Sunday, January 27, 2008

Another big victory for Obama

From the Times:
MACON, Ga. – Senator Edward M. Kennedy intends to endorse the presidential candidacy of Senator Barack Obama during a rally on Monday in Washington.

The Kennedy endorsement has been underway for days, even before the outcome of the South Carolina primary. Mr. Kennedy told his decision to Mr. Obama on Thursday.

Since Ted Kennedy is rightfully considered a hero among American liberals, coming on the heels of Obama's landslide victory in South Carolina, this seems like a big deal. I'm not sure how much endorsements influence people, but something like this has the potential to make liberals more comfortable with the more moderate-seeming Obama.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Come on, guys, act like Democrats!

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Bush Administration announced today that they've made a deal to roll out tax rebates and other goodies as an economic stimulus package.
I'm not here to argue about whether we need a stimulus package, but I do want to call out the D's in the House, and call on the D's in the Senate to fix what they've done.

Look at what the deal is: rebates of $600 per person earning up to $75,000 or $1200 per couple with up to $150,000 in income, and phased out as you go above those levels. $70 billion in tax cuts for businesses.

What's not in the bill? Or really, what did they take out? How about extensions of unemployment compensation for people who are out of work and whose benefits are running not? That's out--those people don't deserve the help. How about increases in Food Stamps? Ditto--who needs it?

Remember, money that we pay out in Food Stamps and unemployment benefits is going straight to people who really need it, and they're going to spend the money in their communities pretty much as soon as they get it.

Too damn bad for them, though, huh?

You can see what's going on here, can't you? The D's don't want to be tagged with giving handouts to people who aren't working. In other words, in the wake of Obama's words of praise for Ronald Reagan, the leadership in the House is lining up with Reagan's old canard about the worthy and unworthy poor.

If you're a Democrat, and you're not doing what you can to fight poverty, what the hell good are you?

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Have you watched that video by that fool Tom Cruise?

If not, you really owe it to yourself.

Surprising News About the Bush Administration

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A study by two nonprofit journalism organizations found that President Bush and top administration officials issued hundreds of false statements about the national security threat from Iraq . . .

The study counted 935 false statements in the two-year period. . . . in speeches, briefings, interviews and other venues . . .

So what's the surprise? They were only able to document 935 lies, including at least 532 occasions that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction or was trying to produce or obtain them or had links to al-Qaida or both.

Don't worry, you're not losing your mind. The only reason the numbers are so low is that they only counted the two years from 2001 to the invasion of Iraq.

Bush led with 259 false statements, 231 about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and 28 about Iraq's links to al-Qaida, the study found. That was second only to Powell's 244 false statements about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and 10 about Iraq and al-Qaida. I guess they don't call him Commander-in-Chief for nothing!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Huckabee cozies up to Southern racists

Part of the story behind Huckabee is the idea he keeps pushing that he's a conservative, but he isn't the mean kind of conservative you may be used to.

Still, if he's the nice, amiable type he wants you to think he is, what's he doing cozying up to the neo-Confederates down in secessionville?

COLUMBIA, S.C. - Mike Huckabee on Thursday dove head-first into the long-running South Carolina controversy over the Confederate flag, saying it should be up to the state to decide how or whether it should be displayed. The comments came at a rally in Florence, S.C., where the Republican presidential candidate attempted to separate himself from other contenders he said were "Washington insiders." Saturday's South Carolina primary appears to be a two-man race between Huckabee and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. Former Sen. Fred Thompson, R-Tenn., also is hoping to make an impact in the first-in-the-South primary. At the rally, Huckabee criticized those who "have been in charge of all the problems of this country and haven't fixed them." "I'm the one guy running that doesn't have a Washington address, that hasn't been a Washington lobbyist or a Washington insider," he said. His comments on the Confederate flag came as he bashed opponents in the anti-tax group Club for Growth. The organization has been campaigning against Huckabee, calling the former Arkansas governor a serial tax hiker. Huckabee said Arkansans wouldn't be swayed by out-of-state pressures, nor should South Carolina on the flag issue. "We tell them, you're going to tell us what to do with our flag? We'll tell you what to do with the pole," Huckabee said. Huckabee would not say whether he thought it was offensive to fly a flag seen as a racist symbol to some and a sign of Southern pride to others. The matter should be left to the state, he said.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

I read the right-wing wack jobs so you don't have to

Okay, I know my postings have been a bit light lately. Especially the past few days, ever since I split my head open playing racquetball. (I was going after the ball, ran into the wall, and, like the song says, "I fought the wall and the wall won.") So I've been moving a little slowly lately, but getting back into it.

Anyway, you probably know the latest from the Huckster. That's right, he's asking you to let him swear to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution, but it's just that our Constitution doesn't sit right with him. Not biblical enough for him. So he wants to change it to make it all godly and stuff.
Apparently his big problem with the other Republican candidates is that they don't want to "amend the Constitution so it’s in God’s standards". I guess he doesn't like the fact that the only mention of religion in the original body of the constitution is the part where it says there can be no religious test for any public office, and the only mention of religion in the amendments is the part where it says we have freedom of religion, so if you think the biggest problem with our Constitution is that there isn't enough God in it, now you know who to vote for.

