Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Today - A Proud Californian

Of course, that can (and will) change. Not only is our state not immune to non-sense, it often seems we are the center of it. But lately it appears Pennsylvania has taken over our role as weirdest state in the Union. Not that weird is always bad. A lot of "weird" that people associate with California is perfectly fine by me.

Anyway, there was the breath-taking decision a couple of weeks ago by a fairly conservative California State Supreme Court that ruled in favor of gay rights, including the right to marry. I was immediately asked by several out-of-state friends if I thought the electorate would overturn it at the polls. I was highly uncertain of what the result would be. This article from McClatchy news gives me hope and makes me proud of many of my fellow Californians. It also, once again, underlines the cultural war we are chest deep in.

Monday, May 26, 2008

American Dictatorship

This blog post by KargoX today in The Daily Kos just about says it all. Well, not really, because you could write a book about what has happened to our country since Bush and Cheney came into power, followed by the tragic events on September 11, 2001. This is what America has come to. Every time we fail to speak out about it, we ARE the problem. The truth is, we have nothing to fear but ourselves.

Friday, May 23, 2008

She's gone too far...

And maybe now - she's gone. Let's hope so.

Today, the woman who will seemingly do anything to win the Democratic nomination for President of the United States of America actually had the balls to invoke the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy in 1968 as he was wrapping up his nomination, as the reason she continues to stay in the race.

As a 15 year old high school student, I worked in the RFK campaign. I was a volunteer in our local West Los Angeles campaign office - about 8 miles from the spot Kennedy was shot. It was one of the worst moments of my life and I'm sure of many Americans. The Democrats went on to nominate Hubert Humphrey and Richard Nixon went on to win the White House. The rest, as we say, is our history.

Once again, Olbermann says it all. The end is incredibly strong so watch it all the way through.


Keep in mind that this was recorded prior to the latest news - "DOWN GOES PARSLEY! DOWN GOES PARSLEY!"

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Hagee and Hitler and dangerous biblical scripture

So if you haven’t heard the latest hoopla over presumptive GOP Presidential candidate John McCain supporter Pastor John Hagee, here’s what it’s all about. First of all, remember that Hagee is a vehement supporter of Israel, but solely because he believes the Jewish people have to be positioned in that part of the world in order for biblical prophecy of Armageddon to be fulfilled. It’s all in that wonderful New Testament book, Revelations. Every time anything happens in the Middle East, he is the fattest cheerleader on the sidelines, screaming for Israel to fire another missile or to annex another piece of land.

Back to hoopla (the prior stuff is largely overlooked these days) – Huffington Post columnist Sam Stein uncovered this tape of Hagee in top sermon form, explaining that Hitler was simply here on earth to do God’s will. He was the “hunter” in prophecy who drove the Jews out from under rocks and forced those who had survived the Holocaust to return to the Holy Land.

Today, Hagee has his Magic Underpanties in a bunch (oh, wait, wrong superstition)… anyway, he’s pissed about all of this and claims that the biased press is trying to make him look like some sort of Nazi sympathizer, when he has always loved the Jewish people and always thought Hitler a monster. He said in his sermon, "Then god sent a hunter. A hunter is someone with a gun and he forces you. Hitler was a hunter. And the Bible says -- Jeremiah writing -- 'They shall hunt them from every mountain and from every hill and from the holes of the rocks,' meaning there's no place to hide. And that might be offensive to some people but don't let your heart be offended. I didn't write it, Jeremiah wrote it. It was the truth and it is the truth. How did it happen? Because God allowed it to happen. Why did it happen? Because God said my top priority for the Jewish people is to get them to come back to the land of Israel."

Fair enough – you personally aren’t against Jews or pro-Nazi. But you knew people would be offended, so don’t act surprised. Further, what is it, exactly, that this Jeremiah (as in “the Book of”) had to say about Hitler committing genocide against the Jewish people? Well, nothing. It was just one of those crazy acid-trip stories about end-times in that wacky "Revelations". So, in a way Hagee, you are indeed the one saying it. It’s entirely your interpretation of a scripture! It’s the problem with prophecies. Like so much else in the bible, they are open to various decipherments. And you interpret it as saying that Hitler had come to do God’s work. Others read it and see nothing of the kind. This shows that prophecy and other biblical teachings are useless to give us an exact message about anything. Beauty, or evil, is in the eye of the beholder.

