Friday, August 1, 2008

Courting the Stupid Vote: The Latest Issues

What issues currently interest stupid voters?  Or more precisely, what issues do the various campaigns believe interest or could interest stupid voters?

Here’s a recap of recent items:

1)        Washington Post, July 30, 2008: Obama “Snubs” Troops: “For four days, Sen. John McCain and his allies have accused Sen. Barack Obama of snubbing wounded soldiers by canceling a visit to a military hospital because he could not take reporters with him, despite no evidence that the charge is true…  McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds said again yesterday that the Republican's version of events is correct, and that Obama canceled the visit because he was not allowed to take reporters and cameras into the hospital. "It is safe to say that, according to press reports, Barack Obama avoided, skipped, canceled the visit because of those reasons," he said. "We're not making a leap here."  Asked repeatedly for the "reports," Bounds provided three examples, none of which alleged that Obama had wanted to take members of the media to the hospital.”  (Go to .)

It has been documented that Obama has often visited troops in the course of his European and Asian trip.  In this case, since bringing the media was never a consideration, cancellation could have nothing to due with the media’s absence.  It may have been a snafu of some sort, but nothing to be insulted over.

It is guaranteed, of course, that the complete lack of evidence is irrelevant to the McCain campaign or many stupid voters.  This is a big win for McCain in the war for the stupid vote.

2)         Part A: Joe Conason, Salon, July 25, 2008: The Surge is “Working”: The rebuttals of McCain's embarrassing assertion that the Sunni insurgency's turn toward the U.S. and away from al-Qaida came because of the surge have been ample and devastating.  His badly skewed sense of time and events has raised fresh doubts about his fitness for the presidency, since he was either incapable of comprehending contemporary facts or intentionally misleading the public when he told CBS anchor Katie Couric (which was edited in a manner to make McCain seem less ignorant) that the Anbar awakening "began" during the surge (and that troop escalation enabled the U.S. to protect a Sunni sheik who was actually assassinated during that period).

But aside from that moment of untruth, there are deeper problems in all the airy assertions about the triumph of the surge.

First there is the matter of that shift by the Sunni insurgents, which had nothing to do with the escalation.  What changed the minds of the Sunni rebels in Anbar province and elsewhere was a revamped counterinsurgency doctrine that emphasized careful bribery over indiscriminate reprisals -- and that seized upon the growing alienation of the Sunnis from the bullying, murderous leadership of al-Qaida in Iraq.  The American military officers who oversaw and implemented that strategy, including Gen. David Petraeus, deserve full credit.  Even Petraeus, a strong supporter of the surge, makes very limited claims about its role in bolstering the Sunni turn, however.

In fact, it was the prospect of an early U.S. withdrawal, not the surge that prompted the Sunni insurgents to change sides, according to the American officers who worked with their leaders.  A fascinating article in the current issue of Foreign Affairs by Georgetown professor Colin Kahl and retired Gen. William Odom quotes Marine Maj. Gen. John Allen, who ran the tribal engagement operations in Anbar during 2007, saying that the Democratic sweep in the 2006 midterm elections and the increasing demand for withdrawal by the American public "did not go unnoticed" among the province's Sunni sheiks.  ‘They talked about it all the time.’

… perhaps the most plausible reason is that there are many fewer Iraqis to kill in the places where the worst violence occurred, because so many of them have abandoned their homes or left the country altogether.  The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees estimates that roughly 5 million Iraqis have fled, with nearly half of them now living in Syria, Jordan or other neighboring states.  Others belong to the cohort known as the "internally displaced," who have sought refuge from the militias "cleansing" Baghdad in either the northern or southern provinces.  When there isn't anybody left to kill, the murder statistics tend to improve.”  (Go to .)

In his interview with Katie Couric, McCain said, "Colonel MacFarland was contacted by one of the major Sunni sheiks," said the Senator.  "Because of the surge we were able to go out and protect that sheik and others.  And it began the Anbar awakening."

The Arizona Republican's campaign went further the next day, claiming that the major figures that turned around Anbar province would have been killed had the surge policy not been in place.  "If Barack Obama had had his way, the Sheiks who started the Awakening would have been murdered at the hands of al Qaeda," said spokesman Tucker Bounds.

As it turns out, the major Sunni sheik responsible for coordinating the Sunni Awakening to turn against al Qaeda in western Iraq, Abdul Sattar Abu Risha, was assasinated in Anbar province by an al Qaeda group in September 2007 - the midst of the U.S. surge.”  (Go to .)

McCain’s “Surge is Working” strategy nonetheless is probably a huge success in winning the hearts and minds – well, at least the hearts – of stupid voters.  The timid Mainstream Media does little to correct the impression.  Facts mean little, and many, if not most voters will not know the history of the surge, the “Anbar Awakening” and the fact that the completion of “ethnic cleansing” which has left many persons as refugees in their own country, has led to a lessening of violence because it has left fewer persons to kill and persecute as neighborhoods in Iraq become increasingly homogenous and segregated.

It also does not matter that McCain claimed that it was “The Surge” that protected the founder of the Anbar Awakening” when in fact Sheikh Sattar, the founder and leader of the tribes that initiated the movement was assassinated in September 2007, at the height of “The Surge.”

And, oh yeah: what was the actual purpose of “The Surge”?

