no dissent or discussion, just as the right means it to. There is room for dissent and discussion on the left, room for varying opinions on issues, room for serious debate, things not consistent with an "orthodoxy."

This seems to be the classic tactic of calling your opponent what you actually are. To hide the orthodoxy of thinking on the right, slander the left with the term "liberal orthodoxy."

I'm not fooled.

A Test of Morality

I am almost done reading "Shake Hands With The Devil," the memoir of Romeo Dallaire, the commander of the UN peacekeeping force in Rwanda during the Rwandan genocide in the 1990s. He was a man sent on an impossible mission, to enforce a set of peace accords without the support of the member nations of the UN (with the exception of a few nations such as his homeland of Canada), without the necessary troops or materiel, and without the good faith of the parties who signed the accords.

He knew of the coming genocide before it happened through informants, but his warnings were ignored by the UN. He was then forced to sit by and watch the genocide happen as he sent report after report to the UN requesting troops and a mandate to stop the killing.

About two-thirds of the way through the genocide, he faced three leaders of the Interahamwe, the "militia" group (read: thugs) who largely carried out the killings. He was forced to meet with them as if they legitimate authorities in an attempt to save those who could still be saved.

Dallaire relates, "This time as I was removing my pistol, which was the etiquette for such meetings, I hesitated, certainly long enough to be noticed, then let my gun drop on the sofa. I don't know what the three Interahamwe leaders made of the gesture, but I was fighting a terrible compulsion to shoot them on the spot. This was no fleeting urge. I had to consciously take my weapon off and put it away from myself. Why not shoot them? Wouldn't such an act be justified?"

Of course, he didn't shoot them. In terms of the kind of Hollywood morality we see in movies, this is the moment when the hero decides to be a hero and not take the law into his own hands. My first thoughts upon reading the above passage were, "Of course he can't just shoot them." But then, I started thinking. In a time and a place when the forces of good, the will of the international community, law and order, and morality have all failed, if you have the chance to kill those responsible for, and still carrying out, a genocide, would it not, in fact, be justified, and almost mandated?

I am not faulting Dallaire for his choice. I doubt I would have done differently. He was a soldier, a representative of his country and of the UN, and was not at liberty to take matters into his own hands. He would certainly have been harshly punished, and such an action would have endangered UN peacekeeping efforts (such as they are) elsewhere. As a practical matter, Dallaire couldn't shoot the Interahamwe leaders.

But morally? I have trouble seeing how morally he wouldn't have been completely justified in shooting them. He knew, without a doubt, that they were genocidaires (in a previous meeting, one of them actually still had blood on his shirt from those he'd personally killed earlier in the day). That there was no law and order to deal with them, no due process to hold them to account. And they were still in the process of carrying out the genocide. Shooting them wouldn't be just an act of punishment, retribution, or revenge, but an act of prevention, of salvation of those these men would kill in the next days and weeks. How can that not be moral and right?

I guess it goes back to the classic question of whether it would be moral, were one to find one's self back in time in, say, 1889, to hunt down an Austrian infant by the name of Hitler and strangle him in his cradle. What is justifiable in order to stop an atrocity or crimes beyond imagining? How can ordinary morality, of the "do not kill" sort, apply in such a case?

If killing genocidaires isn't moral, does morality mean anything? Is morality a practical concept that actually means something in the real world, or is it simply a pie-in-the-sky idea only to be discussed by philosophers and theologians in their ivory towers?

Consider and discuss.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

"No Jesus, no peace"

I drove by a church the other day. On the sign out front was this bit of cleverness:

No Jesus, no peace
Know Jesus, know peace

Very nice. But, of course, if "no Jesus, no peace" were true, wouldn't it follow that "no peace, no Jesus" would be true? And, since the world has never been at peace during the entire history of humankind, this seems to indicate that, in fact, there is no Jesus.

I'm just sayin'.

Pat Robertson = Batshit F-ing Crazy!!!

The religious right is just absolutely nuts. There's no other way to look at it. I mean, look at this. They spend all kinds of time and money trying to get the Ten Commandments posted in schools and courtrooms so that kids can be exposed to Christian morality. But then, one of their leaders, Pat Robertson, goes and starts talking about how the US should assassinate the President of Venezuela.

Uh, wait a minute, Pat. Isn't one of those commandments "Thou shalt not kill?" And even if you interpret it, as some do, to really mean "Thou shalt not murder," (so that good Christian boys and girls can kill people as long as someone else says it's okay and thus not "murder"), in what sense is an assassination not murder? In fact, according to, the definition of assassination is:

To murder (a prominent person) by surprise attack, as for political reasons.

