Friday, April 28, 2006

The Vatican Goes after the DaVinci Code

Rather than Conservative Christians it’s the Vatican that seems to be jumping up and down over the Da Vinci Code. Reuters reports that Archbishop Angelo Amato, the number two official in the Vatican doctrinal office has called the Da Vinci Code "stridently anti-Christian … full of calumnies, offences and historical and theological errors regarding Jesus, the Gospels and the Church."

Reuters also reports that Amato called for a boycott of the film. WHY? Isn’t saying its wrong enough? Isn’t religion amazing? Not only does it want you to believe whatever it says, it wants you to not even listen to anyone who might be saying something different!

Then we get the paranoia! Apparently Amato went on to say "such lies and errors had been directed at the Koran or the Holocaust they would have justly provoked a world uprising. Instead, if they are directed against the Church and Christians, they remain unpunished."

UNPUNISHED!?!? WOW! Not only is Christianity being persecuted by someone disagreeing with it but those who disagree with it should be PUNISHED!

Oh yeah, tell me again how someone can be a Christian AND believe in democracy at the same time. I already have the book, now I'm DEFINITELY going to see the movie and I'm going to buy the DVD too if for no other reason than to illustrate to Mr. Archbozo Amato what I think of his boycott idea.

Corzine Needs a Little Creativity

I see that New Jersey Governor Corzine is worried about gas prices and has a plan, that's right folks A PLAN, to lower them in New Jersey.

Never mind that New Jersey already has the lowest prices in the tri-state area of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut and its prices are $.06 per gallon below the national average, the governor has A PLAN.

Too bad the plan consists of the same old tired nonsense that never worked before.

1. Reduce the speed limit to 55

Hell nobody in New Jersey pays attention to the speed limits of 60 or 65! If I'm going 70 on the Garden State Parkway in the morning cars are whizzing by me on both sides!

2. Remove the ban on self-service gas stations

Yeah right. New York has self-service stations and gas prices there are about $.14 per gallon HIGHER than New Jersey. Besides, I LIKE not having to pump my own gas.

3. Encourage the Use of Mass Transit and Car Pools

WHAT mass transit? There ain't no mass transit that can get me from home to work nor is there anyone around that I can car pool with.

How about some CREATIVE suggestions like encouraging and providing tax incentives for stuff like:

Telecommuting - Encourage firms to make use of it where possible and provide a tax deduction for people when they purchase home computers to be used for telecommuting purposes.

Hybrid Cars - Encourage and provide tax credits for those that purchase hybrid autos. REQUIRE all gas stations to provide Corn Ethenol based fuel by a certain target date.

Trains and Buses Commuter Packages - Provide less expensive commuter packages for trains and buses. Right about now there isn't all that much benefit in a lot of cases and using your own car is a hell of a lot faster and more convenient.

More Hub and Spoke Routes - Redesign the bus routes to provide "spokes" to get to either a train or bus "hub" during morning and evening rush hours. Look at how the airlines work for some ideas.

New Technology - Encourage companies with tax credits that try to develop new energy technologies that reduce the use of gasoline.

This is really the Federal Governments job, but if the Bush administration won't take the lead, let's do it at the state level. But John, it's going to take something better than the same old tired formulas that never worked before. You can do better than this John.

Nuestro Himno

"Nuestro Himno" is Spanish for "Our Anthem" and it's the title of a Spanish language recording of the Star Spangled Banner by a group of Latin pop stars.

My reaction? While Hispanic folks are, have been and, I'm certain, will continue to be important to this country, and will make significant contributions to this country, they better learn English.

You'll excuse me, but that's the official language of the country, and the unofficial language of the world, so get used to the idea. In an impromptu internet poll, 81% of over 75,000 respondents felt this represented a rejection of assimilation. I agree and I suggest the recording get relegated to the Museum of Really Bad Ideas.

