Monday, July 30, 2012

Vietnam Considers Gay Marriage

The Republic of Vietnam is considering the legalization of Gay Marriage. If it is legalized, Vietnam would become the first country in Asia to recognize same sex unions.

The name Vietnam conjures up, to someone of my generation, scenes of destruction, of pouring rain and mud, of dead and dying young Americans, of napalm and of battles in the streets of New York, Chicago and San Francisco.

It brings to mind the scenes of a country tearing itself apart because its people couldn't agree upon how best to remain true to its principles.

Is was Vietnam where it first became apparent that we weren't the "good guys" by default but that we had to earn that label every day, with every action and with every decision.

In our arrogance we imagined we would bring democracy, freedom and equality to the rest of the world whether they wanted it or not. Vietnam is hardly a bastion of liberty, but, should it grant gays equal rights in terms of marriage, our old enemy will move to the hilltop while we remain mired in the muck of bigotry and intolerance.

That would be an absolutely humiliating situation.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Gun Control

Mitt Romney says that new gun laws won’t stop law breakers.

That’s the standard argument isn’t it? The idea that if you control guns only criminals will have guns and life will be more dangerous.

I debate that conclusion based upon two points. The first is simply that controlling guns makes it harder for anyone to get a gun including would be criminals. The big problem with criminals getting guns is they get them through the so-called secondary market from unlicensed sellers. Even simple regulations that limit handgun sales to one gun per month have been shown to dramatically reduce illegal gun trafficking by reducing the supply of guns for the secondary market.

Can we guarantee that no criminal has a gun? Of course not; just like we can’t guarantee that no one has drugs. But you can at least make it a hell of a lot harder to obtain one and you eliminate the ease of stealing a gun if there aren’t many around and they’re securely protected.

Securely protected, that’s another point of contention. The counter argument is a gun that’s locked up, unloaded or secured with a trigger lock isn’t of any use. This is really just a variation on the “only criminals will have guns argument” because a secured weapon is almost like having no weapon.

So let’s address the main point. That having guns acts as protection or as a deterrent against criminals. This is the cowboy fantasy. The hero in the white hat is going to whip out his shootin’ iron and run off the desperados with heroic deeds.

This is a fantasy that has almost no chance of actually occurring. You have a better chance of accidentally injuring yourself or a family member than fighting off a bad guy. Does an occasional store owner pull out a pistol and scare off a would be hold-up man? Sure, but most likely because the hold-up man was scared already. This is also an action that law enforcement recommends against. You’re more likely to get yourself killed than accomplish anything positive. Are the few dollars in the cash register really worth it?

As for the Right Wing morons that think their weapons are somehow preventing a dictatorship arising in this country, they seriously need to get their brains checked. Dictatorships occur only with support of the Army so two points. First, do you seriously think the U.S. Army would EVER support the overthrow of the U.S. Constitution? Second, should that ever happen, do you have any idea how much chance a motley crew of weekend gun enthusiasts would have against a modern military unit?

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Eagle Scouts Returning their Medals

Apparently some Eagle Scouts are returing their medals to the Boy Scouts of America and resigning from the organization in protest over the decision to continue to exclude gay scouts and leaders.

Given the effort and difficulty associated with gaining the medal in the first place, this is no small sacrifice and I salute their stand. I'd return my 2nd Class badge if I knew what the hell happened to it.

Ride, Sally Ride

Sally Ride, the first female U.S. astronaut passed away on Monday at the tender age of 61.

The obituary from Sally Ride Science, an educational venture that Ride founded, referred to Tam O'Shaughnessy as "her partner of 27 years."

In other words, at her death Sally announced to the world that the first female American astronaut, was gay.

I can’t wait to hear how the Right Wing spins this one. I suppose the Texas Education Board will wipe her name out of the history books and any number of Right Wing pundits will explain how the statement doesn’t really mean that Ride was gay despite the acknowledgement by her family to the fact.

So the LGBT cause gets a advocate it never knew it had and the Religious Right can stick it up their butts.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Outsourcing American Jobs

Did you know that the U.S. tax code rewards companies for outsourcing American jobs overseas? Well it does. It does it by allowing the cost of moving the jobs overseas to be deducted as a business expense.

