Monday, May 30, 2005


Bush in his Memorial Day speech at Arlington National Cemetary this morning: "We must honor them by completing the mission for which they gave their lives; by defeating the terrorists."

Correction: Not a single one of those deaths did even a tiny bit to defeat terrorism. No, Georgie. Your phony war has only inflamed the fires of terrorism. You're wrong, you're a liar, you make us more unsafe every day, and you demean the office of the presidency.
Yes those men and women died honorably and we should honor their memory. But stop trying to kid us. Game's over.

Let Me Get This Straight ...

... Dick "Go Fuck Yourself" Cheney has the gall to call something besides himself and his wife offensive?

Remember This On Memorial Day: Thousands Have Died Because Of Bush's Lies

He is personally responsible for manufacturing the storyline that led to the U.S. invasion of Iraq, the death of more than 1,600 American troops (so far) and of countless thousands of Iraqis.
Just exactly how is honoring him an act of patriotism?

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Suppose They Gave A Tribute And Nobody Came

Thanks to The Brad Blog for digging up information on the failed tribute to the oily Republican leader Tom DeLay. I had read about the event before it happened, and saw an item in the paper about it, but nothing that gave it the proper perspective.

It Only Has To Happen Once

In his new book, The Ancestor's Tale, Richard Dawkins discusses the possible migration of monkeys from Africa to South America on floating mangroves, noting that, "It only had to happen once." He goes on to make the following, frightening observation:
The principle of nuclear deterrence, and the only remotely definsible
justification for possessing nuclear weapons, is that nobody will dare risk a
first strike, for fear of massive retaqliation. What are the odds against a
mistaken missle launch: a dictator who goe4s made; a computer system that
malfunctions; an escalation of threats that gets out of hand? The present leader
of the largest nuclear power in the world (I am writing in 2003) thinks the word
is 'nucular'. He has never given any reason to suggest that his wisdom or his
intelligence3 outperforms his literacy. He has demonstrated a predilection for
'pre-empive' first strikes. What are the odds against a terrible mistake,
initiating Armageddon? A hundred to one against, within any one year? I would be
more pessimistic. We came awfully close in 1963, and that was with an
intelligent President. In any case, what might happen in Kashmir? Israel? Korea?
Even if the odds per year are as low as one in a hundred, a century is a very
short time, given the scale of the disaster we are talking about. It only has to
happen once.

No wonder Bush hates evolutionary scientists. They, too, have got him figgered out.

Where's The Bliss?

Four months ago, the Bush administration flung open the gates of paradise and welcomed the grateful Iraqi people to bask in the warm sunshine of democracy. The Iraqi elections were hailed near and far. The corporate MSM joined hands with the radical right to anoint George W. Bush as godfather of global freedom.
So, pardon me for being so ill-mannered as to ask, "Where's the improvement?" Just exactly what difference did they make? We were promised that a new golden era of democracy had begun. So, where is it?
I'm sure I'll be told that four months is not a long time, that we have to give freedom a chance to take hold. Excuse me for having a sense of history, but when the weapons inspectors asked for two more months to do their job, Mr. W said it was an unacceptably long period of time (he had his cooked-up intelligence all ready, and I guess he was afraid it would go bad if he let it sit on the back burner).
Come on, Mr. Bush. The world gave you a pass on sanctioning atrocities because it believed your heart was leading you in a direction that would benefit everyone. So, let's see it, already.
Is it here?
Or here?
Or here?
No, wait! Maybe it's over here!
Uhhh ... here?
Never mind ...

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Let's Hear It For Nine Inch Nails

Activism in the name of freedom deserves widespread applause.
So here's a hand to Nine Inch Nails for pulling out of the MTV Movie Awards because the Viacom-owned network would not allow them to perform a protest song in front of an image of the U.S. President.
The image wasn't to be altered or defaced in any way, but evidently the lyrics of the song, "The Hand That Feeds" would not have been flattering to the chimpanzee in chief (sorry, chimps -- it's not fair to you, I know, but I'm feeling more angry than creative at the moment).
Viacom, of course, also owns CBS, which beheaded its own and kowtowed to the election thieves in the Bush/National Guard documents case, rather than maintain focus on the real, important question, which was Bush's record of service.
So, again, here's to Nine Inch Nails. I don't listen to their music, but I've heard them loud and clear this morning, and I'm right in line with them.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005


Right-wing blogger Michelle Malkin, with her typical anti-patriotic fervor, is all a-twitter this morning about John Kerry taking a step toward releasing his complete military records for public review.
The loony Ms. Malkin evidently has not given up on her campaign to destroy Mr. Kerry's honorable record as a Vietnam war hero, and continues to question the U.S. military's judgment in awarding Mr. Kerry his medals for valorous service.
Here's my question: If Bill Maher's "low-lying fruit" comment on HBO is near-treasonous, as the esteemed Alabama Republican Congressman Spencer Bachus has charged, shouldn't Ms. Malkin do a long term in prison for suggesting that the Navy didn't know what it was doing when it chose to decorate Mr. Kerry?
Seems to me that her remarks are treason, plain and simple. How dare she suggest that the U.S. Navy is staffed by incompetents!!!!!
It's time we judged these people by their own standards.