(Ooops, as pointed out by a number of folks, the United States has NO OFFICIAL LANGUAGE. I still thinks it's a good idea to learn English, but hey, like they say, it's a free country, so if you don't want to, I guess you don't have to.)

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Death Penalty Update

North Carolina managed to come up with a way to satisfy a judge that its lethal injection would not cause undue suffering and proceeded to execute Willie Brown Jr. last Friday. That brought the total number of executions in the U.S. this year to 14. Well, at least there wasn’t any reason to believe that Brown was innocent.

Half of the 14 executions have been in Texas which has an almost incredible 16 more scheduled between now and the end of October. There are a total of 28 executions scheduled around the country including the 1st in South Dakota since executions resumed in 1976. The 4 executions scheduled in Pennsylvania and the 3 Federal executions have all been delayed and are off the schedule at Rick Halperin’s “Death Penalty News & Updates” page at Southern Methodist University that I use as a source.

In the meantime, the Death Penalty Information Center reports that Amnesty International's most recent death penalty report, showed a significant drop in executions around the world from 3,797 known in 2004 to 2,148 known in 2005. At least there was a drop in the number from places that are willing to own up to executions. The U.S. total went up by one, from 59 to 60, between 2004 and 2005.

Four countries account for 94% of the executions. China leads with 1,770, followed by Iran with 94, then Saudi Arabia with 86 and then the so-called bastion of freedom and democracy, the good old U.S. of A. with 60. You’ll excuse me if I find that an awkward group to be a member of.

Amnesty also reports that Liberia and Mexico brought the number of countries that have abolished all forms of the death penalty up to 86. Liberia and Mexico for Christ’s sake, at the rate things are going it will be just China, Islam and us that still execute folks. China, despite its economic potential, is still a repressive regime and the Muslim countries are stuck with Sharia law which calls for the death penalty in certain cases. WTF is our excuse?

Something from Richard Dawkins

The following is extracted from a speech given by Dr. Richard Dawkins accepting The 1996 Humanist of the Year award from the American Humanist Association.

"Suppose that, at the moment of Christ's death, the news of it had started traveling at the maximum possible speed around the universe outwards from the earth.

How far would the terrible tidings have traveled by now?

Following the theory of special relativity, the answer is that the news could not, under any circumstances whatever, have reached more that one-fiftieth of the way across one galaxy -- not one-thousandth of the way to our nearest neighboring galaxy in the 100-million-galaxy-strong universe.

The universe at large couldn't possibly be anything other than indifferent to Christ, his birth, his passion, and his death."

In the movie “Contact,” when asked about the existence of other intelligent life in the universe, the character played by Jodi Foster says that it would be an awful waste of space if there wasn’t any. From Dawkins little story it might also be safe to say that for Christianity to be true, it would also mean an awful waste of space.

Global Warming

I watched the HBO Documentary on Global Warming entitled “Too Hot Not to Handle” and it seriously made me wonder about a number of things.

First of all it seems to me that the evidence is stark and undeniable that the earth is warming up. If nothing else the steady loss of snowpack in the western U.S. and the loss of glacier formations in Alaska make that pretty obvious even though there are a few folks, mostly far right wing types, that actually deny that any warming is occurring.

Ignoring the lunatic fringe for the moment, the question is why? The majority opinion is that this warming is directly related to human activities and especially the burning of fossil fuels. This is the conclusion of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change as well as the unanimous conclusion of the National Scientific Academies of the G8 nations which consists of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States and Russia.

So why the hell won’t the Bush administration get off its butt and consider DOING something. The administration, despite discouragement by leading Republicans such as James Inhofe, the less than esteemed senator from Oklahoma, has grudgingly acknowledge at least that global warming is a potential problem. It just hasn’t bothered to do much about it beyond calling for more study and voluntary pollution cuts.

It’s having a senator like Inhofe that keeps Oklahoma in the race for least enlightened state along with front runner Kansas and perennial favorites Mississippi and Louisiana. Inhofe has called Global Warming the "greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people," claims it’s based upon fear rather than facts and that it’s more of a religion than a science used by extremist environmentalist groups as a fund raising ploy.