From Wikipedia: According to the "Fact Sheet: The New Way Forward in Iraq " issued by the White House, "the President's New Iraq Strategy Is Rooted In Six Fundamental Elements" as follow:

1.         Let the Iraqis lead;

2.         Help Iraqis protect the population;

3.         Isolate extremists;

4.         Create space for political progress;

5.         Diversify political and economic efforts; and

6.         Situate the strategy in a regional approach.”  (Go to .)

Which of the above items has “The Surge” been instrumental in accomplishing?  Element 1 is doubtful though not ridiculous.  Iraqi troops are still not as independent as needed.  Element 2 has certainly not been accomplished – ethnic cleansing has been carried out.  Item 3 was probably accomplished via the “Anbar Awakening” and the threat of US troops leaving and not via “The Surge”.  Items 4, 5 & 6 are probably the most doubtful of all the elements.  “The Surge” is no slam-dunk, though it seems to have done no harm in Iraq and may have indeed succeeded, in a sense, in closing the barn door after all the horses ran out.  But “The Surge” almost inarguably has harmed US interest overall by depriving the US of the ability to divert more effort to Afghanistan and Pakistan, where Al Qaeda and the Taliban actually exist and threaten us and the US-backed government of Afghanistan.

Part B: Barack Obama: “I had no doubt… we would see an improvement”: An appeal to ignorance is not confined to one political party however.  In January 2007, candidate Barack Obama said, "We cannot impose a military solution on what has effectively become a civil war.  And until we acknowledge that reality -- we can send 15,000 more troops, 20,000 more troops, 30,000 more troops, I don't know any expert on the region or any military officer that I've spoken to privately that believes that that is going to make a substantial difference on the situation on the ground."  (CBS' "Face The Nation," 1/14/07.)

The above quote may have indeed been true and sensible at the time it was originally made.  However, it is fair to say that it is possible that “The Surge” has indeed made a “substantial difference on the ground” even if, in the long run, this difference is irrelevant because of political failures of the Iraqi government or if, taken as a whole, US interests were harmed.  However, it would be an appeal to ignorance to say “Now, I had no doubt, and I said at the time when I opposed the surge, that given how wonderfully our troops perform, if we place 30,000 more troops in there, then we would see an improvement in the security situation and we would see a reduction in the violence."  (Sen. Barack Obama, Democrat Presidential Candidate Debate, Manchester, NH, 1/5/08)  (Go to .)

The above contradictory statements rely on ignorance and yet are easily discovered – if one wants to make the effort to find the facts.

The facts do not matter, however, to Stupid Voters and certainly a Stupid Voter is stupid precisely because they won’t make the effort to find anything out.  In the battle of “The Surge is Working” vs. “I had no doubt… we would see an improvement” we most likely have a HUGE advantage to McCain in the race for the Stupid Vote.

The Reasoning Voter (and Reasoning News Media member) should not be swayed either way; instead the Reasoning Person might ask, “Why did we need a surge, whether it would work or not, in the first place?  Who or what line of thinking put us in this position in the first place?  Are we better off overall with this war, or would we have been better off with a continuation of the UN weapons inspections and where did the candidates stand on that when that all important decision had to be made?

When was the last time you heard that series of questions asked of the candidates by the Mainstream Media?

Answer: Stupid Voters probably don’t care, but one could certainly wish that the Mainstream Media were up to the challenge so that we could give the opportunity to Stupid Voters to prove that they’re not so stupid.

Friday, June 6, 2008

The Insanity that is the War on Iraq

(NY Times, 4/11/08) A senior aide of Moktada al-Sadr, the radical anti-American cleric, was killed in Najaf, the Shiite holy city south of Baghdad, as he returned home from prayers on Friday in what Sadrists officials said was an assassination carried out by unknown gunmen.

The aide, Sayyed Riyadh al-Nuri, who was a senior official in the Sadr office in Najaf, was also related to Mr. Sadr by marriage. His sister is married to Mr. Sadr’s brother.

The killing is certain to increase tensions between Mr. Sadr’s Mahdi Army and government security forces, who fought a huge battle in Basra last month and have been engaged in heavy fighting in Mr. Sadr’s eastern Baghdad stronghold, Sadr City.

Hassan al-Rubaie, a Sadrist member of Parliament, said: "We condemn this attack against Sayyed Nuri and we call on the Iraqi government to set up an investigative committee to stop the security situation deteriorating."  (End excerpt.)

This episode, one of uncountable similar episodes that have already occurred and will again in the future, serves to display the insanity of the War in Iraq, as if we needed another lesson in its insanity.

As the situation stands right now, the United States is in the position of supporting an Iraqi government that is headed by Prime Minister Nouri Miliki, a Shiite who is closely aligned with Iran.  Gunmen, probably associated with the government, and acting as a “death squad” have just killed an aide of the radical anti-American, but more independent cleric, Moktada al-Sadr, who may be in hiding – in Iran!

Meanwhile, on the campaign trail, the candidates try to avoid dealing with the realities on the ground; one side (guess which one) paints an upbeat picture and dreams about the day of “victory” to come, while the other side simply talks about getting the hell out without revealing how to avoid an internecine conflagration.

To further make one’s head spin, a tentative cease-fire is in place (at least for a moment) even as Sadr City, a Mahdi Army stronghold, is occasionally bombed by US pilots at the direction of the government forces!  Keep in mind that Sadr City is densely populated with civilians.

Questions: What would we prefer happen?  Who would we prefer to prevail?  Is it good that Iran’s man in Iraq, Maliki, might benefit from the assassination by a death squad of an American hating cleric’s assistant who is not as aligned with Iran as Maliki?

