seeking knowledge and laughter, putting a bullseye on inaccuracy

Politics & Religion

Thoughts on the two - frequently both.

The Making of 44

I have really wanted to read more this week - I slowly plowed through an incredible Newsweek piece called "Secrets of the 2008 Campaign." Apparently, they had arranged to have reporters deeply embedded with Hillary, Obama, and McCain for most of this year. But they could not publish anything until post election.

So this series of articles has a number of very interesting revelations and gives a back-scene view into Obama's impressive campaign efforts. One such highlight:

The Obama campaign was provided with reports from the Secret Service showing a sharp and disturbing increase in threats to Obama in September and early October, at the same time that many crowds at Palin rallies became more frenzied. Michelle Obama was shaken by the vituperative crowds and the hot rhetoric from the GOP candidates. "Why would they try to make people hate us?" Michelle asked a top campaign aide.

Very highly recommended.

Gambling the Country Away

After 8 disastrous years under a President who clearly did not possess the qualities of a successful President, it turns out that conservatives around McCain knew Palin was even less qualified to be VP than anyone else. And yet, they kept claiming to put "country first" while working to put the most ignorant VP possible into power behind the man who would have been the oldest President to take the oath.

This is bullshit. I see no reason to believe anything that comes out of the mouth of anyone related to this campaign - and I include Senator McCain. I was excited to see his gracious concession speech, but to find out how much more under qualified Palin was without McCain taking responsibility and replacing her with a qualified candidate really pushes the limit. Fuck that.

She didn't know that Africa was a continent - thought it was a country. She didn't know who was in NAFTA - hint: the NORTH AMERICAN FREE TRADE AGREEMENT. Not a lot of countries to choose from.

Thanks to daddYman for pointing me to this Andrew Sullivan post regarding it.

No one should forget that during one of the worst financial crises in the history of this country, when we are supposedly fighting a global war on terror against those that will do anything to kill us, they wanted to put a fucking moron a feeble heartbeat away from the President, gambling that nothing would happen to this ancient man who has led a hard life. As I have said previously, if Palin had somehow reached the Presidency (bear in mind that the race was much closer until the economy collapsed in September) she would have put the final nails in the coffin that Bush turned this country into.

Country first? FUCK YOU, Senator McCain. You are clearly not the person many of us hoped you were. You have no honor. Like Colin Powell, you traded your honor. Honor is earned and honor can be thrown away. I hope you are arrogant enough not to regret your choice.

On Porn and Adultery

Here I go again, writing about and linking to someone that I generally find to be a lunatic - Ross Douthat. He is a conservative writer who occasionally puts something worth reading the The Atlantic. I read his October 2008 piece - "Is Pornography Adultery" - expecting to laugh and disregard his conclusions.

It was a better piece than I expected, but I still think he entirely missed the answer. He is looking for some universal solution - God's answer perhaps. Well, there isn't one. The best answer to this question can be found in damn near any issue of Playboy - in the Playboy Advisor section. The answer is that adultery depends on how a couple understand their relationship.

If a couple believes that fantasy infidelity is adultery - then pornography is adultery. If they do not, then it is not. Ross came closer than I expected to this realization, but seems to just miss it. He rightly notes that the larger question is one of a continuum. Is it cheating to hire a prostitute if you do not physically touch her? What if you do it over the Internet?

I found the process he used interesting even as I reject much of his moralizing about the basic sexual needs we humans have such trouble dealing with. I enjoyed his brief look at some data:

In the great porn debates of the 1980s, arguments linking porn to violence against women were advanced across the ideological spectrum...

It all sounded plausible—but between 1980 and 2004, an era in which porn became more available, and in more varieties, the rate of reported sexual violence dropped, and by 85 percent. Correlation isn’t necessarily causation, but the sharpness of the decline at least suggests that porn may reduce sexual violence, by providing an outlet for some potential sex offenders.

Interestingly, he offers a rather rosy defense of the porn industry:

Indeed, in a significant sense, the porn industry looks like what advocates of legalized prostitution hope to achieve for “sex workers.” There are no bullying pimps and no police officers demanding sex in return for not putting the prostitutes in jail. There are regular tests for STDs, at least in the higher-end sectors of the industry. The performers are safely separated from their johns. And freelancers aren’t wandering downtown intersections on their own; they’re filming from the friendly confines of their homes.

While I suspect porn is a far safer industry than classic prostitution, let's not get too carried away in defending it. I have no doubt that many of the women working porn have trauma in their past and, at the very least, self-esteem issues. There are undoubtedly exceptions - but I was surprised to see anyone defend the porn industry and the perspective is helpful in this discussion.