Monday, May 23, 2005

OK. If The Right Wing-Nuts Are This Mad, It's Got To Be Good

The crazed reactions of the James Dobson-Michelle Malkin brigade to the filibuster deal have convinced me that the deal must be a good thing. We've evidently struck a nerve. They realize they can't have everything they want, and that drives them even crazier than they already were.

Talk About Your Low-Lying Fruit

Can these people be real?
The illustrious Republican congressman from Alabama, Mr. Spencer Bachus, thinks that Bill Maher's HBO show should be canceled because he referred to Lynddie England as the sort of "low-lying fruit" that the Army picks up in time of need.
"I don't want him prosecuted," Bachus said. "I want him off the air."
Hey, Spence -- It was a joke. The show is a satirical commentary.
Maher, by the way, was talking about the U.S. military's well-publicized recruiting problems.
Mr. Bachus who, like George W. Bush, chose the National Guard over active duty during the Vietnam War, objected to Mr. Maher's joshing the military. In fact, he said, Mr. Maher's comments "border on treason."
Has this man ever heard of the Bill of Rights -- the one that guarantees freedom of speech? Yes, under that sage provision, he's entitled to his view as well. But I'm entitled to call him an idiot. Which he is.
Did it ever occur to him that it's the people who oppose freedom of speech who are the traitors?


Historically the rare filibuster provided the Senate's best theater; participants had to be ready for days or weeks of free-wheeling debate, and all other business was blocked until one side conceded or a compromise acceptable to all was found. In the modern era the number of filibusters have increased but drama is rare. Disappointment awaits visitors to the Senate gallery who expect a real-life version of actor Jimmy Stewart's climactic oration in the 1939 classic film Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. They are likely to look down on an empty floor and hear only the drone of a clerk reading absent senators' names in a mind-numbing succession of quorum calls. Often the filibusterers do not even have to be on the floor, nor do the bills they are opposing.
-- CQ Encyclopedia of American Government

Many volumes have been written about the Senate filibuster recently.
We've heard the good and the bad; that the filibuster is a hallowed tradition, and that it is an unconstitutional outrage. We know from history that it has been used for purposes high and low, by both political parties, and against both legislation and appointees.
Now, we hear that a compromise has been reached that will preserve the right to filibuster while letting some of George W. Bush's more odious judicial nominees have a vote in the full Senate. I'm not sure I like the terms of the deal.
I do, however, have some thoughts about the filibuster itself and why it is a potentially important tool. At its best, what it provides is time for reflection, time to gather evidence and to rally support. All of those are positive attributes in a deliberative body like the Senate.Both sides in the debate can use the filibuster period to sway opinions and build strength.
However, I also think there is a reasonable argument to be made that a filibuster should have to be "live" -- real people speaking on the topic at hand rather than dull reciting of names and addresses from phone books or, even worse, remarks simply posted in the Congressional Record. The rules I think should be changed are the ones that allow the filibuster to become a mere blocking of debate rather than an extension of debate. The filibuster should be about talking, persuading, arguing the core of one's convictions until one's apponents, whether from fatique or discomfort, pay attention.
And there is probably further value in "live" filibustering as well in that it becomes a battle of wills, a contest to see which side on an issue is more strongly invested.
But the bottom line is that there's nothing wrong with slowing down a controversial vote; time and words are often exactly what is needed to win hearts and minds. And there's nothing wrong with requiring that 3/5 of the members vote to move on. It's certainly preferable to changing the rules just because you can't win under the rules you agreed to follow.
So we appear to have averted the "nuclear" option for now. But it will come up again, probably the very next time Democrats consider a Bush nominee to be too extreme to stomach. So it's worth remembering what would make the filibuster a valuable tool in support of democracy again.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Let's Hear It For The Protesters

Three cheers for the protesters who surrounded Laura Bush and made sure her visit to the Dome of the Rock got the reception it deserved.
The protesters did not harm Mrs. Bush, they waited until she came onto holy Muslim ground, and they used the visit to ensure that the Bush administration could not use Mrs. Bush to put a kinder, gentler face on the regime's disdain for all things Islamic.
I wouldn't cheer on the protesters were Laura's trip not an attempt to win support for her husband's harmful policies. But she should no better than to think she can make him look better in this part of the world to which he has done so much damage.
Oh, and by the way, three cheers to the nation of Israel for making sure that the Bush administration could not orchestrate the first lady's public appearances to the same degree that they can within our borders. It's nice that at least one of our allies actually takes seriously the rights to free speech and freedom of assembly. I have many disagreements with Israeli policy on many issues, but on this one I salute the nation and its people.