Answer: Who could possibly answer this?

What is clear is that there is no positive aspect of this for our country.  We have the choice of supporting a government that may be sending out death squads against an enemy who hates us even more but who is somewhat less aligned withIran, our country’s most dangerous enemy.

Some choice…  Some war…

What to do About Creationism Course in Long Island, New York

In the February 2008 issue of the INQUIRER, we reported on the Creationism course being offered in the Northport-East Northport Union Free School District’s adult education program.  (Go to

This course was a blatantly un-scientific course in religious instruction being offered at a public school, partly funded, according to information provided by the district, by tax dollars.

CFI Community of Long Island, as per a request by a parent in the district, beginning in October 2007, wrote a number of letters to the district (copying the media) regarding the course offering.  We requested information on the process of offering courses at the school.

The letters and complaints went unanswered for a long time until a letter from the school district’s attorneys was received by CFI Community of LI in early March 2008.  The response consisted of a cover letter from the law firm of Ingerman Smith L.L.P. by Warren H. Richmond, dated February 27, 2008, and an opinion letter that was issued by the law firm on March 14, 2007, a year earlier!  The opinion was issued after the initial offering of the course to the public in fall of 2006.

Here are some excerpts from the legal opinion issued on 3/14/07 from the law firm to Ms. Arlene Munson, President of the Board of Education of this school district:

I am writing in response to the Board’s request for a written opinion regarding various issues related to courses offered in the District’s Continuing Education Program.  These issues have come to the fore as a result of the objection of a member of the community, Dr. Frederic Lipfert, to a course entitled “What is Creation Science” which was offered in the fall of 2006.

Specifically, two concerns were raised by Dr. Lipfert.  First, that the offering of this course as a part of the District’s Continuing Education Program constitutes religious advocacy in violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.  Second, that the description contained in the Continuing Education brochure had the effect of suggesting that the District supported the proposition that there is no scientific basis for the theory of evolution…

Freedom of Expression

Identifying the forum

As noted by the US Court of Appeals for the 2nd District in Bronx, Household of Faith vs. Board of Education of the City of NY, 331 F.3d 342 (2nd Cir. 2003), the right to exercise free speech on government property depends on the type of forum where the speechoccurs.  The US Supreme Court has identified the categories of fora: (1) the traditional public forum; (2) the non-public forum (3) the designated public forum, which includes a subcategory known as the “limited public forum…”

Restrictions governing access to a limited public forum, including content-based restraints, are permitted as long as two criteria are met: (1) they are reasonable in light of the purpose served by the forum; and (2) they are viewpoint neutral…

Restrictions must be reasonable

In considering what is reasonable, courts will focus on whether a limitation is consistent with preserving the property for the purpose to which it is dedicated…

The court noted that in its previous decision of Planned Parenthood v. Clark County School District, 941 F.2d 817 (9th Cir. 1991) (en banc):

We recognized that a public secondary school has legitimate concerns “such as respecting audience maturity, disassociating itself from speech inconsistent with its educational mission, and avoiding the appearance of endorsing views” that render a school’s restriction on advertising reasonable.

Restrictions must be viewpoint neutral

Even if a governmental entity’s restriction of access to a limited public forum is reasonable, it will not pass constitution muster unless it meets a second requirement – that of being viewpoint neutral.  Viewpoint discrimination occurs when a government discriminates against particular views taken by speakers on a subject that is generally allowed, rather than excluding the subject altogether as a topic for discussion.  Thus, in viewpoint discrimination, a governmental entity impermissibly regulates speech on the basis of the speaker’s ideology or opinion or perspective.  Permissible content discrimination, on the other hand, excludes an entire category of speech.

The Establishment Clause

In applying these principles to the Creation Science offering, it becomes apparent that rejection of the course would run afoul of the First Amendment.  This is so for several reasons.  First, the District has never, by policy or practice, placed any limitation on the subject matter to be offered in adult education courses.  Indeed, the administration is not aware of any other instance in which a course has been rejected, nor has there ever been any attempt to review or monitor the adult education curriculum.  In this light, rejection of the Creation Science course because of the religious or scientific view presented would clearly be deemed unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination.  Second, unlike the course offered as part of the school curriculum, this course is presented to adults, outside the regular school day and only to those who elect to take it.  As such, the coercive effect of presenting religious materials to a captive audience of students, which various courts have found objectionable, is plainly absent.  Finally, any claim of unconstitutional endorsement of religion by the district is removed by the disclaimer which appears in the Adult Education brochure to the effect that the views presented in the classes are those of the individual instructor and should not be interpreted as endorsed by the School District.

Dr. Lipfert’s second point, i.e. that the brochure’s description of the Creation Science course might be interpreted by some as indicating the District’s support for the proposition that there is no scientific basis for the theory of evolution is not without merit.  The course description could have more clearly indicated that this was the view of the instructor.  There is no legal impediment to the District reviewing and where appropriate editing course description, to this end, and it is recommended that it do so…

As an intermediate step, the Board could limit the content areas to be offered in the Adult Education Program, precluding course in certain areas such as religion, politics or other areas as it may deem appropriate, provided that it does not preclude courses based on viewpoint… The Creation Science course provides an excellent example in that a question exists as to whether this course can suitably be categorized as a course in religion…

In view of the above, the Board must address the threshold question of whether it wishes to continue the Adult Education Program in the same manner as in the past or whether it wishes to modify it so as to restrict the content or subject matter of the courses offered…

Very truly yours, Warren H. Richmond.

