It worries and embarrasses me the idiocy I see in too many of our elected officials, and making it worse is the knowledge we elect them, and keep re-electing them. Evangelicals and Conservatives, especially Republican conservatives seem to try to out-stupid each other, and the rhetoric has simply crossed a line, especially on the gay marriage issue. Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa[they should be really proud]) provides a ton of grist for the stupid mill, and I think his latest, were he anyone else, would qualify him for a Baker Act petition.
According to King:
“I had a strong, Christian lawyer tell me yesterday that, under this decision that he has read, what it brings about is: It only requires one human being in this relationship—that you could marry your lawnmower with this decision. I think he’s right.”Continue reading »
I haven’t been posting anything really in a long time. I’ve been writing so much for work, that even though there are lots of things I want to write about, I just haven’t been able to find the motivation. However, there are a couple of stories lately I would like to share some thoughts about, and one is the horrible event at the movie theater in Aurora, CO this past weekend.
Here is my primary thought. To everyone who was actually touched by this calamity, my prayers are with you and your families.
My second thought is, everyone else needs to just take a breath, and let’s bring some sanity to the discussion. We all want to know why. We want to understand how this person came to this place. We want to assign some motivation, some identifiable cause. We want to blame someone or something so it will look like we can control these situations. We want these answers because we want to be safe. We want to know how to identify this person in the future, or how to create circumstances where this can never happen again.
There are already those taking to the airwaves and the internets to blame Hollywood’s violent movies, gaming violence, guns — both the lack of regulations and the lack of a gun-toting savior, our mental health system, troubled youth, social media, normalization of gun violence, lack of prayer in schools, gays, abortions. I’ve heard criticism of parents who brought children to the movie premier, midnight openings, and once in a while, even some mention of the alleged shooter.
We search for meaning in madness, and don’t take the time to simply grieve. I understand that very basic human compulsion. But “why” will drive you crazy. Has everyone in the entire country forgotten what it’s like to be around a two-year-old, … Why? Because I said so. Why? Because I’m in charge. Why?….” Sometimes there’s just no good reason anyone can articulate for some of the things that happen in this world.
In my Sunday School class were doing a study from a book called The Psalms for Today by Beth LaNeel Tanner. Coincidentally, This past Sunday’s lesson was “Learning to Live Without Fear.” Appropriate for the time, no? This coming Sunday’s lesson is on Psalm 13, and the Chapter is titled, “Living In A Broken World.” The first five verses of the Psalm are, in the American Standard Version:
How long, O Jehovah? wilt thou forget me forever? How long wilt thou hide they face from me? How long shall I take counsel in my soul, Having sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall mine enemy be exalted over me? Consider and answer me, O Jehovah my God; Lighten mine eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death; Let mine enemy say, I have prevailed against him; Lest mine adversaries rejoice when I am moved.
You see, even David didn’t have all the answers. Sometimes he cries out to God for some sign, for some deeper understanding. The Rabbi in Ecclesiastes often has the same response. They don’t understand why some things happen in this world, yet we desperately want those answers. However, the rhetoric we’re getting so far is not going to do anything to heal anyone, nor the nation, nor the world.
In her book, Dr. Tanner talks about how the Israelites often, for protection, carried a Psalm rolled into an amulets. We Christians wear crosses and many wear St. Christopher necklaces. Dr. Tanner writes, “We have become a society where fear sells everything from the latest weather forecast to new cars. Much of our economy is fueled by tapping into our fears. If we own the right things, we can protect ourselves and our family from harm, and that will make us happy. We have replaced amulets with things that supposedly will keep us from harm and offer that ever elusive contentment.”
