Farewell Edwards


Your run for President had its moments of frustration and triumph, and ultimately, some despair.

You’ve dropped out, and left the race without a fully liberal candidate anywhere near the top.  Its no wonder Nader is making noises again.

Newsweek has already hit the floor with an awkward and sweaty eulogy.  They use the word “crazy” about 500 times in a 500 word article.  Subtle.  But John Edwards wasn’t remotely crazy.  He was a sane man running on the platform he should have run on in 2004, and saying things this country needs to hear.

I truly hope this is not the end for Edwards in public life.  Both he and his wife share a remarkable courage and will to fight, and the world is better off for their efforts.  I wish the Edwards family well, and send my warmest thanks and positive energy their way.

Now the task turns, painfully, to figuring out who to support.  I am already leaning towards Obama (as anyone who reads this space already knows).  In the coming days I’ll dig a bit deeper to see what I do and do not like about the candidate.

The graphic is from Obama’s campaign site, and although Hillary also had some nice parting words, it was good to see that Barack’s site admin featured the farewell prominently on the page.

Hope: Mix Your Own Obama Poster

I’m sure you folks have seen this poster of Obama floating around:


Well, I decided it would be fun to remix it. Here’s the base:


First I decided to try a different word. Change came to mind (but that’s covered by Progress), so I settled on hope:


Next I decided I rather liked the slogan at the top of Obama’s campaign site. So I decided to work that into a “Believe” theme. I elongated the poster to accommodate the quote:


Barack Obama’s greatest strength is his ability to move us. More voters are turning out, and they are turning out to support Obama. The challenge will be for Barack to continue that inspirational momentum throughout his Presidency, and to lay the groundwork on capital hill for that mobilization to have a practical impact. This is why Obama actually deserves the JFK legacy (Caroline Kennedy at the NYT via The Huffington Post):

Sometimes it takes a while to recognize that someone has a special ability to get us to believe in ourselves, to tie that belief to our highest ideals and imagine that together we can do great things. In those rare moments, when such a person comes along, we need to put aside our plans and reach for what we know is possible.

In the 2008 race, Obama is the hope candidate.

(Images edited in The Gimp on Kubuntu)

Support Mentally Ill Troops

We need to be united in our rage and speak with one thunderous voice on this (Kay at White Noise Insanity, emphasis mine):

Here’s the rundown:

  • Lt. Elizabeth Whiteside served 7 years honorably in the Army and then volunteered to go to Iraq
  • She was tormented by one Officer while in Iraq
  • She tried to commit suicide by shooting herself in the stomach
  • She ended up at Walter Reed Veteran’s Hospital
  • She befriended another soldier at Walter Reed named Samantha who also suffered from mental illness
  • Lt. Whiteside is being charged by the military for trying to kill herself etc., she could be facing life in prison, and may lose her ability for an ‘honorable discharge’, which could cost her her medical benefits et al.
  • Samantha, her friend mentioned above, hung herself and died recently
  • Lt. Whiteside still is suffering mentally.
  • Here’s what a military psychiatrist said about her in court:

“I’m not here to play legal games,” Col. George Brandt responded angrily, according to a recording of the hearing. “I am here out of the genuine concern for a human being that’s breaking and that is broken. She has a severe and significant illness. Let’s treat her as a human being, for Christ’s sake!

Things happen in war that can break the healthiest minds.  A cut in your heart that makes a rope seem friendlier than going home is no less serious an injury than that left by an IED.  What we need to understand, is that Lt. Whiteside’s mind was injured before she tried to commit suicide.  Suicide is not the act of a person fully in control of their self.  If innocence by reason of mental insanity has any meaning at all, then suicide cannot be a crime that lands one in jail.  It must be a cry we listen to, and respond to with medical care and compassion.  The response of our military is itself psychosis in the flesh (WaPo):

Military psychiatrists at Walter Reed who examined Whiteside after she recovered from her self-inflicted gunshot wound diagnosed her with a severe mental disorder, possibly triggered by the stresses of a war zone. But Whiteside’s superiors considered her mental illness “an excuse” for criminal conduct, according to documents obtained by The Washington Post.

At the hearing, Wolfe, who had already warned Whiteside’s lawyer of the risk of using a “psychobabble” defense, pressed a senior psychiatrist at Walter Reed to justify his diagnosis.