This is Christian morality, folks, front and center, plain and simple. It's bullshit. Why do Christians condemn homosexuality as "abomination?" Because the Bible says it is? No. Because if that were the litmus test, then they would also be okay with buying slaves from other countries, selling children into slavery, and stoning kids who don't listen to their parents. But they ignore those parts of the Bible (which are all from Leviticus, by the way, just like the "abomination" verse is) because the truth is that Christians don't give a shit what God or Jesus wants. They just use the Bible to justify condemning things they don't like, like homosexuality, but then conveniently forget about the Bible when its commands don't fit them. Thus, two guys kissing each other is a terrible sin because the Bible forbids it, but it's okay to murder someone you don't like even though the Bible forbids that, too. Because they're just making it up as they go.

Don't ever fall for that old, "there's no morality without God" bullshit. There is no morality with God. Because true believers commit immoral acts in the name of their God all the time, whether it's flying planes into buildings or calling for the murder of someone they don't like.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

A Free Country?

To anyone who thinks Americans live in a free country, or that something like the battle over the expulsion of Jewish settlers from Gaza and the West Bank couldn't happen here, take a look at this. Not only has this case shown that the government can take your property in order to give it to a company so the company can profit from it, but also that, if you fight to retain rights to your own property, the government will still get your property, pay the market value from five years ago, and then charge you rent for living on your own property for five years.

What, exactly, rights do citizens have if the government can just utterly destroy a person financially for the crime of owning property the government wants to give to someone else? I mean, it's bad enough when the IRS ruins someone's life because they unknowingly signed a tax return his or her spouse cheated on. Even though the person being blamed wasn't at fault, at least someone did something wrong there. But here, these homeowners did absolutely nothing wrong! They fought the government to keep the government from giving their property to someone else so someone else could profit from it, and in the end, they end up getting shafted on the value of their property, losing the property anyway, and being charged rent.

If the system punishes you for trying to protect your property rights to the point of ruin if you lose, then the deterrent to using the system is so great that there may as well be no system at all. In effect, this case shows that the government can take your property at will, as it pleases, for any reason, both because the Supreme Court ruled it can, but also because it is prohibitively dangerous to fight the government, and therefore citizens have no choice but to cave in.

Think about if it worked this way in terms of criminal justice. If that were so, it would work like this: if you get accused of stealing, they cut your hand off. You can go to court to try prove your innocence, but if you lose, they cut your head off instead, and also execute your wife and children. Would you say that there is any such thing as the "protection of the law" under a system like that? Of course not. Well, what's happening in New London is the tort equivalent of that.

This is why you never, ever, ever give the government any power to violate the rights of citizens even in a limited way. Because power always grows and expands, and soon a good idea becomes a vast power that the government can wield like a hammer against the citizens. Social Security numbers weren't going to become national ID numbers. Right. National ID cards won't be used to keep track of your private business. Right. The government will never look at your library records just to find out if you don't like the government's policies and watch you. Right.


Monday, August 08, 2005

More to Like About Roberts

According to NPR, Roberts worked on a case supporting gay rights that went to the Supreme Court and got a Colorado law forbidding gays to file discrimination suits overturned. The left should be all over this, going on every television show, writing columns in every paper, proclaiming what a bold choice Roberts is, how Roberts' nomination is a repudiation of the extreme right, and what a fantastic leader President Bush is for picking him.

C'mon, folks! I said it already once. This is our chance to split the evangelicals and extreme right-wingers from the Republican party and maybe move the discussion back toward the left. The alliance of moderates and the far right is ripe to be torn asunder right now. If we break the alliance between the Republican moderates and the Bob Jones University crowd, the right won't be able to hold the center anymore.

It can be done. Someone in the Democratic party just has to have the courage to make it happen.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

We Love Roberts!!! And Bill Frist Too!!!

I was discussing with Ron today how the Democrats should handle the nomination of Roberts for Supreme Court given Bush's nose-thumbing with Bolton and the likelihood of another nomination battle when Renqhuist dies or whatever. He thought, perhaps, that the Dems should give a little fight for show, but let him through, showing that they are reasonable before the right tries to paint them as obstructionists when they dig in on the next nomination, who will probably be someone to the right of Bork.

But that strategy is the one we've been using for a while -- we're the reasonable ones -- and it hasn't been working. So I had an idea:

Why don't the Dems act as if Roberts is the greatest guy in the world, like they might even have picked him themselves if they could? Play up how this nomination is a repudation of the power of the extreme and religious right, how this marks the wane of Rove's influence in the White House and the use of Rove's tactics. Say things like, "We're glad that the Bush administration has decided not to be controlled by the religious right with this nomination," and, "Bush is showing the extreme right that they can't push him around anymore with this nomination."