If you think this sounds idiotic then you agree with senate Democrats and four senate Republicans, Scott P. Brown of Massachusetts, Susan Collins and Olympia J. Snowe of Maine, and Dean Heller of Nevada, that the senate should vote on bill S. 3364, sponsored by Senator Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., which would end that tax break while continuing to allow a deduction for jobs returned to this country or moved within the United States.

Unfortunately, Senate Republicans have filibustered that bill and an attempt at closure, which requires 60 votes, failed 56-42 with every single Republican senator, other than the four noted above, voting against cloture.

The hypocrisy of the Republican Party, crying about Obama not doing enough about jobs while the stinking 3% reduction in the marginal tax rate, which they claim is going to trickle down jobs any day now, continues to do nothing but provide the 1% with money to invest overseas, and supporting a tax break through filibuster for moving jobs out the country is simply staggering.

But what is more staggering is the total obliviousness of the American electorate as to WTF is going on. If you’re making less than $250,000 a year, then you’re are being screwed by the Republicans on a daily basis and are really going to get taken to the cleaners if we’re idiotic enough to elect Mitt Romney.

I continue to be amazed at the stupidity of the Republican base which gets all up in a lather about the nickels and dimes from their paychecks being spent on welfare or food stamps but ignores the fact that Republican policies are preventing $10s and $20s from ever getting into their paychecks.

Where I come from we call that nickel wise and dollar foolish.

Monday, July 23, 2012

NCAA Sanctions on Penn State

The NCAA really threw the book at Penn State today and in a very appropriate manner.

The school will vacate all football victories from 1998 to 2011; it will pay a fine of $60 million; it will have its maximum number of scholarships reduced from 85 to 65 and it will be banned from post season play for four years. The Big Ten has announced that Penn State will not share in any post season revenue which should cost the school about another $13 million. All current and incoming players are entitled to transfer with no penalty.

The vacating of wins reduces Coach Joe Paterno’s win count from 409 to 298 which now puts him well behind former Florida State coach Bobby Bowden who will take the top spot in the NCAA record book with 377 major-college (FBS) wins.

It’s sad to see someone looked up to as a hero for so many years dragged through the mud, but he has no one to blame but himself.

Yesterday Penn State tore down Paterno's statue.

Aurora Colorado

I make no secret of the fact that I am opposed to the Death Penalty. But my opposition is practical rather than philosophical. I just believe that the chance of making an error outweighs any satisfaction from putting out the lights of someone who richly deserves it.

However, for Mr. James Eagan Holmes, the lunatic that walked into a Colorado movie theater and killed 12 people who never did anything to him, I’m willing to make an exception.

There is no doubt here. There is no chance of error so I would have absolutely no problem sticking a lethal needle into Holmes’ vein. Too bad it won’t hurt as much as it should.

I read there was some doubt as to whether the prosecutor would ask for the Death Penalty. How the hell could you not ask for it? If it’s not appropriate for this crime, then it’s not appropriate for any crime and we should abolish it nationally.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Boy Scouts to Keep Gay Ban

The Boy Scouts of America have decided to keep their ban on gay scouts and leaders in place.

I have to seriously question the conclusion announced by the scout committee that "The committee’s work and conclusion is that this policy reflects the beliefs and perspectives of the BSA’s members, thereby allowing Scouting to remain focused on its mission and the work it is doing to serve more youth" when no corroboration is provided other than the assertion.

How does one "serve more youth" by rejecting a segment of that youth? I assume they're afraid that more parents would pull their children out if gays were allowed than there would be gay scouts joining? Do they really think that this is the way to teach tolerance and respect for all people?

To my mind this is a cowardly decision that runs directly counter to the whole concept of scouting. Isn't "To help other people at all times" still part of the oath? Do they think this is helping gays or are they changing the oath to say "To help other people (except gays) at all times?"

Friday, July 13, 2012

The Freeh Report

Former FBI Director Louis Freeh has released the report on his investigation of the Penn State-Jerry Sandusky scandal and what it says is not good.

Last November, based upon what I knew then, I said “…I don’t see that Joe Paterno should be criticized for not doing more than he did…Paterno can’t be blamed for not realizing the A.D. didn’t follow through as he was required to do.”

I now see clearly that was a very naïve position to take and, after thinking about it, should have realized then that it was naïve.

According to Freeh, school officials, including Paterno, were aware that they had a predatory pedophile in the program as early as 1998 and yet “…in order to avoid the consequences of bad publicity, the most powerful leaders at Penn State University — Messrs Spanier, Schultz, Paterno and Curley — repeatedly concealed critical facts relating to Sandusky’s child abuse.”

