Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Red Bait of 2008

You can tell when a Republican is not doing well right before an election. They begin accusing his/her opponent of being a socialist, Communist, Marxist, and since 9/11 an Islamic terrorist. Such is the case with this week's bait contest between Tom DeLay and Sarah Palin in their descriptions of Barack Obama.

The irony is no one bothers to look at the record of Barack Obama on these accusations. First, that he is a socialist. The proof? He thinks people who make $250,000 a year should pay 3% more on their income tax. Yes, that is it. That is what makes him a socialist, an ideology that believes the means of production should be owned collectively by the people (even the state, depending on the situation). Three whole percentage points now makes you a socialist.

Notice, the one thing Sarah Palin and Tom DeLay are not talking about when mentioning socialism, and that is the government bailout of our banks, a piece of legislation that both Senators Obama and McCain supported and to which Sarah Palin was reduced to a pile of jello when attempting to explain her own support for it.

This is a $700 billion government takeover of our banking and lending industry, even if done for the interests of bankers and stockholders, not the people. That certainly sounds closer to socialism than paying three extra percent on your taxes. Alas, Palin and McCain are supporters of this government project, so it is apparently no longer socialist.

And speaking of tax hikers as socialists, what about Palin's own record as Governor of Alaska? Her claim to fame, before being named John McCain's VP albatross, was engineering the passage of the largest tax increase in the history of Alaska, on oil companies no less. Why is it that Joe the Plumber, who does not make two-fifths the salary of the group he is hooking for on the campaign trail, is considered a legitimate object of fawning on the campaign trail, and yet no one seems to bother asking the office of revenue in Alaska about how it was able to gain so much in the last fiscal year? I cannot think of anything in greater violation of the cult god of the market than increasing taxes on oil companies' revenues.

As for the charge about Obama's link to some Palestinian college professor, this seems even less of an issue than with Bill Ayers, and certainly less of one than Jeremiah Wright. Of course, the Palestinian prof. is a Muslim, and if you are a Republican supporter of a policy of perpetual war and unapologetic supporter of all things Israel, this actually makes sense (even if done because people like Palin have nothing else to talk about). The problem is Obama is as fanatical of a supporter of Israeli imperialism in the Middle East as any lobbyist in AIPAC. After all, it was Obama, not Palin, who came out in support of Israel if it decided to attack Iran, something which the media still does not report on very often. And before Governor Palin was agitating for an invasion of Pakistan, there was Barack Obama calling for the use of US military force to destroy al-Qaeda in Pakistan (good luck with the details on how to make that happen).

The problem here is posturing and the fact very few people still believe that Barack Obama is a Muslim himself. And, of course, we no longer live in the era of George Wallace, so they cannot just come out and say what they are really thinking, although their supporters seem to have no difficulty in doing so.

Instead, we get to endure the sight of such candidates going after an associate of his/her opponent. Well, since who you meet or know is now a campaign issue, I suppose Governor Palin would not mind explaining why she is a married to a supporter of a secessionist party that advocates breaking away from the US and whose founder declared that he "had no use for America."

Foolish non-issue, sure, but then this is what the campaign is reduced to, because no one wants to admit that there are few issues of real disagreement for them to talk about. Not only that, on the issues they disagree on, on real policy, it is obvious that neither wants to risk losing undecided voters by declaring their belief in 4,000 year old dinosaurs. Thus, we get to hear about hanging out with some campus radical from the '60s or who is palling around with some Palestinian.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Keeping the Buggers In Line: In Defense of Nebraska's Safe Haven Law

The state of Nebraska has become the subject of many jokes over the years (sort of like the way folks in the deep South like to say "thank God for Mississippi"). After all, it is Nebraska, as flat as an ironing board and about as much attraction to the average person as a solar eclipse. And its safe haven law is under fire, for allowing parents to desert teenagers at state hospitals, instead of newborn babies (as the law was intended).

Boy could be 23rd child abandoned at Neb. hospital

By NELSON LAMPE, Associated Press Writer

OMAHA, Neb. – A 17-year-old boy left at a hospital in Lincoln, Neb., may be counted as the 23rd child abandoned under the state's unique safe-haven law.

Lincoln police say the boy's parents took him to BryanLGH Medical Center West late Tuesday.

Police Capt. Jim Thoms says the parents told officers the boy wouldn't follow their rules and that they couldn't afford some programs he needed.

If the boy's status is confirmed Wednesday, he would be the 23rd child abandoned under the law.

Nebraska's safe-haven law is the only one in the country that lets caregivers leave children as old as 18 at a state-licensed hospital without fear of prosecution for the abandonment.

Gov. Dave Heineman called a news conference for later Wednesday and said he would address the safe-haven law. His spokeswoman would not confirm whether Heineman would be calling a special session to change the law.

A majority of state senators have agreed to revise the law so that only infants up to 3 days old could be dropped off.

I hate to sound like a contrarian, but people are not paying attention to some of the advantages of this law. We live in a society today that does not allow for the disciplining of youth. As reactionary as this may seem, one of the reasons I almost never acted up around my parents growing up was because I knew my father would not hesitate to beat me. Yes, beat me. My bleeding heart dad. The man did not tolerate any disrespect towards my mother (who opposed all forms of corporal punishment, including the type my dad meted out), and he made it clear that if we did something that was a spankable offense (which was always spelled out for us ahead of time), we were going to get it. My older brother and sister were not infrequently disciplined because of this. I was not and while it was partially because I knew how to hide my rebellion better than my older siblings, it was also because I did not openly defy my parents. I did not want to face the consequence of that defiance.

Today's kids know that there are no consequences. When my nieces and nephews talk about schools giving "timeouts," it reminds me of my public city elementary school as a child, which had a policy of paddling you if you ran in the hallways or talked during lunch. There is little a parent can do anymore with an errant child, except wait for them to break the law and get themselves thrown in jail. You have to concede that nothing could potentially scare straight the hardiest of youth than the threat of being dumped in a place like Nebraska. When I first read this story over the summer, admittedly, I laughed to myself, thinking, "Now surely that would be worse than any spanking!" I know, I am a terrible person for thinking such things. I grew up in the '70s and '80s. We were beaten and played on concreted jungle gyms.

