Monday, September 29, 2008

Poking a Stick

I like wearing t-shirts that make people think a bit. Not offend, necessarily, but prod gently. This last weekend, I wore this one as we went shopping:

I was at Border's and a man came up to me and asked about the shirt. He seemed genuinely surprised that Lincoln would have ever said such a thing. He looked confused and seemed to shadow me around the store the whole time I was there. I wasn't sure if he wanted to roll me or was working up his courage to present a clever response. As we carried on shopping at other places, I got several more stares, but no additional comments.

Of all the shirts with provocative statements that I wear, it's odd that this is the one that I get the most looks and comments from. It seems one's religion is the thing that most people are most touchy about. And to intimate that our country's leaders and founders were anything but Christians is apparently heresy.

It may offend some, but why does it offend them? And if so, do they think about how "In God We Trust", "One Nation Under God", or "God Bless America" offend others?

Some people comfortably live in the illusion that this is a Christian nation and that it was founded upon Christian principles. When contradictory data comes up that disputes that, it shakes their foundation. An open-minded person might read further and maybe try to learn about other viewpoints. Others do the exact opposite. They build walls around their intellect and deny anything that disputes their own views - classic "cognitive dissonance".

I'm not trying to make people believe as I do. I'm merely trying to poke a stick at them in their heavenly lofts. They need to be given just a little taste of what it is like to be a non-Christian in a world that shoves God down our throats. When they get a little perspective, perhaps they will be more tolerant.

It doesn't bother me that people might stare or come up to me and engage me in a discussion about the shirt. That's why I wear it. I think if more people talked about these issues, we'd be better off.

For a bit more about religion in our society, check out Laura's interesting discussion on the tax-exempt status of Churches:

Tear down the wall ..."

"The supreme satisfaction is to be able to despise one's neighbor and this fact goes far to account for religious intolerance. It is evidently consoling to reflect that the people next door are headed for hell." -- Aleister Crowley quotes (English poet, author, philosopher, 1875-1947)

Friday, September 26, 2008

Friday Round-up

Whee!! My bank failed this week (Washington Mutual). I don't think it means much as I'm not in danger of eclipsing the FDIC $100,000 mark. I'm barely in danger of eclipsing the $100 mark. Looks like Chase scooped up WaMu anyway. It's still scary stuff, though. Largest bank failure in US history. Is the shine off of unregulated and untethered capitalism yet? I hope so, but I have my doubts.


There's no point in even making jokes even more:

Sarah Palin Unplugged

Early on, she was like the car wreck that you craned your neck to gape at, out of curiosity. After you got a better look, you discovered how gruesome the sight was with dismembered bodies and blood everywhere and you had to turn away to avoid vomiting. Her answers to Couric reminded me of Miss Teen South Carolina.

courtesy of Steve Bension & Arizona Republic

Note: I just noticed that JA also posted this video. Check out his blog for more discussion: It's Like an SNL Skit, Only Real


Get Your War On now has animated shorts. Check this one out (just maybe not at work). The Atlas Shrugged and Thomas Friedman lines are classic:

"The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings; the inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries." -- Winston Churchill

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Nigerian ... err, I mean American e-mail scam

Now it all makes sense - as a country, we're just victims of an elaborate phishing scam (from Raw Story):

Dear American:

I need to ask you to support an urgent secret business relationship with a transfer of funds of great magnitude.I am Ministry of the Treasury of the Republic of America. My country has had crisis that has caused the need for large transfer of funds of 800 billion dollars US. If you would assist me in this transfer, it would be most profitable to you.I am working with Mr. Phil Gram, lobbyist for UBS, who will be my replacement as Ministry of the Treasury in January. As a Senator, you may know him as the leader of the American banking deregulation movement in the 1990s. This transactin is 100% safe.This is a matter of great urgency. We need a blank check. We need the funds as quickly as possible. We cannot directly transfer these funds in the names of our close friends because we are constantly under surveillance. My family lawyer advised me that I should look for a reliable and trustworthy person who will act as a next of kin so the funds can be transferred.Please reply with all of your bank account, IRA and college fund account numbers and those of your children and grandchildren to so that we may transfer your commission for this transaction. After I receive that information, I will respond with detailed information about safeguards that will be used to protect the funds.

Yours Faithfully

Minister of Treasury Paulson

Friday, September 19, 2008

Friday Round-up

As always, Bill Maher is very astute ... and very funny. From an interview with Rachel Maddow on MSNBC Wednesday:

... comedian and political commentator Bill Maher took issue with the infamous George W. Bush assertion that terrorism is somehow caused by a hatred of Americans' freedom.