This is not acceptable behavior. This happens when men lose track of their priorities and forget what is important. This cannot be allowed to happen again.

The NCAA has the authority to enforce what is known as the “Death Penalty” on a school’s sports program. The “Death Penalty” suspends a program for some period of time. It has only been applied five times and primarily for repeated recruiting infractions. Those are nothing compared to this. This is the most disgraceful episode in the history of sports.

The Penn State football program should be suspended for at least a year if not more and Paterno’s name should be expunged from all honors and memorials. His statues should be taken down and his records nullified. As much as possible, the man’s name should be erased from the sport he has disgraced.

Yes I understand that other people who are completely innocent will suffer as well but that’s something that, unfortunately, can’t be avoided. Whatever suffering they’ll have to endure will be nothing compared to what Sandusky’s victims had to endure, many of which could have been protected from harm if the Penn State officials had done the decent thing as soon as they became aware of the problem.

Now you’ll excuse me but I really need to go take a shower. I feel dirty from just writing about this.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Republican Brain

How’s that for an idiotic title of a book?

The book, written by Chris Mooney, is really a summary of psychological studies looking at how Conservatives and Liberals tend to look at things. Most of the studies aren’t surprising but simply confirm things that most people realize from simple observation.

Basically Liberals tend to be open to new experiences, tend to waffle while they try and consider all sides of a question and aren’t terribly threatened by the unknown. Conservatives tend to be more comfortable with tradition, are more decisive and have a need for final closure. Conservatives also apparently have a stronger sense of loyalty to the group while Liberals are far more fractious.

Gee, ya think?

None of this is terribly new nor is it rocket science. However Mooney does get into an area that I did find disturbing.

There’s the old saying that everyone is entitled to his own opinion but not to their own facts. Well there is significant evidence that Political Conservatives don’t appear to have a problem with creating their “own facts” when reality doesn’t suit them.

That’s bad. How do you reason or compromise with someone that exists in an imaginary reality?

Now, there were always wing nuts, on both the Left and Right, that would make stuff up or come up with things that had no basis in reality but I always considered them to be at the extremes. What Moody was saying was that this “making up your own facts” has actually become part of the Conservative mainstream. After thinking about it, and reviewing his data, I have to admit that he may be right and that’s really scary.

Now, let’s be a little careful here because “Conservative” covers a lot of ground and not all Conservatives are living in la-la land but there are clearly far too many to be healthy for the country. According to Mooney, those most likely to generate their own version of reality are those with an authoritarian bent. Unfortunately that includes a lot of Conservatives including just about every Evangelical Christian.

Worse yet is they’re organized. I remember reading that the Conservative Christian solution to the majority of biblical scholars coming to conclusions they didn’t like was simply to “train” more “biblical scholars” at conservative seminaries. At the moment they’re apparently cranking them out in such numbers that the idea of a “majority opinion” has just about lost all meaning in biblical scholarship.

According to Mooney the same thing is happening in economics, politics and law. If you don’t like what the experts say, then create your own experts seems to be the strategy and, unfortunately, it works when the public at large just doesn’t have the knowledge to differentiate between reality and total crap and journalism hobbles itself with a misplaced concept of “balance.”

This is where loyalty, in most cases a virtue, becomes a vice. If some of these experts realize that the conservative dogma is wrong and say so, they become immediate pariahs and outcasts. Toeing the party line is more important than the truth.

Mooney points out that while the Left also has its share of delusional types, such as the anti-vaccine crowd, these aren’t ideas championed by the educated elite on the Left because they don’t match up with the facts. As a matter of fact, criticism from the elite on the Left is stronger than criticism from the Right.

So it’s simple right? These are intelligent people. All you have to do is show them the facts and reason with them. That’s where it gets spooky. Anyone who has had exchanges on forums or in person has realized that it just doesn’t seem to work. As a matter of fact, the more you show them they’re wrong, the stronger they seem to cling to their delusions.

Mooney presents evidence that this is indeed the case. The psychology is such that the need to believe what they want to believe is stronger than logic, stronger than facts and, in the final analysis, stronger than truth.

So now what?