We have this overblown fear when things like this happen that is out of proportion to the real danger. It’s been noted that, while nothing takes anything away from terror and pure evil of this event, the 12 people killed here represent merely one-half of the total number of people killed by guns on an average day in the United States. John Mueller writes: “International terrorism generally kills a few hundred people a year worldwide—not much more, usually, than the number who drown yearly in bathtubs in the United States. Americans worry intensely about “another 9/11,” but if one of these were to occur every three months for the next five years, the chance of being killed in one of them is 0.02 percent. Astronomer Alan Harris has calculated that at present rates, the lifetime probability that a resident of the globe will die at the hands of international terrorists is 1 in 80,000, about the same likelihood that one would die over the same interval from the impact on the earth of an especially ill-directed asteroid or comet.”1
Let’s take a look at some of the rhetoric up to now. Not surprisingly, the krazy kristian kooks have taken to the internets will all sorts of bullshit. Continue reading »
As quoted on American Broadcast Network’s 20/20, Feb. 23, 2007. John Mueller was commenting about his book Overblown: How Politicians and the Terrorism Industry Inflate National Security Threats, and Why We Believe Them (New York: Free Press, 2006). These statistics apply to the world in general and not war zones such as Iraq. ↩
U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx represents the congressional district that includes my alma mater, and she has attended ASU events and activities to advance her political career and give her an undeserved credibility. Over the past several days, Rep. Foxx has made a number of inflammatory statements during the House’s consideration of the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act. Today, Rep. Foxx crossed a line when she took to the floor of the House, claimed that Shepard was killed as part of a robbery, and called the hate aspect of the crime “a hoax.”
Kenneth E. Peacock, Chancellor
Office of the Chancellor
Appalachian State University
ASU Box 32002
Boone, NC 28608
Subject: ASU’s association with U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx
Dear Chancellor Peacock:
I had the honor of meeting you some weeks ago at an alumni reception in St. Petersburg.
I was born, raised and lived most of my life in North Carolina. I am extremely proud of that upbringing, and am a very proud Mountaineer. The lessons I’ve taken from my upbringing and education have, I believe, served me well. I was incredibly impressed by your presentation and your enthusiasm for the University, and recognize the current budget pressures you must confront.
At the reception, I noted I’d been lucky enough to receive a small bonus from work, and promised to share that with the University’s program for the financially disadvantaged students. Perhaps, with the deepest regret I’ve ever felt in my life, I cannot continue my support of Appalachian State University. Even my pride in North Carolina is shaken, and I can no longer be proud of my home state.
Boone and the University are, as you know, in the Fifth Congressional District, and Virginia Foxx is the representative for that district. I have seen, on Rep. Foxx’s congressional website, a number of photographs with her appearing at ASU functions behind and beneath the ASU Banner.
Unfortunately today I saw a video of a statement made by Rep. Foxx on the floor of the United States House of Representatives opposing the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act. It was the vilest, most hate-filled, hateful, and un-Christian statement I believe I’ve ever heard come from a U.S. Representative. (And that is a pretty high bar.)
To advance her political career, Rep. Foxx claimed that Matthew Shepard was killed merely as part of a robbery. This is a lie, and Rep. Foxx is, or ought to be, aware of the record before making such a statement. The Laramie Police and Prosecutors said the two men lured Mr. Shepard from a bar by pretending to be gay, beat him to pulp, and left him hung, still alive, on a fence post for over 18 hours. The men attempted to use a “gay panic” defense during their trial, and one of the defendants admitted to beating Mr. Shepard because he was gay. How is that not a hate crime?
Yet Rep. Foxx had the gall to stand on the floor of the United States House of Representatives and say, “It’s really a hoax.”
Chancellor Peacock, I recognize the political reality with which you are faced, but as a gay man, who, while never having suffered as did Mr. Shepard, has been subjected to threats and discrimination, must also stand up to the very real face of hate. I have seen that in the face and words of Rep. Foxx, not only today, but in previous statements. So while I understand you will be able to take no action on this matter, I can act. I cannot, and will not, support any person, organization, group or institution that even associates itself with Rep. Foxx. A person with Rep. Foxx’s spirit of hatefulness and lack of integrity should not be actively exposed to the diverse group of young people under your charge as part of any University sponsored event
I hope you will appreciate that this is an extremely difficult decision on my part, but until such time as the University publicly denounces Rep. Foxx’s statement and bans her from access to the Campus or any University sponsored event, or until such time as the voters in her district recognize her for the hateful, dishonest person she is and vote her out of office, I will make no further contributions to ASU.
Again, I regret this decision, and hope that the time will be short when I can resume my contributions to my beloved Alma mater.