But he's not the only religious wack job with these ideas. No sir! Our friend Charity has a page up that she's calling the Carnival of Principled Government. I'm not going to pick a fight with that. It's her page, she gets to call it whatever she wants.

But anyway, I want to mention one of the essays in this carnival, one about the enforcement of morality. Here is the central passage of this paper:
1) A just government enforces God’s moral rules, including rules regarding personal/consensual abuse and immorality.

2) Individuals have a moral obligation to submit to such a government’s rules. To do otherwise is to go against multiple (and divine) moral obligations, including the obligation to submit to a just government.

3) Individuals are not in supreme control over themselves; they are subject to God and his laws. To this extent, government receives authority from both a Scriptural and natural law perspective to intervene in an individual’s decision if he is abrogating his own (or other consenting individual’s) natural rights, including his own pursuit of happiness.

I have a couple of comments here, and I have to say that someone who takes a position like this is pretty scary, at least if he gets power in his hands. Lots of conservatives claim that they're in favor of limited government, but here we have someone who says that a just government has complete power over anything that anyone does that conflicts with god's plan for that person. Of course, you would only make a claim like that if you also thought you knew what god's plan for you and other people is, so you can set yourself up to make those decisions. So if you're this guy, maybe you like Huckleberry's idea that we need to shoehorn god into the Constitution somehow. Then, we have god in the Constitution telling the government what to do, the government telling all of us what god wants us to do, and as long as we all do what god wants us to do nobody gets hurt.

Except it sure doesn't sound like America anymore. I know that conservatives aren't nearly as crazy about the Constitution as they are of the Declaration of Independence, and that really was a revolutionary document for its time, and maybe even for now. Here's what the Declaration says about government authority: That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. So if he's arguing that government is legitimate only if it follows god's plan, regardless of what the people want, then he is explicitly challenging the Founders. I'm afraid I have to side with Thomas Jefferson on this one.

Oh yeah, there is one other thing. Jason, the author of this enforcement of morality essay, presumably thinks he has a pretty good idea of what god wants. After all, he's got this book that tells him what god wants. The problem, though, is that there are a lot of other people who also think they have a pretty good idea of what god wants, because it's in this book they have. Only their book is the Koran, or the Book of Mormon, or Dianetics, and, funnily enough, they don't match. So there are just a couple of problems here. One, do we want the government of the United States to work the same way that the governments of Saudi Arabia, or Iran, or pre-invasion Afghanistan work? I sure don't. Two, if you take Jason's ideas seriously, and if you believe, as he must, that he and his god are right, then doesn't that lead you to conclude that none of those other governments, religions, and gods are, and that it is not only our right but our duty to overthrow them and impose our (oops, I mean god's) will on them?

And how do you distinguish this from the kind of thinking that got us into a bunch of the problems we're facing right now?

If the shoe fits . . .

"We find it to be offensive for us to be on the same list with countries like Iran and China. Quite frankly it's absurd," U.S. Ambassador David Wilkins told The Associated Press. "For us to be on a list like that is just ridiculous."

Oh, really?

Well, maybe if they don't want to be listed with countries like Iran and China, just maybe, they should stop torturing people.

Okay, let me back up a little. TORONTO — A training manual for Canadian diplomats lists the United States as a country where prisoners risk torture and abuse, citing interrogation techniques such as stripping prisoners, blindfolding and sleep deprivation.

The Foreign Affairs Department document, released Friday, singled out the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay. It also names Israel, Afghanistan, China, Egypt, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Mexico and Syria as places where inmates could face torture.

Apparently the Bush regime is unhappy about this. Never mind that the United States captured and tortured Canadian citizen Maher Arar, released him to find his own way home, refused to compensate him or admit he was innocent, and had their tools in the judiciary dismiss the case to avoid the disclosure of "state secrets". Still, what really makes them upset is being called torturers.

As I said, if you don't want to be called a torturer maybe you should stop torturing people.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Bizarre religious practices

Could you imagine actually eating a symbolic representation of your god?

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Is this guy fit to be president?

They're battling it out for the religious whack job vote in the Republican primaries, and today it's time to talk about Huckleberry. The Arkansas governor did better than expected in Iowa last week, and a lot of people were surprised. Really, really surprised.

So last month, when the polls were showing him really strong, Huckleberry was speaking at Liberty "University" and one of the students asked him how he could possibly explain how well he's doing. It might be smart to argue that he has a great organization, or he's tapped into a wellspring of support among the good people of this country, that people are just hungering for his message, but what does he say? "There's only one explanation for it, and it's not a human one." He goes on to explain that it comes from the same power (or should I say "Power"?) that multiplied the loaves and fishes to feed a crowd of five thousand.

If you go to watch the video, which I recommend, I want you to pay attention to a couple of things. First, he is dead serious here. He means this completely literally, the same way you or I might say that we were able to get to the movie on time because we took a short cut. Second, check the crowd's reaction at 0:35, just after he says it. They go crazy! They love this stuff!

