Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Republican Courage

Rare, though it is, from Utah Senator (and Mormon) Orrin Hatch, about the building of the Park51 mosque:
Let’s be honest about it, in the First Amendment, religious freedom, religious expression, that really express matters to the Constitution. So, if the Muslims own that property, that private property, and they want to build a mosque there, they should have the right to do so. ... There’s a question of whether it’s too close to the 9/11 area, but it’s a few blocks away, it isn’t right there. … And there’s a huge, I think, lack of support throughout the country for Islam to build that mosque there, but that should not make a difference if they decide to do it. I’d be the first to stand up for their rights.
I can hear the cynics on the right now: "He's old school. He doesn't represent real Republicans today." But in so many ways, Hatch actually represents really old school Republicanism -- as in Abraham Lincoln.

Monday, August 30, 2010

This is Disgusting

A photographer takes a photograph of a McDonald's Happy Meal hamburger and fries every day for 137 days. Basically it looked the same on day one as day 137. See for yourselves.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

"Moralistic Therapeutic Deism"

Spiritual, but not religious. According to a professor and theologian at Princeton Theological Seminary, most teens 13-17 years of age who claim to be Christian have no idea what they're talking about. From the CNN.com article:
The study included Christians of all stripes -- from Catholics to Protestants of both conservative and liberal denominations. Though three out of four American teenagers claim to be Christian, fewer than half practice their faith, only half deem it important, and most can't talk coherently about their beliefs, the study found.

Many teenagers thought that God simply wanted them to feel good and do good -- what the study's researchers called "moralistic therapeutic deism."

This is definitely worrying establishment Christians -- and, I would imagine, political Christians (aka Christianists) -- but I think it looks more like the building blocks of tolerance, inclusion, and moderation rather than orthodoxy. Sort of a Reform movement among those who don't follow Judaism.

Heaven forbid these teens should eventually accept gays, shun preemptive war, be concerned about civil liberties, and believe there is more than one path to the infinite.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Quote for the Day

Blogger Timothy B. Lee, making a very good point about libertarianism and conservatism:
Personally I’m not interested in “limited government” as an end in itself, but as a means to greater individual liberty. I’m opposed to government programs that waste taxpayer dollars because higher taxes restrict my freedom. But I’m much more opposed to government programs that use taxpayer dollars to restrict freedom directly. I’m not interested in joining a “limited government” movement that considers the two equivalent. And I’m definitely not interested in being part of a movement that gives torture and preemptive war a free pass under the heading of “national defense” while it focuses instead on fighting the tyranny of SCHIP and unemployment insurance.
No one argues that a strong national defense is a worthwhile government program. But, no matter what so-called movement conservatives say, we do not have to concede an expansion of that program to include warrantless eavesdropping, torture, and illegal war-waging as a way to defend liberty. The whole Cheneyite "dark side" argument was a pretext for directing billions of taxpayer dollars into the bank accounts of corporate interests friendly to the president. The events of 9/11 gave them conveniently perfect cover. The fact is, abiding by the Constitution is the best way to defend liberty, because the Constitution already does a great job of defending liberty all by itself.

And, while we're on the topic of the Constitution, "promote the general welfare" is one of the topics of the Preamble. Every citizen should be able to benefit from what the government could provide. A strong national government could insure the expansion of land holdings, industry, and investment. So it naturally follows that people who fall through the cracks are given a safety net by which that can get back on their feet again and start giving back.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Man's Best Friend's Best Friend

Since my family has recently grown to include a dog for the first time in over 35 years, I am particularly attentive to stories about dogs doing extraordinary things. With hat tip to Bob Cesca, here is a fantastic YouTube video showing a Labrador with his best friend. Amazing.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Cruelty is a Universal Reality

Unless you've had your TV off for the past week and haven't been online in a while, you know the story about that crazy woman in Britain who tossed a cat into a trash bin while a video camera was recording. Irony that may only be so in my eyes: she's a bank employee.

However, here comes this Sullivan reader who puts the whole thing into perspective with a harrowing couple of stories about cruelty to children. Money quote:
Animals are just animals. Their suffering is not desirable, but it's also common. And not just at the hands of people, either. Cats play with mice before they kill them. Anything that's alive in the world today is capable of cruelty.

