Tuesday, April 21, 2009

In Remembrance: Still We Have Not Forgotten

Today is Yom Hashoah, the day of remembrance for those who perished in the Holocaust. The following video may be a bit too sad for some. So be forewarned.

In case you were wondering, the song is "Ani Ma'amin" or "I Believe." which was sung by Jews on their way to the gas chambers at Auschwitz. These are the words in Hebrew (transliterated) and English:

"Ani ma'amin b'emunah shleimah beviat haMashiach, v'af al pi sheyitmameiha, im kol zeh achakeh lo b'chol yom sheyavo."

"I believe with perfect faith in the coming of the Messiah, and though he may tarry, nevertheless I await his coming every day."

Sunday, April 19, 2009

11-Year-Old Commits Suicide Over Anti-Gay Taunts

Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover was 11. Bullies at school called him fag and sissy. They tormented him because they thought he was gay. His mother continually demanded that the school intervene. They didn't. Carl killed himself 2 weeks ago. Once again, Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover was 11. Think about it.

Maddow: Torture Must Be Prosecuted

Olbermann: "President Obama: You're Wrong."

Obama and the Nuremberg Defense

The infamous Nuremberg Defense, rejected then by the U.S. and her allies, was "I was just following orders." It has long been American law that a member of the military or any agent of the American government MUST refuse to obey an illegal order. Although some military interrogators and military lawyers spoke against torture as illegal, immoral and counterproductive, various members of our military and the CIA (or Blackwater contractors acting in their name) conducted torture against men, women, and children (those under 18), both the guilty and the innocent. In at least one case, American military resources were diverted to chase the torture-induced fantasies of a literally insane person. By all definitions, these acts were war crimes both on the part of those who ordered them and those who obeyed. Under American and international law, anyone suspected of war crimes MUST be prosecuted.

Recently, Obama released Office of Legal Counsel memos, which he was legally compelled to do. At the same time, he promised war criminals that they would not be prosecuted for their crimes and invoked a rehashing of the Nuremberg Defense. Glenn Greenwald has a strong legal examination of this illegal promise, replete with links to others well worth reading. Rebel Reports has the UN Rapporteur on Torture's response to Obama and condemnation of a decision that is itself a violation of law and considered a war crime.

When American leaders quote Nazi defense arguments, we can only pray that G-d and destiny will have mercy upon our nation.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

No, They Didn't!

Yes, they did. The so-called "Christian News Wire" has drawn a line between gay marriage (and the sexual revolution) and mass murder. Yes, "teh gayz" caused mass murder.

These people seriously need to remove the word Christian from their name or the Christians who are actual sane people need to go over there and kick some faux-Christian ass!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Oy! Not Again!

There are certain truths in this video, borrowed from A Blog Around the Clock, but I have a few problems.

The first, I think is obvious, with the false dichotomy between believing scientific things and believing supernatural or nonscientific things. The creator mistakes the scientific ideal for how science actually occurs and ignores the fact that many nonscientific ideas are produced with the same intellectual rigor as scientific ones. Many ideas caught on in the scientific community though there was no good evidence for them, such as the multiverse theory. On the other hand, the scholar's study of history, for one example, demands a careful examination of evidence and the willingness to challenge the current paradigmatic interpretation of past events. Nonscientific is here and in too many places used to mean "not based on evidence" or "not intellectually rigorous." This breed of scientism is dangerous at worst and foolish at best.

Secondly, and perhaps most important, is that the standard of demanding evidence before accepting a piece of information is an impossible one and one which would quickly cripple the mind of anyone who attempted it. The complexity of society and the variations in human ability and knowledge demands that we depend on others for information, often without being able to know or examine the evidence for the information they provide.

Our willingness to accept claims we cannot verify is often a practical necessity and is rarely a character flaw. Few people accept anything and everything they're told. Most filter information as well as they can based on what evidence is available to them, what seems right based on what they already know or think they know and a basic "common sense" of the kind of ideas that may need to be further examined. Both good and bad ideas get through the filter, so trust is added to the mix as well. If we trust a person for some reason, be it personal experience or the person's expertise, we accept what they tell us.

This need to trust others to some extent often leads us down false paths and makes us prone to accepting foolish claims or ones that would seem foolish to someone who knows more about X, thinks they have opposing knowledge or simply has a different worldview. But the source of those foolish claims is not always nonscientific or pseudoscientific or supernatural. Sometimes, science or at least a scientist is the culprit.

Whether we like it or not, the man in the white coat is treated with the same deference as the man in the white collar. Many of the studies conducted on people's willingness to blindly follow an authority figure used scientists as the authority figures. And for good reason. We see the man in the white coat as knowing more than we do and having better judgment about many issues.

Considering the scientist's field of expertise, we're usually making a safe bet, although there are many scientists who have used fraud to further their own flawed hypotheses and their authority to have them accepted in the mainstream. Outside of the scientist's field and within circumstances where moral, political or practical decisions must be made, we're often wrong to accept the scientist's authority simply because he's a scientist. His expertise does not apply in these areas and is therefore no reason to trust him implicitly. Yet we do.

Again, this is not a character flaw, nor is it a character flaw to occasionally reject a good idea because it doesn't get through our filters or make sense based on what we think we know to be true. This also is a practical necessity. It can lead us down false paths, but it makes living life possible.

In the end, being closed or open minded in regards to a particular type of information doesn't mean we necessarily have some character flaw. There are limits to the usefulness of both and a practical need for both in varying circumstances. There are also limits to the human brain's potential to have the right attitude towards every possible type of information which we'll encounter in our lives. Trial, error and humility are the best we can do.