Now we've already seen what years and years of a weak-minded religious zealot, who counts on divine intervention to make sure everything goes right, can do to the country and the world. One thing Bush has demonstrated is that if the president thinks that everything he does is the will of god he is not going to face reality, consider alternatives, or change his mind when things inevitably go wrong. Can we really afford the kind of weak-minded, soft-headed thinking that this guy will bring to the White House?


More Republican Racism

You may know that the Supreme Court heard argument today on the case challenging the Indiana voter ID law. Here's the transcript, if you're interested.

What I think is important in this case is how far the Republican Party is willing to go, while claiming not to be a racist organization, to keep minorities from voting. You can understand why they would do this, since Republicans don't do as well with minority voters as the Democrats do. Still, the entire structure of voter ID laws is built on the fraudulent claim that they are needed to protect the polity from voter fraud accomplished by impersonation of legitimate voters. I say fraudulent because this plain just doesn't happen, and there is no evidence that it ever has.

Here's a piece by Walter Dellinger and Sri Srinavasan that goes into great detail on what's wrong with these laws

Sunday, January 06, 2008

The Obama candidacy

It's probably too early for this, but I do think it's something worth thinking about. Among the leading candidates, I think the majority of us around here probably favor Edwards. Still, especially if Obama is able to win on Tuesday (and espceially if, as seems quite likely Edwards is a poor third), his chances are looking worse and Obama's are looking really good.

So if it's Obama, what do we think about that?

I believe strongly that we have to do whatever it takes to defeat the Republican nominee, even if our nominee is Hillary Clinton. It's important for a lot of reasons, including the fact that economic royalism will continue under any conceivable Republican nominee, the fact that any Republican president will appoint clones of Scalia, Roberts, and Alito to the Supreme Court, and that any Republican president will be in favor of staying in Iraq, essentially forever.

Those facts are not true of any of the Democratic candidates.

Here's a link to a diavlog about the Democratic race that makes the point that Obama will absolutely be better than Clinton, and will be able to accomplish some important things we want (like universal health care) better than any real alternative. You don't have to agree with everything in it, but it's worth a listen.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Great speech by Obama

I just got done listening to Barack Obama's speech and I thought it was great, both in content and in delivery. Although he didn't explicitly mention race until the end, throughout the whole speech he was talking about accomplishing the impossible by his victory. This was an obvious reference to his race, and the exciting possibility that a black man could be elected president. He talked about the meaning of tonight's events, and in a St. Crispin's Day vein he talked about what we will be saying about tonight when we talk about it years from now.
I thought his delivery was excellent, also. There were moments, especially early in the speech, when he drew out his vowels in a way reminiscent of Martin Luther King, not in any obvious way, but very effectively.
I want to be very positive about Obama, although he still isn't my first choice. There's no question, though, that he can give a great speech, which is still important.

What's happened in Iowa?

There are some interesting results on both sides.
On the Democratic side Obama obviously wins, as expected. What I find encouraging is that the voters went for the progressive Edwards, and the progressive-seeming Obama over Clinton. She obviously isn't going anywhere because she isn't going to run out of money, but it's good to see her taken down a bit. I'll be very interested to see what happens in New Hampshire. As I write this, Wolf Blitzer is saying that Chris Dodd is dropping out, which makes sense.

Over on the side of the cossacks--oops, Republicans--I wouldn't have been surprised to see either of the religious nuts win, and it happens to be Huckleberry this time. The other interesting thing is that right now the semi-comatose Thompson (actually, Josh just says comatose) seems to be leading McCain, which seems to undermine the claims of a McCain surge. If this holds up I doubt that Thompson will drop out before South Carolina, since he's already bagged New Hampshire ("plumb tuckered out", I think he said). If McCain doesn't show them something in New Hampshire, what's his reason for staying in the race? I think the obvious reason is that all the other candidates are such wack jobs that they are totally unacceptable. If you go down the list of R's it seems that they are all so terrible that nobody can win, with the possible exception of McCain, so by process of elimination he may get to be the last man standing. Not tonight, of course.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

NASA coverup revealed

Like many who grew up in the 1960's, I tend to think about NASA as a different kind of government agency, one that I expect more of. Maybe I shouldn't, but it's an emotional response based on the excitement and optimism that space travel fostered. Whatever the reason, it's disappointing when they show themselves to be the same kind of liars that the rest of the Bush Administration is.

This week's installment relates to a study NASA did on the safety of air travel, and in their study they found that dangerous incidents like near misses happen more often than you would think, and way more than you would want to think if you ever fly.

Big news, right? Sounds like something they'd want to publicize so that the public can start agitating and policy makers can start fixing the problem, right?

Government officials and politicians know that if they want to downplay an announcement, they release it on Friday afternoon. NASA didn't do that, they went one better. This report was released on New Year's Eve. Late in the afternoon. With no advance release of the report so journalists could ask informed questions.

And get this: instead of releasing it in PDF, a universally available, easy-to-read format, NASA did not provide documentation on how to use its data, nor did it provide keys to unlock the cryptic codes used in the dataset.

And they even admitted, in response to a FOIA request, that the reason they held back on the data was that they didn't want to cost the airlines money.

I guess we shouldn't be surprised, but I still get pissed off when it happens.