On top of that, it has also allowed people who are economically distressed to have some relief, and giving the child welfare agencies an opportunity to process the kids into homes with the resources and time to care for these children. Why is it that we focus our outrage on the teenagers? Millions of them already run away from home each year. Now the parents have an equalizer. I am not saying that I could ever do something like this, I do not believe I could, but it is not the devil incarnate, either. If anything, Nebraska deserves some credit for being so forward looking, even if they repeal the law or re-write it for the newborns.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Our Sick Species

In my younger days, particularly my undergrad years, I recall fondly my first readings of Rousseau. The Discourses, for which this blog is named, and the Social Contract, were as much an influence as any other external force on my values and beliefs. The linchpin of all progress, though, is the belief in the inherent goodness of humans, something which I have grappled with as I have grown older and wiser (hopefully). It is stories like this that make me wonder about my fellow humans., however. It says much that our law enforcement establishment considers it more important to house a quarter million people in prisons for mere drug possession over the crimes the men in this story committed.

Teen recounts horror of abduction into sex slavery

Many young victims of human traffickers treated as criminals themselves

By Mike Celizic contributor
updated 11:52 a.m. ET, Thurs., Oct. 9, 2008

For someone who’s only 18, Shauna Newell is remarkably composed as she describes being kidnapped, drugged, gang-raped and savagely beaten.

It is only when she talks about seeing one of the men who sexually assaulted her — free and unafraid of being prosecuted — that she starts to break down.

“I went out to the beach a few weeks ago and I saw the dude who raped me, and he just looked at me,” Newell told NBC News, her voice choking. “Like, hey … you ruined my whole life. You have scarred me for the rest of my life and you're just sitting there going on with your life like nothing is wrong.”

Human traffic

As shocking as Newell’s story is, it is not unique, TODAY’s Natalie Morales said Thursday in a special report entitled “Sex Slaves in the Suburbs.” Advocates for girls and young women who are forced into prostitution by people who approach them in various ways, including on the Internet, claim that thousands of American youths are victims of human traffickers.

Like Newell, many are treated by law enforcement authorities as runaways, said Marc Klaas, who founded the advocacy group KlaasKids after his own 12-year-old daughter was abducted, raped and killed. When they are forced into prostitution, the young people are the ones who are prosecuted, Klaas told TODAY’s Meredith Vieira Thursday in New York.

“It turns upside down,” Klaas explained. “First of all, many of these kids are missing children. But what happens is when they’re trafficked, they’re turned into hookers; they’re turned into prostitutes. So we find this situation where we find these young victims, these young girls that all of a sudden are being treated and looked upon as criminals.”

At least in that regard, Newell was fortunate when she was abducted two years ago. Thanks to her mother and Klaas’ organization, which organized a search for her, she was rescued after three days. She’s gone public to warn other girls about how easy it is to be kidnapped and trafficked.

Sinister sleepover
A typical 16-year-old in a middle-class home in suburban Pensacola, Fla., Newell’s nightmare began innocently enough: A new friend she had met in high school asked her to come to her home for a sleepover.

Newell’s mother, Lisa Brant, didn’t like the idea, but after weeks of lobbying by her daughter, Brant met with the girl and the man she said was her father to make sure her daughter would be safe.

But the girl’s “father” was really a convicted felon, and the girl, who had a record of prostitution in Texas, was an accomplice in the abduction. “Her dad took us to this house and said he'd be right back and he left us there,” Newell recounted in a taped interview. “And I asked for some water because I was thirsty. And I drank the water and I blacked out.”

The water had been laced with a drug. When she woke up, Newell was groggy and couldn’t move.

“My legs were being held down, and the guy that was raping me was holding my hands back,” she said in a quiet voice. “I kept screaming, ‘Stop, please don't do this. Leave me alone.’ But I was so weak, I couldn't fight them off. Like I was, I was so really out of it. And I blacked out a few times and I kept coming back to. And I was still being raped every time I woke up.”

Left alone for a moment, Newell managed to call her mother.

“My cell phone rang. And all I heard was, ‘Mommy, help me,’ ” Brant said. “And the phone went dead. And I freaked!”

She called police, but they told her that Newell had probably run away from home, and they wouldn’t be able to treat it as a missing-person case until 72 hours had elapsed.

“He was like, 'Oh, well, you know, there's nothing I can do. You know teenagers,’ ” Brant said.

A stroke of luck
With law enforcement unwilling to act, Brant and Newell’s siblings started their own search. They were fortunate in that Brad Dennis, an investigator for KlaasKids, was based in the area because the Florida Panhandle is an epicenter of human trafficking.

By sheer luck, one search party stopped at a convenience store for something to drink, and Newell’s 14-year-old brother spotted his sister in the back seat of another car that had stopped at the same store. She was rescued, but her abductors managed to flee.

After three days of being raped and beaten and drugged, Newell was dirty, bloody, bruised and barely alive. She was airlifted to a hospital and had to be resuscitated twice. In addition to her serious injuries, she had been infected with an STD.

Newell said that her captor told her she had been sold on the Internet for $300,000 to a man in Texas. Fortunately, she was rescued before delivery could be made. During Newell’s ordeal in Florida, her captor took money from a number of men who raped her. When she screamed, he held a gun to her head and threatened to blow her brains out.

Afraid for her life, Newell later moved in with her boyfriend and now has a child of her own. Her family continues to lobby for national legislation that will provide aid for Americans forced into the sex trade similar to aid that is provided for girls and boys who are brought into the country and forced into prostitution.

Vieira asked Lisa Brant what advice she has for other girls.

“Listen to your parents. Just don’t stop believing. Be strong,” she said. “Follow what your parents say fully, fully. There are people out there who will help you. Speak up. Everybody needs to speak up. Girls that have gone through this, they’re scared.”

An in-depth report by Morales on “Sex Slaves in the Suburbs” premieres at 10 p.m. ET Sunday, Oct. 12 on MSNBC.

