January 31, 2005

News Bias

from - Buck

A journalist explains why reporters on the ground almost always turn against war.

You have to be very ideologically committed indeed not to be worn down by the destruction and ghastliness of it all, by the mutilated kids and head-shot snipers’ victims, by flies crawling in the mouths of the dead. This is especially true of doubtful wars of uncertain provenance and murky purpose. Remember that what appears on the screen in Dallas is sanitized, adjusted, shaped at corporate to whatever end the networks seek to promote. The reporter on the ground sees the exit wounds, the woman’s face three days gone into decomposition.

Not much to glorify is there?

Posted by Buck at 10:43 PM | Comments (1)

Funniest ... Joke ... Ever!!!

from - smijer

This came to my e-mail box today:

A bus carrying only ugly people crashes into an oncoming truck and everyone inside dies. When they get to meet their maker, because of the grief they have experienced, He decides to grant them one wish each before they enter Heaven. They're all lined up, and God asks the first one what their wish is. "I want to be gorgeous." So God snaps His fingers, and it is done. The second one in line hears this and says, "I want to be gorgeous too." Another snap of His fingers and the wish is granted. This goes on for a while with each one asking to be gorgeous but when God is halfway down the line, the last guy in the line starts laughing.
When there are only ten people left, this guy is rolling on the floor, laughing his head off.
Finally, God reaches this last guy and asks him what his wish will be.
The guy eventually calms down and says: "Make 'em all ugly again."

Posted by smijer at 12:41 PM | Comments (1)

Not Much

from - smijer

If the answer is "not much", the question is "what do I know about Chattanooga Mayor Bob Corker, Senate candidate in 2006". The Democrats are likely to be running Harold Ford, a "centrist", blue -blood -dog Democrat (more on this).

Corker has a pretty good shot at the nomination, so I am making it a mission to know as much as I can about him before 2006, and I plan to use this thread as a clearinghouse for information about him. If I learn more, I'll update this post, and if this experiment works, I'll include this post in the 2006 election bar on my link column. Without further ado...

Would like to know

  • Stance on Social Security Privatization
  • Stance on "preemption doctrine"
  • Stance on anti-marriage bills such as DOMA

General

Pros

  • Housing incentives for teachers
  • Raised $51 million in private donations for waterfront plan
  • Got $10 million in federal grant to build housing from homeless as part of two-year plan to combat homelessness (without vagrancy laws!)
  • Opposed plans that would erode tax base by allowing corporate loop-holes.
  • (same link) Helped lure professional football to Tennessee
  • (same link) Opposed Bill Frist; labeled him "cat-killer"
  • (update 2/24/2005) At one point favored income tax plan to remedy Tennessee's unfair tax structure and revenue problems.

Cons

  • Wal*Mart takes over Chickamauga Levy, Tiftonia hilltop during his administration
  • Republican (in another time and place, this wouldn't be an automatic negative. In the Republican Party of 2005, I'm afraid that it is)
  • Bush "Pioneer" in 2000. (Status unknown in 2004!?)
  • Once, maybe twice, reported to have used City Hall for campaign activities such as taking fundraising calls.
  • Hired smear merchant for Senate campaign. (Hat tip, Alice)

Endorsements
(none yet identified

In opposition, not in senate race

Right now, the "Pros" list outweighs the "cons" list, but that doesn't mean much, considering how little I know. I confess that I have a lot of admiration for the city which Corker leads, but that doesn't tell you much about what kind of senator he will make. We will see as this develops.

Posted by smijer at 07:47 AM | Comments (2)

January 30, 2005

Quote of the Day, in Two Parts

from - smijer

Democrats react to the stunningly positive Iraqi election. But no matter how much cold water they try to throw on it, the Iraqi election - the mere fact that it happened and the fact that millions of Iraqis risked terror attacks to vote - is a credit to...

???

The courage of the Iraqi people? Iraqi security forces? American GI Joes who are risking and giving their lives to salvage something positive from the ruins created by American war-mongering? The forty killed and hundreds injured while trying to participate? The demands of Ayatolla Al-Sistani? The strategy of keeping polling locations and candidate names secret until the very last minute, regardless of how badly it may compromise the legitimacy of the election?

The answer appears in the extended entry...

President George W. Bush.
-Bill Hobbs, KoolAid drinker

I am thankful, along with most Iraqis and the rest of the world, that today's election proceeded with relative calm and relative high turn-out. Indeed, that is a testament to the courage and patriotism of the Iraqi people. I expect it is also a testament to the desparation of many in a war-torn country who truly need to feel they have the ability to do something to take back control of their own lives. Let us hope that soon that nation will rise from its ashes and come into a new life. And no thanks to Preseident George W. Bush who invaded in order to "disarm" Saddam Hussein, without ever giving him the chance to peacably disarm, and who never had a plan, and probably never even had a desire for bringing freedom to that nation.

P.S. - some good advice from the party of Lee Atwater, John McCain's black bastard baby, the Swift Boat Liars, Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter. And I mean that. It's more important that we not become that which we hate, than that we win elections. Yeah, meanness, negativity, and propaganda win elections, but on the other hand, every new generation has an opportunity to open its eyes, to choose, and thus deserve, something better.

Posted by smijer at 08:41 PM | Comments (1)

Sunday Irony

from - smijer

cotgbadge.gif
Well, the first Carnival of the Godless is up, and Bob have mercy, look at all the posts!

Now, here's the ironic part. My first contribution was an attempt to evangelize freethinkers to Unitarianism, titled Unitarianism - What Freethinkers Could Use a Little Of... and now here it is Sunday, and guess what!? The pastor sent out an e-mail that church is closed! Why? Because this is Chattanooga, and there is ice on some of the trees. Maybe Unitarians should develop a doctrine of eternal punishment or something to motivate ourselves to be more faithful about keeping the church open on Sundays.

Anyway, this morning I can console myself with the Carnival goodies, and around eleven, I guess I'll go visit Pilgrim Congregational to see if I can get my church fix in.

Posted by smijer at 09:07 AM | Comments (1)

January 29, 2005

Let Freedom Reign!

from - smijer

Well, Iraq holds elections tomorrow. Nobody much seems to be fooling themselves that these elections will bring about freedom for the Iraqi people. There are exceptions (what is he smoking?), but for the most part there is no triumphalism even coming from the war-bloggers and the administration's staff media pundits.

I would love to see freedom in Iraq (and in China, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Russia,...), and I'm optimistic that someday the world will move radically in that direction. But we are rapidly approaching the time when we, as a country, are going to have to face up to the fact that freedom cannot be imposed by force of arms, especially when the people who are giving the orders never had any plan (or desire?) to bring freedom.

After the elections tomorrow, and the inauguration of the new government in Iraq, there will be a great opportunity to see peace and relative freedom in a nation that has been living under constant terrorist threat for the last two years. That opportunity will not belong to anyone on this side of the Atlantic Ocean. It will belong to the new Iraqi government - no matter how legitimate or illegitimate that government may be. It isn't likely that the newly elected government will have the vision, courage, and patriotism to do it. More likely, they will be looking to advance their own interests, and those of their ethnic cousins, at the expense of ethnic minorities there. More likely they will not wish to give up the advantage of having the might of the U.S. military machine tentatively at their disposal. But, the chance remains.

The first step (assuming those elected are Shi'a), is to reach out to the Sunnis and Kurds, offering generous administrative positions and diplomatic agreements to buy their good will. The second step, also during the week of inauguration, will be to very publicly and very vocally ask the United States to immediately withdraw its military presence, and request security assistance from Lebanon, Jordan, and Morocco until the security situation can be stabilized. This should not long, as there will no longer be much motive for violence or civil war, and security force training can proceed without serious threats. The last step is to publicly demand cash money from the Coalition for war reparations. This is the only step where westerners will have much ability to help. The Coalition may cooperate, and the the rest of the west may pressure us to, or not. To the extent that reparations are paid, the ability of Iraq to rebuild itself in the wake of a disastrous war will be enhanced.

At this point, life should return to something approaching normal for most Iraqis, and the future of that nation will rest with its new government. They may choose to enshrine freedom, or they may choose to impose Sharia. They may create a nation better than the one under Saddam, or worse. All of this will happen eventually anyway. The question is how many more innocent lives will be fed into the furnace of war before that happens.

We shouldn't fool ourselves that elections tomorrow will miraculously create freedom in Iraq, but we can acknowledge that they do present an opportunity, and hope for the best outcome.

Update: Since I wrote the above, I've come across Darksyd's eloquent appeal for gratitude to and soldiarity with those who have risked everything to make the elections possible, and those others who will risk everything to participate in them. The deck may be stacked against them, but they do deserve our respect and admiration. They certainly have mine.