The Real Threats

The greatest threat to democracy is that we lose our understanding of the importance of the right to dissent.
The greatest threat to humanity is that we lose our understanding of humanity itself.
Those thoughts went through my head this morning as I read the second part of The New York Times investigation into the deaths of two Afghan prisoners killed at the hands of U.S. troops at Bagram prison.
The defense in this case is that the soldiers were poorly trained. Poorly trained in what? As a letter-writer pointed out in yesterday's Times, how much training do you need to understand that beating a prisoner to death is wrong? Can we really say that "poor training" is responsible for the chaining up and beating of prisoners, sexual humiliation, threats of attacks by snarling dogs, desecration of a holy book?
It's a tough argument to accept in my book. These are simple, clear cases of right and wrong. Any 5-year-old child, described the horrific details of the treatment of these prisoners, would know that what was done was wrong.
So what does the right to dissent have to do with this? Oh, probably just an expression of my own priorities. The Bagram report in the Times ran alongside a piece on the filibuster battle in the Senate, which, in my mind, is an extremely important debate over the rights of the minority.
The filibuster has protected the views of the minority many times over the years. Sometimes that minority has been odious, as it was during the Civil Rights battles, when old-fashioned Southern Democrats (who later realized that the party that would support their racism was across the aisle) used the filibuster against anti-segregation measures. This time, the Democratic minority is trying to protect the moderate majority against the possibility of hard-line conservative judges who would ignore constitutional rights and protections to impose their version of Christianity on us.
Whichever side has used the filibuster, the results have been the same: Frustration of the majority's urge to act quickly, extension of discussion, voicing of the opinions of the minority and movement towards moderation. That is what the filibuster is for, that is why it is important to the Senate, and that is why it should be preserved.
Maybe both these stories are at their core about the efforts of the Bush administration and the Republican right to trample on the rights of the rest of the world and forcibly mold it into their vision of utopia -- which, I gather, is something like an old 1950s black-and-white sitcom.
The problem is that the Republicans' policies and world view would give us something a little too much like that sitcom world. Anything smacking of human frailty would be hidden from view. An all-white, all middle-class, asexual view of American society would be shown to the world while behind the scenes those suffering from poverty, prejudice, discrimination, fear would struggle to make themselves heard.
In a frighteningly real sense, the Bush administration wants to stifle dissent in much the same way that Josef Stalin recommended: "No man, no problem."
I'm not being very poetic this morning -- and maybe not even particularly coherent -- but you get the point, right? We need opennness, we need dissent, we need above all respect for others if the spirit of this country is to survive. There was a time -- not all that long ago -- when the United States actually did stand for a set of goals and ideals that could be emulated around the world.
I truly think -- and this is not just hyperbole -- that the administration of George W. Bush has destroyed all of that. They have made a mockery of the U.S. They have made us global villains, hellbent on destroying anyone outside or inside our borders who dares to ascribe to goals different from theirs.
As a graduate student, I spent some time studying the works of literary critics and philosophers known as "deconstructionists." Mostly French, highly controversial because they feel it is not only their right but their duty to question everything. In particular, the critical method of deconstruction involves looking for internal inconsistencies in texts, which may be anything from traditional narratives to works of architecture.
One of the key concepts of deconstruction is to examine the efforts of mainstream "authors" to set themselves up in contrast to an "other," which is made to seem frightening and perhaps threatening.
I have long found it interesting that George W. Bush is a product of Yale in the late 1960s, which is one of the few places and times in the United States where deconstruction found a beachhead. I think W may have learned more from the French than he ever would be willing to admit. What he appears to have learned is to make use of the majoritarian techniques the deconstructions are committed to examining. He and his team are expert at setting up "others" as dangerous forces to be crushed. Democrats, scientists, Muslims, the French -- you name it.
The only glimmer of hope I see is that Bush is increasingly seen as a failure and a right-wing radical at home. His poll numbers are way down, and I can only hope that is due to the scales falling from some people's eyes.
I hope he continues to overstep, to push programs and ideas that clearly violate our sense of fair play, democracy, humanity. His excesses may end up being the only thing that saves us.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Torture, violation of the Geneva Conventions, cultural harassment, illegal detention, extraordinary rendition

Just wanted to make sure I wrote these words again.
They are the important issues.
Saddam Hussein's skivvies need to take a back seat to them.