There are over 50,000 sex slaves in the US, a surprising figure considering how we are supposed to be sensitive to these issues, one where prosecuting attorneys are adept to locking down over 2 million souls in our jails (most for nonviolent offenses), in spite of which we remain one of the capitals of global human sexual trafficking (which is by definition a crime of violence). The behavior of local law enforcement is not helping the situation and, if anything, is unwittingly facilitating the behavior.

Here is the side of globalization and prostitution you will never see on an episode of the Secret Diary of a Call Girl.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Darned Catie Couric

How do you explain not being able to answer questions in full sentences, not being able to name anything that you read, or even a single Supreme Court case outside of Roe v. Wade? You blame the person who had the gall to dare ask you questions like what you read, to name a single Supreme Court case outside of Roe v. Wade and, like, what is your name.

Palin "annoyed" with CBS interviewer

FORT WAYNE, Indiana (CNN) – Campaigning Saturday in Fort Wayne, Indiana, a city once represented in Congress by another vice presidential candidate named Dan Quayle, Sarah Palin delivered one of her longest stump speeches to date and revealed that she was “annoyed” with the line of questioning presented by Katie Couric in her now-infamous interview with CBS.

Palin reprised a story she last told a week ago in Noblesville, Indiana about her sit-down with Couric, which was widely panned.

“Last time I was here I got to tell a crowd that I had to give a national interview that didn’t go so well,” she said. “And it was because I was kind of annoyed with the questions that I was being asked because I thought they were kind of irrelevant to, you know, national security issues and getting our economy back on track, so I kind of showed some of that annoyance.”

Couric did, in fact, ask Palin several questions about the economy and national security, focusing in particular on the congressional bailout package, the mortgage crisis, John McCain’s record on regulation, the war in Afghanistan, hunting terrorists in Pakistan, Russia, Iran, Syria, Israel and the role of the United States in the world.

Palin joked, however, about another line of questioning.

“But I think the one question that I answered that everyone could agree on, it maybe shows where my heart is… too is, she asked me this relevant question: What was my favorite movie? And I said ‘Hoosiers!’”

The governor continued to press the campaign’s message of the day: that Barack Obama and congressional Democrats will, if elected, expand government and redistribute the hard-earned dollars of regular Americans, criticisms that brought on accusatory shouts of “socialist!,” “Communist!” and, at one point, “Hussein the socialist!”

Palin said that on election day, “what we're going to have to do together, voters, what we have to do is fight for what is right and free and uniquely American. Let us put our trust in each other, not big government.”

The Indiana crowd — easily Palin’s largest of the day — was warmed up by country legend Hank Williams, Jr., who often appears at Palin campaign events to perform his recently-penned ode to the GOP ticket: “McCain-Palin tradition.”

But Williams may have been channeling the enthusiasm of the crowds for Palin — and also reflecting recent reports that Palin is “going rogue” with an eye toward the 2012 presidential race. At one point during his performance, he intentionally scrambled the song’s lyrics and put the Alaskan at the top of the ticket, praising a “Palin-McCain tradition.”

That musical witticism earned Williams a loud cheer from the crowd.

But I am certain there is an explanation for the answers in that interview.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Moron Report #23: Ashley Todd

I hesitated to make a moron report post about Ashley Todd. After all, she is 20 years old, a college student, and like all young people prone to mistakes. Then again, she is 20 years old, an adult, and one who decided to race bait by making up a story about being attacked and branded by a black man for having a McCain-Palin bumper sticker on her car. Enjoy your 15 minutes, Ashley. It is already 14:59.

The aftermath of Ashley Todd’s story

McCain volunteer Ashley Todd has now confessed that she made up the story about being attacked by a large black man who carved the letter “B” into her cheek.

The young lady has issues, and I hope she gets the help she needs. End of story.

But let’s talk in a little more depth about the eagerness and even glee with which some in the right-wing blogosphere jumped on that story and immediately claimed it as proof of their worst nightmares coming true. So much of that story was unbelievable from the very beginning, yet certain people wanted to believe it so badly that they ignored all the warning signs and launched into full battle cry.

Andy McCarthy at the National Review’s Corner responded with a post so embarrassing he has now taken it down so nobody can see it.

Dan Riehl at posted under the headline “Thugs for change,” claiming that “Obama’s run his campaign just like a street thug out of Chicago. Now we get to see what some of his worst supporters are like.”

Noel Sheppard at chastized AP for daring to be skeptical of the initial report. Most of all, he wanted to know why the AP didn’t report that the alleged perp was black. How dare they exclude a detail that had no bearing whatsoever on the alleged crime!!

Josh Painter at blamed the attack on Barack Obama, suggesting an “Obama thugocracy” was coming: When Obama “urged his supporters to get in their face, did it not occur to him that some of his more deranged followers might take him literally?” Painter asked.

He was echoed by fellow redstater Erick Erickson, who wrote: “Hey! The dude was just doing what The One asked him to. Full pardon on January 21st.”

At Atlas Shugs, they posted the woman’s photo and called it “the new face of the Republican Party.”

“Shame on those that doubted this poor girl,” the post read. “Always ready to jump on the side of the leftists and thugs. ugh. Americans, I implore you to get off your asses and save this country from the radical left coup on the White House, Senate and House…. Perhaps the Obots misunderstood Obama urging his followers to Get In Their Face and GET IN THEIR FACES!” They got the advanced course of Camp Obama to cut up their faces.”

But perhaps the most interesting response came from John Moody, executive vice president at Fox News:

“If Ms. Todd’s allegations are proven accurate, some voters may revisit their support for Senator Obama, not because they are racists (with due respect to Rep. John Murtha), but because they suddenly feel they do not know enough about the Democratic nominee,” Moody wrote. “If the incident turns out to be a hoax, Senator McCain’s quest for the presidency is over, forever linked to race-baiting.”

Now, that is utter nonsense on two counts. First, while the incident did indeed turn out to be a hoax, it has in no way linked McCain to racebaiting and will have no impact whatsoever on the outcome of this race.

But Moody’s claim that Obama supporters might have revisited their position if the story were true is more intriguing, and more revealing as well. Moody claims that under those circumstances, people might suddenly feel they know less about Obama and thus change their vote. But what is the logical trail between those two thoughts? Such an attack would tell people absolutely nothing about Obama.