"They don't hate us for our freedom," said Maher with a laugh. "They hate us for our airstrikes. In Afghanistan, that seems to be the problem. It's that, we keep killing people with our airstrikes, and then those people tend to have a grudge against us, and they will join the Taliban, or be sympathetic to the Taliban."

Maher likened a plan to send two more combat brigades to Afghanistan as killing flies "with a fly swatter made of raw meat."

"I keep going back to this cynical view I have, and people jump down my throat, but the underlying problem we have in this country is that the people are too stupid to be governed."


And this may be the least surprising research study finding ever (from University of Nebraska at Lincoln):

People who startle easily in response to threatening images or loud sounds seem to have a biological predisposition to adopt conservative political positions on many hot-button issues, according to unusual new research published yesterday.

The finding suggests that people who are particularly sensitive to signals of visual or auditory threats also tend to adopt a more defensive stance on political issues, such as immigration, gun control, defense spending and patriotism ...

Just as we always suspected, conservatives respond to bright, shiny objects and ignore nuance.


All hail a fully deregulated free market!


And this is for those tens of listeners to local progressive radio station KPHX on Sunday mornings -- they've made the huge mistake of again inviting me to be on-air this weekend. Hopefully, this time I'll actually open my mouth occasionally. To listen live on Sunday:

or find links to the podcast (usually posted the day after):

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Reformers, My Ass

You ever get the feeling you've been cheated?

WASHINGTON - In one $85 billion (47 billion pound) fell swoop, the U.S. Federal Reserve may have wiped out what credibility it won resisting Lehman Brothers' rescue plea and opened its door to countless other companies to come calling for cash.

... By providing a massive loan to American International Group on Tuesday, just two days after refusing to use public funds to save Lehman Brothers from bankruptcy, the central bank also invited tough questions on how exactly it determined whether a company was too big to fail.

Between the $29 billion the Fed pledged to swing the Bear Stearns sale to JPMorgan in March, $100 billion apiece to rescue mortgage finance firms Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, up to $300 billion for the Federal Housing Authority, Tuesday's $85 billion loan to insurer AIG and various other rescue deals and loans, taxpayers are potentially on the hook for more than $900 billion ...

"We're essentially continuing a system where profits are privatized and...losses socialized," Roubini said, adding that auto makers, airlines and other struggling businesses would no doubt be asking for government help too.

The government was hard pressed to say no to AIG because of concerns that its collapse would harm thousands of companies around the world and cause chaos in the $62 trillion market for credit default swaps, where it is a big player ...

But Roubini said instead of handing out money to firms that made bad bets -- which could inadvertently encourage more risky behaviour if companies think they have a safety net -- the government should be buying up mortgages and rewriting the terms so that households are not buried in debt.

And guess why we have unregulated credit default swaps? Just ask McCain economic adviser, Phil Gramm.

Of course, Mr. "Maverick", John McCain, will come bounding into town and march out propaganda that the Third Reich would have been proud of ("Original Mavericks"):

"We will never put America in this position again. We will clean up Wall Street. This is a failure."

And in a statement released by his campaign, McCain called for greater "transparency and accountability" on Wall Street.

If McCain wants to hold someone accountable for the failure in transparency and accountability that led to the current calamity, he should turn to his good friend and adviser, Phil Gramm.

... eight years ago, Gramm, then a Republican senator chairing the Senate banking committee, slipped a 262-page bill into a gargantuan, must-pass spending measure. Gramm's legislation, written with the help of financial industry lobbyists, essentially removed newfangled financial products called swaps from any regulation. Credit default swaps are basically insurance policies that cover the losses on investments, and they have been at the heart of the subprime meltdown because they have enabled large financial institutions to turn risky loans into risky securities that could be packaged and sold to other institutions.

... the Lehman fiasco--caused in part by the use of unregulated swaps--could lead to ruin elsewhere in the economy.

Gramm is responsible for the rise of the wild and woolly $62 trillion swaps market. And he was chairman of the McCain campaign and a top economic adviser for McCain--until he dismissed Americans worried about the economy as "whiners."

Not to be outdone with complete bullshit, hypocritical statements, Sarah Palin had to pipe in:

"John McCain and I will put an end to the abuses in Washington and Wall Street that have resulted in this financial crisis." She promised a McCain administration would "reform the way Wall Street does business."

... What neither she nor McCain has explained is how they plan to be able to reform Wall Street when they are being assisted by 177 lobbyists and the guy who greased the way to the current crisis with a backroom legislative maneuver.

... By the way, both McCain and Palin decried golden parachutes for CEOs. What might Carly Fiorina, a top McCain adviser and surrogate, think of that? She received a $21 million severance package when she was forced out as CEO of Hewlett-Packard, after her not-so-successful stint there--and the value of her golden parachute eventually reached $42 million.