Posted by smijer at 10:42 AM | Comments (0)

January 28, 2005

An Embarrassment of Carnival Riches

from - smijer

Via Pharyngula, we discover another new carnival worth our attention. We may not specifically get to participate (though you never know), but we can at least observe the Skeptic's Circle, which promises posts about:

* Urban legends and hoaxes. If you spotted an oft-reported story that doesn't hold up to critical thought, this is the perfect opportunity to let people what you found. I hate plugging myself, but check out this post about Bill Gates' pictures - and if that doesn't work for you, try one of the examples I cite therein.

* Pseudoscience. Those who know their facts can take this opportunity to correct those who don't. Sean at Preposterous Universes shows how a good report can get misinterpreted by the mainstream media.

*Pseudohistory. Don't like the lessons we all should learn being denied or rewritten? Check out how Orac is continuing his long-running battle against Holocaust denial.

*Hysteria. We've all head countless stories about what is the greatest threats in the world today are, so now it's time to hear why we can still count on the sun rising tomorrow. RealClimate does this well by examining a popular argument against global warming.

*Quackery. Any stories either about potentially harmful alternative medicines or misleading reports from medical news stories. Dr. Charles has a good example of how he works a little magic on his prescription pad to save a witch.

Sit back, put your feet up, and get ready for the show.

Posted by smijer at 05:18 PM | Comments (0)

Friday Gourmets

from - smijer

washingup.JPG

If you are like most people, you are asking yourself, why is Doo-Doo washing his hands? Good question. It's because he just had a fine meal of spaghetti. And as a Friday Bonus, you can watch him in the act. A few disclaimers:


  • The video camera has no battery, so this is made with a still camera, and is poor quality.
  • Be warned: 1 mb file. It doesn't stream. If you aren't on broadband I wouldn't bother.
  • AOL usually doesn't play these right anyway.
  • Corny music background. If you don't like it, turn it down.
  • If you notice the wine on the table - it's not mine. I'm still good on my resolution.

That said, if you still want to watch the spaghetti feast, click here

And to go with the gourmet theme, here's an old still of Ms. Piddy eating my tater salad:

tatersalad.JPG

TGIF, and don't forget the full menagerie over at the Modulator's Friday Ark!


Posted by smijer at 07:43 AM | Comments (1)

January 27, 2005

Ethics and Politics

from - Buck

Everyone is shocked and outraged at the revelations that Armstrong Williams and Maggie Gallagher were both on the administrations payroll to push policy.

Now that it has been revealed that Bill Kristol and Charles Krauthammer both helped write the speech for Bush is it unethical that they then sing praises on Fox News about the speech without revealing that they helped write it?

Mixing ethics with politics always leaves me a little baffled.

Not to worry though. Now that Bush is aware of it he will make it right.

Posted by Buck at 02:06 PM | Comments (1)

Who Knew?

from - smijer

You know, it should have occurred to me a while ago that other Unitarians might also be bloggers, but it never occurred to me to seek them out. It turns out that there is an embarrassment of riches in the world of UU blogging. I happened quite accidentally across Left Coast Unitarian just yesterday, and from there, uncovered the existence of a whole slew of UUs in the blogosphere. There are even UU Blog awards for Pete's sake. I'll have to sift through the award nominations and the various links before I can decide on my favorites, but expect the smijer blogroll to expand in the coming weeks. Interesting at first sight are (besides the afore mentioned LCUU):
Philocrites, all around Unitarian blogger.
Virginia UU in King George's War, USMC UU deployed in Iraq.
Boy in the Bands, UU blogging from the Christian UU perspective.
Phil's Little Blog on the Prairie, more general UU chatter.
....
and so much more. Prepare me to bore you non-UU's to death in the coming weeks. Think of it as incentive to join up.

Posted by smijer at 07:36 AM | Comments (1)

January 26, 2005

Haters Unite!

from - smijer

I wore my SpongeBob tie to work today, in honor of the Reverend Dr. SpongeDob Stickypants. Then, at lunch, I soaked it in root beer in a tragic root beer related accident. So, no picture of me in my SpongeBob tie. The nearest substitute I could find was this one of SpongeDob's first cousin, SpongeTrog Cavepants. Note the thick wooden club, handy for gay-bashing or inspiring uncomfortable phallic thoughts in those preachers who are less than secure in their sexual identity:

SpongeTrog.jpg

Posted by smijer at 03:53 PM | Comments (0)

To win without fighting

from - Buck

In a second inaugural address tinged with evangelical zeal, George W. Bush declared: "Today, America speaks anew to the peoples of the world." The peoples of the world, however, do not seem to be listening. A new world order is indeed emerging - but its architecture is being drafted in Asia and Europe, at meetings to which Americans have not been invited.

This article by William Lind gives us an accurate glimpse of what the future of the world may be.

In 1998 Madeleine Albright, then US secretary of state, said of the U.S.: "We are the indispensable nation." By backfiring, the unilateralism of Mr Bush has proven her wrong. The US, it turns out, is a dispensable nation.

Sun Tzu once said that "To win without fighting is best"

It seems like the rest of the world may understand the importance of that admonition.

Posted by Buck at 10:06 AM | Comments (2)

Meet the New Boss

from - smijer

Same as the old boss.

link #1 (alternative link, which doesn't require registration)
link #2

(Yeah, there's a smidgeon of deja vu about this post....)

Posted by smijer at 07:40 AM | Comments (0)

January 25, 2005

Big Intrusive Government Flourescent Light Bulbs

from - smijer

I know there are a couple of conservatives that read this blog. I know there aren't many, but there are a few... and a few of you have your own blogs and have a larger conservative readership. So, this is a sincere appeal to you.

Yes, I'm still bitter about George Bush being re-elected, and I don't want him representing our nation. No, I don't feel like he has his heart or his head in the right place. But there he is, and I know you guys are happy about it, and that's an honest difference of opinion, I guess. But that doesn't mean that you guys can't oppose anything he does. Some of you have already spoken out about some of the spending that he and the Republican Congress have undertaken. Some of you have even lamented that you might have voted on our side if we had run a better candidate. But that's all kind of small time, and now you really have a chance to shine.

Join the Democrats who have a spine in opposing confirmation of Gonzales. Make the case to all of your conservative friends and/or readership that the U.S. will be compromising its moral authority by confirming an A.G. who wrote memos suggesting that the President could ignore U.S. laws on torture if he felt they were unconstitutional restrictions on his war powers, who advocated taking the teeth out of any definition of torture, and who basically built a legal framework meant to open the door to American use of torture. Ok, some of you think that Rumsfeld's torture memo, and the U.S. command structure really didn't cause the "bad apples" at Abu Ghraib and Camp X-ray and elsewhere. I think that's wrong (and naive), but that's ok. We can disagree on that. Surely we can agree that the President is not, as Gonzales believes, above the law if he "thinks" it is unconstitutional? Surely we can agree that it is objectionable to set up a system to provide legal cover for torture or other forms of prisoner abuse? I think we can. And I think that no matter whether you are happy with Bush in office or unhappy with that - we all have to live with the country that we wake up with in 2009. It can be a country that condoned torture - and face it: a vote to confirm Gonzales is a vote for a man that condoned torture - or it can be a country that stood on principle; at least in some respects. It can be a country with or without moral authority on human rights. Republican senators will, if they believe their constituents want it, oppose Bush on the confirmation of Gonzales. And, if enough of you guys speak out, eventually enough constituents of Republican Senators will want a no-vote on Gonzales to make something happen. It's possible for the grassroots to do what the Congress and President have been unable or unwilling to do: unite. We can unite in favor of an America that believes in human rights and opposes the use of torture. We can do it because it is the right thing to do. Are y'all with me?

P.S. Ricky, Uncle, the usual suspects? If you are with me on this, why not give Markos a link for the list in this post?

P.P.S. To make it extra-official, I'm going on record as asking for all senators to vote "no" on Gonzales... and ask for this post to be included in the No To Gonzales database. I think that she said it best. Conservatives, after thinking it over, should have an opportunity to offer their own posts to the database as well.

Posted by smijer at 06:02 PM | Comments (2)

What's a man to believe?

from - Buck

From the sinking of the Maine, to the Gulf of Tonkin governments have always spread rumors and lies to whip up a fever for war among the people. The war on terror is no exception.

Remember the incubator babies from Gulf War I?

Remember the human shredder from Gulf War II?

Well now we have a little more light shed on the story of Jumana Hanna.