This is what Col. George Brandt responded too with such justified anger.  Attempted suicide is not the act of a sane individual.  Mental illness is not an excuse, it is the reason.  And what the hell is with the talk of excuses?  If someone is attempting to commit suicide, what the hell do they need with excuses?!

The answer?  Our military has no fucking clue when it comes to mental disease, and no inclination to improve itself:

But outside the Pentagon, the military still largely deals with mental health issues in an ad hoc way, often relying on the judgment of combat-hardened commanders whose understanding of mental illness is vague or misinformed. The stigma around psychological wounds can still be seen in the smallest of Army policies. While family members of soldiers recovering at Walter Reed from physical injuries are provided free lodging and a per diem to care for their loved ones, families of psychiatric outpatients usually have to pay their own way.

The rest of the article is replete with instances of the military’s incompetence and callousness in the matter.  We mustn’t fail our soldiers, our citizens, in such an egregious way.  Lt. Elizabeth Whiteside shouldn’t be charged with a single crime.  She should be helped.

McCain Wins Giuliani’s Mantle

Will he absorb any of his policies?

John McCain won yet another primary, placing him in a solid lead and granting the Republicans something they’ve lacked this entire campaign.  A front runner.  Mitt Romney has been, effectively, blasted as inauthentic.  He’s done the best in a state where his father built a reputation, and one with a large Mormon constituency.  How likely is he to see a repeat?

Rudy is planning on dropping out and endorsing McCainThis is not a star endorsement.  McCain and Giuliani align the closest on national security.  Will McCain pick up any of Rudy’s habits?  Has he already?

Clintons Guarding Obama?

A friend posed an interesting question yesterday.  What if the Clintons were running to absorb the shock of an Obama candidacy?  They run strong initially, then taper off on purpose.  All the initial flack heads their way, but enough passes by Barack to offer his camp a chance to prepare for the full onslaught.  Additionally, given the Republican field has a great deal of experience (doing mostly awful things), Obama beating a candidate who has a great deal of experience would strike right at the relevancy of the experience issue.

Anyway, its an “out there” bit of speculation, but I’ll admit, a fun one to toss around.

Why Report Florida Dem Primary?

I saw this in an AP article about the Florida Primary:

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton was the Democratic winner in a primary held in defiance of national rules that drew no campaigning and awarded no delegates

The other candidates have not been campaigning in these states.  Only Clinton has.  In at least one case, Clinton was the only top tier candidate on the ballot!  So why report the results, when it just gives a false sense of success to Clinton’s failing campaign?

Gay Hating and Practicality

Get on over to atheocracy and read this:

This is how Christians attempt to insulate themselves from attacks on this issue. They say, “We don’t hate the people who are gay; we just, ya know, hate their gayness.” Of course, whether or not I even used the word “hate” in my post is irrelevant (I didn’t, for the record) because that’s the only way they know how to justify their bigotry: “We don’t hate them. We love everybody! We’re just like Jesus! Of course, we don’t want to treat gays equally in the law books, but we still don’t hate them.”

It’s the same thing Americans often used to say about blacks: “We don’t hate blacks. But everyone knows they’re just an inferior race, and we can’t allow them to have the same rights as white people.” The bigotry is much the same today as it was 60, 80, 100 years ago; it has just shifted.

This is a sticky point, but one that deserves going over carefully.  There is a compelling argument for the logic behind both sides of the question here.  Namely, can Christians oppose homosexuality while avoiding hatred?  Its clear avoiding bigotry is impossible.  Believing homosexuals are somehow less than equal under the law is indefensible.  No, sorry, your religion is wrong about that point.

But is hatred involved?  And is the question itself even a practical one?

It’s a meaningless distinction when you’re fighting to deny them marriage rights and treat them as if they’re second-class citizens of some sort. When people who “love” you do that, I’d be scared to see what you guys would do if you, in fact, did hate them.

I think it remains a very practical question, in spite of the excellent point above.  Because it delves into a larger issue:  Non Christians.  jwhaws mentions that homosexuality is perceived as a sin, and hence, laws may be made to turn homosexuals into second class citizens.  On the more extreme side of things, homosexuals are killed.  This same perception of sin, and the resulting range of reactions, is at work on abortion clinics.  It is also floating beneath a very sheer polite surface where words like interfaith dialogue pop up every now and again.  The reason I want to know to what degree actual hatred is at play, is that it would be a sharp indicator of the extent to which the current range of acting out against gay people, might extend to any non Christians.  Especially if this country is turned at bible-point into a Christian nation.  There is a long and bloody history of religious conflict to give us hints.  But what could give us insight is to know:  Do Christians hate gay people?