GG: Taking it to the Man

Glenn Greenwald is doing such a good job taking down the constitutional violations and now war crimes of the Obama presidency that I can't add anything to the analysis but this:

The Obama cult of personality aside, some liberals and progressives saw this coming, including yours truly. Obama's vote for FISA proved he wasn't that interested in civil liberties. Obama's use of what I called Rovian tactics (including "stealing" the nomination through caucus fraud and backdoor deals with the DLC) during the Democratic primaries proved he was much further in the game than people realized and much less of a man than they hoped.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

The Gay Marriage Myth....

Many people are confusing ceremonies performed by clergy for gay couples with marriage ceremonies. Here's the truth.

ONLY the state can ratify a marriage. Clergy who perform ceremonies for gay couples outside of states where it is legal, must perform "commitment ceremonies" or "union blessings" NOT marriage ceremonies. It is a crime to perform a marriage without a license from the state. One clergywoman in New York has already been charged for performing a same-sex ceremony and calling it a marriage.

The clergy make every effort to make the ceremony as close as possible, religiously, to the sacrament performed for heterosexual couples but they aren't marriages and cannot legally be recognized as such.

UPDATE: It'd been a while since I read about the case. It was actually TWO clergywomen charged for performing THIRTEEN marriage ceremonies for gay couples.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Lies and the Lying Christians Who Tell Them

Note: Not Christians in general, just the specific ones discussed here. I love me my Christian friends, even if they do eat pork and work on the sabbath!

Anywho, an anti-gay marriage group is running an ad against gay marriage, saying that the passage of gay marriage has led to violations of religious freedoms. You can read more about their lunacy at Salon's War Room.

Here was my response:

In all of these cases, the religious body was acting as an agent of the state, receiving state funding or running a business open to the public. Allowing them to discriminate would be a violation of anti-discrimination laws and a violation of separation of church and state, as the churches would then get special privileges not offered to secular agencies operating in the same capacities.

The churches remain free to discriminate in non-state funded, non-state related activities. There is NO violation of freedom of religion in these cases, just the "freedom" to take taxpayer money while discriminating against those same taxpayers.

It's a cheap shot, but imagine that one of these churches asked to use taxpayer money to discriminate on some other basis, such as religion, race, etc. Would anyone take their claims seriously?

I'd like to add that I'm astounded that the religious groups running anti-gay marriage campaigns for the last couple of years have used some of the most dishonest arguments available, ranging from substantive distortions to outright lies. How is it that those who claim to speak for G-d traffic so readily in lies and aren't being called out by anyone but their opponents? Don't the so-called Christians who oppose gay marriage have a problem with their co-religionists breaking one of the big ten so publicly? Isn't hypocrisy condemned in the Christian scriptures? And lying? And self-righteousness?

Step up, Christians. You're free to disagree with gay marriage. You are not free to drag the name of our G-d or your G-d through the mud with your lies and filth.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Obama's Lessons from Enron?

You simply must read Glenn Greenwald's take on Obama's economic shenanigans and the steps he's taking to subvert the necessary regulations and oversight that could save this economy by restoring faith in the system. Make sure you also read the articles he links to for background and watch Bill Moyer's interview with William Black. (The very last sentence is priceless.)

My favorite is this quote from a WaPo article:

The Obama administration is engineering its new bailout initiatives in a way that it believes will allow firms benefiting from the programs to avoid restrictions imposed by Congress, including limits on lavish executive pay, according to government officials. . . .

The administration believes it can sidestep the rules because, in many cases, it has decided not to provide federal aid directly to financial companies, the sources said. Instead, the government has set up special entities that act as middlemen, channeling the bailout funds to the firms and, via this two-step process, stripping away the requirement that the restrictions be imposed, according to officials. . . .

In one program, designed to restart small-business lending, President Obama's officials are planning to set up a middleman called a special-purpose vehicle -- a term made notorious during the Enron scandal -- or another type of entity to evade the congressional mandates, sources familiar with the matter said.

That's right. Obama is using the same fraudulent practices that tanked Enron and saw its leaders convicted of criminal activity. Who could have known that Obama would be unwilling or unable to do what it takes to save our country from the largest economic disaster since the Great Depression? Wait, I remember. You read it here in November:

I assure you that his policies are the exact opposite of what needs to be done right now and what is being done by state and local governments around the country. The decisions are hard, but they have to be made if we're going to stabilize our economy. Obama refuses to either see or admit that.

At best, Obama's shenanigans will be pushing the can down the road a bit, hoping another bubble will improve the economy enough to make it look like his policies worked. Ultimately, however, his failures now will lead to even bigger disasters down the road, mimicking the same boom/bust cycle that led to the Great Depression not the investigations, regulations and public investment that stabilized our economy, shortened recessions and prevented depressions until they were gutted during the last four presidencies.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Someone Please Teach Obama Protocol

The diplomatic faux pas are piling up. Some are petty, like giving the British PM DVD's that are useless in British machines or giving the Queen an iPod. Others are a little bigger, like refusing the traditional joint press conference with the visiting Prime Minister, rescheduling a visit with the President of Brazil, and misspelling the name of a visiting head of state on the formal announcement. But this one is gigantic! The President of the United States bowed before the Saudi king! This gesture implies that the POTUS and, by extension, all Americans are subjects of the Saudi king. Lovely!