All warfare is based on deception, including the crude and ephemeral deceptions embodied in atrocity porn. But war involves subtle deceptions, as well. The subtlest and deadliest is the idea that the state is conducting a war to protect the people from foreign enemies, rather than exploiting foreign conflicts to wage war on the rights and prosperity of the people.

Is there anybody out there that can be trusted without verification?

Posted by Buck at 02:57 PM | Comments (0)

War, deficit and smokers

from - Buck

These are not the actions of an administration that has any intention of “coming home”

I guess Colin Powell was wrong again.

You will hear the argument that if we are going to have troops in the field we have to spend the money to give them what they need but consider that:

According to congressional aides, about three-fourths of the $80 billion is expected to be for the Army. It's also expected to include money for the building of a U.S. embassy in Baghdad, estimated to cost around $1.5 billion.

Can you imagine what a 1.5 BILLION dollar embassy is going to look like?

1.5 BILLION dollars would buy plenty of Kevlar but when you are servicing an Empire the safety and security of the cannon fodder is one of your lesser concerns.

And over at the reading assignments on Nealz Nuze, Boortz wants to be sure that everybody knows that there is good news concerning the deficit

By the way, did you know that the deficit is down by $1 trillion? That's right...and the media is trying to downplay it and make it into bad news. Why would they do that? Because it's good news for Bush, and that violates the prime directive.

Neal is counting on the fact that his readers won’t read the article and the vast majority of them won’t. Telling the truth about anything, whether it is the war or the deficit means that you are downplaying it and turning good news into bad.

This is a conclusion that could only be drawn by He who believes that workers should be fired not based on performance but on personal preferences.

Good 'ol Neal. My favorite "Libertarian".

Posted by Buck at 09:32 AM | Comments (2)

Tuesday Boortz

from - smijer

I'm back early from Coffee with the Candidates. I actually got to speak to Karl Epperson, and I was impressed with his viewpoint. The others were huddled with high society types, so I picked up literature and left. While there, I did get to see an old friend, so here's the shout out to M.M. (or M.V., however you prefer it!)

I was just reading yesterday's "Nuze", where Boortz said,

Why is George Bush having to spend so much time defending a speech promoting freedom? It's amazing. Freedom is so unpopular around the world that you can't even stand up and deliver a speech extolling it's values and virtues without taking criticism from all corners. Such is the popularity of government-provided security. I ranted enough about this last Friday ... you can go to the archives for more. But, as I said, I just can't let it go. I grew up being told and actually believing that people love freedom. The biggest disappointment of my adult life may be the realization that this whole "love of freedom" thing is a complete lie. For the most part people seem to love freedom right up until that point where the old responsibility thing kicks in.

The thing is, of course, that Bush's freedom speech is taking hits not because we do not love freedom, but because we do cherish freedom, and his hypocritical rhetoric is a disservice to the cause of freedom. A look at some of the criticism shows what I mean. From Preposterous Universe:

If it weren't, you know, important. So, the Second Inaugural Address was the "freedom speech," in which the President harped on the theme of spreading freedom throughout the world. (Some transcripts, in the hands of trained readers, came out differently.) Much tough talk about democracy being good, tyranny being bad, stuff like that.

Of course, the educated blog-reading public understands that it's all hypocritical nonsense. The President is supposed to say things like that; what's he going to say, that our support for repressive dictatorships will be strictly limited to those cases when it seems to serve our immediate interests? But apparently some nervous folks in faraway lands actually thought he might be serious about cracking down on tyranny. Hysterical, no? So an aide was trotted out (anonymously, of course -- this isn't a gig you want on your resume) to explain to the innocent foreigners that the speech didn't actually represent a policy of the United States -- at least, not in the sense that the actual words in the speech were to be taken at face value. It was just business as usual, a little pep talk for the brave 51% that gave our President his mandate. Next thing you know, someone will actually think that tax cuts are the best way to eliminate the budget deficit.


(Apologies to Sean for quoting his entire post!)

Funnily enough, the same Neal Boortz who carries wood for freedom in the first paragraph continues on to suggest a plan for disenfranchising "welfare recipients" in the second paragraph

Boortz continues by telling bald-faced lies about climate change. He states, "The problem, of course, with the anti-capitalist climate change jihadists is that they lack any real scientific proof for their views." Why he would want to mislead you on this subject is beyond me. Neal, it's time for you to take a reality check. And while you're at it, spend some time at realclimate.org, where they discuss in some detail the evidence that supposedly doesn't exist. Don't miss today's post.

Neal is right about one thing. Zarqawi and other terrorists do hate democracy. And as Democratic nations continue to export anger and fear instead of hope and optimism, we can expect more Islamic people to join them in that hatred.

Final note, to Web Wench, if you're reading... the permalinks seem to be broken. Rather than 200501/01242005.html#label which points to the correct file, they are constructed this way: 200512/01242005.html#label, which leads to a file not found page.

Posted by smijer at 08:25 AM | Comments (2)

January 24, 2005

OH NO! (More Blog!)

from - smijer

I don't know how I forgot... another new add to the Lefty blogroll is Respectful of Otters. What can be better than another Unitarian Universalist for Otterly fabulous blogging?

Posted by smijer at 12:20 PM | Comments (0)

Read More Blogs

from - smijer

I never thought I'd say this, but the old Atrios/Daily Kos echo-chamber that captured my attention for so long has gotten just a wee bit stale. I've been shopping for some more oft-readable blogs, and now I'm ready to share the fruits of my labors with you.

The Poor Man is reliably witty and interesting. He has a new look now (but I liked the old one better). It appears that he has coined the word "mandatious", which tickles my funny bone.

Unspecified Chatter is the new incarnation of the RANT, which I already bragged about.

John Cole's Balloon Juice is among the more aggravating conservative blogs. I'm sure that he had to have been a finalist in the Wanker of the Week contest for his post celebrating the use of pepper spray on "left-wing rabble" protesting the inauguration. On the other hand, there is something strangely endearing about his faith in Dick Cheney's motives, and I can't help but believe this guy has potential.

Steve, at Deinonychus antirrhopus is a conservative with a brain (the verdict is still out on the heart). I'm a capitalist and pretty well left of center. You can tell someone is a righty when they wear the label of capitalist like a badge. Steve participates in the "Carnival of the Capitalists", so it's a safe bet he's on board with the kill-social-security movement. But, he has a brain, and he gives no quarter to the flat-earthers in his Party, and that earns him a spot on the blog roll.

Massimo Pigliucci's new blog, (mostly) Rationally Speaking, came to my attention via De Rerum Natura, who also alerted me to the fact that Pigliucci has left the University of Tennessee and moved to SUNY - Stony Brook. Pigliucci is a wonderfully outspoken advocate for reason and against superstition. He'll be a welcome addition to the Reason/Rationalism section of the blogroll.

Brent Rasmussen's blog, Unscrewing The Inscrutable should have been on the blog-roll long ago. He's one of the web's premiere advocates of reason and decriers of Creationism of all stripes. I struggled whether to list him under Reason/Rationalism or under science, but I settled on the reason angle, just because. Brent is also the originator of the Carnival of the Godless, coming soon to the internets near you.

Dropped from the blogroll were Brad DeLong (too low-key for a chihuahua like myself), and Alternative Energy ~ Renewable Energy, who dropped off of the face of the earth again shortly after I bragged that he had started posting again. I also dropped the indy biofuel company's blog, just because I didn't want to have my only "Energy" link go to a single sector of the alternative energy world.

So, those are the new guys on the blogroll.


Posted by smijer at 10:34 AM | Comments (2)

Chattanooga - Coffee With the Candidates

from - smijer

For any Chattanoogans not already aware of it, tomorrow morning, 7 a.m., is coffee with the candidates in the Waterhouse Pavilion at Miller Plaza. I intend to go, so if you can't make it and you want me to try to squeeze in a particular question for you, drop me a line.

Posted by smijer at 07:31 AM | Comments (1)

January 23, 2005

Unitarianism - What Freethinkers Could Use a Little Of

from - smijer

cotgbadge.gif
This will be my submission for the brand new Carnival of the Godless. I'll assume (if I dare) that it will be accepted for the first edition (to appear next Sunday, January 30th), and welcome all of the other freethinkers from around the blogosphere.

I prefer the term 'freethinking' to 'godlessness', for a rather nitpicky reason. It would seem to me that everyone has the same status. Either there is a god, or there isn't one. So, everyone is godless, or none of us are. But, no matter what term you prefer, freedom from irrational cognitive habits is peerless as a way of thinking.