My suspicion is that if it is not hate, then it is something psychologically similar to hate.  Viewing people as inferior, sinful, and responsible for God’s acts of retribution can’t help but lead to a strong dislike.  Hating the sin and not the sinner is a worthy goal, but one that is so very difficult to attain in practice.  I think when most people hate the sin, they hate the sinner.  And I think that we are dealing with a group of people who hate homosexuals, but do their best not to identify that strong emotion as a negative one.

Denying the reality of one’s negative emotions, rather than taking constructive steps to overcome it, can bring a deadly violence on the world.

Apparently Theists Can’t Argue

In a piece short on logic but long on bias, Simple Light attempts to present the killer arguments that support intelligent design.  The stage is set by presenting Christopher Hitchens as disoganized and cynical, and Jay Richards as rational and full of hope.  The painful illusion being cast over the debate becomes painfully clear early on, when the arguments show up to the party:

Jay Richards had the floor for the next 14 minutes and presented the most rational, well-thought out argument for theism that I’ve ever heard. He had 6 main points (and a seventh which he added later)

  1. Moral truth – we all know what it is, the question is where did it come from and atheism has no answer to that
  2. A finely tuned universe – basically a brief overview of the anthropic cosmological argument (every physical constant finely tuned for mankind and unlikely to have occurred by chance)
  3. A beginning to the universe in a finite past – therefore something caused the universe which must be God. He used the phrase “resting point” for the basis of a theistic belief and asked what the basis for atheism was
  4. Irreducible complexity – he didn’t get into details but cited the bacterial flagellum, asked why it’s obvious that Mt. Rushmore was ‘designed’
  5. Materialism – the atheist, materialist philosophers all conclude that consciousness is an illusion but most people are uncomfortable with that
  6. Free will – it’s incompatible with a mechanistic worldview
  7. The origin of biological information (added towards end of debate)

Let’s address this point by point.  For point #1, SimpleLight rushes to contradict his earlier statement:

His main argument was that if the world was designed by a creator, it was not a benevolent creator. He frequently resorts to this argument despite it clearly not belonging in a debate on Atheism vs Theism. (Just because one doesn’t like God, doesn’t mean God doesn’t exist).

If God could potentially be incredibly unethical, as SL posits, then how would moral truth come from God?

A larger issue is why SL is ignoring a central point of atheism.  It is not a religion, not a system of beliefs.  It is simply the idea that God does not exist.  So the source of ethics would naturally fall outside of its purview.  Fortunately there are plenty of efforts in philosophy to discuss the nature of ethics, and even our motivations for being ethical.  Arguably atheistic religions such as Buddhism have a spiritual basis for ethics in our intrinsic connection to each other as sentient beings.  So no, one does not need God for ethics.  Nor, in my opinion as a theist, should we.  A parent’s desire is not for a lifelong fear of punishment, but rather the development of an intrinsic sense of right and wrong.  We shouldn’t be do good deeds because some deity says so, but rather, because it is the right way to live.

2.  The whole “by chance argument” is really a “this is so complicated it couldn’t possibly have happened!” piece of nonsense.  It devolves rapidly into circular logic.  How does one know that complex things are necessarily created things?  That is a question that never receives a satisfactory answer from creationists.

3.  How do we know the universe is finite?  Why must we infer that a finite universe is a created universe?  Again, no answer.  This is to be expected when people try and play dress up with faith.  The lab coat alone does not a scientist make.

The idea that atheism needs a foundation is ridiculous.  You don’t need a foundation for not believing in sentient pink unicorns.  You just start with, oh, a lack of evidence, and go from there.  But Simple Light is not a person who understands what atheism is:

Am I the only one who has lost patience with the atheists? Apart from the fact that the abolition of theism would leave them without a worldview, most of them spend their time carping from the sidelines but refuse to put together a credo for examination.

Atheism simply describes not believing in God, due to a lack of evidence.  I’m pretty sure without theists, that might survive.  Furthermore, there is no credo.  There is no obsessive need to explain nature with nature gods and dryads.  Simply a “ok, where’s the proof?  Don’t have any?  That’s nice, maybe come back when you do”.