Just keep pointing out to the religious right how this compromise candidate flies in the face of Bush's campaign promises by mentioning how much we like Bush's choice. That's really gonna start pissing the extreme and religious right off, I bet.

And we do the same thing with Frist. Now that Frist has changed his mind on stem cells, to the consternation of the religious right, make him our bestest buddy ever! Just talk on and on about what a great, thoughtful, reasonable guy Frist is for changing his mind on stem cells. Kill him and Roberts with kindness.

The Roberts nomination is a trap. If the Dems just do the reasonable thing, the Bush regime is going to paste them with Rove-like tactics in the next fight, painting themselves as the reasonable ones for nominating Roberts this time and the Dems as the obstructionists for opposing their Bork-like next nominee.

My message to Senate Democrats: Don't fall for it.

Don't oppose Roberts. Make Roberts your best friend. Make Frist your best friend. Make Arlen Specter, George Voinovich, and any other Republican who does anything we like our best friends. Because nothing will piss off Laura Ingraham, Rush Limbaugh, and the religious right more than Republicans doing things Democrats like. Take any opportunity to praise any Republican who does the right thing, and we can sit back and watch the power of the extreme and religious right crumble.

Just a thought.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Silver City

Go out and rent the film SILVER CITY. I mean it. Right now. Go.

Yes, it happens to be a film written and directed by the brilliant John Sayles, auteur of such gems as LONE STAR, LIMBO, and MATEWAN, and my favorite indie director, but it is also the film that FARENHEIT 9/11 should have been.

Because, in following an investigator looking into goings on around the campaign of one Dickie Pilager (pronounced "pillager"), candidate for Governor and stand-in for Dubya, Sayles shows the error of electing someone like Dubya while not turning the right into some kind of caricature for evil. SILVER CITY is the film that could have convinced an uncertain electorate, while FARENHEIT 9/11 simply preached to the converted. SILVER CITY shows that guys like Dickie and Dubya aren't bad guys, they're just not very bright guys being sold a bill of goods by rich people who are smarter than them.

If only we lived in a world where SILVER CITY got a wide release and FARENHEIT 9/11 were consigned to the indie theaters. Of course, in that world, no one would need blogs...

For all those who voted for Karl Rov-- er, Dubya

It's no accident that the Bush regime's top advisor and political strategist committed what is likely a Federal crime and outed a covert CIA agent to the press. For everyone who voted for Bush who is appalled by this but saying, "I never thought they'd do something like that," how about this:


This is what Rove does. If you hire a guy whose main advisor's primary qualification is that he came up with the idea of push-polling to get people to think John McCain had an illegitimate Vietnamese child and thinking of ways to trick people out of their right to vote, then you shouldn't be surprised when that guy's regime does underhanded, slimy things apart from just rigging elections. If you sat around thinking, "Well, all the morally reprehensible things Rove and the Bush campaign do are okay because all is fair in politics," well, sociopaths like Rove don't see the line between politics and outing covert CIA agents.

And don't say you weren't warned. I, along with many others on the left, screamed to the heavens about this before the election. If you didn't listen, it's because you chose not to.

Bill Frist... Does the Right Thing?!?!

Didya see that Bill Frist suddenly reversed his position on stem cell research? Huh? Where in the heck did that come from?

I wonder if this might be part of a "battered electorate" strategy from the right. You see, in psychology, it's well known that if you're nice to someone all the time they start to take you for granted, and if you abuse them all the time they leave, but if you are sometimes nice and sometimes abusive, randomly working best, then that person will stay forever, trying to figure out how you can be so loving one minute and so mean the next. Is Bill Frist playing the, "I love you, baby, I don't mean to hit you," part to Dubya's, "I don't wanna hit you but you make me so mad?"


Mr. Bolton Goes to the UN

So, Dubya has decided to send Bolton as interim ambassador to the UN since the Senate won't confirm him. Which, of course, he is within his constitutional rights to do. Fair enough.

And so, gentle readers, remember this in a bit when the Bush regime and the right start screaming their heads off about how "wrong" and "unfair" it is when the Democrats in the Senate exercise their right to block Bush's Supreme Court nominee(s). Because, after Bush thumbed his nose at the opposition of the Democrats and even Republicans (such as George Voinovich, current Senator and former governor of my beloved home state of Ohio) to Bolton, there is absolutely no reason for the Democrats to play nice about the Supreme Court.

Let's see what happens.

A Bit of an Absence...

So, gentle readers, if any still exist, I would like to apologize for my long absence from this blog. Life circumstances, blah, blah, blah, and so on. I won't be posting on anywhere near the level I did in the spring, but I do intend to update this thing much more often, as my needs to rant come about and time allows.

But, for now, just let me say that I am back, and hope someone out there is still listening...