Sen. John McCain was on Face the Nation Sunday morning, and the contortions he went through to let the previous administration off the hook for their illegal torturing was astounding.
He starts off reiterating that he and his (ahem) friend Lindsey Graham talked to Al-Qaeda operatives who said that U.S. torture was a main recruiting tool they used. He goes on to try claim that it was all just the result of some bad legal advice…despite being sure he took credit for passing a law prohibiting torture. So, it was important for him to get the bill passed, but not important for the Bush regime’s lawyers to read it?
They are still trying to get traction with the canard about it being all about settling political scores, and how we just move on and take care of the two wars we are in. Again, what score does Obama have to settle. He didn’t even serve a full term in the Senate, and he wasn’t running against Bush. And McCain has the gall, after the campaign he ran, to say, “We need a united nation, not a divided one.”
Early in the interview McCain makes the claim that he believes no other Administration will ever make the same mistake (of using bad legal advice…I guess), and torture again. But then he tries to use the Ford pardon of Nixon as a justification to move on. Obviously, not pardoning Nixon allowed the Bush administration to believe, as Nixon said, “if the President does it, it’s not illegal.” This is incredibly twisted logic.
But here’s the real kicker to it all. While McCain is arguing that there should be no retribution against the legal hacks of the Bush/Cheney Regime, he says (after admitting we violated the Geneva Conventions), “and by the way, those who say our enemies won’t abide by the Geneva Conventions…uh they will if they know there’s going to be retribution for their violation.”
The Bush administration has drafted amendments to a U.S. war crimes law “passed in the mid-1990s that criminalized violations of the Geneva Conventions.” The changes would mean interrogators would no longer face possible prosecution for committing “outrages upon [the] personal dignity” of prisoners. Examples of these “outrages” could include acts “such as the forced nakedness, use of dog leashes and wearing of women’s underwear seen at the U.S.-run Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.” “This removal of [any] reference to humiliating and degrading treatment will be perceived by experts and probably allies as ‘rewriting'” the Geneva Conventions, said retired Army Lt. Col. Geoffrey S. Corn. “The plan has provoked concern at the International Committee of the Red Cross, the entity responsible for safeguarding the Geneva Conventions.” Two weeks ago, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales spoke privately with lawmakers about the need for “protections” against prosecution for “actions taken by U.S. personnel under a 2002 presidential order, which the Supreme Court declared illegal, and under Justice Department legal opinions that have been withdrawn under fire.”
Do you think that maybe they’re getting afraid they’re all going to jail. They certainly deserve to.? Once again we see an administration incapable of understanding the basic precepts?of what?being American is all about.? Once again, I call on all of you to contact your representatives in Congress, and demand that they do not narrow the definition of war crimes.
In an article at MSNBC renowned Physicist Stephen Hawking says humans must learn to inhabit other planets in order for the species to survive. He believes the earth, through some catastrophe, will become uninhabitable at some point in the future.
“It is important for the human race to spread out into space for the survival of the species,” Hawking said. “Life on Earth is at the ever-increasing risk of being wiped out by a disaster, such as sudden global warming, nuclear war, a genetically engineered virus or other dangers we have not yet thought of.”
The British astro- physicist told a news conference in Hong Kong that humans could have a permanent base on the moon in 20 years and a colony on Mars in the next 40 years.
Of course, thanks to Congressional pork, we may never make it. In the past few years, congressional earmarks have ballooned. In fiscal year 1996, there were 958 earmarks; in fiscal year 2005, there were 14,000. These pork projects are affecting NASA, forcing the agency to “slash science, engineering and education programs to pay for billions of dollars in congressional pet projects, most of which have little to do with the agency’s mission to explore space.” While President Bush has expressed his commitment to NASA and space exploration, Congress has undermined both goals. Since 2001, “Congress has directed the space agency to spend more than $3 billion on special projects, most of them small endeavors sought by individual lawmakers for the benefit of their home districts.” Projects have included a “sprawling headquarters building for a non-profit research group in West Virginia” created by Rep. Alan Mollohan (D-WV), who is under fire for ethics violations; a “website and laboratory for the Gulf of Maine Aquarium;” and construction or renovation of dozens of museums, planetariums and college science labs. As a result of these pork projects, NASA may have to cut robotic space probes, education programs, the International Space Station, and missions to the moon.