4.  Irreducible complexity is a great sound for a hollow phrase.  Where is the substance?  Where is the ability to test?  What makes me a little bit sad is that, in metaphysics we can successfully reduce almost everything in life down to the most basic elements.  The only exception is consciousness (which really has a lot of people rightly baffled).

5.  How is “most people are uncomfortable with that” even an argument?  People aren’t comfortable with death or taxes.  You going to deny either exist next?  Also, atheism is not the same thing as materialism, even if the two often coincide in the same person.  And not all atheists or materialists believe consciousness is an illusion.

Each of these statements (especially the laughable remainder), simply show that the creationist argument is more about making declarative statements than presenting an argument.

The commentators on the blog (Lev and Inmate1972) agree that the last paragraph betrays the motivations behind the article:

Basically there were two messages: one of hope, redemption and eternal life; and one of despair (he mentioned sex and schadenfreude as his two purposes for living), futility and constant railing against God. I guess people can bow their knee now or later.

That same bias is present beneath the surface of every attempt to force creationism into the mainstream, and choke science with its anti-intellectual flotsam.  The goal?  To get people to “bow their knee”.

Israel, Palestine: The Illegitmacy of Violence

What do you think of, when you think of Israel?  Jerusalem?

Its a heavy question, for a Jew.  I think of many things, visions and words from my youth.  And a rich history that feels nearer than that of any other people on Earth.   I say this as a man who identifies as ethnically Jewish.  I left my religion behind long ago, slowly and deliberately.  But I still watch events in the Middle East with intense interest and disgust.  Those are my relatives butchering each other over land they think God promised them.  And I cannot stand the blindness with which the world views Israel/Palestine.  An eye is nailed shut to the violence on one side or the other, without regard for the facts.   So I try to keep both my eyes open, and I see blood stained hands each claiming the same gold standard: justification.  As if murderous actions are ever justified.

Given the intensity of the feeling over there, it is bound to become expressed in artistic form.  Hence yet another piece of art comparing the Israelis to nazis, and the Palestinians to the Jews.  But it isn’t the same.  Israel’s actions are deadly wrong, but they are not building giant camps and systematically killing all of the Palestinians.  It just isn’t happening.  And to claim it is sounds shrill and desperate.

But that desperation itself is understandable.  After all, Israel’s actions towards the Palestinians mirror with frightening accuracy the German’s actions that preceded the concentration camps:  The ghettos.  Jews were herded into ghettos first, kept in poverty and eventually moved onto the camps for efficient extermination.

However there are key differences that must be addressed.

That poverty of the Palestinians is a joint effort between Israel and the surrounding nations.  Israel wants to punish the Palestinians for the violence they have engaged in (and is fearful of money sent their way coming back in the form of rockets).  Neighbors want Israel destabilized, and would gladly suffer the Palestinian people poverty and see generations of desperate people keep their hated nemesis mired in internal conflict.  Don’t even get me started on my own country’s support for violence in the region  (Short story: Oy Vey).

The Palestinians plight lacks to abject desire to kill so obviously present with the Germans.  Palestinian men are not marched onto the street and shot.  Palestinian infants are not smashed against walls until their blood has stained the walls black.

The Palestinians kill innocents.  Children.  People who have no business being shot or blown up.  Dead.

I look at the Palestinian’s plight, and I want to root for them.  I want to express solidarity.  They are a people being oppressed by a government.  But how can I support a violent movement?  A movement that considers blood an acceptable price for land?  So I end up supporting neither side, and watching both sides commit murder with contempt.

In the meantime, I find hope in watching a new movement that appears to be gaining strength:  The movement for a single Secular Democratic State in Israel Palestine.  Ghada Karmi has a rundown here, and there is an indymedia story here.  My suggestion is they name themselves something hilarious.  One of the highest points of our shared culture is comedy, and the land of milk and honey needs to take itself a wee bit less seriously.

McCain the Warlord

With all the talk of the “independent vote” McCain is snapping up, it’ll be easy to get swept up in the media glow and view the man as a sane, reason-governed paragon of virtue. As a compromise candidate for a Republican field racked by distasteful failures and disunity.

John’s stance on war is not sane. We’ll do well as an electorate to remember this (ThinkProgress):

NBC’s Nightly News provided further details about McCain’s one-hour guided tour. He was accompanied by “100 American soldiers, with three Blackhawk helicopters, and two Apache gunships overhead.” Still photographs provided by the military to NBC News seemed to show McCain wearing a bulletproof vest during his visit.