Mooney mumbles out some sort of compromise approach which is basically let Liberals, who are better at determining reality, determine what the facts are and let Conservatives, because they are more decisive, decide how to act on those facts. But his idea is fatally flawed because it starts with Conservatives accepting reality as determined by Liberals. This runs counter to his whole premise. I might also point out that it will be a cold day in hell before Liberals would trust Conservatives to make any decisions without adult supervision.

Mooney’s hypothesis is that this psychology is at the root of the current polarization of politics in the U.S. I suspect that his hypothesis is correct but his solution isn’t anything other than wishful thinking.

I have to be honest, I don’t see a solution here. The Republican Party is teetering on the edge of becoming totally divorced from anything like fact based analysis. It’s not there yet. People like Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman are still firmly moored to reality even if occasionally they need to make concessions to the lunatic fringe.

What happens if Romney looses the election?

We may not be approaching a “perfect storm” of economic disaster like that NYU professor claims, but I suspect things are going to remain rocky for quite a while yet. What happens in 2016? The Democrats don’t seem to have an emerging standard bearer and my fear is that another loss would drive the Republicans further to the Right, the Fiscal Conservative business wing of the Party might lose control and someone like a Bachmann or a Santorum might actually manage to get the nomination and win.

Romney and his ilk are smart enough to know that the policies being touted by the Republican Right Wing would lead to chaos and disaster. Someone like a Rick Santorum may not.

Good Things Still Happen

There is always the danger of becoming morbidly cynical, deteriorating into utter despair and writing off the human race. Luckily, every time that appears to be the only avenue left, something happens to make you realize there’s still hope.

Eric LeGrand, the Rutgers football player that was paralyzed in 2010 in a game against Army at the Meadowlands has been hired by Subway to appear in commercials with Giants star Justin Tuck.

LeGrand, clearly, is not letting a little thing like not being able to walk slow him down. He’s spitting in the eye of misfortune and living his life. LeGrand would like to break into the sports media world and has vowed to walk again.

I’m betting he manages both of those things.

Monday, July 09, 2012

The Texas Republican Party Platform

The Platform of the Texas Republican Party. You couldn’t make this stuff up. Some highlights (with the occasional commentary):

Protection from Extreme EnvironmentalistsWe strongly oppose all efforts of the extreme environmental groups that stymie legitimate business interests. We strongly oppose those efforts that attempt to use the environmental causes to purposefully disrupt and stop those interests within the oil and gas industry. We strongly support the immediate repeal of the Endangered Species Act. We strongly oppose the listing of the dune sage brush lizard either as a threatened or an endangered species. We believe the Environmental Protection Agency should be abolished.

Sure, them there kind hearted, environmentally concerned big business types are looking out for our welfare.

Free Speech for the Clergy - We urge amendment of the Internal Revenue Code to allow a religious organization to address issues without fear of losing its tax-exempt status. We call for repeal of requirements that religious organizations send the government any personal information about their contributors.

If you want to be political, then you shouldn't be tax exempt. The same rules need to apply to everyone. The clergy doesn't warrent any special treatment.

Government Regulation of Religious Institutions - The state should have no power over licensing or training of clergy. The State should withdraw all imposed regulations.

They have regulations about that in Texas? I never heard of any in New Jersey.

Empowering Local Entities Concerning Religious Meetings - We support the right of local entities to determine their own policies regarding religious clubs and meetings on all properties owned by the same without interference.

Another attempt to get around the first amendment.

Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) - We oppose this act through which the federal government would coerce religious business owners and employees to violate their own beliefs and principles by affirming what they consider to be sinful and sexually immoral behavior.

I'm the boss so my ethics are going to be your ethics or else. What happened to all that freedom of religion concern? I guess you're only concerned when your beliefs are affected.

Remedies to Activist Judiciary - We call Congress and the President to use their constitutional powers to restrain activist judges. We urge Congress to adopt the Judicial Conduct Act of 2005 and remove judges who abuse their authority. Further, we urge Congress to withhold Supreme Court jurisdiction in cases involving abortion, religious freedom, and the Bill of Rights.

Imagine what they would say if we didn’t have a right wing SCOTUS!? Do you suppose these guys have ever heard of the "seperation of powers?" Isn't it amazing that they only support the Constitution when they can twist it enough to make it look like it supports their position.

Voter Rights ActWe urge that the Voter Rights Act of 1965 codified and updated in 1973 be repealed and not reauthorized.

One has to wonder why? They don't say. It couldn't have anything to do with black folks being able to vote could it?