On the other hand, there must be a silver lining or two that go with dogma-restricted patterns of thought. I'm not just talking about advantages such as the justification lent to those who set themselves up as moral authorities, false hope, a false sense of comfort, or other advantages that freethinkers generally reject or eschew. Instead I'm talking about real positives that have become habitually associated with the world of dogma and dissociated from the world of the freethinker. Hopefully, I'll also be able to show where Unitarianism can help the freethinker reacquaint him- or herself with some of these assets, and create a better quality of life for self, family, and community. The discussion begins below the fold.

Unitarian/Universalism: An ultra-brief history
The Unitarian Church originated as a sect within Christianity who could not reconcile the doctrine of strict montheism, the doctrine of the Trinity, and the teachings of the scriptures. They chose not to accept what they considered a human doctrine of Trinity, which would do violence to either reason or montheism. Instead, they chose monotheism and reason, thus earning themselves the name "Unitarian", and thus began the Unitarian tradition of honoring reason over dogma.

Universalists originated as a sect of Christianity who could not reasonably reconcile the scriptural teachings of a just and good God with the the scriptures that taught eternal damnation. Rather than do violence to reason, they chose to believe that, contrary to the simplest reading of scripture, salvation was universal. Thus began the Universalist tradition of honoring reason (and justice) over the words of ancient texts.

Later, Unitarians and Universalists found enough in common to merge together. Today, the combined church continues as a non-creedal institution, accepting freethinkers and religious believers alike for the benefit of all.

Building Community
From my experience, freethinkers tend not to be joiners. It is easy for people (like me) to fall into the habit of keeping too much to ourselves. Nevertheless, there are numerous benefits, both tangible and intangible, to belonging to a larger community. Those who grew up in church may remember the community structure it provided. Those who did not, may recall other institutions that created a social context to daily life. In the modern world, where nuclear families live in little boxes, separated from extended family, neighbors, and even the town barbershop and bank, there is a gaping void of community. Whether we are natural joiners or natural hermits, we need community. No man is an island. When I got off my isolated duff and showed up at the UU of Chattanooga, I discovered that there really is more to life than being a hermit. You may not believe it, but it's true. Kids need community, too. No one wants to raise the boy or girl in the bubble. The Unitarian church provides a community structure that is healthy for kids and adults alike.

Reaching Out
The religious people of the world may not have the morality market cornered (and believe it or not, they don't have the immorality market to themselves either), but an argument can be made that they have us outclassed in the philanthropy business. Now, I know that the theists of the world are quite capable of offering aid with Nebuchadnezzarine strings attached. But they are also capable of being great humanitarians. And, we are too. It's simply the fact that it is much, much easier for us to participate when we are working from an established infrastructure. With our busy and often too-self-centered lives, we just may not think to navigate to the UNICEF web-page and make a donation when Hurricanes create devastation in Haiti. We can be reminded to reach for our wallet when the plate is passed for a special offering. We may never "get around" to making a trip to work in the Community Kitchen or the local homeless shelter. However, we may remember to sign up to work when the Interfaith Hospitality Network brings a family to stay with the church. Many freethinkers feel it is important to give back to their community and the world. Involvment with the Unitarian church makes that so much easier. The existence of the UU Service Committee makes it easier still.

Self-Help
Studies show that those who pray or mediate live longer and healthier. I believe they also trend psychologically better adjusted. The Unitarian church provides a weekly reminder that quiet and introspection are worth taking the time out for. We also recover from illness better if we know that we know that people are sending us their good wishes. We doubt whether there is a supernatural connection, but just the reassurance that we are wanted, needed, and worth a few minutes of others' thoughts is a great psychological boost. That, in turn, boosts our own immune system and healing responses. This is also another important way that we can reach out to those who are down on their fortune.

Fun
When I was a kid, sitting rather unwillingnly through church services, the few moments of pleasure came when there was an upbeat hymn to sing, or occasionally when there was some other form of festivity. Unitarians tend not to be overly concerned with the here-after. Therefore, they can spend a little more time on the uplifting hymns and the pot-luck suppers, and a little less on the preachiness and other downers.

Expanding Horizons
Sometimes freethinkers get a little bit arrogant. It's a little too easy for us to recognize the flaws in our theist friends' thinking and forget that we have a couple of flaws ourselves, or that the theists have some good ideas, too. You aren't likely to run into a lot of Bible-thumpers at the UU church (though they'd be welcome), but you will run across a variety of -ists - be they liberal Christians, Buddhists, pagans, or Whatever-else-ists. Those people have some unique and valuable perspectives, even if they do have some unfortunate beliefs or superstitions. And they will often have something in common with you that you don't find much of at the local Church of Christ: they, too, are often seen as heretics. They make good friends, and their perspectives can broaden your horizon.

Politicial Organization
Fundamentalist religions have a powerful organization, and their church serves as a major nexus for the memes that you come across in daily life. The religious are represented and communicate with each other through their churches. Freethinkers should be, too. We might as well face it - we are not within sight of a world-wide freethought church. But we can have a voice as part of the Unitarian community.

What Are You Waiting For?
Sit down. The UU church doesn't start for another thirty minutes. Let me just finish this by telling you this: we need you. While mainline denominations of Christianity and Unitarian churches languish, fundamentalist churches are thriving and growing. Maybe you feel like an idiot listening to the nice lady tell you about how Mother Earth needs you, or maybe you just aren't getting a lot of immediate benefits from the UU church. Well, try it anyway, and stick with it a while. If freethought is going to make a difference in the world, institutions that embrace it are going to have to grow. The Unitarian Church is one of those institutions, and it needs you to thrive and grow. Find your local congregation and get involved today. Or next Sunday. You'll be glad you did.

Posted by smijer at 02:55 PM | Comments (3)

January 21, 2005

Volunteer Blogging

from - smijer

Well, it looks like I missed the boat again. I never entered the RTB Tailgate Party. Never fear, though. There's plenty of Big Orange Blogging over at Big Orange Michael.

Posted by smijer at 04:51 PM | Comments (4)

Ethical Blogging?

from - Buck

Now this is funny!

Exactly who will be in charge of setting these ethical standards? The guys over at FOX News?

Be honest and fair. Minimize harm. Be accountable.

Yeah, just like all of the journalists and politicians in the country.

Posted by Buck at 04:09 PM | Comments (0)

Definitely a Keeper

from - Buck

Whatever you do be sure and keep a copy of this one in your scrapbook. It will be fun to pull it out in four years and read it in the light of reality.

It is fun to read even now in the light of these allegations.

The next four years will be very interesting.

Posted by Buck at 11:51 AM | Comments (0)

Installment #2

from - smijer

The second installment is in at the Chain Letter Project.

Enjoy.

Posted by smijer at 11:38 AM | Comments (0)

Downtime

from - smijer

These are a couple of shots that I'm pretty sure Mrs. Smijer got before Christmas. The first is Mr. Doo-Doo practicing his contortionist routine:

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The second is Ms. Piddy, exhausted from too much homework:

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As always, TGIF. And, as always, don't forget the incomparable Friday Ark, hosted by the Modulator.

Posted by smijer at 07:44 AM | Comments (0)

January 20, 2005

Presidents

from - smijer

Ricky brings our attention to the RANT, where one "Tom Sawyer" (real name?) offers his list of America's best and worst Presidents. Before I go on, a side point is worth mentioning. From what I read of the RANT, it's a thoughtful, moderate voice. I'm going to find a place to add it to the blogroll, along with a couple of other new ones I've been noticing a lot of good posts from lately. But that's for another day.

Now, Ricky has the RANT listed on his blogroll on the same side as me and a bunch of other lefty's, but I swear while I read this list of Presidents and his ideas about why they were the best and worst, that I was convinced I was reading a righty warblogger's views. Later, I was suprised to see that one of the editors was a Kerry "voter" (not supporter, per se), and that the site content seemed to reflect an interest in preserving civil liberties against the right-wing onslaught. So, I guess that maybe we have a political mixed breed here. Nevertheless, a list that puts Reagan better than Kennedy and Carter worse than Nixon, and places Clinton on the "worst" list has got to raise some questions. It inspired some thinking on my part and I thought a good way to reply would be to create my own list, that highlights the more noteworthy presidencies (to me), whether for good or ill, and compare and contrast my views on those presidencies or the events surrounding them with whatever bits overlap Tom Sawyer's.