McCain recently claimed that there “are neighborhoods in Baghdad where you and I could walk through those neighborhoods, today.” In a press conference after his Baghdad tour, McCain told a reporter that his visit to the market today was proof that you could indeed “walk freely” in some areas of Baghdad.

Catch that?  Walking through a market with 100 soldiers, helicopters and gunships, and a bulletproof vest, is walking freely.  This man doesn’t see the same world we live in.  So comments like these really make me shiver (Huffington Post):

Sen. John McCain told a crowd of supporters on Sunday, “It’s a tough war we’re in. It’s not going to be over right away. There’s going to be other wars.” Offering more of his increasingly bleak “straight talk,” he repeated the claim: “I’m sorry to tell you, there’s going to be other wars. We will never surrender but there will be other wars.”

Iran?  Syria?  Where will Jolly old McCain drag this country next?  Is he prepared for the cost of war?

“And right now – we’re gonna have a lot of PTSD [post traumatic stress disorder] to treat, my friends,” he said. “We’re gonna have a lot of combat wounds that have to do with these terrible explosive IEDs that inflict such severe wounds. And my friends, it’s gonna be tough, we’re gonna have a lot to do.”

We are no friends of John McCain.  Friends don’t look into the heart of war’s consequences, into shattered spines and amputated legs, into children with hairline fractures in their personalities, and say “it’s gonna be tough”.  These are the words of men who inject us with fear and then offer to sell us security at the sale price of our rights and dignity as a nation.

And this man wants to be our next President.

Clinton: Real Time Information

Its a start.  Hillary wants to put bloggers in government agencies, and increase the flow of information.  I don’t know that bloggers are the best way to go about doing this (Faster turn around on Freedom of Information Act requests, stronger protections for whistle-blowers, and a well organized effort to declassify digitalize safe information assets all strike me as important steps).

I really hope, if she is elected President, this particular promise is not an easily forgotten one.

Knowing what our government is up to is a central and oft forgotten civil right.

Fight Telecom Immunity

Leading the anti-corporate accountability forces, Generalissimo Bush is hoping to shut down our chance for redress against the telecoms.  The government spied on us, and now its trying to get the corporations who broke the law to help them do so off the hook.

We cannot stand for this.

Democracy for America has a provocative ad calling on Clinton and Obama to stand up and fight the Bush and the telecoms.

Will they?

Olberman at Daily Kos: So Fucking What?

My neurons violently exploded when I read this:

Some in the blogosphere have raised questions about Olbermann’s role at the site, which describes itself as “a Democratic blog, a partisan blog.” Noel Sheppard at Newsbusters writes, “Consider again the media firestorm that would come from (Brit) Hume or (Chris) Wallace doing the same thing at a conservative website. Think such a demonstration of rightwing bias and partisanship would raise a few eyebrows?”

I don’t even know what to say to this.

(Deep Breath)

Hume and Wallace writing on little green footballs would not cause a firestorm.  It would not raise eyebrows.  Why?

Does anyone think that Olberman, Hume, and Wallace lack bias?  That they are inhuman machines whirring away, delivering us their objective take on the news?  Or perhaps, just maybe, is it possible that all three bring distinctly different biases to the table, that these biases are obvious, and that posting to a blog isn’t the shattering indication of partisanship SteveK at TVNewser seems to think it is?

We are talking about Hume, the man who has given sympathetic interviews to Darth Cheney.  If he posted to a blog, the reaction would not be “See?  He is biased after all!  He posted on the internets!”.  That would be [searching for a word here…] profoundly idiotic.

Romanticizing The Womanizer

Do we tend to romanticize the image of the man who lied to women on a large scale?  Yes (emphasis mine):

In a cluster of lawsuits gathered up by The Associated Press, the former chief financial officer of health insurance giant WellPoint Inc. is depicted as a corporate Casanova _ a world-class, love-’em-and-leave-’em sort of guy who romanced dozens of women around the country simultaneously, made them extravagant promises and then went back on his word with all the compassion of a health insurance company denying a claim.

What, exactly, is world-class about love-’em and leave-’em?  In the descriptions, alongside the facts and scandal, merits of the lawsuits and string of related corporate malfeasance, is a distinctive undertone of admiration for the idea, if not the man.

Obama’s Decisive Victory in SC

Obama won.  By a lot.