The real explanation lies in the answer that Moody rejects: racism. A lot of white Americans voting for Obama have had to overcome various degrees of racism to get themselves to that point. That doesn’t make them bad people; to the contrary, they’re thinking things through, and that’s great.

However, for many of those people, an attack of the sort described by Ashley Todd would heighten those internal, emotional obstacles to voting for Obama. That’s precisely why some on the right — with notable exceptions such as Michelle Malkin, a person I do not ordinarily respect much — were so quick to try to make it a huge deal.

They ought to be ashamed.

I guess Joe the Plumber has himself a new friend. Then again, he is just a liar and tax dodger, up to this point. But do not feel bad, Ashley. You were able to use your hoax to finagle a phone conversation with Governor Palin. And all of your fellow angry whites had their half day of fun trying to impugn black voters.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Sarah Palin's Terrorists

For those 8 or 9 ex-Hillary supporters now campaigning for McCain because you deluded yourselves into thinking Palin was a feminist (or because you frankly cannot stand the thought of someone with a different ethnicity representing what you claim to be your values), congratulations. You really screwed up.

Brian Williams: ... is an abortion clinic bomber a terrorist, under this definition [of a terrorist]? Governor?

Sarah Palin: [after emphasizing that Bill Ayers is a domestic terrorist]... I don't know if you're gonna use the word terrorist there, but it's unacceptable and it would not be condoned, of course, under our watch ...

This is non-terrorism for Governor Palin, murdering women's clinic doctors (which she deems merely "unacceptable," since such folk are ideologically unacceptable victims of her fellow Scripture infatuates), but if you bomb an empty building, well, you are just evil.

Our Pathetic Species

I know this may sound revolutionary or reactionary, depending on your perspective, but I still meet people in real life. I am even married to an actual woman. I know, crazy me.

Angry online divorcee 'kills' virtual ex-hubby

Police say woman logged on virtual reality game and ended ex's avatar

By Mari Yamaguchi

TOKYO - A 43-year-old Japanese piano teacher's sudden divorce from her online husband in a virtual game world made her so angry that she logged on and killed his digital persona, police said Thursday.

She used his identification and password to log onto popular interactive game "Maple Story" to carry out the virtual murder in mid-May, a police official in northern Sapporo City said on condition of anonymity, citing department policy.

"I was suddenly divorced, without a word of warning. That made me so angry," the official quoted her as telling investigators and admitting the allegations.

The woman had not plotted any revenge in the real world, the official said.

She was charged with illegal access onto a computer and manipulating electronic data, police said. If convicted, she could face a prison term of up to five years or a fine up to $5,000.

As in "Second Life" in the U.S., players in "Maple Story" raise and manipulate digital images called "avatars" that represent themselves, while engaging in relationships, social activities and fighting against monsters and other obstacles.

The woman used login information she got from the 33-year-old office worker when their characters were happily married, and killed the character. The man complained to police when he discovered that his beloved online avatar was dead.

The woman was arrested Wednesday and was taken across the country, traveling 620 miles from her home in southern Miyazaki to be detained in Sappporo, where the man lives, the official said.

The police official said he did not know if she was married in the real world.

In recent years, virtual lives have had consequences in the real world. In August, a woman was charged in Delaware with plotting the real-life abduction of a boyfriend she met through "Second Life."

In Tokyo, police arrested a 16-year-old boy on charges of swindling virtual currency worth $360,000 in an interactive role playing game by manipulating another player's portfolio using a stolen ID and password.

Virtual games are popular in Japan, and "Second Life" has drawn a fair number of Japanese participants. They rank third by nationality among users, after Americans and Brazilians.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

And to think, this is what I have been missing out on. A fake life, leading to a fake relationship, fake breakup, and fake death (followed by a real arrest for being an ungracious pretender).

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Christians to America: You Don't Need No Stinkin' Birth Control

Thank goodness the segregationists did not discover the use of religion to justify denial of services in their businesses during the civil rights movement. From the same people who brought you clergy pedophiles, misogynism, homophobia, and the Inquisition.

Va. pharmacy follows faith, no birth control sales

By MATTHEW BARAKAT, Associated Press Writer

CHANTILLY, Va. – A new drug store at a Virginia strip mall is putting its faith in an unconventional business plan: No candy. No sodas. And no birth control. Divine Mercy Carematter of faith to sell contraceptives of any kind, even if a person has a prescription. Pharmacy is among at least seven pharmacies across the nation that are refusing as a

States across the country have been wrestling with the issue of pharmacists who refuse on religious grounds to dispense birth control or morning-after pills, and some have enacted laws requiring drug stores to fill the prescriptions.

In Virginia, though, pharmacists can turn away any prescription for any reason.

"I am grateful to be able to practice," pharmacy manager Robert Semler said, "where my conscience will never be violated and my faith does not have to be checked at the door each morning."

Semler ran a similar pharmacy before opening the new store, which is not far from Dulles International Airport. The store only sells items that are health-related, including vitamins, skin care products and over-the-counter medications.

On Tuesday, the pharmacy celebrated a blessing from Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde. While Divine Mercy Care is not affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church, it is guided by church teachings on sexuality, which forbid any form of artificial contraception, including morning-after pills, condoms and birth control pills, a common prescription used by millions of women in the U.S.

"This pharmacy is a vibrant example of our Holy Father's charge to all of us to wear our faith in the public square," said Loverde, who sprinkled holy water on the shelves stocked with painkillers and acne treatments. "It will allow families to shop in an environment where their faith is not compromised."

The drug store is the seventh in the country to be certified as not prescribing birth control by Pharmacists for Life International. The anti-abortion group estimates that perhaps hundreds of other pharmacies have similar policies, though they have not been certified.

Earlier this year in Wisconsin, a state appeals court upheld sanctions against a pharmacist who refused to dispense birth control pills to a woman and wouldn't transfer her prescription elsewhere. Elsewhere, at least seven states require pharmacies or pharmacists to fill contraceptive prescriptions, according to the National Women's Law Center. Four states explicitly give pharmacists the right to turn away any prescriptions, the group said.

The Virginia store's policy has drawn scorn from some abortion rights groups, who have already called for a boycott and collected more than 1,000 signatures protesting the pharmacy.