Campaign Finance Reform - We urge immediate repeal of the McCain-Feingold Act.

Have to make sure that only the rich can obtain political office.

Enforcing the Platform - Every Republican is responsible for implementing this platform. Party candidates should indicate their positions on platform planks before their acceptance on the ticket and such information should be available on the Party website.

You VILL support der Party position or you VILL regret it! Seig Heil!

Filibuster We support return to the traditional Filibuster in the U.S. Senate.

Just like in them good old segregation days. The "traditional Filibuster" probably did more to delay civil rights in this country than any other single entity.

Religious Symbols - We oppose any governmental action to restrict, prohibit, or remove public display of the Decalogue or other religious symbols.

But what about the "seperation of church and state" you say? We're getting to that in a bit so be patient.

Pledge of Allegiance - We support adoption of the Pledge Protection Act. We also urge that the National Motto “In God We Trust” and National Anthem be protected from legislative and judicial attack.

WTF does that even mean? How do you protect things from legislative and judicial attack? Appoint a dictator?

Flag Desecration - Any form of desecration of the American Flag is an act of disregard for our nation and its people and penalties should be established for such.

Except that the SCOTUS has already declared this as an act of free speech in Texas v. Johnson 1989, and that would trump any law. You would need either a constitutional amendment or the overturning of the existing SCOTUS decision.

Symbols of American Heritage - We call upon governmental entities to protect all symbols of our American heritage from being altered in any way.

In any way? Does that include making sure every color is exactly the right shade and every detail exactly the right size?

Confederate Widows Plaque - We call for restoration of plaques honoring the Confederate Widow’s Pension Fund contribution that were illegally removed from the Texas Supreme Court building.


Marriage and Divorce - We believe in the sanctity of marriage and that the integrity of this institution should be protected at all levels of government. We urge the Legislature to rescind no-fault divorce laws. We support Covenant Marriage.

A desperate attempt to improve the lousy divorce rate in Texas? Actually, to be fair, the divorce rate in Texas in 2009 was 3.3 per 1,000 population which was actually a shade under the national average of 3.4. The rate in an equivalent Northeast state such as New York is 2.6 but people tend to get married later in the Northeast which reduces the divorce rate.

Family ValuesWe support the affirmation of traditional Judeo-Christian family values and oppose the continued assault on those values.

I see they didn’t bother to DEFINE those values though so you can just fill in whatever you want. An old propaganda trick. Since you fill in the blanks, you’re almost guaranteed to agree with the statement.

Supporting MotherhoodWe strongly support women who choose to devote their lives to their families and raising their children. We recognize their sacrifice and deplore the liberal assault on the family.

What about Apple Pie? Of course the fact that the “liberal” states have much lower divorce rates, crime rates and teenage pregnancy rates is irrelevant.

HomosexualityWe affirm that the practice of homosexuality tears at the fabric of society and contributes to the breakdown of the family unit. Homosexual behavior is contrary to the fundamental, unchanging truths that have been ordained by God, recognized by our country’s founders, and shared by the majority of Texans.

Well, at least they didn't define being gay as a choice. That's progress of a sort I suppose.

Right To Life - All innocent human life must be respected and safeguarded from fertilization to natural death; therefore, the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed.

Regardless of the situation? No real surprise here. The problem of course is they continue to overlook that the solution to abortion is the elimination of unwanted pregnancies which means making comprehensive sex education and contraception universally available.

Morning After Pill - We oppose sale and use of the dangerous “Morning After Pill.”

See what I nmean? At least they didn't go after the "Morning Before Pills."

UN Treaty on the Rights of the ChildWe unequivocally oppose the United States Senate’s ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

I'm not going down this road here. I may dedicate a different post to this one.

Classroom DisciplineWe recommend that local school boards and classroom teachers be given more authority to deal with disciplinary problems. Corporal punishment is effective and legal in Texas.

As applied by parents. If I were a teacher, I wouldn't even THINK about hitting a child. If a teacher ever hit one of my kids I would have keel hauled them.

Controversial TheoriesWe support objective teaching and equal treatment of all sides of scientific theories. We believe theories such as life origins and environmental change should be taught as challengeable scientific theories subject to change as new data is produced. Teachers and students should be able to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of these theories openly and without fear of retribution or discrimination of any kind.

Another dishonest attempt to get religious ideas into the science classroom.

(I’m NOT making the next one up. It’s REALLY in there.)

