Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Not dead yet!

December 2, 2009

After an unplanned stressed out recession-induced blogging hiatus, I’m back. More or less. Certainly a lot has been going on, and most of it I haven’t been able to keep with lately.

However, there certainly has been a few news items I’ve been unable to run away from. It seems a certain golfer, while backing out of his driveway backed his vehicle into some obstacle on his property. Aside from this golfer and his family, who cares?. Mrs. LiquidThinker just a wreck herself not too long ago where somebody backed into her vehicle. It is a standard everyday thing that happens to almost everybody. Insurance eventually took care of it and the media was not alerted. But we are ceaselessly bombarded with endless news about Tiger backing into a mailbox or whatever. The news media is just pissing me off and I keep having to turn it off. Is there really nothing else of import happening on this planet? Really? No link to that story is provided here, as you are probably as sick of it as I am.

But, yes, there is other news. The other news item concerns one Sarah “Quitter” Palin. She is taking full advantage of the opportunity to cash out selling her very quickly ghost-written hack book. When golfers crashing into mailboxes is not being lambasted from every news source, we get painfully pummeled with Palin. Why anyone any longer gives a flip about this empty-headed, narcissistic, walking right-wing sound-bite is beyond me.

Oh yeah, and apparently we’re sending 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan.

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Introducing Kanye Wilson

September 15, 2009

So much to write about these days, but unfortunately too little time in which to write it. So, at the risk of giving too much attention to people who do not deserve it, I’d like to make a very quick proposal for a new comedic musical duo. Based on events I’ve heard about over the last few days, I’d like to see combined the musical stylings, uncontainable ego, and microphone swiping antics, of Kanye West with the unfettered and uninformed outbursts of Rep. Joe “You lie!” Wilson.

Think of it! The merged talents would provide background noise music for any occasion, from inconsequential award shows to presidential addresses. This duo would be untouchable, meaning probably nobody would touch it. I can imagine:

I see the emotion in your eyes, that you, try not to show*
— You lie! You lie! —

The audience gamut would be covered, from, what is in Kenye’s mind, the voice of a generation, to the voice of stark raving right wing lunatics. Well, to be fair, Wilson may not be totally stark raving, but they do seem to have found his voice. I suspect that was calculated. Also, to be fair, contrary to the sentiment expressed during his short temper tantrum, he has voted for providing taxpayer money for healthcare for illegal immigrants in the past, which Bill HR 3200 (the bill in question) will not do.

* From West’s song “Addiction”. Not being my style, I’m not that familiar with his material, but tried to find something vaguely health care related, for what it’s worth.

A prayer for South Carolina

September 1, 2009

Recently, in Columbia City, South Carolina, at the urging of possible mayoral candidate Tameika Isaac Devine, a resolution to open city council meetings with a prayer was unanimously passed with no discussion. It should go without saying that this totally violates the separation of church and state and thoughtlessly tramples over the sensibilities of those present who may not share the religious beliefs espoused in whatever magic words are incanted. Did I say thoughtlessly? No, Devine did put some thought into it.

Devine says she was surprised that City Council had not been starting its meetings with an invocation. “And I totally respect the whole separation of church and state,” she says.
But Devine says council members have an important job to do — the will of the people.

“And I think starting with an invocation gives you that importance and sets that tone,” she says. “But it’s definitely our desire to give voice to a diverse group.”

Although Devine does seem to have some dim glimmering that there is such a thing as separation of church and state, it is clear that she is pretty unclear on the concept. But to be fair, let’s give her the benefit of the doubt and offer a prayer that can be used in the city council meetings that will reflect the diverse system of beliefs and non-beliefs of all humanity.


Dear God and Jesus Christ our Savior, we know you are a jealous God whose name is Jealous, so please forgive mention of all these other gods and give us your blessings anyway. Wink, wink, nudge, nudge. O Allah, you are all great and merciful so we submit (and really we didn’t mean to pray to Jesus above, really). Lord Krishna, please aid us in our cosmic journey to put our city in harmony with the cosmos. Ganesha, please remove obstacles from the paths to reach our goals for our city. Lakshmi, please give us luck in our plans and make us beautiful and wealthy. Agni, we offer oblation, please don’t burn us. Vishnu, please help us create great plans, and Shiva, let us destroy old unworkable plans so we may begin anew. Great Spirit, help us in our hunt on this vision quest. Lord Buddha, help us make the city such that all our people can escape the endless cycle of suffering, perhaps by adding more light rail to ease traffic congestion. Jah, we promise to legalize ganja to let people engage in spiritual quests. Satan, thanks for getting us into that whole “Tree of Knowledge” thing; it’s working out pretty well. Athena, give us wisdom. Thor, please don’t strike us with lightning, and Loki, please don’t start causing mischief in our fair city. Blessed be the Goddess, by whichever name you know her, and may her blessings be bountiful upon us. We recognize the way of the Tao, which if can be named is not the eternal Tao. [insert appropriate incantations from other faiths, Judaism, Sikh, Bahai, Flying Spaghetti Monster, etc. etc. here]. Finally, we acknowledge that it is possible that none of these gods or goddesses exist so you should quit worrying and enjoy your life.