Inhofe feels that his argument has been bolstered by the fact that author Michael Crichton’s book Fear Factor, which debates that Global Warming is tied to human activity, made it to number three on the Best Seller list. Out of the mouth of babes, if there was any doubt that Inhofe is an idiot, the bit about Crichton’s book in a speech on the Senate floor in January of 2005 pretty much eliminated it.

The argument that what we’re seeing is simply part of a normal temperature cycle that has little or nothing to do with human activities is the favorite excuse to shrug our shoulders and say “well there’s nothing that can be done about it.”

The fear, of course, is that tackling the problem of the emission of hot house gases into the atmosphere is going to mean taking a whopping economic penalty. One of the most interesting points that the HBO program made was that ain’t necessarily so. Technologies such as hybrid cars, especially with gas prices ready to top $3 a gallon again, and solar power, if they’re not already, may soon be, a better cost bet than fossil fuels. So not only can we have cleaner air but a healthier economy also. Simply rendering ourselves immune to price fluctuations in foreign oil would go a long ways toward improving things.

Of course this might cut into the short term profits of the Bush family and friends so nothing gets done. I think it’s time to set a goal of being energy self sufficient within 10 years, 5 years if possible. If we could put together Tiger Teams to build the atomic bomb and get to the moon, we can certainly meet this goal.

Friday, April 21, 2006

The Role of Religion in the Public Square

I tripped over an article written by James K. Fitzpatrick about Sam Harris’ “End of Faith.” The article was originally printed in the Wanderer and reprinted by permission in The Catholic Exchange where I actually read it.

Harris is most definitely in what I call the Militant Secular camp. He describes faith as a species of evil and takes the position that religion and religious faith are dangerous in the modern world. This is something of an extreme position and Mr. Fitzpatrick takes exception to it. Allow me to quote from the article.

“They will treat us civilly and let us pray our rosaries, as long as we keep quiet about matters like abortion and gay marriage. When we speak out on those issues we become religious fanatics and a threat to American values.”

This is a serious question. One cannot expect people of faith to leave their religious beliefs at the door when they enter the political arena. What then is the proper balance of politics and religion?

Needless to say, I disagree with Mr. Fitzpatrick’s assessment of the situation.

Under the twin First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and freedom of expression folks can “speak out” upon any issues that they wish. To imply that anyone is trying to deny the faithful that right is, at best, misleading and, at worst, dishonest. The question becomes whether someone is stepping over the line when they attempt to ratify, by law, a moral view which is based upon religion.

When, even with the best of intentions, someone tries to impose their religious morality upon the nation as a whole, they are striking at one of the fundamental foundations of American Democracy. The primary concern is that is precisely what is being advocated by leaders of the so-called Religious Right.

The founding fathers were smart enough to understand that the best way to safeguard both the state and religion was to keep them separate and not allow the imposition of one religion’s morality upon everyone else. Allow me to quote James Madison.

“I have no doubt that every new example will succeed, as every past one has done, in shewing (sic) that religion and Government will both exist in greater purity the less they are mixed together.” – James Madison

Mr. Fitzpatrick doesn’t have a problem with imposing Christian viewpoints on non-Christians.

“Does not the First Amendment, at the very least, require that our government be genuinely neutral toward all forms of religious belief? Do we think that Christianity is different? Yes, we do think Christianity is different. The problem is how to say that, while at the same time paying respect to the First Amendment and without being ill-mannered toward our fellow citizens who are not Christian. Christian scholars and journalists have shown us how to do it. Robert Bork and Father Richard John Neuhaus come to mind. They have demonstrated in scholarly language that the First Amendment was not written to remove religion from the ‘public square’…”

The problem is you can’t take the position that “Christianity is different” without effectively destroying the foundation of the Establishment Clause in the First Amendment. The Establishment Clause does require that the “government be genuinely neutral toward all forms of religious belief.”