In rough, but not nearly exact, order from "best" to "worst", and stopping not at an even number, but when I run out of interesting presidencies (explanations "below the fold"):

1. James Madison
2. Abraham Lincoln
3. Franklin D. Roosevelt
4. John F. Kennedy
5. John Adams
6. Harry Truman
7. Theodore Roosevelt
8. Ronald Reagan
9. Grover Cleveland
10. Richard Nixon
11. Andrew Johnson
12. Lyndon Johnson
13. George W. Bush

1. James Madison - the good: He was the father of the American Constitution, that most venerable of documents. He played a major part in crafting the system that created a working democracy and fostered civil liberties. He did all of this before his presidency, but - just as Sawyer credits Washington's war effort to his presidency, we must credit Madison's brilliant conception of an egalitarian democracy to his, no matter when the contributions were made. He also led the opposition to the notorious alien and sedition acts. He had the vision and courage to face down the British the when there was a real threat of losing all of the gains that had been made in the first half century. He had the resolve to face down the secession threats from New England. Under him, an economy badly damaged by Jefferson's botched response to the Napoleonic wars (which Madison had, by the way, supported).
the bad: I'm sure there was some, but I'll be damned if I can figure out what it was.
2. Abraham Lincoln - (I know I'll be in trouble with Buck for this one) the good: Emancipation. It was way overdue. Everything else that surrounded his presidency, from the Senate shenanigans to the war to the assassination was fall-out from his insistence on abolition. He had to have known what a struggle it was going to be, and he made the right choice, come hell or high water. The fourteenth amendment.
the bad: You can't second guess something like the civil war. Maybe it could have been avoided, and justice could have been served, but who can find a realistic scenario under which that might happen?
3. Franklin D. Roosevelt - More or less what Sawyer said. My only qualm is that four terms is too many for any president, no matter how good. I think Roosevelt should have had enough faith in the American system to follow Washington's example.
4. John F. Kennedy - the good: In a nutshell - vision, intelligence, the ability to learn from mistakes (after the Bay of Pigs), understanding of human nature, and the ability to keep his head in a time of crisis. If there is a supreme being, I thank him mightily that George Bush was not President during the missile crisis. Kennedy used his substantial political capital to support the civil rights movement. Where he could have steered clear of a politically dangerous area, or even used his power to crush that movement, he did the right thing.
the bad: the Bay of Pigs. Illness that wasn't disclosed to the people he served.

One issue I will take with Sawyer's remarks about Kennedy: he was no political conservative. Not by the standards of his time, and not by today's standards. Yes, he had a strong military position, and yes - in addition to that - he was uncomfortably hawkish. Those are only "conservative positions" to the extent that conservatives have been successful in manipulating conventional wisdom. Tax cutter? Yes. And cutting taxes is a conservative thing to do. However, doing it without wrecking the budget or skimping on our obligations to society is a liberal way to do it. Championing civil rights was the most un-conservative thing he could do. Conservatives are finally courting minority votes, with some success, but they continue to stop well shy of boosting minority rights. Where civil marriage is concerned, their current effort is to quash the expansion of civil rights. Another defining conservative trait was and remains opposition to the entitlements of the New Deal. Kennedy was no conservative.

5. John Adams - the good: He resisted the war hawks that would have destroyed our fledgling democracy. He brought America (mostly) peacefully through a very stormy time in its history. He strengthened the military to prepare to face a threat, and he never had to face it. His leadership helped keep an economically fragile nation alive.
the bad: The alien and sedition acts.

6. Harry Truman - basically what Sawyer said again. I'm not sure if I can, in good conscience, applaud the dropping of the bombs - especially the second one. However, he was tough when toughness was needed, and those were the days when the buck still stopped.

7. Theodore Roosevelt - the good: Again, what Sawyer said.
the bad: Imperialism - especially in the Phillipines. In many ways, Roosevelt's war in the Phillipines mirrors better than any other conflict the current war in Iraq.

8. Ronald Reagan - the good: nuclear disarmament treaties with Russia, negotiated from a position of strength. "Tear down this wall." The wisdom to moderate his tax cuts through later increases in order to avoid a budget meltdown. Good humor and intelligence.
the bad: Support for terrorism. Grenada - in Sawyer's words (though he applied them to Wilson), "he sent our troops to Latin American countries as a show of force for no adequate or well-founded reasons, simply because he could do so."; Ignored - and laughed about - AIDS, presumably because it seemed to be "just" a "gay disease."; "Welfare queen".

9. Grover Cleveland - the good: I can't think of any.
the bad: Union buster. Conservative ideologue reminiscent of his namesake, Grover Norquist. Refused to come to the aid of farmers during drought. His tenure is notable simply because it is so regrettable.

10. Richard Nixon - the good: Created the EPA. (Finally) managed to end the Vietnam War, albeit without honor. Update: From Say Uncle, opened talks with China. (How did I miss that?)
the bad: Watergate, though maybe it was a blessing in disguise, since it woke Americans up (for a couple of decades, anyway) that their leaders were not above distrust. Anti-semite. Blamed all his problems on the "liberal media" (sound familiar?)

11. Lyndon Johnson - the good: Continued to support civil rights after Kennedy. Cared enough about society to attempt to create a better system for the poor and disenfranchised. Had the decency to choose not to run for re-election in 1968.
the bad: Without cause or justification, started one of the bloodiest undeclared wars in American history. His social agenda failed to make much positive difference.

12. George W. Bush - the good: Quickly and decisively dealt with the Taliban when it continued to harbor al Qaeda after 9/11.
the bad: Started an unjust war in Iraq, deligitimizing the U.S. and undermining the "Global War on Terror" by reducing it to nothing more than a rhetorical bludgeon for use on his many (correct) foreign policy critics. He avoided a healthy debate over the existence and nature of a threat from Iraq, and instead used the bully pulpit to sell the war and prevent Americans from getting a full report from the weapons inspectors. He exhibits no legal or moral compass, bringing prisoner abuse and torture back to the realm of the "thinkable" as a tool of American foreign policy. He has completely ignored the gathering threat of nuclear proliferation - proably the biggest threat facing America today, or ever. There is a lack of vision in his domestic agenda that makes Gerald Ford (who Sawyer singles out as lacking vision) look downright, well, visionary. In place of vision, he connives to support the agenda of the ideologues who have taken over the Republican party, and occasionally floats a "Mars" trial balloon. His tax-cuts were not limited to targeted and reasonable ones meant to "stimulate the economy", and they were not moderated to avoid ruinous deficits as Reagan, and his own father had done. His administration was, as Iiluio and others noted, driven by politics instead of policy, and ideology instead of idealism. He has cynically opposed civil rights for gays in order to further his political career. Ironically, it may be the outgoing Deputy Secretary of State who has best encapsulated the Bush legacy, "The biggest regret is that we didn't stop 9/11. And then in the wake of 9/11, instead of redoubling what is our traditional export of hope and optimism we exported our fear and our anger. And presented a very intense and angry face to the world. I regret that a lot."

I won't argue that Madison was "the best" President in history, or that Bush is "the worst". But these are the goods and bads I find of some of the most noteworthy presidencies.

I do take issue with a couple of other items from "the Rant"... a lot of his criticisms, especially of Clinton, were about what people said about someone, accused them of, or impeached them for. Those things are not important. What was important is what actually took place. In some cases, there is enough evidence to say they probably did those things. In others, for instance his criticisms of Bill & Hillary for being "under investigation" represent nothing but over zealous political enemies, not afraid to use the justice system to pursue political vendettas. I also take issue with his tendency to praise presidents for their (tough) words to other nations. Tough words can be good or bad. The quality that involves rhetoric addressed to foreign powers and deserves praise is successful diplomacy. Finally, Carter, Ford, and Clinton simply do not belong a worst presidents list. Carter and Ford were largely ineffective, and thereby left the nation largely no worse off than before they took office. Clinton had a mixed record of successes and failures, and he eventually gave in to the pressure of the political coup that was being pursued against him, and he lied under oath, obstructing justice - but America is not so much worse off as a result. Under his watch, hundreds of thousands of Americans rose above poverty, and America enjoyed a great peace dividend. He wasn't the best ever, but he certainly wasn't among the worst.

Posted by smijer at 12:58 PM | Comments (6)

War.......what is it good for?

from - Buck

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It is easy to understand what the war in Iraq is doing to the civilians there. But can you imagine being a 21-year-old kid from one of the red states doing your duty for God and country and being involved in a situation like this?

The psychological damage has to be as bad or worse than the physical wounds that so far over 10,000 Americans have suffered.

There has to be a better way.