People have different reasons for voting for someone. Social issues, patriotism, economics all come into play. And I'm generally reluctant to call into question someone's intelligence when analyzing why they've voted for a particular candidate. But, I just can't resist ... anybody that will vote for McCain/Palin for economic reasons (or any reason for that matter) is a complete moron and needs to have their head examined.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


Sorry for the gap in posts. We were out of town this weekend camping with the folks at Cataract Lake near Williams, AZ. Had a great time and am now refreshed and ready to take on the free world.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Mark Twain on Religion

"Man is a Religious Animal. He is the only Religious Animal. He is the only animal that has the True Religion--several of them. He is the only animal that loves his neighbor as himself and cuts his throat if his theology isn't straight. He has made a graveyard of the globe in trying his honest best to smooth his brother's path to happiness and heaven....The higher animals have no religion. And we are told that they are going to be left out in the Hereafter. I wonder why? It seems questionable taste." -- The Lowest Animal

"In religion and politics people's beliefs and convictions are in almost every case gotten at second-hand, and without examination, from authorities who have not themselves examined the questions at issue but have taken them at second-hand from other non-examiners, whose opinions about them were not worth a brass farthing." -- Autobiography of Mark Twain

"I am quite sure now that often, very often, in matters concerning religion and politics a man's reasoning powers are not above the monkey's." - Eruption

"The so-called Christian nations are the most enlightened and progressive...but in spite of their religion, not because of it. The Church has opposed every innovation and discovery from the day of Galileo down to our own time, when the use of anesthetic in childbirth was regarded as a sin because it avoided the biblical curse pronounced against Eve. And every step in astronomy and geology ever taken has been opposed by bigotry and superstition. The Greeks surpassed us in artistic culture and in architecture five hundred years before Christian religion was born." -- Mark Twain, a Biography

"A man is accepted into a church for what he believes and he is turned out for what he knows." -- quoted from Barbara Schmidt, ed., Mark Twain Quotations

Smart guy, that Mark Twain. Apparently not a lot has changed in the last 100 years.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Mr. Cheery

You know ... it's not all doom and gloom with me. Politics is only one of my interests, albeit a depressing one sometimes. But there are many things that inspire me:

Good music - I just watched the fantastic concert movie, Pearl Jam: Immagine in Cornice, tonight. It was shot at several dates in Italy in 2006. Pearl Jam and Eddie Vedder continue to impress me by not selling out, by having something to say, and, above all, for making great music for over 15 years.

Friends - Those across town (E & J) who we don't see as often as we should because we are old, boring and busy. But when we do see them, it's as though no time has passed.
- And those across the planet who, with your blogs, make me think, make me laugh, and have helped me to find a voice. (Laura, CK, JA, Wunelle, SP, and yes, even you, Scott)

And above all else, family - Seeing life unfold through the prism of a 7 year old is a joy and a learning experience for me. Everything I do, work or personal, must ultimately pass the test of whether it makes my wife and son proud of me. Today was a great day for family. It was a busy, fun, Saturday. It started with a museum, continued with some good food and ended with a college football game. Check out some pics here or by clicking the picture:

Friday, September 05, 2008

Rage Against the Machine/RNC

... Weapons not food, not homes, not shoes
Not need, just feed the war cannibal animal
I walk tha corner to tha rubble that used to be a library
Line up to tha mind cemetary now ...

Bulls on Parade -- Rage Against the Machine

A standoff between rock fans and police led to 102 arrests Wednesday night when fired-up concertgoers took to the streets after a Rage Against the Machine show.

Several hundred fans of the band, whose songs include “Take the Power Back,” and “Bullet in the Head,” marched through downtown Minneapolis after the band finished its set at the Target Center arena.

The show ended at roughly the same time as the third night of the Republican convention across the Mississippi River in St. Paul. Fans of the politically radical band mixed with exuberant Republicans headed to exclusive parties where they toasted vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin’s speech.

As police in riot gear faced shirtless rock fans in the streets, Republicans looked on from the rooftop deck of the exclusive R. Norman’s steakhouse, where bigwigs like Minnesota Sen. Norm Coleman pressed the flesh.

Many of those at the party were not impressed with the spectacle.

“They’ll claim police brutality, then sue and win and make enough money to come to the next convention,” one partygoer said.

“They can sit there all night because they don’t have jobs,” said another.

The protesters didn’t sit there all night, in fact. Police arrested 102 after they occupied an intersection and refused to leave, said Bill Palmer of the Joint Information Center.

Most were ticketed for presence at an unlawful assembly, but two were booked on assault and obstruction of legal process, Palmer said.