Tales of Three Prisoners

The front page of Tne New York Times on Friday featured the shocking story of the brutal, horrific torture and death of two Afghan prisoners at the hands of the U.S. military. Based on a 2,000-page report on the investigation conducted by the military, it details how the prisoners were beaten, humiliated, chained to ceilings and denied medical care for the resulting injuries.
On the same day, a United Kingdom tabloid, The Sun, featured on its front page a photo of Saddam Hussein in his skivvies.
Guess which one has gotten the most attention from the U.S. Administration and media?
Take a look at the CNN web site's home page this morning. Lead story? "Pentagon vows to probe Saddam photos." Off on the side is a link to a story headlined, "Afghanistan's Karzai 'shocked' by abuse report."
We learned throughout the day yesterday that the administration was concerned that photographs of Saddam in his Y-fronts might constitute a violation of the Geneva Conventions. In the case of the Afghan prisoners, we learn that there are still "disagreements" within the military about whether the two Afghan prisoners died from abuse or natural causes.
What the hell is happening to this country? Have we really lost our perspective to the degree that we only care what happens to the "celebrity" prisoner. The Saddam photos, while clearly inappropriate if, as suspected, they were taken by U.S. military personnel and sold to The Sun, are tabloid journalism on a level with nude pix of Britney Spears. (And I'll admit to laughing out loud at The Sun's follow-up headline, "Bush Probes Saddam's Pants") Those who took and sold the pictures should be disciplined -- and everyone should move on to more serious matters.
But the Afghan prisoner story depicts a level of inhumanity among U.S. troops that should be the final nail in the coffin of any pretense that we are doing good work in the Middle East. Except that nobody except possibly the Afghan president seems to give a flying fuck.
Certainly not our president, who is more concerned about protecting the lives of undeveloped embryos (which of course, are potential U.S. citizens and red-state voters) even if it means stifling scientific research into cures for diseases which actually kill living, breathing people. It continues to amaze me how Bush's hypocritical "culture of life" ends with birth.
Reading all of this, I begin to feel as if it can't be true, that I really have entered some sort of Twilight Zone.
But I fear that the zone I have entered is the one we are all living in, the twilight of American culture, the slow end of U.S. predominance as a force for positive change in the world. As I said in a post last week, all we have left is our military might.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Outing The President

I don't know how credible these dispatches are, but they are enormously entertaining.
I guess the bottom line is that I choose to believe them. has been running periodic posts called "The Voice of the White House," that are supposedly written by a Bush administration staffer.
Here's a sample:

My God, such fun! Seems that our professional male prostitute, phony “news” reporter and keeper of a Forbidden Journal, using a Secret Service day pass, visited the White House 196 times in two years, and spent the night 12 times! That’s right, spent the night 12 times ...
Who did he spend the night with? Here is the question for your readers: Whom did Gannon service on his sleepovers? Since 9/11, the White House security checks are meticulous - it is almost impossible for the average Joe Public to get into the White House even once during the day, much less 196 times, and even more so OVERNIGHT! And Guckert was no Joe Public - he was a person of bad character - a known male hooker, fraudulently claiming to be a reporter, and using a false name.
Only direct orders from the absolute highest levels of the Fag Palace would have given such a person this kind of access. Need I say more? And please note that Captain Bulldog was one of the very few members of the press to be allowed inside the White House to cover the January 26, 2005 special Presidential press conference. If there were no events for a newsman, no matter how phony, to cover, why did he come here?
A check of the staff rosters indicate that only one person was in the White House on all the dates that Gannon slept over. The same person was always here when Gannon visited on days when there was no press action to cover. My, my, who could that be? Do you believe in coincidences? Do you believe in the Tooth Fairy? If Gannon had something going with a staffer, they would go to a motel or someone’s apartment in the area…unless the other person could not leave the White House without drawing attention to their absence.

There's something totally believable about all this.
I wrote a few weeks ago that if Bush is gay, it will turn out to be the only inoffensive thing about him.
Post Gannon, there's been a fair amount of speculation in the blogs on this subject. When Hillary Clinton was first lady, it seems the MSM was full of rumors that she was gay. Why isn't W being treated to the same speculation?

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Don't Let Them Change The Subject

Last September, the Bush campaign effectively exploited the flawed story on "60 Minutes II" about George W. Bush's service record to kill that issue for the duration of the campaign. How did they do it? by removing the focus from Bush and his record and putting it instead on "60 Minutes" and Dan Rather.
Clearly, they are trying to do exactly the same thing with the Guantanamo/Kuran desecration story. Remove any focus on the well-documented instances of torture and abuse, and direct everyone's attention instead to Newsweek.
We cannot allow this to happen.
Newsweek is not the important story here. Torture, violation of the Geneva Conventions, cultural harassment, illegal detention, extraordinary rendition -- these are the stories. We need to follow the Bushies' example and stay on story, stick to our guns, not allow ourselves to be distracted by having to defend an MSM outlet that most of us don't have much respect for anyway.
Remember. These are the talking points: Torture, violation of the Geneva Conventions, cultural harassment, illegal detention, extraordinary rendition. Got that? Torture, violation of the Geneva Conventions, cultural harassment, illegal detention, extraordinary rendition. What's that you say? You need to hear it again? Torture, violation of the Geneva Conventions, cultural harassment, illegal detention, extraordinary rendition.