Posted by Buck at 11:08 AM | Comments (0)

January 19, 2005

Retrospective

from - smijer

Considering that the famous Dean War-Cry (which still brings several visitors per day to this web-site in search of audio) happened one year ago today, this is a good enough day to do a full retrospective and even a bonus. One year ago today, I:


  • took Neal Boortz to task for trying to obscure the deplorable civil rights record of Bush judicial nominee, Charles Pickering. Shame on Bush for making the nomination in the first place, and shame on Boortz for defending it.
  • broke the news (I was roughly the 7,348th to do so in blog format) that Dick Cheney and Tony Scalia went duck-hunting together while there was a suit against Cheney pending before the supreme court.
  • Posted a quote from MLK... probably to mark last year's King day. The quote reminds me why I am a liberal... because I, too "believe that what self-centered men have torn down, men other-centered can build up."
  • said "Phooey." It was because Dean fared poorly in the Iowa caucus.
  • Special Bonus Retrospective from December 2003: While I was still on BlogSpot, I remarked that it was "scary", that our government at one time tabled a proposal to invade several middle eastern countries in order to secure access to their oil. Of course, only fringe lunatics could believe that our war in Iraq was in any way petroleum inspired. Our government has changed quite a bit since the Nixon administration. Just look how much older Rummy & Cheney are. And at the time, "total alienation" of Arab states and "domestic dissension" at home actually concerned them. (The link is apparently still Bloggered. The news story which I referred to as "Scary" was this one.)

Peace.

Posted by smijer at 11:11 AM | Comments (0)

January 18, 2005

Done too soon

from - Buck

I have been to two funerals in the past five days.

There is nothing like a funeral to drive home the reality of your own mortality. A funeral helps you to realize the importance of friends and family and it is important to keep in mind that every person you see is the friend or the family of somebody somewhere.

The funeral of a friend acts as a marker on the timeline of your own life. Your friend was here up until there and then they were gone forever. It is hard to believe that you will no longer be able to stop by and argue with them about religion or politics or football. And then you begin to understand that it was never religion or politics or football that mattered anyway. It was the opportunity to interact with them that was important. It is the back and forth and the give and take that makes us the people we are and that ultimately makes the world what it is.

And make no mistake about it. The world will continue to turn and the sun will rise and the sun will set until it one day sets on our time here only to rise again the next morning.

Posted by Buck at 10:11 PM | Comments (1)

Doodle

from - smijer

Happy __th birthday, middle sister... if you're reading.

Posted by smijer at 01:28 PM | Comments (0)

Conservative Commentator on Universal Suffrage

from - smijer

This "one man, one vote" nonsense is a death sentence for freedom and for America.
- Neal Boortz

Ironically, this was in the paragraph following a remark that included this clause:

...what they believe their birthright -- the right to rule the roost in Washington.

... which was meant to refer to his political opposition!

Oh well. I think I will stick with the side that believes in universal suffrage... and one other thing. If you are reading, Neal: current law allows one vote for each adult person - not just men.

Posted by smijer at 07:43 AM | Comments (1)

January 17, 2005

King Day

from - smijer

It is Martin Luther King Day. Yesterday, Rev. Briere of the Unitarian Church addressed the topic. He did a fine job, and I would just like to echo a couple of sentiments from him. I confess I was one of those who got confused and sidetracked upon learning of Dr. King's plagiarism in his doctoral thesis. Yesterday's message helped me put that in perspective:

King was not a saint. Rumors and innuendo about his affairs have been around for years and you can find some lurid tales about him on the internet. It was recently shown that some of the work he submitted for his doctorate was plagiarized. And some in the academic world, citing the lack of rigor in his dissertation, have suggested that King didn’t deserve his doctorate, that he was passed along because of who he was.

Well, digging up dirt about famous people is an American obsession. Kitty Kelley made a career of it with books about the foibles of Nancy Reagan, Frank Sinatra and Jackie Onassis. Then there is the Whitewater investigation. Which led to a national soap opera starring the President and Monica and Paula and Linda and Ken. Our fascination with the personal lives of the rich and famous is insatiable. I understand there’s a new book out now which purports to show that Abraham Lincoln was gay.

No one is immune to personal investigation. And no one will ever be found spotless. Actually, if investigators ever dig and dig and find nothing that besmirches the reputation of someone, they will probably conclude that such a clean record shows a lack of character.

If King fooled around, if he copied someone’s work, so what? He’s not being honored for his failings. I’m not saying the ends justify the means, but his peccadillos are dwarfed by his accomplishments. I’m not saying that it ought to be this way, but being passed along because you are who you are happens every day, as our president has proven at Yale.

So I think King Day is an appropriate holiday and I’m happy to celebrate it.

And if there was a lesson in that service for me, there was also a lesson there for someone else who, unfortunately, did not live to learn it. You don't need me to tell you who Reggie White was, especially if you are from this little hamlet of Chattanooga, where I make my own abode. Briefly, for the out-of-towner who was never interested in the NFL, Reggie White was an African American star football player and evangelist who was well known for his work on behalf of both his religious and his racial community, especially the youth. He was universally known as a "good person", and a citizen of whom we were all very proud. But he, too, was no saint; he, too had his flaws. Among his chief flaws was that he was a vicious homophobe. The media loves its heroes, and they rarely mention White's great evil side. But after a person's death is the time for charity, and I like to believe that he would have had the humanity to learn from the children's sermon yesterday (same link as above), if he had ever had the opportunity to witness it. It was a simple sermon, but it was exactly what Reggie White, and Alan Keyes, and a few others need to understand: it is impossible to bring yourself and your people up while you are trying to keep someone else down. I hope the next generation of iconic community symbols like White will be able to embrace this lesson and work toward bringing everyone up together. Coretta Scott King certainly understood. She said:

I say “common struggle” because I believe very strongly that all forms of bigotry and discrimination are equally wrong and should be opposed by right-thinking Americans everywhere. Freedom from discrimination based on sexual orientation is surely a fundamental human right in any great democracy, as much as freedom from racial, religious, gender, or ethnic discrimination.

My husband, Martin Luther King Jr., once said, “We are all tied together in a single garment of destiny…an inescapable network of mutuality.… I can never be what I ought to be until you are allowed to be what you ought to be.” Therefore, I appeal to everyone who believes in Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream to make room at the table of brotherhood and sisterhood for lesbian and gay people.

To those who celebrate MLK day: may his legacy endure, and his dream be realized. To those who don't: isn't it time you did?

Posted by smijer at 07:56 AM | Comments (1)

January 14, 2005

Getting This Off My Chest

from - smijer

I should have disclosed this stuff a long time ago, but since everybody else is clearing the air right now, so should I. I was in the same vicinity with Zephyr Teachout and MONEY one morning last year. I think it was around January or February. I also blog and supported Howard Dean's primary candidacy.

No more can I be blackmailed with these:

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I also suggest that you-know-who-you-are-in-these-photos, it's time for you to come clean, too.

Posted by smijer at 09:02 PM | Comments (1)

Friday Sock Drawer

from - smijer

Ms. Piddy discovers the sock drawer...

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More fauna fun as always, in the Modulator's Ark... don't miss the rats!

Posted by smijer at 07:50 AM | Comments (3)

January 13, 2005

Obligatory Post

from - smijer

I say obligatory, because I felt that, me being who I am, it wouldn't do for me to pass up the President's comments about the need for the President to be a Christian. Not much to say to that, except that maybe Thomas Jefferson would have thought differently. And also that Jefferson was a slightly better president than Mr. Buck-Don't-Stop.

In other news, Boortz has come right out and said that he isn't one of the commentators taking payola to push the White House agenda in the press. Good for him, although it would explain a lot of things about his advocacy for what he believes is limited to prisoner sexual and religious abuse, and for what he doesn't consider to be torture for people suspected of "trying to kill us". I could think better of someone cynically taking a payment to push that agenda, than I could of someone whose moral compass is so badly broken that they believe this kind of abuse is justifiable.

Boortz goes on about Armstrong, saying that he is being attacked from the left because he is a black conservative (while he is being attacked from the right because he did bad things). But what I wonder is this: why is nobody jumping all over the real culprit? Face it. Armstrong is just a stooge. The real damage comes from Rod Paige and an administration that is willing to use Orwellian propaganda techniques to push it's agenda. I've noticed a little bit of that criticism from the good guys, but Boortz and the right wing chattering classes seem to have Armstrong tunnel vision. Could it be because Rod Paige and George Bush are white? Or could it be because they all have their lips permanently fastened to the Presidential Rectum?

Finally, I just want to do one more plug for the chain letter project. This thing won't be any good if the word doesn't get out about it, so I'm liable to keep pimping it for a little while longer.

Peace, brothers & sisters. Peace.

Posted by smijer at 01:44 PM | Comments (4)

Why were we still lookin'?

from - Buck

A caller into the Boortz show this morning made the mistake of ribbing Boortz about the fact that the search for WMD’s in Iraq has been called off by the United States.

There are two talking points answers to this question used by the radio and TV right wing talking heads.

One is that “the weapons have already been found”. Parts for that ominous Iraq weapons program were buried in a rose garden and a WMD could have been whipped up in less than an hour. The search should have been called off long ago because the mission had been accomplished.