Reuters has a story saying that the White House has been meeting with Sen. John McCain in an effort to obtain an exemption so that the CIA can torture people.
I continue to find it abhorrent that we are even discussing how this country might use torture. It’s proven to be ineffective, so to what end is Dick Cheney so interested in keeping this option open.
I find it even more surprising that these supposedly evangelical Christians continue to support this administration, despite this continuing desire by the Administration to torture people. There will be a day of reckoning, and I hate to tell these people, but the God I worship is not going to be happy that we enabled torturers. It’s really not part of his plan for humankind, and he was actually pretty clear about it.
Less than a week after a Washington Post story about the existence of the CIA’s secret prisons, Sen. Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) and House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) have called for an investigation into the leak of this information. "Such an egregious disclosure could have long-term and far-reaching damaging and dangerous consequences." While conservatives have rushed to investigate this "serious matter," Sen. Trent Lott (R-MS) revealed that the leak likely came from a Senate staffer who attended last week’s GOP-only meeting with Vice President Dick Cheney, where the detention centers were discussed. "It’s sad that the Republican Congressional leadership wants to focus not on the C.I.A.’s maintenance of secret facilities…but on those who discovered this blatant illegality," said Kenneth Roth of Human Rights Watch.
THE MORAL COST OF THE STATUS QUO: The most substandard element of our health care system is arguably also the most morally troubling. As Paul Krugman explains, "Americans are far more likely than others to forgo treatment because they can’t afford it. Forty percent of the Americans surveyed failed to fill a prescription because of cost. A third were deterred by cost from seeing a doctor when sick or from getting recommended tests or follow-up." That citizens must regularly deny themselves and their families medical care is bad enough; that it happens in the wealthiest country in human history is almost unbelievable.
THE ECONOMIC COST OF THE STATUS QUO: Employment-based health insurance "is the only serious source of coverage for Americans too young to receive Medicare and insufficiently destitute to receive Medicaid," yet it’s becoming increasingly difficult to obtain. The reason? The strain of health care costs for employers is growing, "possibly to a breaking point." The average total premium for an employer-based family plan was $9,979 in 2005, representing nearly the entire annual income of a full-time, minimum-wage worker. The cost of premiums for employer-based plans has outpaced wage growth by nearly fivefold since 2000. According to one report, by 2008, health costs will exceed profits at Fortune 500 companies. Comparing the U.S. system to countries with universal coverage, Sen. Daschle found that "in general, their predictable and broadly-financed costs along with their outcomes — improved health and productivity of workers — tend to benefit their businesses, and give them a competitive advantage over ours."
Tomorrow, America will observe Veteran’s Day in honor of the sacrifice and contributions of the more than 25 million men and women who donned the uniform to serve in the U.S. Armed Forces. The occasion will surely be marked with remembrance of, and respect for, a future generation of veterans — the 160,000 soldiers fighting in Iraq and another 18,000 soldiers currently deployed in Afghanistan. Regardless of the respectable differences that exist regarding the Iraq war, the nation is united in honoring a current generation of soldiers who continue to showcase the courage, bravery, and skill worthy of the honor bestowed upon previous generations of American soldiers. There is increasing widespread concern, however, that as soldiers return from their overseas assignments with physical and mental impairments, the Department of Veterans Affairs may not have the capacity to properly serve them. Because "soldiers in Iraq are surviving wounds that in earlier wars would have been fatal," there will continue to be an increasing need for the Bush administration to provide the necessary resources to "care for those who shall have borne the battle," a mission the administration has not yet properly prepared itself to fulfill.
Exxon Mobil Corp., the world’s largest publicly traded oil company, on Thursday said quarterly profit surged 75 percent to nearly $10 billion, raking in a bonanza from record oil prices. The profit was the highest in the company’s history, surpassing the record it set in the 2004 fourth quarter. Revenue jumped 32 percent to just over $100 billion.