Quotations To Remember

“That was when they suspended the Constitution. They said it would be temporary. There wasn’t even any rioting in the streets. People stayed home at night, watching television, looking for some direction. There wasn’t even an enemy you could put your finger on.”
— Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale


"This is how liberty dies -- to thunderous applause."
-- George Lucas, Revenge of the Sith


"I know that standards have slipped in Washington in recent years, but for a lawyer, you're remarkably cavalier with any idea of justice."
-- UK MP George Galloway (to US Sen. Norm Coleman)


"People need to be very careful about what they say just as people need to be careful about what they do."
-- Donald Rumsfeld


"The agricultural revolution began at the wane of the last Ice Age, about 10,000 years ago, in the so-called Fertile Crescent between the Tigris and the Euphrates. This is the cradle of human civilisation whose irreplaceable relics in the Baghdad Museum were vandalised in 2003, under the indifferent eyes of American invaders whose priorities led them to protect the Ministry of Oil instead."
-- Richard Dawkins, The Ancestor's Tale


"Go fuck yourself."
-- Dick Cheney (to Sen. Patrick Leahy)

Another Retraction Needed

Excuse me, but I think it's time to demand that the White House retract its war in Iraq.
As of this writing, 1,618 U.S. troops have died because of a poorly researched and improperly documented war conducted by George W. Bush and the White House.
Wave after wave of evidence has been unearthed to show that the supposed reasons for the attack on Iraq were unfounded. Sources that the administration relied upon were unreliable at best, lying thieves in some cases. The latest round of evidence shows that the administration decided to go to war, then doctored the "intelligence" to support their decision.
This is unconscionable. The American people should not suffer this lightly. It is time for us to demand that the administration retract its stories and its war.
The 17 deaths supposedly due to Newsweek's Koran desecration story, while certainly regrettable, are a mere drop compared to the bucket of blood that the Bush administration has filled with its phony war.

Monday, May 16, 2005

How Freedom of Speech Will Die

More frightening words from Donald Rumsfeld:
"People need to be very careful about what they say just as people need to be
careful about what they do."

He said this in regard to the Newsweek retraction of its Quran abuse story. But it certainly reads as a threat to those who would speak or act freely while under the watchful eye of the Bush administration.

We Didn't Need This

Despite the fact that nearly half of what comes out of Bill O'Reilly's and Sean Hannity's mouths is false, misconstrued or at least out of context, the political right -- lacking entirely any sense of shame -- is quick to jump on any misstatement by the mainstream press as evidence of liberal bias.
So Newsweek's backtracking on the Guantanamo/Koran blasphemy story was particularly unwelcome. We'll now have to listen to sanctimonious claptrap from O'Reilly, Hannity, Bush, McClellan and others for days on end.
And I'm willing to bet that the story is true anyway. What we've got here is a lack of a paper trail -- a serious error in journalism, to be sure -- but not a false story. The worst thing that has happened here is that Newsweek decided to cave to White House pressure, instead of redoubling efforts to confirm its story.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Hungry? Sick? You Make The Choice

Buried at the bottom of page A20 in today's New York Times, as if Karl Rove had played national editor for the day and determined its placement, is an article by Robert Pear entitled "Under New Medicare Prescription Drug Plan, Food Stamps May Be Reduced."
George W. Bush and the Republican Congress shed many crocodile tears back in 2003 over seniors forced by the high cost of drugs to make a choice between food and medicine. They used this argument to pass Bush's prescription-drug benefit, which was viewed skeptically by seniors at the time, despite Bush's touting of it as a significant new benefit. Now it turns out the Bushies think that choice between food and medicine was just fine -- because if seniors take advantage of the new benefit, they may find their food stamp allocation reduced.
Nice job, George. Once again, you attempt to reap political benefits for your compassionate conservatism while plotting behind the scenes to make sure that nothing is accomplished that would actually benefit people. Oh yes, I know that in the example cited in your guide, old Mrs. Smith actually comes out $25 a month ahead. But if you weren't giving with the left hand and taking away with the right, Mrs. Smith might come out $42 ahead. It isn't a lot of money.
And you'll have to forgive my cynicism, but something just tells me there might be many other examples where seniors actually lose money under the new plan. That's just the way you like to work, George. Note: I tried to locate the information on the Medicare website that would allow me to do some calculations on my own to see if the government example was the rule or the exception. I couldn't find the relevant information, but would welcome a chance to do some figuring of my own if anyone can provide the raw formulas. Of course, I don't even know if I could do this without a lot of additional information about retirement benefits).
There is a principle at stake here that is more important than $17 a month. When hunger and sickness are at stake, shouldn't we be talking about increasing entitlements, period, why are we giving and taking away in the same breath?
Is there really anyone who doubts that Social Security "reform" under GWB would end up being the same sort of shell game?

Oops! They Did It Again ...

From the Sunday Times (London):

Captured Al-Qaeda kingpin is case of ‘mistaken identity’

An excerpt:
Some believe al-Libbi’s significance has been cynically hyped by two countries that want to distract attention from their lack of progress in capturing Bin Laden, who has now been on the run for almost four years.
Even a senior FBI official admitted that al-Libbi’s “influence and position have been overstated”.

At least they get to read about these things in Europe. I wonder when we'll be allowed to hear about this by the corporate media ...
Thanks to Overspun for the post that pointed it out to me.