Not only must it be genuinely neutral with respect to different religions, it must be genuinely neutral with respect to religion versus no religion. Neither can the government be hostile toward religion in general nor any one religion in particular. As soon as the government steps away from genuine neutrality it creates a division in society. Adherents of the religion recognized as special become insiders with full privileges while others become outsiders relegated to a form of second class citizenship. Allow me to suggest that a reading of the Fourteenth Amendment might be beneficial at this point (By the way, I find it amusing that Mr. Fitzpatrick is more concerned with being "ill-mannered" than with scuttling the First Amendment and imposing Christianity on non-Christians).

This position is not new and has been repeatedly affirmed, and reaffirmed, by the Supreme Court on numerous occasions. This is the law of the land and enough support for this position is easily found in the writings of the authors of the constitution to satisfy the most ardent “originalist.”

“I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation between church and State.” - Thomas Jefferson

The wall of separation wouldn’t be very effective if we allowed the government to accept the proposition that “Christianity is different” now would it?

As for Bork and Neuhaus, you will excuse me if I prefer the opinions of Madison and Jefferson. Bork is no friend of the First Amendment and would cheerfully scuttle not only the accepted meaning of the Establishment Clause but also Freedom of Speech. In December 2005, Bork wrote an article in the National Review calling for government censorship of popular culture, including television, film and music. In a wonderful application of the principle of “newspeak” Bork declared that "liberty in America can be enhanced by reinstating, legislatively, restraints upon the direction of our culture and morality.”

One has to wonder what Bork’s definition of “liberty” is when censorship is going to enhance it. Allow me to suggest that to Bork “liberty” means agreeing with Robert Bork.

Father John Neuhaus evolved from an anti-war advocate during Vietnam to a neoconservative supporter of Bush’s military escapade in Iraq. Neuhaus has described the war on terrorism as part of a “clash of civilizations.” According to Neuhaus, “the West is now being compelled to recognize itself more clearly for what most Muslims perceive it to be—the Christian West, or Christendom.”

Neuhaus should try taking a trip through most of Western Europe and then tell me the West is “Christendom.” If anything, Neuhaus is more dangerous than Bork, and not only clearly rejects the spirit of the First Amendment, but lines up with the most extreme of the Muslim Fundamentalists by using the language of religious warfare to describe the current unfortunate events in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Keeping religion in the “public square” simply recognizes that religion is going to influence public policy and that there is nothing wrong with this reality if for no other reason than religion has as much a stake in society as anyone else. The issue is now, and always has been, where is the line between influencing public policy and imposing one religion’s view upon society as a whole. I contend that when any religious group engages in a concerted effort to convert its moral opinion into law, it has crossed over that line and discarded the intent of the Establishment Clause and the principle of the separation of church and state.

Many honest men, as fully committed to upholding the First Amendment and the separation of church and state as I am, might challange me on that contention and insist that the line be drawn either to the right, or to the left, of where I'm attempting to put it. Once we have established our points of disagreement, we can then proceed to discuss the question. However with men like Bork and Neuhaus, who would prefer to impose Christianity upon the nation and twist the intent of the First Amendment in order to make that feasible, there is no basis for discussion.

Present day Christians in this country have lost sight of the basic wisdom behind separating church and state. They have lost sight of this wisdom because they have been deceived by demagogues looking to enhance their own political power into believing that there is some sort of nefarious conspiracy against Christianity.

When even a small number of members of a group that comprises some 70% of the population allows itself to be convinced that it is being persecuted, it’s time to raise an eyebrow, and consider circling the wagons. This is a form of paranoia, a very dangerous form of paranoia, and Mr. Fitzpatrick doesn’t help any when he says “there is no question that the mainstream American secularizers are seeking to isolate traditional Christianity onto the periphery of societal life.”