Some more background:

The Continuing Education brochure offered by the district does have disclaimers in it, such as “none of the views presented in the classes should be interpreted as endorsed by the district.”

But the information sent along with the legal opinion also notes that “The Community Services Program’s activities shall be supported by a combination of registration and material’s fees, local taxation, and/or Federal Aid as is currently available for that purpose…”

There’s more!

In researching the story, a letter dated April 6, 2008, to the editor of the Times of Northport was discovered who was responding to Dr. Stephen Uzzo, the Northport resident who first alerted CFI Community of Long Island.  Here is an excerpt:

“In response to Mr. Uzzo's September 27 letter condemning Creationism as an adult continuing education elective course offering, I find it fascinating that a certified teacher would espouse censorship instead of debate.

I do not know if Creationism is a pseudoscience or not but, far from being the scientific certainty that Mr. Uzzo represents, there are serious and unexplained gaps in evolutionary theory (which is why it is called "theory"), including an almost total lack of fossil records on "transitional" evolutionary life forms.

There is a dynamic and rigorous debate regarding on the one hand a theory that remains, to a large extent, unproven, and on the other a theory that is essentially unprovable. Mr. Uzzo's intent appears to be to stifle this debate, rather than, as a good and experienced educator, offer rebuttal.

In the larger context, Mr. Uzzo's letter provides an important example of a phenomenon that appears to be spreading in the world of higher education — intolerance for free speech...

Perhaps Mr. Uzzo's intentions are benign but I don't think we as a community or society need protection from ideas.  The antidote for ignorance is exactly what Mr. Uzzo opposes — freedom of speech.  Greg Munson, October 03, 2007.  (The writer is married to local Board of Education President Arlene Munson.)”  (Go to

One could probably assume that Mr. Munson wrote the above letter with the approval of the B. of E. President who happens to be his wife!

So, in a nutshell, the Northport-East Northport School District has decided that they will have no standards regarding what will be offered to the public in their Adult Educational program!  ANYTHING GOES!

In addition, it seems clear that at least the husband of the President of the Board of Education seems to think that issues such as “Creationism vs. Evolution,” or “Global Warming,” or “gender-based” biological distinctions are simply “free speech” matters not subject to scientific inquiry; and other (I’m sure coincidentally) right wing hot button issues such as “affirmative action” and “illegal immigration” are similarly only tangentially amenable to scientific inquiry.  In fact, it would seem that scientific inquiry is just another form of mere opinion, on an equal footing with religious or political dogma; is this reading a bit too much into the above letter?  It would seem that Public Schools do not stand for anything, and especially not science and reason and, as a consequence, quality education.

What will happen when the School District is confronted with a course on “Does Science Give Evidence Against the Existence of God?” which actually is a totally legitimate area of inquiry?

How about a course on “Does Southern Baptism Have Racist Origins?” again, a totally legitimate area of inquiry?

What would happen if the school district is confronted with an obviously odious course such as “Why the Holocaust Never Happened.”

What would happen if the Creationism Course is expanded into an explanation of the nature of the human races as explained by Dr. Henry Morris who wrote the textbook actually used in the Creationism course?  Would a course entitled “Why Africans are Destined to be the Servants of Humanity” be an acceptable course offering?

How about a course in “2 + 2 = 5”?

The School Board is probably simply praying that no one offers such courses.  (And of course, nothing fails like prayer.)

The Northport-East Northport School District should make a principled stand for quality education and prevent their schools and taxes from being used to promote harmful superstition and other non-scientific dogma.  They should decide that unscientific dogma is “inconsistent with its educational mission” and that the school will not allow religious or secular political dogma or superstition of any kind in the classrooms.  The key words are “dogma” and “superstition” which imply beliefs that are by definition un-testable and beyond debate.  What Free Speech issue is at stake when the course is state-funded religious instruction?  Isn’t this actually an establishment of a particular religion?

If taxpayer dollars are behind a course in any amount, religious or political dogma does not belong in its offerings; keep in mind that Federal Courts have found ID to be a religious belief.  Let those persons who want to preach dogma rent the space outright if they want to offer a course, and remove them from the district produced brochures.

This is all unlikely to occur. And indeed, there is a measure of sympathy with the plight of, we’re sure, many of the members of the Board of Education who are probably extremely uncomfortable with offering courses based on superstition in their school building and funded in part with tax dollars; at the same time they have concern about lawsuits from the religious fundamentalists that would be sure to follow a banning of religious courses disguised as science.

There is no time like the present to take a stand for quality education; the School Board is urged to create guidelines that separate course offerings that are evidence-based versus those based on the supernatural or the unquestioned assumptions of their promoters.  What a concept: Schools that proudly offer knowledge, reason, evidence, understanding and real free inquiry!

Where Do the Candidates Stand on Gay Rights/Marriage?

At the time this article is being written, the likely major party candidates for President are Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. John McCain.  Rather than generalize about each candidate, here are some actual statements, quotes and votes by each on the topic at hand.  Then we’ll generalize about and analyze the candidates!

John McCain: On a recent appearance on the Ellen DeGeneres Show, McCain politely noted his opposition to treating homosexuals as if they were entitled to equal rights, if one can do such a thing politely.  Without explaining why, he said he opposes gay marriage and believes in "the unique status of marriage between and man and a woman... and I know that we have a respectful disagreement on that issue.”