Witnessing The Decline

The effort currently going on in Kansas to, among other things, "redefine science" so that creationist mythology can be taught in science classrooms, is only the latest evidence that American domination of the world is staggering to an end.
I'm not suggesting that the recession into obscurity and irrelevance is likely to be completed overnight, or even in my lifetime -- although the rapidity with which the Soviet Union dissolved once its weaknesses began to show should give pause to those Americans who consider themselves patriots (I don't).
What I am trying to say is that on a number of fronts, the United States has ceded the high ground and that as these failures accumulate, this country will gradually find itself and its positions marginalized.
Here's what I'm talking about.
For many years following the end of World War II, the United States of America was the undisputed, or nearly undisputed, leader of the world in many realms. In education, health care, scientific discovery, this country showed a level of leadership to match its predominance in military might, aid to poor nations and moral rectitude. We were challenged by the Soviet Union on the military front, and periodically on a few others, but for most of the world, the U.S. shone as a beacon.
Look at the situation today. The U.S. lags European nations, and in many cases Asian countries, on many of these same fronts.
After the shocking excesses of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, any claim to moral leadership has been squandered. Our foreign aid programs lag those of virtually every Western European country in terms of per capita spend and, increasingly actual spend. Our health care system, as measured in such commonly accepted terms as infant mortality and longevity, has dropped out of even the top 10.
Our economy, while periodically very strong, is challenged by globalization. Emerging, educated, middle class labor forces in first Japan, then Korea, Thailand, China and India, have shown that leadership in manufacturing and innovation have many potential offshore destinations.
Now the fight against science comes along to drive further nails in the coffin of our public education system, once one of the world's very finest. The war against teaching of evolutionary theory in Kansas, Pennsylvania and other parts of this country, is a declaration that science doesn't matter. Any who would argue that evolutionary theory is somehow distinct and separate from the rest of science are fooling themselves. What is being challenged by the religious zealots is the scientific outlook itself, the view that knowledge is the natural result of observation. Darwin's theory of evolution is one of the most spectacular examples of this outlook, one that for some 150 years has held up to scrutiny and been strengthened by each piece of evidence that has been used to examine its fundamental premises. Quite simply, no one has found even a clue that would dispute this theory. Fossils are found in precisely the geological layers the theory posits, morphological characteristics of isolated populations diverge in exactly the ways that would be predicted, as does the DNA of animal and plant species. In short, the theory of evolution (and yes, it is a theory -- all science is. The attempt to create a false dichotomy between "theory" and "fact" betrays still more ignorance of the fundamentals of the scientific outlook) is supported by all of the available mountain of evidence in multiple fields -- paleontology, biochemistry, ecology -- which is increased each time we find a new fossil record or decode a new genetic sequence.
The real dichotomy -- the one that is unlikely to be resolved in school board meetings or the courts -- is not between "theory" and "fact", which are roughly the same thing in scientific parlance, but between "science" and "faith". Science and faith may co-exist in an atmosphere of mutual distance and respect, but they are unequivocally opposite. Faith may determine an individual's course of action in the absence of evidence, but only experience and results can validate science.
So, if the creationists win the battle against science education, what is this country left with? Clearly, the military is still a source of short-term strength. But even here, the actions of the George W. Bush administration and their global consequences are making it clear that our pre-eminence is not guaranteed. Global terrorism has grown during the Bush years to a point where the State Department has decided not to publish statistics anymore because of the embarrassing conclusions to which they would lead. And despite W's saber-rattling in the Middle East, nuclear weaponry continues to proliferate, in North Korea, Iran and who knows where else. Now that the nuclear "club" of nations is expanding into the double digits, U.S. ability to dominate in the military arena is clearly on the wane. Hell, we can't even bring about peace in Iraq, a country we have devastated in strictly military terms.
As someone who considers himself a resident of the planet Earth rather than a patriotic American, I am not terribly bothered by the decline in national status I am witnessing. I think that ultimately, the global society that emerges over the next 100 years will be a better, fairer thing than a world dominated by any single nation or geography.
I welcome economic, political and social advance in Asia, Africa and South America. Just as I support the concept (sadly short of reality) of a public education system that guarantees access to good schooling regardless of economic circumstances or geography, I support the concept that people are entitled to a fair -- and responsibly taken and utilized -- share of the earth's resources regardless of geography, color or faith. Ultimately, I think globalization concurrent with the deline of U.S. hegemony will lead to a better world.
I just wonder if the right wing understands how it is advancing the cause of U.S. decline.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

When the President Talks to God

Every once in a while, I miss a moment in pop culture and am sorry I wasn't glued more tightly to my television. I was travelling when Justin bared Janet's breast on the Superbowl, and went to bed early the night Sinead O'Connor ripped up the Pope's picture on Saturday Night Live.
This week, it was the amazing performance by Bright Eyes on The Tonight Show that I missed.
Wow! Who would have thought that GE-owned NBC television would broadcast this?
And how have two days gone by without the right wing threatening boycotts, fines, etc.
I had never heard Bright Eyes before I encountered this video clip, but I am a new fan, happy to shell out $$$ for his CDs.
As for Jay Leno, this helps to make up for his giving Governor Arnold a forum to announce his candidacy a few years ago. But I did note that right-wing hag Ann Coulter is on his guest list for next week.
Here's the lyrics to the Bright Eyes song, as posted on DailyKos:

"When the President Talks to God"

When the president talks to God

Are the conversations brief or long?