Aside from the fact that this would be impossible when 70% of the population professes to be at least nominally Christian, and us mainstream secularizers are smart enough to realize that, it’s simply not true. What is being questioned is the codification of the Christian moral viewpoint being advocated by the demagogues of the Religious Right.

To my mind several of the fronts in the culture war, including the two areas in the first quote, abortion and gay marriage, are essentially conflicts between a religious viewpoint, which accepts the existence of absolute morality, and a secular viewpoint that rejects the concept of absolute morality.

Let’s consider the question of abortion. That life begins at conception is fundamentally a religious view. Even if one were to accept that position as scientifically valid, there is still the ethical morass associated with balancing the needs of the unborn child’s life with the needs of the mother’s life. If there exists an absolute morality dictated by God, then resolving this issue requires discovering what that absolute morality requires in any situation. If you are convinced you know God’s law, this is easy; if you’re less certain, then it’s not so easy. As a side note, I find it absolutely appalling that so many people accept the idea that the idiots yelling at them from the pulpit or the television screen about “moral values” speak for God.

If one rejects absolute morality then one must conclude that ultimately it is the responsibility of those involved to resolve questions of morality to the best of their ethical ability. There is nothing that gives Christianity, the legislature, or anyone else for that matter, the right, through the auspices of the law, to impose a personal moral view as to the proper resolution of any ethical question upon everyone. It would certainly be proper to use whatever means of verbal, moral, or other legal forms of persuasion are available to convince those in need of a resolution (in other words pregnant women and their advisors) to adhere to a particular moral position, however the idea that anyone has the right to force a moral viewpoint upon others through law must be rejected.

As for gay marriage, while one might argue that opposition to abortion is in fact more than a religious issue, opposition to gay marriage seems to me clearly derived from a number of questionable translations of the Hebrew Bible and some equally questionable interpretations of neologisms in the Epistles.

Again, anyone is free to express their opinion about the morality of the gay lifestyle, gay unions and gay sex, and anyone is free to bring whatever legal means of persuasion they possess to convince folks to abstain from such endeavors. Again, the question becomes whether denying certain citizens of the United States, citizens entitled to equal protection under the law, the financial and emotional benefits of marriage because of a religious issue with what they do in the privacy of the bedroom is stepping over the line.

The proper role of religion in the public arena may well be the single most divisive issue that this country will face in the immediate future. To my mind the Christian faithful are being led down a perilous path by individuals whose primary concern is their own personal benefit.

Only a secular society can guarantee the adherence to democratic principles. Ironically, even Freedom of Religion can only be protected in a society that promotes secular principles above all religions and recognizes that Freedom of Religion includes Freedom from Religion. The mainstream secularizers that Mr. Fitzpatrick frets about are in fact the greatest protectors of Mr. Kilpatrick’s right to practice his religion as he sees fit. In contrast, the folks pushing for the conversion of Christian moral opinions into law represent the greatest danger to Mr. Fitzpatrick’s right to practice his religion as he sees fit. What is frightening is that Mr. Fitzpatrick, among others, seems to believe that it’s just the reverse.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

No Posing for Playboy at Baylor

Reuters reports that Baylor University, the Baptist college in Waco Texas, has threatened to discipline any female students that pose for a Playboy article on women of the Big 12.

With a war in Iraq, threatened nuclear action in Iran and global warming threatening the annihilation of the race, I’m glad to see that Baylor, a so-called center of higher learning, has its priorities straight.

While I don’t question Baylor’s right to safeguard it’s “image,” whatever that may be, I can’t help but think there are bigger fish to fry. On a positive note, Reuters reports that the pronouncement from the university was greeted with a big yawn by the student body.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

I Want to Pull the Blanket over My Head

Yeah, pull the blanket over my head and whine and whimper. Why? I get this feeling occasionally after sampling the news and the assorted newsletters that arrive in my inbox.

Specifically this morning is an article in The New Republic related to the Basij movement in Iran and a report from Iraq that insurgents decided to enter a primary school in Baghdad and decapitate two teachers in front of their classes.