"If this emboldens other pharmacies in other parts of the state, it could really affect low-income and rural women in terms of access," said Tarina Keene, executive director of the Virginia chapter of the National Abortion Rights Action League.

Robert Laird, executive director of Divine Mercy Care, believes many of the estimated 50,000 Catholics within a few miles of the store will support its mission and make up for the roughly 10 percent of business that contraceptives represent in a typical pharmacy.

Whether Catholics will be drawn to the pharmacy is uncertain. According to a Gallup poll published last year for an extensive study of U.S. Catholicism called American Catholics Today, 75 percent of U.S. Catholics said you can still be a good Catholic even if you don't obey church teachings on birth control.

Catherine Muskett said she plans to shop at the drug store even though she lives more than 20 miles away.

"Obviously it's good to support pro-life causes. Every little bit counts," said Muskett, one of about 75 people who crowded into the tiny shop for Tuesday's ceremony.

I do not know which is worse. That these people actually exist or that they will probably be voting in two weeks. The most ironic thing, and I say this as a recovering Catholic (one who was raised, baptized, and catechized into the Church, along with endless generations of my family on both sides), I have never met a real practicing Catholic. Even the most conservative members of the Church tend to be the biggest drinkers, liars, and philanderers (and the priests the worst of the lot).

It would not surprise me to find out that many of the workers in this pharmacy use contraceptives in their own lives. Of course, the beauty of Catholicism is that you can be a hypocrite and still go to the nice place in the sky, so long as you die in grace (which is why this cult puts such a permanence on last rites). And feeling terrible about it the whole time. They never call it Methodist guilt.

Then again, if I wear a condom, just one time, even in the throes of marriage, I am going to hell, so sayeth these members of the pre-Enlightenment club. And yet I have to forgive Bernard Law for allowing his employees to rape little boys. If I am wrong, and there truly is a hell, may these people be the first ones to roast in it.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

No on Proposition 8

Seeing how I have never lived in California, I usually do not care how it votes on state issues, but Proposition 8 will have national implications. It is the ballot initiative to overrule the court decision that has cleared the way for gay marriages in California since this last summer. If it passes, that gain will be eliminated. Worse, it will be eliminated in a state that is considered one of the, if not the, most liberal of states (meaning that it will give momentum back to the religious believers who have moved heaven and earth to deny equal rights to gays and lesbians since they became a viable national political movement over the past couple of decades).

Still, not everyone is amused. Here is an enlightening video, giving us all a reason to hope for Prop. 8's demise.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Why Abortion? The Politicization of Biblical Misogynism

With South Dakota's likely passage and coming Supreme Court challenge to Roe v. Wade on the way, I wonder to myself, why is this such an issue to people? I understand to the extent that coming from a Catholic family, and being brainwashed by organized religion growing up, the motivation for the hatred of women from Christianity is as natural as it is despicable. It is hardly an accident that the greatest critics of feminism and women's rights, in the US and rural Afghanistan, tend to emanate from religious quarters. What is not understandable is the obsession with abortion.

There is nothing expressly denouncing abortion in the Christian Bible. There are a few references to the skygod knowing someone in his mother's womb, but that is not the same as saying that you are a living person while in the state of being a fetus.

Did not He who made me in the womb make him, And the same one fashion us in the womb? (Job 31:15)
Yet Thou art He who didst bring me forth from the womb; Thou didst make me trust when upon my mother's breasts. Upon Thee I was cast from birth; Thou hast been my God from my mother's womb. (Psalms 22:9-10)
The closest the Bible ever comes to addressing the issue is an Old Testament reference to punishing someone under the law for causing a pregnant woman to miscarry her fetus.
And if men struggle with each other and strike a woman with child so that she has a miscarriage, yet there is no further injury, he shall surely be fined as the woman's husband may demand of him; and he shall pay as the judges decide. But if there is any further injury, then you shall appoint as a penalty life for life. (Exodus 21:22-23)
The problem is that abortion specifically is never mentioned. Indeed, causing a miscarriage is deemed a non-capital (i.e., non-murder) offense punishable by a fine (and a "life for a life" case applied only when the mother dies). Causing a miscarriage is not abortion, which was a common practice in ancient times. Tacitus wrote during that period of the wealthy women of Rome having abortions (and not being punished for it). More specifically, the Judaic laws, which the Old Testament bases itself from, never treated abortion is a form of infanticide (but at most a finable offense, or the equivalent to property damage).

This might sound like semantics. It is not. There are numerous quotes in the Bible denouncing homosexuality (from commands to commit mass murder in the Book of Leviticus, to blaming gays for causing the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, to Paul's comparison of gays to being drunkards and hell-bound sinners).
If a man lies with a male, as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them. (Leviticus 20:13)

Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-10)
This explains why homosexuality was outlawed once Christianity supplanted paganism in the West, to which homosexuality was treated as a criminal act until very recent times (and a capital offense, punishable by hanging in England until the 19th century [and expressly done for religious reasons]). Throughout the Middle Ages, being a suspected lesbian could land one before the Inquisition, accused of witchery and a possible meeting with a torch crew. I do not know of a single doctor in the history of Christendom who was burned at the stake for performing an abortion (and this is a practice that goes back long before it became a political issue to religious people in the 1970s).

Could it possibly be that organized religion responds the way that it does out of a genuine concern for the health and life status of the fetus? This would seem unusual, considering how life was deemed less than worthy for non-believers throughout the history of Christianity, into modern times. Witches, atheists, Jews, gays and lesbians had lives deemed beyond the pale of consideration to many a Christian since Constantine. Today's Christians that populate the body politic of this country are some of the strongest supporters of having the mechanized right to kill other humans as expeditiously as possible. And I think I need not remind the Southern Baptist Convention's view on capital punishment (or even slavery and segregation until the 1990s). True, there are some Christians who actually take the Commandment not to kill seriously, extending their consideration of life to include the fetus and all other living matter, but these people are frankly few and far between. And even within my own Church, when was the last time a Catholic archbishop in this country verbally denounced any Republican politician for favoring a "culture of death" because of their support for the death penalty?