Does he ask to rape our women's' rights

And send poor farm kids off to die?

Does God suggest an oil hike

When the president talks to God?

When the president talks to God

Are the consonants all hard or soft?

Is he resolute all down the line?

Is every issue black or white?

Does what God say ever change his mind

When the president talks to God?

When the president talks to God

Does he fake that drawl or merely nod?

Agree which convicts should be killed?

Where prisons should be built and filled?

Which voter fraud must be concealed

When the president talks to God?

When the president talks to God

I wonder which one plays the better cop

We should find some jobs. the ghetto's broke

No, they're lazy, George, I say we don't

Just give 'em more liquor stores and dirty coke

That's what God recommends

When the president talks to God

Do they drink near beer and go play golf

While they pick which countries to invade

Which Muslim souls still can be saved?

I guess god just calls a spade a spade

When the president talks to God

When the president talks to God

Does he ever think that maybe he's not?

That that voice is just inside his head

When he kneels next to the presidential bed

Does he ever smell his own bullshit

When the president talks to God?
I doubt it
I doubt it

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Questions and Answers

The Christian Science Monitor and CBS News report today about a new tactic being used by creationists to disrupt the teaching of evolution: Posing of difficult questions to science teachers.
Fair enough. Science is about questioning. It is an essential part of scientific thinking that questions deserve answers. To deny the right to raise questions or to refuse answers would be anti-scientific. Yes, the creationists are attempting to waste classroom time, but teachers dedicated to science need to turn the tables and use the questions as a reason to explain some of the evidence that supports evolutionary theory.
So what we need to do is to provide well thought-out, well researched answers to these questions so that teachers have the ammunition to answer them. Based on my initial reading of the questions listed in a sidebar to the article on the CBS News website, I think that some of the answers will be explanations and some will be refutations of misstatements made in the questions themselves.
But I'm going to create a little research project for myself over the next several days and try to provide answers to these.
Here's the questions listed in the article:
  • The origins of life. Why do textbooks claim that the 1953 Miller-Urey experiment shows how life's building blocks may have formed on Earth - when conditions on the early Earth were probably nothing like those used in the experiment, and the origin of life remains a mystery?
  • Darwin's tree of life. Why don't textbooks discuss the "Cambrian explosion," in which all major animal groups appear together in the fossil record fully formed instead of branching from a common ancestor - thus contradicting the evolutionary tree of life?
  • Vertebrate embryos. Why do textbooks use drawings of similarities in vertebrate embryos as evidence for common ancestry - even though biologists have known for over a century that vertebrate embryos are not most similar in their early stages, and the drawings are faked?
  • The archaeopteryx. Why do textbooks portray this fossil as the missing link between dinosaurs and modern birds - even though modern birds are probably not descended from it, and its supposed ancestors do not appear until millions of years after it?
  • Peppered moths. Why do textbooks use pictures of peppered moths camouflaged on tree trunks as evidence for natural selection - when biologists have known since the 1980s that the moths don't normally rest on tree trunks, and all the pictures have been staged?
  • Darwin's finches. Why do textbooks claim that beak changes in Galapagos finches during a severe drought can explain the origin of species by natural selection - even though the changes were reversed after the drought ended, and no net evolution occurred?
  • Mutant fruit flies. Why do textbooks use fruit flies with an extra pair of wings as evidence that DNA mutations can supply raw materials for evolution - even though the extra wings have no muscles and these disabled mutants cannot survive outside the laboratory?
  • Human origins. Why are artists' drawings of apelike humans used to justify materialistic claims that we are just animals and our existence is a mere accident - when fossil experts cannot even agree on who our supposed ancestors were or what they looked like?
  • Evolution as a fact. Why are students told that Darwin's theory of evolution is a scientific fact - even though many of its claims are based on misrepresentations of the facts?

I'll post my answers as I get time to research and write. I'll start off by linking to this site, which discusses many of the questions raised above -- which evidently have come primarily from a book, Icons of Evolution, by the creationist Jonathan Wells -- and provides answers, documentation of sources, and refutation of misstatements made by proponents of creationism.

Worth Repeating

The always erudite and thought-provoking Francesca over at Francesca's Liberal Wingnut Corner offers the following treasure from President Dwight D. Eisenhower, one of those Republicans that today's right-wingers may not want to brag about:
"Should any political party attempt to abolish social security,
unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would
not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter
group, of course, that believes that you can do these things. Among them are a
few Texas oil millionaires, and an occasional politician or businessman from
other areas. Their number is negligible and they are stupid."
--President Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1956
That man was a prophet.
Francesca, by the way, offers a typically insightful analysis of the Italian report on the Sgrena/Calipari incident, based on her reading of the de-censored report (which was published over the weekend in Italian newspapers after some students figured out how to un-black-out the censored portions)