McCain, who, somewhat surprisingly for a conservative Republican, also opposes an amendment to the Constitution to ban same-sex unions, and voted against such an amendment, and claims that this issue should be left in the hands of states, told the DeGeneres audience that people should be encouraged to enter into legal agreements, particularly for insurance and other areas where decisions need to be made.  Note that such agreements would do nothing to help gay couples gain the rights that married couples possess due to Federal Law.

The Human Rights Campaign, which advocates for equality for homosexuals, gave a 33% rating to McCain in 2006.

Here is a quick summary of the McCain position from his website:

“The family represents the foundation of Western Civilization and civil society and John McCain believes the institution of marriage is a union between one man and one woman.  It is only this definition that sufficiently recognizes the vital and unique role played by mothers and fathers in the raising of children, and the role of the family in shaping, stabilizing, and strengthening communities and our nation.

As with most issues vital to the preservation and health of civil society, the basic responsibility for preserving and strengthening the family should reside at the level of government closest to the people.  In their wisdom, the Founding Fathers reserved for the States the authority and responsibility to protect and strengthen the vital institutions of our civil society.  They did so to ensure that the voices of America's families could not be ignored by an indifferent national government or suffocated through filibusters and clever legislative maneuvering in Congress.”  (Go to

Analysis: Although McCain did not say as much, his non-explanation for his oppositionto same-sex marriage speaks volumes.  It is undeniable that not all children will be raised by a mother and a father; divorce, as John McCain knows, is rampant, and all too often one parent or the other is absent; yet he is not demanding an end to divorce!  Far more children are affected by heterosexual divorce than would ever be affected by gay marriage.

McCain’s real motivation, other than appeasing the Religious Right, lies in religious taboo; like many (not all) religious persons, he believes that God would prefer that gays not lead happy lives and denying them equal marriage rights would add to their unhappiness.  If his God wanted gays to have happier and better lives, wouldn’t he support equal rights for them even as gays continue to sin?  They’d sin either way, no?  Why not have some legal benefits in the meantime?

This one issue displays all that is wrong with religious morality; numerous people are convinced to behave in a manner that makes life WORSE for others with no benefit to anyone; and all because of a religious taboo.

Barack Obama: (From Barack Obama supported gay rights during his Illinois Senate tenure.  He sponsored legislation in Illinois that would ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

In the United States Senate: Every two years the Human Rights Campaign, the largest national gay and lesbian organization, issues a scorecard for members of the Senate based on their sponsorship and voting on key issues of importance to gay and lesbian citizens.  Barack Obama scored 89 out of 100% in the 2006 scorecard.

Here's how HRC rated Barack Obama:

Hate Crimes: Barack Obama co-sponsored legislation to expand federal hate crimes laws to include crimes perpetrated because of sexual orientation and gender identity.

Employment Non-Discrimination: Barack Obama supports the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and believes it should be expanded to include sexual orientation and gender identity.

Don't Ask, Don't Tell - Gays in the Military: Barack Obama believes we need to repeal the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy and allow gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military.  His campaign literature says, "The key test for military service should be patriotism, a sense of duty, and a willingness to serve."

Gay & Lesbian Adoption: Barack Obama believes gays and lesbians should have the same rights to adopt children as heterosexuals.

Gay Marriage/ Civil Unions: Although Barack Obama has said that he supports civil unions, he is against gay marriage.  In an interview with the Chicago Daily Tribune, Obama said, "I'm a Christian. And so, although I try not to have my religious beliefs dominate or determine my political views on this issue, I do believe that tradition, and my religious beliefs say that marriage is something sanctified between a man and a woman."

Barack Obama did vote against a Federal Marriage Amendment and opposed the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996 both of which opposed gay marriage.

He said he would support civil unions between gay and lesbian couples, as well as letting individual states determine if marriage between gay and lesbian couples should be legalized.

"Giving them a set of basic rights would allow them to experience their relationship and live their lives in a way that doesn't cause discrimination," Obama said.  "I think it is the right balance to strike in this society."  Sources: Chicago Daily Tribune, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force” (Go to

Analysis: Obama certainly has dealt with more detail on the issues than has Senator McCain and iscompletely supportive of gay rights with one exception.  Once again, however, this candidate, for religious reasons (supposedly) and a belief that God wants gays to suffer or be stigmatized, has not been able to bring himself to support gay marriage, although as John McCain also did, he voted against a Constitutional Amendment that would have banned it.

It may seem harsh to accuse the religious who oppose equal rights for gays of desiring misery for them.  But how else can it be explained?  Can it be described as the “collateral damage” of not wanting to legitimize stable and committed homosexual relationships?  What would be the difference?  Wouldn’t opposition of gay marriage be an encouragement of unstable and uncommitted homosexual relationships?

Once again, if God existed and truly cared about the homosexuals he supposedly created in his image, then why would he promote lesser treatment of gays among his followers, since we’re all “sinners” anyway?  There is no escape; making the lives of homosexuals worse seems to be the mandate from God to his followers.  That’s what BELIEVERS are saying.

There is one other possibility regarding Obama’s position on gay marriage; his opposition to gay marriage may be entirely political; it may still be too toxic to openly support equal rights for everyone in a country as religious as theUS and have any chance of becoming president.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Macy's Window

There is a saying of some sort that goes along the lines of “no one will notice you doing the obvious if you do it Macy’s window”.  Indeed, how often have you looked for something that ultimately was right in front of you?