So, if the right to life is not a real concern, what is? At the end of the day, it has to be the fear of women's birth canals that drives their view. Those areas of the Scriptures that mention women make it clear a female's place in this world (and it is not as equals). Be it commanding women to submit to their husbands, accusing women of causing the downfall of man in the Garden of Eden, which the skygod "punished" all women by "cursing" them with periods and childbirth, women are an inferior lot in Christianity.
Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee. (Genesis 3:16)
I have never met a liberal Christian who has been able to explain away the Book of Genesis's accounts of these stories (or events, depending on one's level of belief). And regardless of what our brethren in the mainline Protestant churches like to say, the New Testament makes it very clear that women are not to be allowed positions of leadership (indeed, they are commanded to remain silent).
Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law. And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church. (1 Corinthians 14:34-35)
No one with an attitude towards women like this can ever see them as anything less than breeding material. It may sound harsh, but ask yourself: where are the women in positions of leadership in the Catholic Church or even most of the popular churches in the US?

The greatest threat of feminism over the past two centuries has been in the area of reproduction. The prescription of gender roles is a preoccupation in Christianity, as much as it is in Islam and Judaism (or at least the more orthodox forms of these religions). From the beginning, the purpose of marriage in the Scripture was designed to promote childbirth.

But something happened on the way of subordinating half of the population to the kitchen and bedroom. Modernity and all of its components, urbanization, capitalism, individualism, democracy, etc. It freed women up from the bondage of being coerced to accept enslavement. Just as important was the technological advent of certain innovations like the washer and dryer (it sounds antiquated now, but hand washing was a near fulltime job) and most vitally the birth control pill. By freeing up time and giving control over reproduction to the individual female, it helped lead to what would become the women's rights movement, the demand for women to control their reproductive freedom to choosing whether or not to have an abortion, and ultimately its legalization. To someone who thinks women should be silent in church, pregnant at home, and submissive in marriage, there can be no greater enemy.

Thus, the opposition to abortion, while not Biblical, is based on the Biblical principles of making sure women remain what they were for thousands of years--obedient mothers and wives. If you doubt this, ask Sarah Palin what she thinks of legislating equal pay for equal work. She will oppose that, but then tell us that she represents women, except the ones who are raped and impregnated, of course. For that matter, ask the Concerned Women of America whether the "mommy wars" would be better resolved if women just stopped working and stayed at home. You would be surprised how many Laura Schlessingers are out there--conservative, working women who think other working women should be at home, raising their children (while they leave theirs to nannies and family members). They are the ultimate free riders and beneficiaries of a movement they dislike (but continue to profit from). It is a contradiction that each and every one of them must realize at some level. A violation of their own expressed principles, but this has never been a problem in Christianity. After all, invading countries that kill a quarter a million people can be deemed "God's will," but women having the right to decide when to have a child is murder.

But why? Is controlling women this important? If you look at the illiberalism and anti-feminist backlash in the US, one needs to take a global perspective to understand that religious anti-modernism is hardly a phenomenon of the West. Most of what constitutes human rights violations throughout the world are predominantly inflicted against women, in ways that often far exceed anything that transpires in a Western democracy. The greatest opponents of the Convention to Eliminate Discrimination Against Women, an international treaty that seeks a global ban on gender bias, are not just the Sarah Palins in the US, but their faith-based colleagues in the madrassas of the Islamic world (which is why Saudi Arabia has been one of the lead opponents of CEDAW, alongside Pakistan, Nigeria, Iran, and the US). To be sure, the fashion industry in the West objectifies the female body type, a subject of concern for many women's rights advocates (at least in the West), but when you live in a place where even the sight of your hair is seen as a potential threat to male supremacy (notice the beauty burden for women is nearly universal as targets of ecclesiastical authority) it is difficult to even conjure a discourse that would include women as anything other than second class human beings.

In the end, the opposition to abortion, like to women's rights, is one based more on fear--the fear of what a free woman in our society represents to a person who believes they will go to a bad place after they die, if they do not successfully compel society to live the values of those who oppose such freedom. And it is about freedom. For them, though, it is a freedom to impose, as one cannot prescribe gender roles in a secular modern society without imposition of some kind. And as the 2004 elections has shown, when people believe that their innermost held values are under threat (either by women's reproductive choice or gays and lesbians possibly getting married), the response to such perceived threats can be more easily manufactured, not the least by those who need uncostly political allies.

This uncostly ideological opiate is the convenience of abortion, as a political issue, and it is why it is an issue in our polity. What should not be an issue to any normal democratic country is one here because we are not a normal democratic country and never have been. We are a Constitutional republic with democratic tendencies, but democratic tendencies subject to immoderate opposition to those tendencies when they violate either the ethos of stockholders and slaveholders (the resolution of which necessitated a civil war), or to those who believe they saw their neighbors practicing witchcraft in Salem. It is the combination of the modern and anti-modern strains of our society that makes us the most interesting of all democracies and yet dangerous to those who seek to maintain their status as full citizens. With regards to women's reproductive choice, we shall see, but considering the elevation of Mr. Roberts and Alito to our Supreme Court (both avowed opponents of abortion and one of them replacing a pro-choice retiree), I am not very confident of what will take place in the next few years.

Assuming Roe v. Wade is overturned (and that is a huge assumption even now), reproductive choice will go back to the states, and from this two Americas will emerge. The secular, liberal America (the one with the democratic tendencies) on the coasts and upper parts of the Midwest, and the illiberal, mostly religious America in the South and lower parts of the Midwest (much like the lines that are starting to develop on the issue of gay marriage). Our culture wars will then become local issues for the believers in the hereafter, and the issue of abortion (which until now has been one of national and only periodically a state concern) will devolve into a state, county, and possibly municipal matter. One can only be thankful that Appomattox prevented the resolution of slavery in this manner.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Sarah Palin's America

You can always tell when someone is losing. They begin to sound like it. Actually, I anticipated this long before the general election. Then again, the McCain/Palin ticket waited until they were 8-10 points down in the polls to start playing the race-patriot bait card (and the consequence of this can be seen in the hate rallies that McCain-Palin campaign appearances have become in the last few weeks).