The New Republic article describes how Iranian children, 14 to 16 years old, were used as human mine sweepers during the Iran – Iraq War in the 1980’s. What got to me was the description of the cheap plastic keys, imported from Taiwan, that were hung around each youngster’s neck which were to open the gates of paradise for them.

That’s just sick. Just another triumph for religion in general and Islam in particular I suppose. If there is a hell then Khomeini and his Imams deserve it. What’s really nauseating is that even today, almost 20 years later, this episode is viewed with pride rather than disgust and the Basij movement is where the current Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, appears to have crawled out of. He reportedly served as a Basij instructor during the war. An instructor that clearly didn’t teach by example but who likes to revel in his relationship to the Basij. He regularly appears in public wearing a black-and-white Basij scarf, and, in his speeches, he routinely praises "Basij culture" and "Basij power."

What culture? A culture that hangs plastic keys to paradise around kid’s necks and sends them off to die doesn’t strike me as much of a culture. This doesn’t mean I’m ready to start dropping bombs. The only way you can beat this kind of fanaticism is through a war of annihilation so let’s not start something we’re going to be afraid to finish.

Of course decapitating two teachers in front of their students is almost as bad. Let’s face it, people that would do something like this are beyond any form of redemption. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, it’s time to bring the guys home and let those nutcases fight it out among themselves.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Million Year Old Ice

Here’s just what you need for that 200 year old scotch, a million year old ice cube. According to Reuters, Japanese scientists showed off an ice core retrieved from 3 kilometers under the surface of Antarctica in Tokyo the other day.

I have two observations about this news story. First, before the Bush administration decided faith based science was preferred to real science, and we started spending all our spare change in Iraq, more often than not it was American scientists making announcements. Now it seems like our guys spend all their time looking on as others make the scientific headlines.

And second, will Senator John McCain, who I now hear says we should be teaching Creationism alongside evolution, please take note. Take note of both my first observation and the point that this ice sample is 1 million years old. A million year old chunk of ice makes the possibility that the earth was created only 6,000 years ago not terribly likely wouldn’t you say? Unless of course you figure that the deity planted that million year old ice down there either to fool us poor mortals or to test our faith.

John, I understand that you want the Republican nomination, but how much of your credibility and honesty are you willing to shed in order to get it? If it takes supporting the teaching of Creationism in the public schools to get elected President in this country, then let me suggest that those of us with half a brain simply close up shop now and head for the more enlightened areas of the world.

Amsterdam or Copenhagen? Amsterdam or Copenhagen? So many decisions, so little time. Actually, at the moment, even South Africa looks like a better deal.

Now It’s Iran

While I was doing the treadmill thing in the gym yesterday, I couldn’t help but pay attention to a flat screen television just above my head and slightly off to the left. The TV was tuned to Fox News which was incredibly shrieking the question “Does Iran Want War?”

Aside from this representing a new low in responsible journalism, given that Fox tends to be the right wing water tester I imagine this is the opening salvo in a two pronged attack that I expect to see developed over the next few months. The first prong is simply using the ongoing difficulties with the Iranian nuclear program as a means of distracting the American public from all of the catastrophes already foisted on the country by the current Republican Administration. I expect to be inundated by shrill cries from the administration, and the media, that I should be overwhelmed by the fear of what the Iranians might do if they develop nuclear weapons.

While I don’t relish the prospect of the Islamic religious fruitcakes in Tehran having atomic weapons as well as the Bush Christian religious fruitcakes having atomic weapons in Washington, I’m getting a little tired of being told I should be afraid. We have become a nation that uses fear to establish policy. I’m not sure which is worse, the administration’s traffic in fear, or the media’s constant drumbeat about things we should be afraid of. We’re supposed to be afraid of everything. We’re supposed to be afraid of the nasty forces of evil in the world; we’re supposed to be afraid of crime; we’re supposed to be afraid of growing old; we’re supposed to be afraid of being ugly; we’re supposed to be afraid of being unpopular; we’re supposed to be afraid of dying; we’re supposed to be afraid of becoming sick; we’re supposed to be afraid of becoming poor and we’re supposed to be afraid of God.