And what if Hagee got the rest of his prophecy the way he wants it? What do his precious Jewish people gain from his Armageddon? Well, it’s not very pretty. You see, unless they happen to be Jews for Jesus, they and their children and grandchildren are all going to die in that much anticipated apocalypse. Aren’t they lucky to have a good American friend like Pastor John Hagee? And isn’t John McCain lucky to have his endorsement? He must think he is. On several occasions he has said that he is proud to have it. And wouldn’t it be great to have a President handling our Middle East policies who gets regular input from John Hagee, on what our next move should be? Want to know what his advice would be? He believes that a war with Iran is a necessary precondition for the kick-off of Armageddon – which is “imminent”.

UPDATE - I've never been forced to update a post so soon after writing one. John McCain has just rejected the endorsement of Pastor Hagee, based on this new information. In the past week, Candidate Maverick McCain, who fancies himself a proponent of election reform, has had to drop several lobbyists from his campaign and now this. I've felt that an even larger issue for McCain than Hagee (who, after all, only endorsed him) is the spiritual advisor to his campaign - Rod Parsley. I'm sure we'll be talking more about him in coming months. Parsley thinks America was founded as a Christian nation, in part to destroy Islam.

UPDATE 2 - This John McCain... I'm having a hard time keeping up! Now he is dumping Parsley as well. Ordinary Girl (in the comments) predicts that this whole thing will be glossed over, unlike the Rev. Wright scandal for Obama. I think she's 100% correct. Now you might argue that McCain was smarter than Obama and got rid of his baggage before it bacame a big issue. And I would fire back - why the fuck wasn't it a big issue months ago?

Monday, May 19, 2008

Our deep national divide

My friend, the Spanish Inquisitor, tells us an interesting story of how he spent his weekend. In the process he further develops this thinking on the future of society in regards to religious practices. Specifically to doing away with them, without doing away with “ceremony”, which he believes are critical parts of human interaction.

SI said: …the last couple of hundred years, since the Enlightenment, indicates that we are already on that path, and we’ve come pretty far along it to boot. Recent claims to the contrary notwithstanding, America is based on the premise that we can continue along this path of secular humanity without gods to guide us, using only the reason and intellect we’ve developed on our own.

This forced me back into thoughts I have been dwelling on quite a bit. As I look back over my (our) life I think I can see something going on. I hesitate to claim it as a fact, because I'm well aware of how easily our senses can skew towards a belief of the times we live being particularly important for one reason or another. This is a very human failing. For instance, has there ever been a generation who thought, “Huh, how about young people these days? They have better music, are more well-behaved, and know better than we did how to face the challenges of life”? We all know the answer to this and it has to make you laugh every time you hear someone say it (or catch yourself thinking it).

But it seems that even if you simply do an objective historical comparison by cutting this country’s history into 50 year chunks, you will have to conclude that the last 50 have been a critical point in the Culture Wars that have haunted our nation (and the very idea of the first truly egalitarian society in the history of mankind) since our founding days, when slavery was given a pass. This was the so-called "original sin" of America.

Since my birth we have seen the end of segregation, movies and (to a lesser degree) television and radio free to use the explicit content of the choice of the producer, women obtaining and extending rights won earlier in the century, minority groups finding legal remedies to problems created by racism, reproductive rights, inter-racial marriages, new acceptance of gays and lesbians in the community, minorities and women in places of power, people feeling more free to declare their atheism openly and much more. Some of us feel completely at home with the notion, but think how radical it is that the Democratic Party primaries have come down to a decision between nominating for President a woman, or a black man.

These are substantial and revolutionary changes over a mere half century. As we all know, there are 10's of millions of our fellow Americans who would turn back each and every one of these advances if they could. And, so, we are at war. Make no mistake - it is a culture war. It's a terrible sore that is coming to a head. In the near future people will be making the ultimate decision – do we carry on with this noble experiment or do we stem the tide of freedom? Either we continue headlong into the notion of egalitarian society, or we destroy the experiment.