Notice their palpable disdain of the unwashed masses as they eat from a menu most normal people couldn't even sniff:

You don't really need any better indication of what today's Republican party really represents than their own statements:

"“They’ll claim police brutality" -- In their world, police brutality doesn't exist. Police and the military are never wrong.

"... sue and win and make enough money ..." -- They're always bitching about tort reform. Their precious polluting and worker abusing corporations cannot be slowed down by "frivolous" lawsuits.

"They can sit there all night because they don’t have jobs" -- Apparently, people who listen to Rage Against the Machine (liberals) don't have jobs. Somebody needs to tell these silver-spoon-in-your-mouth frat boys that living off your trust fund isn't considered "working".

Classic. They've managed to hit every single cliched conservative touchpoint. Republicans, the party of the "common man". Right.

I'm not saying that these protesters weren't raising some hell. If someone assaulted someone, they deserve to be arrested. My comment is more on the oh-so-typical response. And always assuming that police are in the right is a dangerous path, especially when they've, in effect, been given a free pass to bust some heads:

Organizers of the Republican convention were required by St. Paul, city officials to purchase a $10 million insurance policy to protect local police from false arrest and brutality lawsuits ...

... Traditionally, cities self-insure for claims, meaning they set aside a portion of the budget every year to pay for damages caused by lawsuits they lose or settle, he said.

But critics have questioned whether the insurance policies encourage police to be more aggressive in the knowledge that any damages collected through a potential misconduct lawsuit would be covered by insurance.

"It's an extraordinary agreement," Michelle Gross, who leads Communities United Against Police Brutality in Minneapolis, told the Associated Press. "Now the police have nothing to hold them back from egregious behavior."

I know it's largely anectdotal. But it's hard to argue that this scene does not show what the Republican party has come to represent. And it's difficult to see John McCain understanding the plight of the working man with his 7 houses and Cindy McCain with her huge inheritance and $300,000 outfits.

... As the polls close like a casket
On truth devoured
A Silent play in the shadow of power
A spectacle monopolized
The camera's eyes on choice disguised
Was it cast for the mass who burn and toil?
Or for the vultures who thirst for blood and oil?
Yes a spectacle monopolized
They hold the reins and stole your eyes
Or the fistagons
The bullets and bombs
Who stuff the banks
Who staff the party ranks ..

Guerilla Radio -- Rage Against the Machine

Thursday, September 04, 2008


I told myself, "You are not going to talk about her. She's just a VP candidate. She's over her skis and doesn't know what she's gotten herself into. She's just a small state governor, an outsider who was put on the ticket to help McCain pick up some disenchanted Clinton supporters. She seems nice enough and her family certainly doesn't deserve the scrutiny it has received."

I might have kept that opinion but then Sarah Palin took on the role of Darth Vader last night in her convention speech and and threw out every right-wing, conservative generalization in the book in order to please the crowd and the "base". Mission accomplished, but in the process, she may have went a long way towards alienating any middle-of-the-road appeal the ticket may have had. The role of a VP is usually to help the presidential candidate appeal to some constituency that he/she may not have had. McCain's candidacy had already moved to the right of Bush/Cheney. All bringing up "God and guns" did was to preach to the converted. And any free pass she may have been given by some Democrats is out the window with her patent lies and attacks and willingness to play the heavy.

Sarah Palin says that Obama will raise taxes on everyone ... a lie. She says Obama wants to forfeit in Iraq ... a lie. She says Obama wants to meet with terrorist states without preconditions ... a lie.

She criticizes community organizers (which Obama was), a conduit for those disenfranchised by a corrupt political system. She does not bring up how McCain will help people with healthcare, their homes, or jobs. She says she was against the "bridge to Nowhere", the brainchild of Ted Stevens, from the get-go while she advocated the project as governor.

Her views on sex education and abortions will lose her allies even within her own party. She proudly talks about her own special-needs child and parades out her teenage pregnant daughter (out-of-wedlock) as a model of evangelical and wholesome living while cutting programs for special-needs children and teenage mothers while governor.

I could go on and on, bring up her views on creationism, her hypocrisy on lobbying and pork-barrel spending, etc.

She could have played it cool, been window-dressing on McCain's ticket, possibly helping him to pick up some moderates who admired her ability to raise a family and run a state. But with last night's speech, she showed her ass and her true colors. I do not feel sorry for any scrutiny she will get from now on. Sarah Palin, welcome to the world of politics. It's on.

Some more thoughts on Palin from some of my blog buddies:

An Angry Celebration of Ignorance and Tyranny at Journal Wunelle

For My Conservative Blog Friends Still Defending Palin at Jewish Atheist

Palin Once Member of Alaska Secessionist Party at Genius of Insanity