Now that this prayer is ended, it is the end of the day and time to go home.

On second thought, maybe a city council should just focus on doing the city’s business.

Stimulating park

August 17, 2009
Joshual Tree National Park early spring

Joshual Tree National Park early spring

The picture above is from a little trip we took to Joshua Tree National Park a couple of years ago and shows a few of the Joshua trees for which the park is named in the foreground. Really a wonderful trip. The U.S. has a pretty extensive national park system that covers a wide array of unique scenery and habitats. As Obama just underwent a whirlwind tour of a few national parks, I figured it would be interesting to see how the national parks fit into Obama’s picture. The national parks received 589 million dollars in stimulus from the stimulus bill. That was for roads and some infrastructure. There is also 146 million for trail maintenance, etc., etc.

One question the GOLP earlier raised were concerns on what good funding the parks under a stimulus package would be? The idea is that you pretty up the parks, or what have you and then you are done; what has been done to help the economy?

Our national parks were largely neglected under Bush, so, every little bit to get our parks back up to snuff is a good thing. There are all sorts of opportunities for maintenance of buildings, roadways, etc. This is work which, albeit temporary, could help keep people employed long enough to last out the effects of this recession. As an example, check out the projects planned for the Great Smoky Moutains. The work being drawn up there means jobs. In the end, all of us benefit from having a well maintained park system housing some of the true wonders of our planet.

GOLP — The Grand Old Loony Party

August 16, 2009
The New Republicans

The New Republicans

Well, even for somebody with no time like myself, these past few weeks have been pretty amusing. Of course, we all know about the so-called “Birthers”. People, which many Republicans don’t seem to discourage, who remain convinced, in spite of incontrovertible evidence to the contrary, that Obama was not born in the U.S. The latest bout of lunacy emerging from the far right concerns health care. Of course, anyone can read the health care bill being proposed by a quick google search. In spite of this, we have Republican inciting their base with lies, misleading information, and hysteria. For example, for a quick web-reference, we have from Urban Legends one section of the bill that appears to have stirred up some controversy. It is a bit long to reproduce here, so feel free to read it for yourself, but essentially what it boils down to is more frequent consulting sessions for Medicare will pay for more frequent consulting sessions to discuss end-of-life issues when faced with terminal illnesses and such. From this we get the wizened philosopher Sarah Palin stipulating this means government death panels. Such a leap is rarely found, except in the delusional minds of conspiracy nuts, or the power hunger tyrants who want rile them up.

We also have claims that a government run plan being offered as an option to help the uninsured will lead to “socialized medicine”, for which medical care here will become as horrible as it is in Germany or France. In fact, while I was in Germany, I received really good health care. For more on health care in Europe, look here. As one of the stories embedded therein, you can read how German patients are mostly quite happy with their health care system.

But don’t expect to see little snippets of reality like this from right-wing Republicans. Health care here in the U.S. is in serious need of reform. By not acting now, the cost will be higher in the future. This may not be the most perfect of all bills, but is a step in the right direction. There is still serious discussion to be had regarding the contents and the vision of health care in our country. It is immoral to simply neglect the health care of those many who are currently uninsured. But serious discussion is exactly what we are not seeing from the Republicans. Instead we see fear mongering, misinformation and disruption. See any of the famous town hall meetings for an example. We see actual prevention of any attempt for serious discussion. We see efforts to try to simply stop progress, sometimes because they simply don’t like the President, or just simply fear of change. Fear that the Republican leadership and media like Fox News are only too happy to feed.

It is actually coming back to bite some of the Republicans as well. In today’s LA Times there was an article describing just this. They’ve riled up their credulous mob to such a state that it is backfiring. According to the article:

But the conservative mobilization has also created an unusual dilemma for Republican leaders, who want to turn the enthusiasm into election victories next year but find themselves the target of ire from many of the same activists.