If one believed Governor Palin, assuming anyone can take seriously a person who thinks the head of Vladimir Putin has designs on Alaska, a corporatist Democrat is unelectable because he met some ex-60s radical four times over the course of the last two decades. For this, he is guilty of 'palling' around with terrorists. Not only that, places like Alaska and North Carolina represent the "pro-America" parts of the US, as opposed to, say, that bastion of anti-Americanism, Massachusetts, where I suppose sodo-satanists have taken over (this is not just rhetoric when you consider one of the Governor's preachers is a self-professed witch hunter).

The irony in Palin's speeches is that she is married to a member of the Alaskan Independence Party (and is a reputed ex-member and supporter herself). This is the same "pro-American" political party that supports the separation of the state of Alaska from the United States of America (which most of us "real" Americans would consider treason). Its members are also known supporters of that other great bastion of American patriotism, the League of the South (and Alaska is one of the few states north of the Mason-Dixon line that has a chapter in the LoTS). This is the same League of the South who thinks the Confederacy was right, the Civil War had nothing to do with slavery (indeed, according to these angry white folk Abraham Lincoln was comparable to Adolph Hitler), that blacks enjoyed living under slavery, and that the South should rise again and separate from the US.

Here is the side of Sarah and Todd Palin you will not see at one of her campaign speeches.

Real pro-American group there.

Let us compare the score card of Sarah and Todd Palin's political association with a group that supports secession, a cause that killed over a half million people in the 1860s, and a party whose founder expressly states that he has "no use for America," to someone who bombed a few empty buildings under the delusion that it would make the US government less authoritarian and imperialistic (which it obviously did not). Why is it that no one in the mainstream media is calling Palin and McCain out for this hypocrisy?

And speaking of patriotism and love of the US that McCain's supporters are showing at his rallies, here is another example of what this campaign is descending to.


SoCal GOP Group Depicts Obama In Racist Caricature

RIVERSIDE (AP) ― A San Bernardino County Republican group has distributed a newsletter picturing Barack Obama on a phony $10 bill adorned with a watermelon, ribs and a bucket of fried chicken.

The illustration was denounced by various GOP officials after it appeared in the October newsletter of the Chaffey Community Republican Women, Federated, the Riverside Press-Enterprise reported Thursday.

Diane Fedele, president of the group, said the move had no racist intent.

"I never connected," she told the newspaper. "It was just food to me. It didn't mean anything else."

The Obama campaign declined to comment, saying it does not address such attacks.

The newsletter was sent to about 200 club members and associates last week by mail and e-mail.

Fedele said she had received the illustration in e-mails and decided to reprint it to poke fun at a previous remark by Obama that he doesn't look like other presidents.

"It was strictly an attempt to point out the outrageousness of his statement. I really don't want to go into it any further," Fedele told the newspaper. "I absolutely apologize to anyone who was offended. That clearly wasn't my attempt."

Fedele said she also planned to send an apology letter to her members and apologize at the club's meeting next week.

Sheila Raines of San Bernardino, a black member of the club, complained about the image to Fedele.

"This is what keeps African-Americans from joining the Republican Party," she said. "I'm really hurt. I cried for 45 minutes."

California Republican Party press secretary Hector Barajas denounced the newsletter.

"This material I've seen inspires nothing but divisiveness and hostility and has absolutely no place in this election, or any public discourse," he said Thursday in a written statement.

The club is a volunteer group that is not directly responsible to the state party, he said.

"They're an entity unto themselves," he said.

The image was also condemned by Assemblyman Bill Emmerson, R-Redlands, and state Sen. Bob Dutton, R-Rancho Cucamonga.

Emmerson said he was offended and sickened by the newsletter.

"Bias and racial comments and even suggestions are frankly what weakens us as a people. I think we as Americans need to rise above that," Dutton said.

Here is another McCain supporter at a rally in Johnstown, PA. I am sure this is all a coincidence and he had no clue that there were any racial overtones to what he was doing.

Sarah Palin's America.

Friday, October 17, 2008

No Means No: Attack a Lady, Lose a Head

The Soviet Union might be gone, but the sickle lives on.

Woman beheads man, parades it through streets

LUCKNOW, India (AP) -- A woman chopped the head off a man who allegedly tried to attack her and then paraded the head through a market in northern India, police said Friday.

Police arrested the woman late Thursday after receiving calls from frightened witnesses who reported a blood-soaked woman holding a severed head was walking through the village, said police officer Ram Bharose.

The woman, 35, told police she had gone to a nearby forest to cut grass for fodder for her cattle when a man attacked her from behind.

"In a bid to save her dignity she beheaded him with a sickle," Bharose said, adding that the woman had bite marks on her neck and cheek.

The woman also told police that the man had been harassing and stalking her for three months and she had no regrets about killing him, he said, adding that she would probably be charged with culpable homicide.

The incident took place in Makkapurva village, some 125 miles (200 kilometers) southeast of Lucknow, the capital of Uttar Pradesh state.

I do not normally advocate violence, and parading a severed head around town is not my idea of a good time, but if her story is true it would be unfortunate to prosecute her for defending herself against an attacker (and without the aid of a firearm!). You have to say one thing for her. I do not think any future stalkers in and around Makkapuva village will be crossing this lady.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Moron Report #22: Anti-Obama Man, Andy Martin

In spite of my distaste for some of Obama's corporatist views (particularly his view on the Wall Street bailout [as you can see, it is having no impact]), one cannot help but to think that a positive outcome of his coming election will be the discrediting of wretches like this. Meet Andy Martin. This piece of work is one of the responsible parties behind the smear campaign this last year to paint Senator Obama as an Islamic terrorist. After failing in that bid, he graduated to exterminating Jews. Yes, he actually claims to want to exterminate an entire group of people.

Just so you know, Dennis Prager, this is the kind of fellow you and your friend Sean Hannity are allying with.