In an article in the San Francisco Chronicle, “Attorney General Michael Mukasey defended the Bush administration's wiretapping program Thursday to a San Francisco audience and suggested the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks could have been prevented if the government had been able to monitor an overseas phone call to the United States.

The government "shouldn't need a warrant when somebody picks up a phone in Iraq and calls the United States," Mukasey said in a question-and-answer session after a speech to the Commonwealth Club.

Before the 2001 terrorist attacks, he said, "we knew that there had been a call from someplace that was known to be a safe house in Afghanistan and we knew that it came to the United States.  We didn't know precisely where it went.  You've got 3,000 people who went to work that day, and didn't come home, to show for that."

Mukasey did not specify the call to which he referred.  He also did not explain why the government, if it knew of telephone calls from suspected foreign terrorists, hadn't sought a wiretapping warrant from a court established by Congress to authorize terrorist surveillance, or hadn't monitored all such calls without a warrant for 72 hours as allowed by law.  The Justice Department did not respond to a request for more information.

A congressional investigation found in 2003 that the National Security Agency had intercepted messages between one of the Sept. 11 hijackers and an al Qaeda safe house in the Middle East as early as 1999, but had not shared the information with other agencies.”  (Go to .)

On the surface, this was a plea by Mukasey to give US phone companies immunity for breaking the law in assisting the Federal Government in their unwarranted spying on Americans by appealing to our fears.  By brazenly disclosing the “existence” of this phone call, Mukasey must think that manywill not see either the obvious untruth or incompetence of the whole situation.

It is legal for the government to intercept foreign phone calls.  As far as anyone can tell, there is no legal reason why they could not have done so in this case.  Authorization can come up to 72 hours after the call is intercepted.  What, exactly, is the problem that giving immunity to phone companies would solve?  The FISA Court is right now almost a rubberstamp for the Federal Government when it makes requests.

If one, therefore, can see beyond their nose, and perceive the obvious, either Attorney General Mukasey was lying about the whole “al Qaeda phone call” episode, or he is saying that the Bush Administration was so incompetent and secretive, that they could not perform a legal surveillance properly.

Except that when he does it in “Macy’s Window,” many simply will not see the obvious at all.

Don’t believe it?  Here’s what the Wall Street Journal wrote:

“Mr. Mukasey said, ‘We (Americans) face the prospect of disclosure in open court of what they (the phone companies) did, which is tosay the means and the methods by which we collect foreign intelligence against foreign targets."  Al Qaeda would love that.  The cynics will call this "fear-mongering, ‘but most Americans will want to make sure we don't miss the next terror call.’”

Friday, March 28, 2008

Almost EVERYONE Should Leave Their Church!

Much has been made lately of comments made by a pastor at Barack Obama’s church.  Among Reverend Jeremiah Wright’s quotes (which are on video) are:

"We bombed Hiroshima, we bombed Nagasaki, and we nuked far more than the thousands in New York and the Pentagon, and we never batted an eye... We have supported state terrorism against the Palestinians and black South Africans, and now we are indignant.  Because the stuff we have done overseas has now brought right back into our own front yards.  America's chickens are coming home to roost."  (Sept. 2001, after 9-11)

In 2003 Wright also said, “The government gives them the drugs, builds bigger prisons, passes a three-strike law and then wants us to sing 'God Bless America.'  No, no, no, God damn America, that's in the Bible for killing innocent people.  God damn America for treating our citizens as less than human.  God damn America for as long as she acts like she is God and she is supreme."  In a sense, these are the least of Wright’s misstatements since there are elements of credibility interspersed among the criticisms of America.

For example it has been reported that an article appeared in a November/December 2007 edition of Trumpet, a magazine run by Wright's daughters where Wright described Italians as "garlic noses" and saying Jesus' crucifixion was "a public lynching Italian-style.  Wright has also been reported to have said publicly that the AIDS virus was engineered by the US government to harm Africans and under something called “The Pastor’s Page” in his daughter’s newsletter was printed an open letter to Oprah (Winfrey) from Ali Baghdadi, a person who has who said Mr. al-Bashir (the President of Sudan) is known to be gentle, kind, and pleasant.  His smile is genuine.  One can easily connect with al-Bashir for his humility, warmth, and frankness.  He doesn’t play dirty games.  He doesn’t speak in double tongues.

This is what Time Magazine says about al-Bashir:

“A top-100 list gives Omar al-Bashir too much company.  In a number of ignominious post-World War II categories, Sudan's dictator ranks in the top five:  most deaths as a result of war strategies (2.5 million in Darfur and southern Sudan), most people rendered homeless by scorched-earth policies (7 million), most villages burned to the ground (at least 1,500 in Darfur alone).  Bashir's one goal is to maintain power.  He has sown discord in Darfur with a classic divide-and-conquer strategy.  As a result, interethnic conflict is tearing the region apart, and attacks on aid agencies by government and rebel militias have left a million people beyond the reach of humanitarian aid. Bashir, 63, has blocked the deployment of a larger U.N.-led peacekeeping operation that would protect Darfur's civilians.”  (Go to,28804,1595326_1615513_1614671,00.html .)