The other argument is that “we KNOW that Saddam HAD weapons of mass destruction”. Considering that a box of rat poison is now considered a WMD it is a fact that everybody has weapons of mass destruction. Hell, Colin Powell supposedly held enough WMD power between his thumb and his forefinger to destroy a small town when he argued his case before the United Nations. But note the past tense argument used in the above argument. Saddam “had” WMD’s. We know this because he “used” them “on his own people” over 20 years ago.

Well, if I purchase a pack of firecrackers for the fourth of July and I pop them all off on the 4th then I am not going to have them on the 5th. There may be gunpowder residue and little tiny pieces of paper all over my yard but that does not mean that there are firecrackers in my living room.

You can always tell when a caller is close to a nerve by listening to the level of disdain in the voice of Boortz. If he calls the caller a low-life, dumb ass loser then you can pretty well bet that the caller is on to something and that what he or she is saying is worth listening to. The caller dared question the commonly accepted mantra that Saddam gassed his own people. This is an assertion that may not be the slam-dunk that the media would have you believe.

There were a number of assumptions that were used and conclusions that were jumped to before we went to war with Iraq that clearly cannot now be substantiated. But don’t waste your time discussing these obvious facts with those who still shake the pom-poms for war. They will NEVER admit it.

Posted by Buck at 10:43 AM | Comments (3)

January 12, 2005

DEMOCRATS MUCH CHANGE!

from - Buck

Boortz quotes David Limbaugh today by saying that

The Democratic party is at a crossroads, and they have to decide if they're going to be mainstream, or the party of Michael Moore.

Statements like this baffle me completely. Since I consider myself to be apolitical maybe it is something that I should not even concern myself with but the fact that Republicans and Democrats alike seem to share this sentiment makes it all the more confusing to me.

In the David Limbaugh article referenced by Boortz today Limbaugh says

Democrats, while denying Bush has a mandate after his decisive victory, are, essentially, claiming one themselves, after their decisive loss.

Mandate? Decisive? Are you kidding me? How much longer must I hear Hannity, Boortz and Limbaugh talk about the “overwhelming” Bush victory?

Correct me if I am wrong but in round number 117 million Americans voted. I believe that 60 million voted for Bush and 57 million voted for Kerry. When you boil all of the meat off of the bone the election came down to Ohio and Bush won that state by 118,000 votes out of the 5,600,000 that were cast. In other words if 2% of the Ohio vote had swung the other way the change in that ridiculous Bush Country Map would be imperceptible but the White House would have a different occupant.

I find these Bush Country Maps more informative and sensible. These would also make for far more interesting T-Shirts and coffee mugs.

Democrats need only be patient. Public opinion is about as evenly divided as it can get. This stream does not have a main. And I don't care what Zell Miller says, not only is it possible to win an election without winning a single southern state, it is very possible to win the election without winning a single southern vote.

The next President will be a Democrat and we will see then how Republicans really feel about the Patriot Act, perpetual war and the Leviathan state.

Posted by Buck at 10:12 AM | Comments (2)

January 11, 2005

Introducing...

from - smijer

Drum roll, please...

The Chain Letter Project.

I used Movable Type, but I don't intend to use it as a blog. More as a resource that can be built upon. Please pardon the dust... I was in such a hurry, I just didn't want to spend a lot of time customizing the layout. Therefore, it's the familiar basic MT install for now, with just a couple of minor mods.

Posted by smijer at 05:53 PM | Comments (1)

Emphasis on the word "Suspected"

from - Buck

Administration officials are preparing long-range plans for indefinitely imprisoning suspected terrorists whom they do not want to set free or turn over to courts in the United States or other countries, according to intelligence, defense and diplomatic officials.

The Pentagon and the CIA have asked the White House to decide on a more permanent approach for potentially lifetime detentions, including for hundreds of people now in military and CIA custody whom the government does not have enough evidence to charge in courts.

Fortunately these rules do not apply to "us".......................yet. A new set of rules for "terrorists" is not a good thing because "terrorist" has a broad definition. Anybody that threw tea in the harbor was a "terrorist". When an abortion clinic is bombed should all of the pro-lifers in the area be considered "suspected terrorists"? I don't like where this is headed folks. I just sometimes wish I had the same unquestioning belief in the benevolence of our government that the majority of those that live in the red states have.

Posted by Buck at 11:22 AM | Comments (0)

The Rural Homeless

from - Buck

I was fascinated by this story about a father and daughter that had been living in the woods in Portland, Oregon for four years before being found and forced back into society. Supposedly the 12 year old daughter, who would be normally in 7th grade, is at a 12th grade equivalency. But as Butler Shaffer asks

consider what it cost this girl in terms of learning. Does she know all the "politically correct" mantras; how to fill out a paper ballot; and the telephone number to call to report any suspected drug use? Can she recite all four stanzas of the "Star Spangled Banner;" and can she put a condom on a banana?

If she was put back into mainstream society in May of 2004 I am sure she can do all of those things by now. She may even be back down to her 7th grade equivalency.

Posted by Buck at 05:08 AM | Comments (0)

January 10, 2005

Back!

from - smijer

I had to drop back in.

Justin Raimondo puts the torture and terrorism advocates of the right-wing blogosphere in their place, but what is he calling the boondocks?

Meanwhile, tex asserts that Iraqis will be too fearful to turn out for elections in a couple of weeks. The administration and their payed commentators in the press will likely paint a far rosier picture of the outcome than is justified by the facts. What American knows whether to expect two or twenty million Iraqis to turn out? Who will set the story straight, and will anyone believe them?

Posted by smijer at 12:39 PM | Comments (1)

Away

from - smijer

I probably won't be able to personally post until Wednesday or so. Hopefully, Buck will be able to pick up some of my slack for a couple of days. In the meantime, a discussion question:

Should the DLC be seen as a fifth column in the Democratic Party?

Posted by smijer at 06:48 AM | Comments (0)

January 07, 2005

Might makes right?

from - Buck

Boortz gives us the rundown on whether or not torture is an acceptable means of getting information. He summarizes as follows

1. The CIA came to the White House Counsel (that's Gonzales) and asked him what constituted torture. You see, the CIA had some Islamic terrorists in their possession that meant America harm, and they wanted to know how far they could go to make those S.O.B.'s talk. As was his job to do, Gonzales asked the Department of Justice what their thoughts were.

2. The Department of Justice's Office of Legal Counsel responded with a memo (now leaked) in 2002 that gave a detailed explanation of what torture was. That same memo also explained that the Executive Branch had the authority to use torture, if deemed appropriate.

3. It was also pointed out that the Geneva Conventions do not apply to Al-Qaeda terrorists. They are unlawful combatants that aren't entitled to anything. If we applied the Geneva Conventions to Islamic terrorists, we would have to treat them they way we treated our own soldiers, let them openly socialize, give them a stipend, Internet access and free HBO. This is a point of contention for most liberals, but it bears repeating: the Geneva Convention does not apply to terrorists. Never has, never will. We are free to do whatever we want with terrorists that attack the United States of America. They have no rights. Zippo.

The first question that immediately comes to mind is that if the prisoners were Al-Qaeda terrorists then why is the CIA and the Department of Justice having this conversation anyway? There is no need to go to the trouble of defining torture because supposedly these guys have no rights and you can do whatever you would like to do with them. There is no need to discuss the creation of an atmosphere of permissiveness. These guys had no rights. You can roast them over an open flame if you want to.

It is also important to note that these prisoners have simply been accused. There has been no trial. It does not seem that they should be considered prisoners of war if they are not considered state-sponsored soldiers. Those arrested only attacked Americans after they were attacked by Americans in their own country and in their own homes. Their crime was not attacking . Their crime was fighting back.

Hypothetically, if Martians (I use “Martians” because theirs would be the only civilization that may have a military as advanced as ours) had invaded and occupied America because they did not like our weapons programs and because they coveted our natural resources would it have been appropriate for them to arrest American citizens because the citizen fought back and then held those citizens indefinitely in prison camps and tortured them without restrictions?

As supposedly the most civilized nation on this planet I had hoped that we would show the world the importance of mutual respect and civilized behavior. As it now stands the only thing that separates “us” from “them” is the fact that we have a bigger gun. And as Americans I guess we are simply supposed to keep our mouths shut and be thankful that “we” are not “them”.

Posted by Buck at 09:29 AM | Comments (10)

Sideways Doggie

from - smijer

sideways dog

TGIF.

As always, drop in at the Modulator's Friday Ark. There's sea turtles and horses and monkeys... Oh My!