Most of us might not see the determining battles in the conflict. But we can be among those who lay the groundwork for a winning final battle. Think of the turmoil and upheaval of the past half century and then imagine what could happen in the coming 50 or 60 years.

The Family - more religious wackiness

Jeff Sharlet has a book coming out that will hopefully get a good deal of attention. It's title is "The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power". It's not just for hayseeds anymore. Hillary Clinton, Sam Brownback, Ed Meese, Jesse Helms, Charles Colson, Tom DeLay and the list goes on and on through American politics. Jesus uses, and rewards, these individuals for bringing Christianity to the world - behind the scenes. This is very disturbing.

Here's about 5 minutes of Will Wilkinson's interview with Jeff Sharlet for And the full interview here.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

From 'Too much fun', to 'way too scary'

Only in America (post-2000 election)

I knew Bush couldn't complete his 8 years without me hearing at least a couple more things to make me double-up on my Lexapro prescription. This one courtesy of our friend Ric, the Grumpy Lion. And here's the link to the Progressive article that he cites.

Basically, the FBI has deputized nearly 25,000 of your fellow citizens and they are watching you! If you are a terrorist, or pissed off one of them, you are going to get reported. And, apparently, "when" (not if, according to the article) martial law is declared, they are authorized to use deadly force on any suspected terrorist, or person who pissed them off, without fear of prosecution.

I used the word "apparently" in the last paragraph for a couple of reasons. First, the article itself made clear that they were going on the best information they could come up with, but that it may not be perfect. They had an InfraGard (remember that name) member who swears it was said. They had a number of people deny it, including the FBI. But they did get one source to confirm it and another who would not deny it.

The second reason is that Ric received the following in his comments section:

Ric get your coat on I’m stopping by and taking you out for a drink. The article by Mr Rothschild has been pretty much debunked. I’ll chime in that Mr. R actually refused to tell the FBI where the meeting re: deadly force” was.

There was more to the comment and you may want to read it in it's entirety, as well as responses to it from Ric and myself. We wanted sources cited for this "pretty much" debunked story. In fairness, he did return to Grumpy Lion with sources - an official statement of denial from the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Well, golly Hoss, if the FBI denies it, then it must not be true! If you think this is a "debunking" of the article then you might as well say that the article debunked itself, since it quoted an FBI official as saying it was ridiculous!

Meanwhile, I've done a little investigating of my own. Using the story title with other key words such as "debunk" and "disprove" and "false", I could find nothing of substance. More importantly, Using the solitary keyword "InfraGard" and using a date filter, there is only one news story, since the Progressive article, and it had nothing to do with debunking the Progressive.

So my real question is, why the deafening silence from the news media on this story? Oh... hold on. Here's something now...

Friday, May 16, 2008

Too Much Fun!

I'm sorry, but I can't stop -

Thursday, May 15, 2008

The "Inside Bill O'Reilly" Edition

If you haven’t seen the clip of O’Reilly that’s been going around the Internet, where the hell have you been for the past 36 hours? It’s funny enough on it’s own (and not a little disturbing). I’ve included it for anyone who has missed it. But more importantly, you have to see the BillO Meltdown Remix!

Hey Bush - "SHUT THE HELL UP"!

And to think – this was before the dumbass comments Bush made in Israel earlier today. How bad were they? The moderately spoken Senator Biden called it “Bullshit”. Maybe Olbermann should have held off an extra day before doing this Special Comment. Then again, it’s strong enough as is. It’s in two parts due to the fact that it is slightly longer than the YouTube 10 minute limit per video.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Don't Swat the A.I.

Not that I am in any way qualified to speak on the subject, but I saw this very enlightening article today and it gave me reason to think about mankind’s efforts to create artificial intelligence.

What an overwhelming proposition. The human brain has been described as one of the most complicated organizations of matter in universe. How much we understand about the brain is minuscule compared to what we still find completely baffling. In fact, we have every reason to expect that there are many things about cognition that we don't even know that we don't know, such is our benighted condition. What a daunting task, then, to create artificial intelligence based on the mind of humans.

It’s tempting to make the leap based on the fact that we have created super-computers that are, in many ways, superior to the human mind. But in many fundamental ways, they haven’t even scratched the surface of human intelligence, and might never if we simply try to throw more and more computational power at the problem.