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), chairman of the GOP’s Senate campaign committee, was booed at a “tea party” rally in July for supporting the government bailout of the financial services industry.

And one of the GOP’s most reliable conservatives, Rep. Bob Inglis of South Carolina, was shouted down at a recent town hall meeting when he criticized a conservative broadcaster and tried to counter claims that children would soon be forced to receive swine flu vaccinations.

“You cannot build a movement on something that is not credible,” said a frustrated Inglis, referring to the vaccine issue and other false rumors being spread by more aggressive critics of the health bill.

“Going door to door, I found opposition tending toward hostility,” Inglis added. “At town meetings, the hostility went straight through to hysteria.”

So, it seems the more right-wing Republican are fervently steering our country into rule by credulous and unthinking mob (even to their own detriment). The GOP has actually stepped over the line and become completely insane.

The Beck paradox

August 14, 2009

Unfortunately, I have not had very much time to put into watching actual news, let alone Faux News, but after my run and during stretches tonight I managed to see a little of the Colbert Report (caution, automatic audio there) which had an interesting clip of Glenn Beck. The whole Beck video can be found here.

Essentially, he said that Obama has a “deep seat hatred for white people”. When confronted with the fact that Obama has actually put many Caucasians (or “white people”) on his staff, he replied that he wasn’t saying that that Obama “didn’t like white people”, but that he was still was clearly a racist. His evidence was that Obama attended Rev. Wright’s church (I would be prepared to call Obama delusional on this point, but that’s a different story). Oh, and calling the actions of a cop stupid for arresting a professor for behaving obnoxiously. I am not sure Beck understands the meaning of the word evidence.

This begs two questions.
1) Why is Glenn Beck still on the air?
2) Why would anyone hire Beck for any position requiring at least a high school diploma?

But then, this is television, and Faux News no less. So, probably the answer to 2) explains 1).

Dear Birthers

August 1, 2009

Was President Obama born in the United States?

Birth certificate from a real actual U.S. state

Birth certificate from a real actual U.S. state

Yes.

You may now return to your regularly scheduled Michael Jackson news.

The Quitter

July 28, 2009
Hunt this!

Hunt this!

As many know, in one of the more bizarre twists to emerge from our American politics is the resignation of Sarah Palin as governor of Alaska. She quit because she apparently thought she would be more effective, for, I’m not sure, fighting to get rid of gun control by not holding political office? I suspect it is so she will have more time to promote her book. In any case, it is a brash move of irresponsibility, no matter her competence. So in the news item I linked to, we have this:

“You’re gonna see anti-hunting, anti-Second Amendment circuses from Hollywood,” the outgoing governor said. “They use Alaska as a fundraising tool for their anti-Second Amendment causes… Hollywood needs to know: ‘We eat, therefore we hunt.”

Wow. I must admit, I was previously unaware that our citizens in Alaska lived in a hunter/gatherer society. Living from hunt to hunt, killing a moose only to survive the next harsh winter. I did not know. But wait, a quick google search shows that Wasilla, Alaska has 17 grocery stores!. Maybe it really isn’t that bad there. But really, have people really been going off the deep end about her hunting? I know that is one thing concerning her I actually don’t care about. I used to fish a lot and have relatives that hunt, and as long as we’re not talking endangered species, I don’t really see a problem. Although not in “the biz”, I live relatively close to Hollywood also.

The problem with Palin is not that she’s a hunter. It is the fact that whenever she give an interview or speech she betrays an astounding shallowness of knowledge, lack of curiosity about the world around her, and lack of critical thinking skills. In light of this, it is my little sliver of hope, my little fantasy, that she is quitting because she’s realized that she’s gotten in over her head and shouldn’t be in a position of public responsibility.

Billboard theocracy

July 23, 2009
Suggested billboard

My own suggested billboard

From my home state of Florida, we have a call to arms for theocrats everywhere. A fellow by the name of Gregg Smith apparently want to bring our country back to God by invoking the fiction that this what the founding fathers intended. On his website, he writes:

“The Judeo-Christian foundation that the Founding Fathers established when America began is the reason that this country has prospered for 200-plus years,” said Kemple, president and sole employee of the local Community Issues Council, which paid for the Web site.

“The fact is, for the last 40 years, as anti-God activists have incrementally removed the recognition of God’s place in the establishment of our country, we have gone downhill.”

I’m sure he’ll be publishing some peer reviewed paper soon to provide support for the claimed cause and effect correlation. I wonder if in his paper, he will make note of the fact that the famous Treaty of Tripoli, unanimously approved by congress in 1797, states in Article 11, “As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity, of Mussulmen; and, as the said States never entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties, that no pretext arising from religious opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.” (emphasis mine).