Posted by smijer at 07:50 AM | Comments (0)

January 06, 2005

Amber Frey

from - Buck

I have been fascinated by the saturation of the airwaves with Amber Frey. To put it bluntly, here is an easy piece that happened to bed up with a psychopathic killer for a few weeks. I could not for the life of me figure out why her face is now everywhere I look. Sean Hannity is interviewing her today. Oprah interviewed her yesterday and Matt Lauer interviewed her a couple of days ago. In case you live in a cave she has a new book out.

Amber Frey! Amber Frey! Amber Frey!

And then it dawned on me. A NEW BOOK! Published by whom?

Harper Collins of course.

Harper Collins is owned by News Corp which is owned by Rupert Murdoch who also just so happens to own FOX and Sean Hannity.

I have not yet been able to connect the dots to Oprah and Matt (what does MSNBC have to gain by all of this book promotion?) but I am sure there is a connection there.

Just follow the money. It works every time.

(Note that the Harper Collins book description opens with a verse of scripture. That ought to draw the Evangelicals like a magnet.)

Posted by Buck at 05:19 PM | Comments (4)

Fred Explains Everything

from - Buck

And now I understand

Posted by Buck at 03:56 PM | Comments (0)

We Showed Them Who Was Atlas

from - smijer

Go read the back story. Done? Back? In the spirit of blogospheric collaboration, I offer my humble effort to fill in some of the blanks...

In Long Island, the looting continues. Big ticket items and weapons were the first to be looted, then grocery items and bottled water. Now, things are getting desperate, as the last potable water is being horded and rationed. A few enterprising street gangs are gouging prices on water that has been brought to a light boil over fires fueled by looted fuel then poured into non-sterile milk jugs for distribution.

Army Specialist Tom Vilson of Tennessee, recently returned from Iraq and well versed in the art of field improvisation, is hunched over his MacroHard GPS CommunicoLocator with a homebrew "hillbilly flash card", hard at work on a reverse engineering project.

Teamster driver Reggie Joel, on his way to barter his television for a week's supply of water, passes by the EndRun Corporation bus terminal where he started his day every day for the last twenty years. He sees a broken window and decides to take a detour inside, for old times sake. He passes the company billboard advertising "EndRun Mass Transit, Water Distribution and Energy Corporation - building a New America". He goes back to the locker room and checks the old route board. At the top is the company motivational poster: "Anyone can be replaced!" Reggie ponders this... "Anyone? Even Ben Flay, CEO of EndRun Corp? Even MacroHard?"

Joel goes on to barter his television a full week's safe passage for the bus routes. He throws in his ten-year service gold watch and is allowed to use an off-brand cell phone that is still in service to call the rest of the drivers from his Local to offer a plan. While he is at it, he calls his brother who is a ranking member of the NYC police union.

Before long, the NYC PD has a steady supply of Hillbilly CommunicoLocators streaming in from Tennessee and the sanitation union is riding the bus to work every morning. One by one, the millions of people across the country whom the regulatory laws were designed to protect in the first place find ways to use their collective imaginations and abilities to make the country go. Within weeks, the tide has turned.

The last holdout group of CEOs ironically have to acquire one of the Vilson retro-fit CommunicoLocators in order to negotiate their surrender, since the authorities have stripped all of the old MacroHard models for parts.

In a backlash against President Brush, who is widely vilified as the person responsible for allowing a few multinational corporations to attain such unchallenged power over our entire society, Harold Bean is elected President. His populist policies ensure that MacroHard cannot use its virtual monopoly on information infrastructure to stifle competition on information systems end-products, that the people who drink the water and breathe the air have as much say in environmental regulation as the industries that pollute them, that Graxo-Baer-Siba isn't allowed to write the next Medicare bill, that EndRun Corp isn't allowed to go behind closed doors with the Vice President and write transit, water, and energy policy, and that All-Farm Insurance giant is propped up by de-licensing bad doctors instead of by denying protection to medical patients.

I just love a happy ending.

Posted by smijer at 12:04 PM | Comments (0)

January 05, 2005

Drown those who persecute you?

from - Buck

I watched an interesting debate tonight between a Jew, a Christian and an Atheist. The topic of discussion was whether or not the tsunami was God's way of punishing the people in that part of the world because he ain't happy with the way they live their lives.

The Christian insisted that whether we want to admit it or not the simple fact remains that 8 of the 11 nations affected by the natural disaster were listed among the top twenty nations that persecute Christians so God just decided to give them a cosmic spanking.

I can only assume that she reads a different translation of the Bible than I read. My Bible instructs that we are to bless those who persecute us and for the life of me I cannot find the scripture that instructs that we should inundate them with salty water.

I'll keep lookin'

Posted by Buck at 11:39 PM | Comments (1)

Roundup and Retrospective!

from - smijer

  • Local Judge Russell Bean has a nifty idea. Traffic fines can be replaced with tsunami relief. Now, why did I have to read that in a Scottish newspaper?? You don't have to wait for a traffic ticket to offer help. I recommend World Vision.
  • Now seems to be the time to speak out about the hypocrisy of the Moral Values crowd with respect to Alberto "Abu" Gonzales. As Bubba remarks, it's time to write your senator and ask them not to confirm. We want an attorney general, not a dungeon master.
  • Someday, Bill Frist will probably run for President. If he makes it past the primaries, we should remind everyone that the Republican Presidential candidate is a known liar and hypocrite.
  • (Retrospective!) One year ago today, I was in love with a Doctor from Vermont.
Posted by smijer at 07:52 AM | Comments (0)

January 04, 2005

It depends on how you want to spend it

from - Buck

Assuming that we follow through with the $350,000,000 that has been pledged to aid the victims of the tsunami’s the 150,000 that died in the natural disaster will cost us $2,333.34 each.

Assuming 150,000 have died in Iraq (who really knows for sure) that would mean that each death in Iraq so far has cost us $866,667.00 each. If the actual death toll is lower then the price per each will be higher. This assumes that the cost of the war is what this article says it has been.

I guess all we can take from this worthless tidbit of information is that natural disasters are one helluva lot less expensive than war.

Lindsey Graham says

"I hope they ask for something big," said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. "Look, this is a test of wills. We need to show our enemies that we are not going to do this on the cheap. "

And somewhere, Osama’s smile widens just a little bit.

Posted by Buck at 04:06 PM | Comments (0)

2005 and All That Jive

from - smijer

It's three days in to the new year, and I know that everyone who reads is just dying to know what wonderful new things smijer has resolved to make this year special. I'm sorry to have kept you waiting so long. Happily, I have a head start on several of these resolutions by a week or two, and I can report that I am sticking by them admirably.


  • Break alcohol addiction. I quit smoking nearly two years ago, after discovering that it was possible to do so. It has taken me so much longer to quit drinking because, frankly, alcohol is such a kick. There's nothing that beats the mellow contentment brought by a couple or three glasses of wine, slugs of whiskey, bottles of beer, or margaritas on the rocks. But that carefree bliss is unsustainable. After a few minutes, the only choices for me are to "come down", or to continue on to oblivion. Dependence is the other factor. It isn't good to be unable to relax or even make it through the day without the sauce. I'm currently five weeks dry.
  • Retrospectives! A year ago today, I moved to Movable Type on smijer.com. I resisted the urge to place great big honkin' "Mission Accomplished" banner at the top of the page.
  • Learn to juggle! I'm about two weeks into this project, now working on tricks like the reverse cascade. It feels nearly as good as the wine once did. And it may turn out to be even more addictive. Lord knows I start before 7:00 p.m. every day!
  • Learn magic. I don't know about you, but the words "how did you do that?" spoken with intensity and sincerity are among the most gratifying in the human language to me. A guy who can juggle and do magic will soon be holding in thrall nieces, nephews, and other assorted young 'uns, as he amazes and astounds them with his talents. Also, I secretly hope that understanding the secrets of the deceptive art of magical illusion will give me insight into the deceptive arts of politics and religion, where my other dark interests lie.
  • Learn spoken Portugese. My friend who accompanies me on my afternoon walk around the walking track at work grew up in Brazil as member of a missionary family. What better way to keep the conversation flowing than to learn his other first language?
  • Improve my Shower Experience. I'm going to make my wife start keeping her Skunk Juice Soap on the back of the toilet, so I don't have to smell it when I take a shower.

Happy New Year everybody!

Posted by smijer at 06:53 AM | Comments (4)

January 02, 2005

The End of an Era

from - smijer

Journalism may never be the same.

Posted by smijer at 02:46 PM | Comments (1)

January 01, 2005

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

from - Buck

I hope we all have a very, very good one and that we will strive to stop trying to solve our problems with bullets and bombs.

Posted by Buck at 12:18 AM | Comments (2)