So what if we just go at it like you would in solving any other problem? We didn’t start building aircraft with 747’s or B2's. The Wright brothers put together a few pieces of wood and cloth and flew it a short distance. What if we start by creating artificial intelligence at the level of a cockroach, instead of at the level of Einstein? I’m not sure that’s the purpose of the research talked about in this article. But it could certainly lead to that. Today the cockroach, tomorrow the lizard?

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Creationists love the “Cambrian Explosion”

Cambrian Explosion. Explosion! Sounds very sudden. Kind of instantaneous. Something you might expect from – GOD. Kind of what you get from Creation!

Here’s a typical "analysis" from an anti-evolution website:

…fossil record all of a sudden without any pre-existing ancestors. The vast mosaic of living organisms, made up of such great numbers of complex creatures, emerged so suddenly that this miraculous event is referred to as the "Cambrian Explosion" in scientific literature.
Most of the organisms found in this stratum have highly advanced organs like eyes, or systems seen in organisms with a highly advanced organization such as gills, circulatory systems, and so on. There is no sign in the fossil record to indicate that these organisms had any ancestors.

Naturally there is much intentionality in the disinformation creationists put out about the Cambrian. For instance, they know that in a world filled with the first small members of the Cambrian, the reason there is no fossil record is for the same reason there wouldn’t be a fossil record from many of today’s animals, such as jellyfish or worms. There is nothing left after death to fossilize.

But I believe there is another problem besides outright disingenuousness. The problem is with the very term “explosion” and their inability to understand it in the evolutionary sense that science is referring to. It is much like their inability to grasp the word “theory”, which they liken to some kind of a guess or hunch. In science a theory is a well established group of facts that consistently confirm other data and leads to new understanding.

The “explosion” that is being talked about in the Cambrian Explosion transpired over 50 or 60 million years! Now, this is a number that most creationists have a very difficult time digesting. Remember that these people think the planet has only been here for less than 10,000 years. The only “explosion” that these folks can relate to is what happened the day Billy Joe ran his ’84 Ford pick-up into the gas pump at 1st and Main. And, by the lord, THAT was sudden!

The strange creatures of the Cambrian, many of which are unlike any present life forms, present another problem for Creationists. See, none of them are around anymore and, by most creation story accounts, the good lord created all the animals of today in their present form. So where did those creatures go, and why are none of today’s animals found fossilized in the Burgess or Maotianshan shales?

It’s always fun when creationists attempt to apply science to their beliefs.

Here’s an interesting article about some new thoughts on the how the Cambrian Explosion got its kick-start and how modern life can find its roots there.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Continuing the theme

Another voice of reason that has arisen in the media is Rachel Maddow. Here she joins with Olbermann to explore the hypocrisy of McCain - particularly in regards to religious figures. And in the process, this goes a long way to explain why Hagee and Parsley really should matter to people a lot more than Jeremiah Wright.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Keith Olbermann - Our generation's Edward R. Murrow?

The previous post has generated some interesting and somewhat heated intellectual thought from people who take pride in their atheism and free-thinking. The Exterminator responded to this comment by The Lifeguard:

"Maybe Evo's right... maybe some of the public needs to start hearing what these mutants are actually saying and have someone call them exactly what they are on national TV: scary, intolerant people who wield way too much political power and are threatening our democracy."

Ex then wrote back to Lifey:

"And who would that someone be? Edward R. Murrow is long dead. "

Very true (except in our memories and movies), we don't have him anymore. We have to go with what we have and we have some pretty good commentators. One of the best of them at the moment is Keith Olbermann of MSNBC. Unfortunately, that means his audience is limited to those with cable access and the net. But this is part of the world we now live in and we have to do the battle of ideas by whatever means are dictated by modern technology and cultural preferences. Olbermann is one of the voices I'm counting on to force the wider media to pay attention and disseminate information to the electorate in the coming 6 months.

Here he exposes the "scary, intolerant people who wield way too much politcal power"

Thursday, May 08, 2008

The General Election - Let's Get It ON!