You know what? Screw it. What ever happened to the idea of facing life head on and unafraid?

The second prong will undoubtedly be all about how the Iranians are the ones asking for trouble, in fact the ones that WANT trouble, so whatever the Bush loonies decide to do it will all be the Iranians fault.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

God’s Own Party

Kevin Phillips, the author of “American Theocracy: The Perils and Politics of Radical Religion, Oil and Borrowed Money in the 21st Century," had an Op Ed in the Bergen Record last Sunday, reprinted from the Washington Post, entitled “How the GOP Became God’s own Party.”

The title is a bit of a misnomer as Phillips devotes the majority of the article to what he sees as the dangerous coalition that exists between Christian Biblical Fundamentalist, the Oil Industry and the Finances of Dept as epitomized in the current Bush administration.

Phillips points out what he considers the merging of the Politics of Oil and Biblical Expectations in the Bush administrations Middle East Policies and the almost unbelievable seeding of scientific controversies including “Bible-based disbelief in Darwinian theories of evolution, dismissal of global warming, disagreement with geological explanations of fossil-fuel depletions, religious rejection of global population planning, derogation of woman’s rights and opposition to stem cell research.”

Phillips goes on to point out that while “No leading power in modern memory has become a captive of the sort of biblical inerrancy that dismisses modern knowledge and science,...the outcome of the eventual 21st century test is hardly assured.”

In other words we are going to be in deep yogurt if we don’t get our act together and keep fundamentalist assholes like Bush and DeLay out of office. My reaction to this is DUH, NO KIDDING! I seem to remember saying stuff like this for quite a while now. The problem is I’m uncertain if anyone is listening!

Most people, assuming they understand the issue enough to do more than stare at you blankly, would scoff at such alarmist concerns and go back to watching American Idol. The fear is that by the time people realize just how serious, and just how immediate, the danger is, it will be too late.

Allow me to explain what I mean. Phillips was also on Bill Maher last week pointing out the same dangers. On the panel was Senator Joe Biden (D-Del.) and I was struck by two reactions of Biden which struck me as dangerous. First Biden stated that he refused to believe that a majority of Americans believed in things like Creationism rather than science. Well Joe, perhaps it’s not a majority, but it’s a healthy minority that forms a consistent voting block and not recognizing this fact is simply denial.

Then Biden, criticizing the intellectual elitism in the Democratic Party, told a story about a Democratic colleague describing the fact that Biden’s mother says the Rosary every day as “quaint.” Biden explained that he considered this an insult and that people of faith simply want their faith to be respected.

Well Joe, while your mother is entitled to her faith, and I agree that describing it as "quaint" is more than a little insulting as well as arrogant, I'm not going to agree with the idea that faith should be unconditionally respected. This idea has been developed over the ages by religion as a defense mechanism and has developed into one of the most effective memes ever created. Allow me to refer you to the dozen or so posts related to this meme.

The problem is that people of faith view those without faith as a danger and feel perfectly free to criticize them, but insist that their faith be respected. My reaction to this is horseshit. You have the right to believe whatever you wish BUT don’t expect me to respect you for believing what I consider to be superstitious nonsense. If you simply practice your faith and allow me to practice my lack of faith, we'll get along just fine, but if you try to force that nonsense on me as the Christian Right tends to want to do by introducing Creationism and Bible Study in the schools, and the posting of the Ten Commandments in public buildings, then I promise you that I will most assuredly criticize and ridicule those beliefs loudly, and often, in defense of my rights.

The bottom line is that your religion ends where my rights begin and I will fight to defend that line. I'm not picking on you Joe, as a matter of fact I sort of like most of what you say, but I think we disagree slightly on this point.