Ultimately, I have to return to my original rebuttal. Adultery should be defined by a couple (or group if you are into that), not the state, and definitely not the church.

Post Election

I'm so relieved to see Barack Obama will be our next President. This is historic for so many reasons - and I believe for more than we can conceive of now. I believe Obama will make a number of long term changes to our political system that will make us a stronger, more responsible country.

Having made a prediction, I will now admit I was wrong about Al Franken. He ran a better campaign than I expected. Though he is barely down in the count, I wonder if the recount will change things. One might expect that a hand recount will find mis-marked ballots that heavily favor Franken as first time voters probably went for him overwhelmingly and were probably the most likely to incorrectly mark the ballot.

I'm deeply disappointed to see Norm Coleman get so many votes as he is a career politician in the worst sense of that term - a weasel - who has no family values and is about as Minnesotan as hockey is Texan.

So we'll see in a month, when that hand recount of 2.9 million ballots should be completed.

Deeply disappointed in Bachmann and Paulson - we are now sending two Republicans to the House from MN who are narrow-minded and represent the worst of those right wingers who call themselves Christians but represent nothing in common with the way Jesus led his life and encouraged others to lead theirs.

Deeply saddened to see California take a step backward on civil rights by banning gay marriage. But relieved to see Michigan and Massachusetts adopt more rational policies on marijuana - a drug that does far less damage to our society than the laws that outlaw it.

I voted. After nearly a decade of arguing internally about whether voting "makes a difference," I believe it does. Big change comes from organizing - not necessarily around the ballot box - but organizing. But in the meantime, individuals make a different. Bush and Cheney appointed people who, regardless of ideology, were far less competent than Gore would have. Even if there is little difference between candidates - there is often a huge difference around who they would appoint to make the rules that shape everything. This is something to which we must pay attention.

P.S. - Can someone please kick Joe Lieberman the #$%* out of the D Caucus now?


Now it is just a matter of waiting.

Voting the Morning in MN

Thanks to Moldy Blue Cheese Curds blog, I can tell you that MN law encourages you to vote early on Tuesday. No excuses - get out there.

An employee has a right to be absent from work for the purpose of voting "during the morning of" election day. This time off is paid. (Minn. Stat. Section 204C.04)

In Retrospect - HRC Campaign

It is interesting to look back at Hillary Clinton's campaign and the assumptions regarding how unelectable Barack Obama was. I'm actually curious what it would be like if she had won - given all the problems we are currently facing - would we Obama supporters still be indifferent to HRC v. McCain? What kind of campaign would McCain have run against Hillary - a woman he respects as compared to a man he emphatically does not respect.

But we are fortunate to have a better choice. And Joshua Green, writing in The Atlantic, reveals some of the many errors of the Clinton campaign. The article is months old, but perhaps even more interesting now.

I think Obama is the exact right person for this time. He would not have been so good 4 years ago - now is when we need change the most, people are ready for it, and I think Obama is the right person to move past partisanship to achieve some real change. We'll see what happens - but this may be the best shot we get.


Uighurs are a people that live in China what is now China. Pronounced Wee-ger - rhymes with weaver.

My friend George recently enlightened me to a group of 17 Uighurs that have been down in Guantanamo Bay for the past 6 years. Turns out that these folks were in Afghanistan, perhaps trying to find training from some terrorist camps in order to better attack their enemy - the Chinese state. But when the U.S. came in with bounties for "terrorists," some local entrepreneurs made a bunch of money by turning these folks in.

Despite the fact that they had not and were not going to attack the U.S., we put them in Guantanamo (probably because they were not "for us" we found them to be "against us." This is just one of the problems with such simplistic thinking from idiot Bush and criminal mastermind Cheney.

So they have spent 6 years locked in Guantanamo - which is a punishment we are only starting to understand (see Human Rights Watch report).

The question is - what do you do after locking up people for 6 years while claiming they were the "worst of the worst." We know that they are not the enemy we were intended to lock up. They had no animosity against the U.S. They may be willing to engage in terrorist activities against China. But we have not been able to find another country that will take them (we actually want to release them, but can't figure out where to put them).

Can't send them to China - they would be immediately killed. And it turns out that we cannot release them in the U.S. because after 6 years of wrongful solitary detention, they might have developed some animosity toward us.

It is an amazing legal strategy. "Your Honor, we cannot release these wrongfully detained people because they might be mad that we wrongfully detained them." So at Guantanamo they sit.

So much for being a force for good in the world.

If you are interested, perhaps the best discussion on this situation came recent on the Diane Rehm show [mp3].

Obama Infomercial

I kinda wonder if we'll see more of this from campaigns in the future.

Zinn on Election 08

Howard Zinn remains a hero of mine.

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