I'm not saying that Barack Obama is the Democratic party nominee (though he is). What I am saying is that it's time for the media to start shinning the light into the dark, sticky corner of conservatism in America - the GOP and John McCain. If you are down with Bush's 8 years in office morphing into 12 years, then you probably won't care about these things, but I do and I'm hoping most Americans (for a change) feel similarly.

First up - a couple of looks at Rod Parsley; John McCain's "spiritual" advisor. Please give me Reverend "God Damn America" Wright any day. (These are short).

From Right Wing Watch

From Brave New Films

Finally, on this cheerful note, we find out that Obama isn't going to take any of the usual GOP dirty tricks that most of the U.S. population is now at least aware of. He came out and said what we all know. John McCain is losing his mind! I love it. This will be so much fun once Hillary is officially out of the way.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Pastor Hagee - This man is my enemy

“A loathsome man filled with hate”, and John McCain is proud to have his endorsement.

I don’t think we should be talking about Jeremiah Wright for weeks on end. But if we are, why is it that we are not talking about Hagee and McCain’s current spiritual advisor Rod Parsley? Why do these things slip invisibly past the radar screen of main-stream media?

Meanwhile the man McCain wishes to follow (and unashamedly stands by his policies) is officially the most despised President of modern times. I find this wholly unsurprising. I’m quite sure many of us can remember arguments with friends, years ago, in which we pleaded that he was a terrible President and yet they couldn’t see it. Apparently they do now. Thanks folks. You found your rationality a little late for the country. The question is, will you let the same thinking allow you to make the mistake again this year?

Tip of the sombrero to BJ Keefe for the Bush polling data.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

A man and his room

I’m going to be completely honest and say that when I heard Chappy had picked a Virginia Woolf book I was disappointed. I know just enough about Woolf to realize that I was going to be reading something that wasn’t specifically for me, a man. In fact, I immediately emailed Ex and told him, “thanks a bunch for giving Chappy the pick”!

After I got over it, my (happily) typical rationality set in. Here is a classic American writer who I have never experienced in any way. If Chappy hadn’t picked it, I probably never would have on my own. I’m going to read it, so read it with the right attitude, I told myself.

First of all – I can’t remember the last time I read such excellent writing. I could open to any random page in the book, read it, and be sure to find at least one turn of a phrase that I would greatly admire. Had she been writing about a bowling league, it would have been worth it just for the opportunity to read someone who, unlike me, really knows how to write. If I was insecure, it would have broken my heart to read a woman from 80 years ago who could compose circles around me today.

Here’s an example of what I’m talking about. I’m going to pick up the book right now and flip through the page and stop it with my thumb.

Page 96 –

"There are so many new facts for her to observe. She will not need to limit herself any longer to the respectable houses of the upper middle classes. She will go without kindness or condescension, but in the spirit of fellowship into those small, scented rooms where sit the courtesan, the harlot and the lady with the pug dog. There they still sit in the rough and ready-made clothes that the male writer has had perforce to clap upon their shoulders. But Mary Carmichael will have out her scissors and fit them close to every hollow and angle. It will be a curious sight, when it comes, to see these women as they are, but we must wait a little, for Mary Carmichael will still be encumbered with that self-consciousness in the presence of “sin” which is the legacy of our sexual barbarity. She will still wear the shoddy old fetters of class on her feet".

But that wasn’t the best thing I took from this way-too-short book. We become so complacent in society, thinking that all the issues of inequality are in the past and that everyone today has an equal opportunity. Certainly it’s true that we have come a long way, baby. It’s not the world Virginia lived in, and her world was much better than that of her grandmother. But, let’s be real – even the time of Woolf’s grandmother is less than a couple of hundred years ago!

Thus, this book is a terrific reminder of how difficult life is for any group that has faced discrimination, even a number of generations later. Woolf is brilliant in showing us why this is a truism and does so without whining. She simply sets up the facts and makes analogies and she is spot on with every one of them.

I couldn’t help but think, even decades after her death, things were still pretty bad. As a child, I lived in a world where one never saw female doctors, lawyers, police, fire, professors, bankers, real estate agents, soldiers. It’s become such a normal feeling to deal with females in these occupations that I can (far too easily) forget that even in my lifetime, it was not always so.