Well, at least people like Phillips and Maher are trying to get the message out and even I’m doing what little I can. I’m just concerned that’s it’s not going to be enough and while the American public is distracted by scandal sheets telling of the latest movie star indiscretions and the latest reality television show, we’ll end up with a Biblical Theocracy, or worse, a global religious based war, or even worse, a religious based civil war.

Amsterdam or Copenhagen? Amsterdam or Copenhagen? So many decisions, so little time. Excuse me while I go check my stockpile of 7.62 mm ammo and oil my AKM.

Then again, given the proliferation of nuclear weapons, perhaps organizing a slow ride to Alpha Centauri would be a good idea.

A Touch of Brilliance

To those of us who consider the Electoral College a really bad idea that has more than overstayed its welcome, I bring a touch of hope.

The scrapping of the electoral college, which violates the principle of one man, one vote, by skewing the impact that low population states have on the election, is long overdue. However supporters of election reform have despaired over the difficulty of getting a constitutional amendment passed which would switch the presidential election to popular vote partially because low population states enjoy an even greater disparity of impact in the amendment process.

Now it appears someone has come up with what I can only call a brilliant scheme for both circumventing the Electoral College and getting around the difficulty of the amendment process. Since the Constitution gives each state the right to decide how its electoral votes get awarded, the proposal is for the states to pass legislation that will award its votes to the winner of the national popular vote!

Once states with 270 electoral votes choose this method of award, the electoral college would effectively become defunct because the winner of the popular vote would be guaranteed to win the election.

Aren't human beings wonderfully creative? I'm impressed.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

HBO's Big Love

Ok, I got talked into watching the show or rather I got curious while talking to someone who does watch the show.

Since I broke down and got myself HBO on demand a while back, to insure that I didn't miss any of the Bill Maher shows, it was easy enough.

Oh my God. I found the show freightening on three levels. First, I found it freightening that someone could come up with that plot and those characters. Creativity like that says something unpleasant about the human species.

On the second level I found it freightening that the plot and characters might, however vaguely, be based upon reality and on the third level I found it really, really freightening because they all have guns!!!

Talk about culture shock! Sheesh. I thought Mississippi and Louisiana were scary, maybe Utah is worse!

Amsterdam or Copenhagen, Amsterdam or Copenhagan, decisions, decisions.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Bush Contemplating Action Against Iran?

This can't be happening. Now the rumor is that Bush is contemplating air strikes against Iran to slow down their nuclear program and work toward a "regime change."

I put "regime change" in quotes because didn't anyone ever tell this moron that the best way to increase support for a national regime is to attack it! What is wrong with this man? Only a fool fights a war on two fronts, which Bush has already proved himself to be by fighting in both Afghanistan and Iraq, but only a madman fights a war on three fronts!

Where's a nutcase with a rifle when you need one? No, that would leave Cheney in charge which would be even worse!

How the hell did this wacko ever get elected?

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

DeLay May Resign

Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition!! I think I’ll hold off opening the champagne until its official, but the AP is reporting that Tom DeLay will resign from Congress today.

DeLay is blaming those nasty Liberal Democrats for waging a negative campaign. "I refuse to allow liberal Democrats an opportunity to steal this seat with a negative personal campaign. The voters of the 22nd district of Texas deserve a campaign about the vital national issues that they care most about and that affect their lives every day and not a campaign focused solely as a referendum on me."

This from a guy that made his career on so-called “moral values” issues. Yo Tom, you hypocrite, vital national issues are not gay marriage and trying to force your own corrupted view of Christian morality (an oxymoron if ever there was one) onto those of us who aren’t interested. Vital national issues are congressmen taking bribes from lobbyists to vote for vested interests. You know anyone in that category?

Now if they threw your ass in jail, that would make things complete. I can just picture Tom now, bandana around his head, jail denim shirt open to the waist, hairy chest poking through and being some really big ugly dude’s main bitch. Now that would be justice.

Nah, only kidding about that last part.