So here is an excerpt from that article that Ali Baghdadi wrote and was placed on Rev. Wright’s Pastor’s Page:

“I must tell you that Israel was the closest ally to the White Supremacists of South Africa.  In fact, South Africa allowed Israel to test its nuclear weapons in the ocean off South Africa.  The Israelis were given a blank check: they could test whenever they desired and did not even have to ask permission.  Both worked on an ethnic bomb that kills Blacks and Arabs.”  (Go to

Interestingly, a number of other pastors have defended Rev. Wright, for a number of personally unintelligible reasons.  Few have thrown Rev. Wright under the bus.  Why?  More on this later.

Obama has said he was not present when these quotes were made.  We assume he would say that he had not read the newsletters either.

In a March 25, 2008 column in Newsday, and typical of opportunistic critics of Barack Obama, Charles Krauthammer wrote, “The question is why didn't he (Obama) leave that church?  Why didn't he leave -- why doesn't he leave even today -- a pastor who thundered not once but three times from the pulpit (on a DVD the church proudly sells) "God damn America"?  Obama's 5,000-word speech, fawned over as a great meditation on race, is little more than an elegantly crafted, brilliantly sophistic justification of that scandalous dereliction.”

There is no doubt that Rev. Wright is off the wall factually and morally.  And as a non-religious person, I believe that many religions, churches and religious institutions are worth leaving and rejecting, definitely including Sen. Obama’s church; but it is hypocritical for others to single out Obama’s church for an errant pastor whose angst and hysteria is probably the result of having lived through the era of Jim Crow, the Tuskegee Airmen, segregationand lynchings - while staying silent on the deep moral failings of numerous other religious institutions.  Why shouldn’t the focus on the sins of religions and churches be more broad and meaningful?

What about members of mainstream religious institutions that have up until the recent past, as policy, covered up child sexual abuse, made treaties with the Nazis, opposed inter-racial marriage, supported slavery, Jim Crow, segregation and even Apartheid?  Shouldn’t it be demanded that their members leave their churches also?  Oh yes, these are not small congregational institutions we’re talking about – we’re talking about the largest two denominations in the country, Roman Catholicism and much of Southern Baptism!

What about members of churches whose founders were notorious anti-Semites (e.g.: Martin Luther), or who married their followers’ wives and daughters (e.g.: Joseph Smith); or were racists preaching that blacks had the “Mark of Cain” and could not be church elders (e.g.: Brigham Young), or had segregated churches (e.g.: United Methodists); or taught that Jews were “perfidious” (e.g.: Roman Catholic); thanked God they were “chosen” (e.g.: Judaism); subjugated women (e.g.: too many to list); or that one should not be friends with unbelievers, that to die a martyr for one’s religion would guarantee paradise (e.g.: Islam) and that all those outside the chosen faith were doomed to eternal punishment (e.g.: Islam, Christianity)?

Could this collective guilt be the reason why other pastors are loathe to criticize Rev. Wright – is it because their own institutions have too many skeletons in the closet?

Obviously these are all egregious and ethically unacceptable beliefs and behaviors.  And yes, all their members should reject the beliefs, religions and institutions and leave their churches.

But of course, it is mere political cynicism to single out one congregant of one church on account of one pastor when almost all have much to account for.  I wonder where, in the mainstream media, you might hear that story?

Tags: , , , , , , , , presidential politics, 2008 election

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Working to Corner the “Stupid” Vote

  Everyone understands that there are more or less identifiable blocks of voters who act somewhat monolithically based on their pet issues: pro or anti-abortion voters, racial bigots or chauvinists, superstition-based voters and so on.  Little is said, however, about a most likely larger block that does not necessarily have one pet issue, but many fast-changing easily manufactured issues, but is still identifiable; I’m talking about the Stupid Voters.

In past years Stupid Voters have voted on the basis of their belief that Iraqis or Saddam Hussein was behind 9-11; or that tax cuts for the rich without corresponding spending cuts would never come back to haunt them in their middle class lives; that gay marriage somehow poses a threat to heterosexual marriage; and many other totally unsupported beliefs.  Flag burning, adultery, teaching evolution instead of Creationism in classrooms, and the nominal religious beliefs of a candidate are stupid issues that Stupid Voters do take seriously; the justifications for war, reducing poverty, eliminating government sanctioned torture and civil rights are the kinds of issues that do not interest Stupid Voters.

Stupid Voters want to believe the worst about someone who does not seem to be as stupid as they are.  In the 2000 campaign for the nomination, Stupid Voters were told just before the South Carolina primary that John McCain had had an illegitimate black child; this is just the kind of thing that Stupid Voters really care about; the result was that George W. Bush won that state and changed the momentum of the whole nominating process.  In 2004 the stupid election story to voters was that John Kerry’s heroics in Viet Nam were bogus.  The rest is stupid history, all courtesy of Stupid Voters.

Stupid Voters also are eager to denounce any verbal slip-up by a candidate or candidate’s spouse (e.g.: Michelle Obama’s statement, "For the first time in my adult lifetime, I am really proud of my country.") who opposes their dogmatic position, while totally overlooking far more stupid statements by those with no such leanings (e.g.: GW Bush saying, “Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we.  They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and so do we.")

Another thing that Stupid Voters are prone to is belief in conspiracies.  In the past Stupid Voters have believed in a UN takeover of the US at the end of the last millennia; that the Clintons killed Vince Foster; that the Jews and/or the Bush Administration planned 9-11 with a cooperating bin Laden; and that “everything happens for a reason.”

So what are this election cycle’s most important stupid issues that will be used to attract the Stupid Voter?