Monday, May 02, 2005

Beware The Poll Results

At first, the latest Gallup poll results seem encouraging: 49 percent of Americans disapprove of George W. Bush's performance in office; 55 percent disapprove of his handling of the war in Iraq; 67 disapprove of his handling of gas prices; and 58 percent disapprove of the way he has handled the Social Security issue.
It's an encouraging sign that the American public has finally caught on to Bush's lies, deceptions and ineptitude.
But there's a dark cloud surrounding this silver lining: Bush's constant yammering away about Social Security has convinced a full 81 percent of the public that the program will need major changes in the coming years, and 62 percent that it would not be possible to ensure long-term benefits without either raising taxes or cutting benefits.
Bush and his minions appear to have accomplished their goal of undermining confidence in our greatest social safety-net program. They haven't persuaded many people that they have the right solution, but they've raised the fear factor, which is the way they typically work.
Progressives need to redouble their efforts to educate the public on the relatively minor adjustments that need to be made to preserve the program for a long time to come, most notably raising the ceiling (currently $90,000) on income that is taxed for benefits. The Social Security ceiling currently in place ensure that the rich pay a smaller proportion of their income to provide benefits than do the poor.
This is unfair, and it needs to change. The wealthy should be taxed on all of their income, not just the first $90,000.
And the public should be informed -- over and over and over again, just as Bush and his minions have done with their misinformation -- that the system can remain secure for generations to come.

Shame on ABC and Disney

Shame on the ABC television network and its corporate parent.
Six months after refusing to air an ad promoting inclusion, from the United Church of Christ, they have made the horrible decision to air an ad from the divisive hate group Focus on the Family.
The Rev. James Dobson is a threat to the personal freedoms the majority of Americans value. Please e-mail, call and write to ABC protesting its terrible decision to give Dobson a prime-time forum for his hate.

Attacking Laura

OK, so I got fooled by this item on the Swift Report. I'm as dumb as Matt Drudge. But, hey, it seemed totally believable to me so I'm leaving this post up. Anyway, the whole thing is funny and I'm in the mood for laughs today.

Here's what I wrote:
Have the Republicans lost their touch?
Today comes the news that the religious right is attacking Laura Bush over her comedy routine at the White House Correspondents Association dinner Saturday night. Her offense? She failed to show proper respect for newly crowned gay icon "Boy" George W. Bush in her remarks, violating the biblical command that wives be subservient to their husbands.
Well, it's about time the Republicans got caught in their trap. Play to the center, get tripped up by the right. Play to the right, get tripped up by the center. Cool.
Let's the rest of us -- those who can't wake up in the morning without being on the wrong side of the right -- just sit back and enjoy the show.

And here's the truth behind the report. Maybe -- I'd still rather believe it's true. And while the right-wingnuts are saying Dems are stupid and will believe anything, no matter how far-fetched, I say this item wasn't far-fetched at all. It's just as believable as the words that come out of Bill Frist's foul mouth, or anything that Jerry Falwell or Pat Robertson or, for that matter, George W. Bush, has ever said.

Trumping Bush

Many others have written and will write -- with far more wit and wisdom than I -- about the way in which George W. Bush ended his press conference last week so as not to interfere with the 9 pm start of The Apprentice, CSI and other television shows far more popular than his administration has been lately.
I just think it's amusing that our president, seemingly so self-confident, so sure of his common touch, cowers in the wake of Donald Trump's stupid TV show.
Here's some other things I've found amusing recently:
  • J.R. Kinnard's funny posting on Bush's sexuality on don't floss with tinsel.
  • Real Time with Bill Maher on HBO, which had a great panel discussion on Bush's economic "policies" Friday night. Somehow I'd never watched this show before (it's on after my bedtime ...) but now that I can Tivo it, I'll never miss it again.
  • The notion that the loony, right-wing harpy Ann Coulter thinks of herself as a "public intellectual". Sorry, Annie. What you are is a political Judy Tenuta (sorry, Judy. You opened yourself up to that one by being crude and not very funny, just like Annie)

Back Into the Blogosphere

A two-week break from posting began by happenstance when I wound up without Internet access in Germany. I wrote a few things -- which I may or may not end up posting after I re-read them -- but having spent most of a week without posting, I spent a second week wondering how to jump back into the fray.
I read a lot, and thought a lot about things I could say, but for some very strange reason, was not inspired to open my blog.
It's not as if very many people would have noticed my silence. Not as if I needed to explain where I've been. I noticed it, however. Posting to this blog is a habit, one that I believe does me some good. If a few other people get occasional enlightenment or enjoyment out of my posts, that's good too.
So, anyway, I'm back with more ramblings.

A Better World

Food for thought from a fascinating interview with evolutionist Richard Dawkins in Salon. Many of us have pondered this thought, but Dawkins expresses it eloquently:

Bush and bin Laden are really on the same side: the side of faith and violence
against the side of reason and discussion. Both have implacable faith that
are right and the other is evil. Each believes that when he dies he is
going to
heaven. Each believes that if he could kill the other, his path to
paradise in
the next world would be even swifter. The delusional "next
world" is welcome to
both of them. This world would be a much better place
without either of them.

BTW, this is not in any way a suggestion that anyone should attempt to do anything about Mr. Bush's existence. Just a little wishful thinking that Barbara had tried birth control when she had the chance.