Knowledge-Based EducationWe oppose the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) (values clarification), critical thinking skills and similar programs that are simply a relabeling of Outcome-Based Education (OBE) (mastery learning) which focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority.

Isn’t that sort of the whole idea of education, challenging fixed beliefs?I mean, why would we want children that can actually THINK?

Sex EducationWe recognize parental responsibility and authority regarding sex education. We believe that parents must be given an opportunity to review the material prior to giving their consent. We oppose any sex education other than abstinence until marriage. 

See previous comments about teenage pregnancy rates and eliminating abortions. At last count Texas ranked 47th with a teenage pregancy rate of 88 per 1,000. Only Arizona (89), Nevada (90) and New Mexico (93) were worse. The National Average was 70. This is in the face of repeated statistics that demonstrate that "abstinence only" education doesn't work and what's required is a comprehensive sex education approach. It's perfectly ok to emphesize abstinence because, in the final analysis, it is still the only foolproof contraceptive method but that shouldn't be all there is.

Parental School ChoiceWe encourage the Governor and the Texas Legislature to enact child-centered school funding options which fund the student, not schools or districts, to allow maximum freedom of choice in public, private, or parochial education for all children.

Another dishonest approach toward funding religious schools with tax dollars.

Religious Freedom in Public SchoolsWe urge school administrators and officials to inform Texas school students specifically of their First Amendment rights to pray and engage in religious speech, individually or in groups, on school property without government interference. We urge the Legislature to end censorship of discussion of religion in our founding documents and encourage discussing those documents.

Well, at least they didn’t call for the return of organized school prayer (not yet anyway).

Safeguarding Our Religious LibertiesWe affirm that the public acknowledgement of God is undeniable in our history and is vital to our freedom, prosperity and strength. We pledge our influence toward a return to the original intent of the First Amendment and toward dispelling the myth of separation of church and state.

I told you we'd get to the "seperation of church and state." At least they're honest about it. Thomas Jefferson and James Madison would probably like a word with these people.

We support the principles regarding the public economy as stated in the Republican Party Platform of 1932…

1932!? They blew right by Ronald Reagan and went all the way back to Herbert Hoover! In other words, on the economic front, the Republicans haven't learned anything in the last 80 years!

Workers’ CompensationWe urge the Legislature to resist making Workers’ Compensation mandatory for all Texas employers.

So what if people get hurt on the job? Worker's Compensation is actually a good deal for both sides since it protects the employer from getting their asses sued for negligence.

Minimum WageWe believe the Minimum Wage Law should be repealed.

How about we get rid of them there Communist child labor laws while we're at it but, whatever you do, don't you touch them government guarantees for long term corporate investments. That there is necessary for our Capitalist way of life.

United NationsWe support the withdrawal of the United States from the United Nations and the removal of U.N. headquarters from U.S. soil.

Oh great, can you imagine the U.N. without adult supervision?

International OrganizationsWe support U.S. withdrawal from the International Monetary Fund, the World Trade Organization and the World Bank.

Can you spell I-S-O-L-A-T-I-O-N-I-S-M? I see the yearning for 1932 extends beyond economics.

There were a lot more that I simply don't agree with but wouldn't consider over the top. There were also a surprising number that I agreed with which is sort of interesting. If we could start with the things we agree on, we could at least make some progress while we're working on the things we disagree on.

I find it utterly appalling that a major political party in the 21st century can take these positions. The Zeitgeist never stands still. If it's not progressing, then it's regressing to the oppressions of the past. This is why we can never be complacent. The forces of darkness never rest and have to be fought whenever and wherever they're encountered. The sad part about it is, these people probably consider themselves patriots.

Afghan Woman’s Execution

A video obtained by Reuter’s allegedly shows a woman being executed for adultery at close range via shots from an automatic rifle. The execution was carried out in front of a crowd of approximately 150 men who cheer the event praising the “mujahideen,” a name the Taliban use for themselves. This reportedly happened in Shinwari, about an hour outside of Kabul.

Needless to say the Afghani government condemns the atrocity in the strongest terms. Lucky for them such a priceless piece of propaganda materialized during a major donor’s summit in Tokyo where $16 billion in development aid was pledged over the next four years.

The Taliban has denied any involvement.

This story bothers me. It’s just a bit too pat. If you wanted the perfect argument for the need for financial support it’s hard to come up with a better one than this. I smell a rat.