Unsurprisingly, extreme dogmatism, often religious in nature, seems to always be front and center in pursuit of the Stupid Voter.

Religious opposition to gay marriage is a stupid issue that has still not run its course.  It is undoubted that this stupid issue will be used to galvanize those opposed to this improvement in the life of gay Americans even though no quantifiable harm would result to anyone else.  Many Stupid Voters cannot bring themselves to support an elected official who might show some display of kindness toward gays.

Dogmatic Stupid Voters are also desperately concerned about the authenticity of the supernatural beliefs of candidates.  Is Mitt Romney a real Christian?  This is, of course, more important to Stupid Voters than Mr. Romney’s ability to balance a budget or successfully negotiate the end game in Iraq.

But it is clear that the most important stupid story and issue of the upcoming campaign, if Barack Obama is the Democratic nominee, is the stupid expose of his past; “Is Barack Hussein Obama” a stealth Muslim?”

As almost everyone knows, an email claiming that Obama is a radical Muslim has been making the rounds of many inboxes.  Here is a sample of this email:

“Probable U. S. presidential candidate, Barack Hussein Obama was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, to Barack Hussein Obama, Sr., a black MUSLIM from Nyangoma-Kogel, Kenya and Ann Dunham, a white ATHEIST from Wichita, Kansas. Obama's parents met at the University of Hawaii.

When Obama was two years old, his parents divorced. His father returned to Kenya.  His mother then married Lolo Soetoro, a RADICAL Muslim from Indonesia.

When Obama was 6 years old, the family relocated to Indonesia.

Obama attended a MUSLIM school in Jakarta.  He also spent two years in a Catholic school.

Obama takes great care to conceal the fact that he is a Muslim.  He is quick to point out that, "He was once a Muslim, but that he also attended Catholic school."  Obama's political handlers are attempting to make it appear that he is not a radical.

Obama's introduction to Islam came via his father, and this influence was temporary at best. In reality, the senior Obama returned to Kenya soon after the divorce, and never again had any direct influence over his son's education.

Lolo Soetoro, the second husband of Obama's mother, Ann Dunham, introduced his stepson to Islam. Obama was enrolled in a Wahabi school in Jakarta.  Wahabism is the RADICAL teaching that is followed by the Muslim terrorists who are now waging Jihad against the western world.  Since it is politically expedient to be a CHRISTIAN when seeking major public office in the United States, Barack Hussein Obama has joined the United Church of Christ in an attemptto downplay his Muslim background.  ALSO, keep in mind that when he was sworn into office he DID NOT use the Holy Bible, but instead the Koran.

Barack Hussein Obama will NOT recite the Pledge of Allegiance nor will he show any reverence for our flag.  While others place their hands over their hearts, Obama turns his back to the flag and slouches.

Let us all remain alert concerning Obama's expected presidential candidacy.

The Muslims have said they plan on destroying the US from the inside out, what better way to start than at the highest level - through the President of the United States, one of their own!!!!  (End email.)

The perpetrators of this email even include the internet address of (, the famous debunking site, which in fact entirely debunks this email, based on the smart assumption that Stupid Voters will not actually bother to go to and check it out!

But this is not the stupidest of the stupid!

The right-wing Drudge Report, as is typical, printed a photo of Barack Obama dressed, well, sort of, like a Muslim; their “cherry on top” was their most likely bogus attribution to the Clinton Campaign for the “anonymous leak” of this picture.

But not all of those who seek to woo the Stupid Vote choose to remain anonymous.

In late February, 2008, Conservative Cincinnati radio host Bill Cunningham was asked to warm up the crowd for John McCain at a rally, and that he did.  According to the LA Times, the radio host told the crowd he'd had a dream about "Barack Hussein Obama's wonderful life a year from today."  In the dream, he said, Obama was president and had just met with Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and was set to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Il.  Then, Cunningham said, Obama was going to "saddle up next to Hezbollah."

"All's going to be right with the world when the great prophet from Chicago takes the stand, and the world leaders who want to kill us will simply be singing [Kumbaya] together around the table with Barack Obama," Cunningham continued.

To his credit, Republican candidate John McCain repudiated these remarks immediately.  Apparently since McCain has not been the favorite of Stupid Voters in the past, he has some courage in this regard.

But McCain’s call for a respectful campaign did not sit well with the Stupid Voters and their leaders.  Here is some repartee between Alan Colmes and Bill Cunningham on FoxNews just after the incident:

Colmes: Let me point out that on your radio — what you're ignoring, Bill, is on your radio show didn't you call him Barack Hussein Mohammed Obama?

Cunningham: Well, I did call him that once, because Mohammed is the greatest prophet of God according to...

Colmes: I see. So why did you add a name that wasn't his name? Now you're acting like, "I just said his name."  You didn't do that.  You actually inserted the name "Mohammed" to his name.  Why did you do that?

Cunningham: I believed at the time that his confirmation and one of his names was Mohammed, and I rescinded the statement.  I said Barack Hussein Obama.

COLMES: I see…

Mohammed a confirmation name?  Only stupid person would believe that!  In other words, GREAT IDEA!

Bill Cunningham then indicated that he intended to support – Hillary Clinton!

So here is where we are in the 2008 race for the Stupid Vote: there are actually those who seriously are going to attempt to sway voters based on the middle name of one of the candidates.

And it is guaranteed that this will work to a stupidly amazing degree.