But also (tragically) common is cruelty to children at the hands of adults who may even be responsible for their welfare. This reader wants to put this woman's cruelty into perspective on the whole spectrum of cruelty to others. Fine. Let's just not be so blasé about it. I hate to use the Nazi meme, but that perhaps took the cruelty cake. Hundreds of thousands of Sudanese refugees are dying in Darfur at the hands of their government, Rwanda had its genocidal episode, and Sarah Palin likes to shoot wolves from a helicopter. OK, so the Sarah Palin thing was thrown in there to piss off my conservative readers, but my point is that none of these episodes are worthy of being blasé. Neither, by the way, is tossing a cat into a "wheelie bin," even if one thinks that doing so is kinda funny.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

If it Quacks Like a Duck...

Racism, plain and simple, courtesy of New York's Republican gubernatorial candidate (and Tea Party fave) Carl Paladino:

Paladino laid out several plans that included converting underused state prisons into centers that would house welfare recipients. There, they would do work for the state — "military service, in some cases park service, in other cases public works service," he said — while prison guards would be retrained to work as counselors.

"Instead of handing out the welfare checks, we'll teach people how to earn their check. We'll teach them personal hygiene ... the personal things they don't get when they come from dysfunctional homes," Paladino said.

Yeah, he's gonna give Andrew Cuomo a run for his money. What a tool.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Deficits Matter (But Only Until the Cameras Stop Rolling)

Stan Collender posts reaction to his post about the financial markets and they're relative indifference to deficits compared to recession and deflation.

Still, politicians, especially on the right, are screaming about the deficit as if it really matters when so much of the nation is suffering.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Watch vs. Warning

In meteorology-speak, a "watch" is when conditions exist that make some event of severe weather possible (e.g., "There's a flood watch in effect due to heavy rains"). A "warning" is when that event actually exists and is headed your way ("Seek higher ground; flood warning in effect").

Every so often, Andrew Sullivan posts something with the headline "Christianism Watch." It's his way of pointing to something written or said by a prominent figure on the Christianist right. (Just in case you don't know it, "Christianism" is a term coined by Andrew Sullivan in 2003, later expanded upon in 2006 in a Time magazine article:
The distinction between Christian and Christianist echoes the distinction we make between Muslim and Islamist. Muslims are those who follow Islam. Islamists are those who want to wield Islam as a political force and conflate state and mosque.... I mean merely by the term Christianist the view that religious faith is so important that it must also have a precise political agenda. It is the belief that religion dictates politics and that politics should dictate the laws for everyone, Christian and non-Christian alike.
In a post today, Sullivan posts the words of American Family Association radio host Bryan Fischer. After reading these words in the first sentence -- "Permits should not be granted to build even one more mosque in the United States of America, let alone the monstrosity planned for Ground Zero." -- this was, at least for me, not a Christianism Watch, but a Christianism warning. As Andrew writes, "The base of the GOP - aided and abetted by what's left of their elites - want a religious war abroad and at home not on Jihadism, but on Islam itself." This is a very fundamental truth that, so far, no one has really had the guts to speak aloud or publicly state, but that doesn't mean it doesn't exist.

So, pivoting off of Andrew's words, I want to state publicly that the Republican Party of the United States will not admit it, but they want to wage war against not just Al Qaeda, or Iran, but all of Islam itself. By opposing the expression of religious freedom by Muslims in the United States they have fully embraced their roles as the pigs in George Orwell's Animal Farm, where all animals are created equal, but some animals are more equal than others.

Monday, August 9, 2010

What Say You, Wingnuts?

In the wake of calls not to erect the Cordoba Mosque and Islamic Center near Ground Zero (and in the wake of Mayor Michael Bloomberg's impassioned speech honoring the center), comes this piece from Andrew Sullivan which comments on the fact that there are already Muslims praying at the Pentagon. Of course, we all know that a plane crashed into the Pentagon on 9/11, killing dozens (including my high school buddy Chris Newton, who was a passenger on that flight). So where is the uproar about that? Why hasn't the Anti-Defamation League spoken out about this? Why isn't Sarah Palin tweeting and Facebooking that this is a slap in the face to victims of 9/11? Perhaps because there's nothing wrong with Muslims praying at a site where Americans were killed by Muslim extremists?

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Proposition 8 Ruled Unconstitutional

All I can say is, it's about time. Judge Vaughn Walker:

Proposition 8 fails to advance any rational basis in singling out gay men and lesbians for denial of a marriage license. Indeed, the evidence shows Proposition 8 does nothing more than enshrine in the California Constitution the notion that opposite-sex couples are superior to same-sex couples. Because California has no interest in discriminating against gay men and lesbians, and because Proposition 8 prevents California from fulfilling its constitutional obligation to provide marriages on an equal basis, the court concludes that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional.