I mean think about it. It’s about the grossest violation of women’s rights you could come up with and we all know that’s a real issue in conservative Islamic countries. How scary is it that most people accept this video at face value and, to be honest, I wouldn’t be overly shocked if it turned out to be true.

Then we have the “cheering crowd” that, luckily, pinned the vile deed on the Taliban. This is sort of like the broken watch that identifies the time of the murder. And, luck of luck, there just happened to be someone with a video camera that was allowed to capture the whole thing for posterity. How many video cameras do you figure there are in Afghanistan?

Look, if you allow something to be videotaped then it’s usually because you think what you’re doing is right. Yet the Taliban have denied they’re responsible. Did they have a change of heart? They don’t strike me as the sort of folks that allow themselves to be swayed by popular opinion.

Maybe I’m just getting too cynical in my old age but I don’t like the feel of this one. I haven't seen the video. Perhaps if I did I wouldn't have any doubts, but I can't shake the "government hoax" feeling on this one. Then again, it wouldn't be very easy to keep 150 conspirators quiet either so perhaps I'm being overly suspicious.

Money, the Key to Politics

Apparently, the new golden rule is he who has the gold gets elected. To say the Obama camp is concerned about Mitt Romney’s ability to attract donation dollars would be a severe understatement.

My latest e-mail from Robby Mook takes the grim approach. “I won't mince words: If Mitt and his SuperPAC backers can bury us under a wave of corporate special interest cash right now, we will lose in November.”

Now I know exactly what you’re thinking. You’re thinking “who the hell is Robby Mook?” Yeah, that was sort of my reaction.

Robby Mook is the executive director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) and I suppose he is tasked with attempting to win back the House of Representatives. I figure he has two chances, slim and none.

But that’s not the point. The point is Will Rodgers bit of wisdom. “I don’t belong to any organized political party, I’m a Democrat.”

I’m no expert, but I sort of have this impression that the problem with the Democrats is their fund raising is so chaotic. This are the e-mail requests I’ve gotten in just the last couple of days.

Robby Mook 7/8/12 – This is the grim message from the House Democrats.

Joe Biden 7/7/12 – Obama/Biden of course crying about Romney’s $100 million

Stephanie Cutter 7/7/12 – The Truth Team? I don’t even know who the hell the Truth Team is but apparently they support Obama.

Bob Menendez 7/6/12 – New Jersey Senate.

Convention Host Committee 7/6/12 – Buy convention stuff.

Jim Messina 7/6/12 – Obama/Biden also crying about the $100 million.

Diane Doukas – 7/6/12 – This is a good one. An invitation to a Westchester Brunch with Michelle Obama with tickets at $1,500, $5,000 and $25,000.

Joe Biden 7/5/12 – Obama/Biden, win a chance to come “hang out” whatever that means.

Kirsten Gillibrand 7/4/12 – New York Senate. This actually isn’t a request for money. It’s simply a Happy July 4th message. The problem of course is it got buried with all the donation requests so I figured it was one of them. I’m still a bit confused as to why I’m on her mailing list.

Nancy Pelosi 7/3/12 – Crowing about a fundraising record after the SCOTUS upheld the health care law. This is sort of out of sync with the rest of the panicky e-mails. Probably went out before Romney’s numbers came in but it makes you wonder how much of a fund raising issue there really is.

Jim Messina – 7/3/12 – A coupon code for the Obama store that I didn’t take advantage of.

Alan Grayson 7/3/12 – He’s running for congress in Florida. Why the hell he is sending me stuff is even a bigger mystery than why Gillibrand is sending me stuff.

Julianna Smoot 7/1/12 – An Obama shirt offer but it’s a really ugly shirt and, besides, I’d have to be gay to even think about wearing it. It’s seriously aimed at the under 30 female set.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz 7/1/12 – This one is from the Democratic National Committee. That reminds me, I don’t even know if I’ve paid my DNC dues for this year?

And this is just the e-mail. It doesn’t count the snail mail solicitations nor the phone call I got from the Democratic governors committee. That was a good one. I originally said “NO” since there is no governor’s race in New Jersey but they wheedled me out of $50 anyway.

I get so many of these things that the tendency is to just freeze and respond to none of them. I suspect the Democrats would do better to organize their fund raising rather than having such a free for all. I should talk, I don’t keep track myself. Ok, from now on I’m logging all donations.