Anti-Semite Launched Obama Smears

Before Barack bash, kook pledged to "exterminate" powerful Jews

OCTOBER 14--The Chicago man credited with launching the Barack Obama-is-a-Muslim smear campaign once pledged to "exterminate Jew Power in America," and claimed that "Jew babies are fed with subsidized American taxpayer money," and that Jews were "schooled in blood sucking and money grubbing from birth." Those anti-Semitic statements (and many, many others) were contained in a 1986 fundraising letter circulated by Andy Martin, then a Connecticut congressional candidate. Martin, who began his whisper campaign against Obama in August 2004 after the politician's keynote address at the Democratic National Convention, has a long history of impugning Jews, often in connection with the hundreds of legal proceedings filed by the 62-year-old perennial candidate. But the 1986 letter, a copy of which you'll find below, is particularly virulent. In fact, in 1996, when Republican officials in Florida learned of Martin's prior fundraising pitch they rescinded the party's support for Martin, then a state senate candidate (when he ran for Congress in 1986, Martin was known as Anthony R. Martin-Trigona). Martin's sleazy background has gained renewed attention in light of his appearance this month in a Sean Hannity-hosted Fox News documentary about Obama. During that October 5 program, Martin claimed that the Democratic presidential candidate was once "in training for radical overthrow of the government." Martin offered no proof for this claim, nor was any sought by Hannity, who identified Martin as an "Internet journalist." Nor did Fox mention the kooky Martin's history of anti-Semitic statements or his arrest record (click here to view five of his mug shots). In fact, Martin is wanted in New York and Florida on outstanding arrest warrants. The New York warrant, out of Ulster County, resulted from harassment charges related to a child custody battle. The Florida warrant, from Palm Beach County, was filed in connection with a criminal contempt conviction.

This is not the first time Sean Hannity has given air time to white supremacists, by the way. Over the last couple of years, he gave consideration and his friendship to neo-Nazi Hal Turner. Remember, this is the same Sean Hannity who claims that we should not vote for Barack Obama because of his association with Jeremiah Wright, but it is OK for him to give time to people who want to kill off this country's Jewish, Mexican, and black population. Maybe Sean will imitate his check writer and claim to have the secret diaries of Jefferson Davis. Maybe Murdoch will just be honest and hire Andy Martin as an anchor. Such is Fox "news."

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Bye, Bye, Mac

It has been a long goodbye for the Senator from Arizona. Even with tonight's debate, I have not seen anyone this far down win a Presidential campaign with less than three weeks to go. Save for some catastrophic event, or closeted racism of 15-20% of white respondents in the polls, John McCain is going to lose this election. There were many factors. The economy, eight years of one of the most incompetent Presidents of the last century, and a VP pick who at times has difficulty completing a sentence. Oh, and the main candidate has some kind of cancerous growth on the side of his face, looks twice his own age, to which he is already 72. None of these are recipes for success.

Another cultural measure is the lack of support for his campaign from conservatives. True. some, like talk show host Rush Limbaugh, get excited at the sight of a Sarah Palin wink, as well as a verbal reassurance for the fetus worshipers, but there are many, many conservatives who are either sitting out this campaign, openly criticizing it, or even deserting the Republican ticket altogether. You know it is not good when Bill Kristol, one of the neoconservative stalwarts (a natural ally of a man with John McCain's foreign policy worldview) is encouraging you to fire your entire campaign. Or when Christopher Buckley (ex-editor of National Review and son of the publication's founder, William F. Buckley) endorses Obama. Or Ann Coulter, who apparently has not endorsed anyone, except Satan himself (in between calls for domestic terrorists to truck-bomb the headquarters of the New York Times).

On the positive side, for McCain, he will not have to be in a stressful environment in the last years of his life, save for dodging lobbyists and campaign sponsors in the Senate. He may actually be more useful there, as he will not be the Commander-in-chief--meaning he will not be able to cover for his debacles by invading or bombing some hapless country.

Some have viewed this election is a bellwether for future tendencies. Of course, one would be blind not to note the issue of race and Obama's likely election portending this country's demographic change and perceptions on race (something that would have been unimaginable two decades ago, back when it was considered an accomplishment for Jesse Jackson to win a few Southern primaries).

For the religious folk, some, like religious liberal Jim Wallis, this election will spell the end of the Religious Right as a force in American politics.

I am not so certain about Wallis's claims. First, the Religious Right is basically the only part of the Republican Party's base that seems to bother showing up the polls anymore. Two, while our culture is becoming increasingly secular (thanks be to the goddesses), this does not mean that religious people are going to surrender and go away. If anything, they will retrench and do everything possible to maintain political relevance. Lastly, the religious left or any of its variants (including the emerging church phenomenon) is still a minority in this country's religious communities. Go to any church in the US and ask them the most important issues our country faces, and very few will say anything about the environment. You may get a few complaints about social justice, to be sure, but the vast majority of the congregants will want to talk about our "failing moral values," "the attack on.....[fill in religious institutional fetish]," and the absolute "importance of life [except anyone that is already outside of the womb]." This is something even Wallis himself knows and conceded in his book God's Politics. One election is not going to reverse this.

No, the Republican Party is not going away, anymore than the Democrats did after losing in 2004. In fact, they will be back for the midterm elections, as they always are. This is the price of having a two-party state. It is also the price of having two parties who have to feign differences on so many issues where there are none, except one's professed greater love for heterosexual married people and fetuses. What you can be sure of is that what constitutes the conservative wing of the Republican Party will change, particularly those self-described neoconservatives, the wrecking crew of the party whose foreign policy has helped stamp the current President's lasting legacy of failure.

Also, assuming that Governor Palin is reelected, even after revelations about her abuse of power in Alaska, she will be the new rising star in a GOP without any recognizable national figures. Of course, it is based almost entirely on her appearance and appeal to the religious elements of the party. I am still amazed at the kind of free pass she has received for her record as a tax raiser, something which Mike Huckabee was unable to escape when the supply side fundamentalists at The Club for Growth lambasted him for his gubernatorial record of non-compliance to the gods of Adam Smith and Milton Friedman.

Still, here is to hoping for an entertaining debate. Maybe ole John will throw for a bomb on fourth and long and insist on suggesting Senator Obama's record of hanging around Muslims. Surely, that will give the Senator from Illinois a couple of extra points in the polls. Who knows, with a little luck, McCain might just go for the Holy Grail and claim Obama is an periodic associate of FARC, the IRA, and the Tamil Tigers to boot.