Judge Walker was appointed to the federal bench by Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. And the two lawyers who argued for overturning Prop 8 were Republicans. Defense witnesses in the trial could not come up with a single rational reason why banning same-sex marriage made sense. Indeed, some witnesses conceded during cross-examination that children of same-sex couples suffered no more damage from having parents of the same gender as did children of parents of different genders.

This is a great first step, but the Supreme Court (and Justices Kennedy and Scalia) await. One also wonders if opponents of marriage equality will try to seek an injunction on overturning the marriage ban until the Supreme Court weighs in. I think they'll try; I think they'll fail.

Meanwhile, in Colorado, Insanity From the Right

The Denver Post reports that a Republican candidate for governor of Colorado has warned voters that the policies of Denver's mayor George Hickenlooper, who could be his Democratic opponent should he win the primary, to boost bike riding in the city are "converting Denver into a United Nations community."

The bike riding program, started in partnership with the UN's International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives, puts about 400 bikes for rent at stations around the city. It falls in very nicely with Denver's reputation for being a green-friendly city.

But green intiatives, clearly, are something that hold no appeal to the right. What does appeal to them, however, is the idea that the United States is slowly being taken over by foreigners. The candidate, Dan Maes, who is a Tea Party favorite and currently leads a former Congressman for the primary nomination, said at a campaign rally, "At first, I thought, 'Gosh, public transportation, what's wrong with that, and what's wrong with people parking their cars and riding their bikes? And what's wrong with incentives for green cars?' But if you do your homework and research, you realize ICLEI is part of a greater strategy to rein in American cities under a United Nations treaty."

There is something seriously wrong with this man.

Sanity Prevails

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, on the decision to allow construction of a mosque and community center in lower Manhattan. I applaud his commitment to truth and freedom. But watch it become an election issue for Republicans. Money quote:
Let us not forget that Muslims were among those murdered on 9/11, and that our Muslim neighbors grieved with us as New Yorkers and as Americans. We would betray our values and play into our enemies' hands if we were to treat Muslims differently than anyone else. In fact, to cave to popular sentiment would be to hand a victory to the terrorists, and we should not stand for that.

For that reason, I believe that this is an important test of the separation of church and state as we may see in our lifetimes, as important a test. And it is critically important that we get it right.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Out-Palin-ing Palin

Nevada's Republican candidate for the Senate, Sharron Angle, has a peculiar relationship with the media. Witness this exchange on Fox News with Carl Cameron. Money quote:
We want [the press] to ask the questions we want to answer so that they report
the news the way we want it reported.

This woman is not stupid, and not naive. She has already gone on record stating that she avoids the mainstream press because "there's no earning for me there." In other words, she can't use the mainstream press to raise money for her campaign. She only wants press when it helps, and that's a worthwhile desire, to be sure. No one wants bad press when one is running for office. But to be so brazenly open about her contempt for traditional attempts to get at the heart of a candidate's message in an objective, non-slanted way will put reporters in the position of having to ask tougher questions to avoid looking like her stooges. And then voters will get nothing like the truth. Hmmm, sounds like textbook Republican strategy.

Fox should just give her her own show and be done with it already.

View From Your Window

Andrew Sullivan has been posting, for years, photographs sent in by readers of views from their windows all over the world. Last year, it spawned a book which compiled the best of all the photos (and gave readers a vote as to which photo graced the cover) and sold fairly well.

The latest incarnation of VFFW is a weekly contest on the Daily Dish website which awards a copy of Andrew photo book to the person who correctly identifies the location of the photograph. It's been an amazing display of intelligence, resourcefulness, and humor. People who correctly identified past photos even sent in pictures of themselves at the very location in the photo.

This week's entry was from Sarajevo. It was a mystery to me how people deduced it from the evidence in the photo, but this one was apparently easier than the others. However, my favorite take-away was from one reader's response:
Sarajevo? This is the best I've felt so far regarding the contest, but there is no way I can compete with folks who actually travel to or google map the exact location to the actual coordinates. Gosh, you would think Dish readers could find Bin Laden if you made it into a contest!

Uh, Secretary Gates? Call on line one.