So, essentially, Gregg Smith is putting up billboards with quotes from the founding fathers to support his contention that their intent was a nation founded on Judeo-Christian principles (whatever that means). Never mind the fact that Jefferson was pleased with what he called the wall of separation between church and state. Never mind the fact that there is sufficient evidence to believe that Adams, Jefferson, Washington, Madison, and others were likely deists who strove to maintain no overlap between government and religion (remember, the no religious test specified in the Constitution?). In fact, in addition to ignoring history, Smith creates some of his own. On one billboard we have:

…carry the same message but with fictional attribution, as with one billboard citing George Washington for the quote, “It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible.”

Washington never said this, but:

“I don’t believe there’s a document in Washington’s handwriting that has those words in that specific form,” Kemple said. “However, if you look at Washington’s quotes, including his farewell address, about the place of religion in the political sphere, there’s no question he could have said those exact words.”

So, they are reduced to making things up. Very nice indeed. Next I’ll just claim that Rockefeller meant to leave me all his assets; it is something he could have done.

But, you know, although we are fortuitous that the founding fathers had the astounding insight to separate the state from religion, to argue that this was the right thing to do because they were the founding fathers is fallacious. It is argument from authority. If the founding fathers did, for the sake of argument, establish a theocracy, with religious tests in the Constitution and so on, this would be as wrong now, as it would have been the wrong thing to do then. If that had been the case, we would need to change it. History shows that societies function better when religion is kept out of the apparatus of the state (see here.).

Hat tip to PZ Myers.

The Iran problem and theocracies

June 28, 2009

One of the larger pieces of news over the last few weeks was the Iranian election. Or what passes for an election anyway. As I’m sure everybody has heard by now, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, was allegedly re-elected and Mir Hossein Mousavi, was apparently not. As Mousavi seemed to have a lot of popular support this shocked many Iranians who took to the streets to voice their disapproval. The regime, led by Supreme Leader issued stern warnings and eventually cracked down on dissent with violence. This was accompanied by an attempt to control information. Not allowing journalists to properly cover events, and attempting to control and censor the internet connections to and out of Iran. Typical of a theocratic mindset. We see the same thing on a very small scale on some religious blogs. Post a sound rebuttal to some argument and it is deleted, at least at some sites. Can’t let people see that. Fortunately, the educated populace of Iran managed to skirt around some of these issues and get videos posted to youtube and so forth.

But what about the internet censorship? Apparently two companies are involved in developing the technology to help the religious leaders of Iran monitor and possibly block internet access, Nokia, and Siemens. From the article:

in confronting the political turmoil that has consumed the country this past week, the Iranian government appears to be engaging in a practice often called deep packet inspection, which enables authorities to not only block communication but to monitor it to gather information about individuals, as well as alter it for disinformation purposes, according to these experts.

The monitoring capability was provided, at least in part, by a joint venture of Siemens AG, the German conglomerate, and Nokia Corp., the Finnish cellphone company, in the second half of 2008, Ben Roome, a spokesman for the joint venture, confirmed.

How does it work?

Deep packet inspection involves inserting equipment into a flow of online data, from emails and Internet phone calls to images and messages on social-networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter. Every digitized packet of online data is deconstructed, examined for keywords and reconstructed within milliseconds. In Iran’s case, this is done for the entire country at a single choke point, according to networking engineers familiar with the country’s system. It couldn’t be determined whether the equipment from Nokia Siemens Networks is used specifically for deep packet inspection.

.

Big Brother is alive and well in Iran. From a technology standpoint, it is kind of cool how it works, but ultimately is fundamentally at odds to a healthy democracy. Interestingly, the President of Iran has little real power. The ultimate power rests with the undemocratically selected Supreme Leader. From the Wiki:

However, certain executive powers, such as command of the armed forces and declaration of war and peace, remain in the hands of the Supreme Leader.[5] Furthermore the Supreme Leader may even dismiss the president and prevent the legitimation of any law (appointed by assembly) by the institutions under his control, the Guardian Council and the Expediency Council.

So, that’s the real problem. A shining example of how religion mixed with politics leads to a mindset critical of openness, and insidiously controlling of all. Iran needs a velvet revolution. I doubt that will happen though as this is not a threat to national identity and does not interfere with local religious practices. But it should inspire all of us to vigorously support the American United for Separation of Church and State organization.