True Democracy, Atheist Christmas and Other Thoughts

True Democracy

Last night at the Chicago Hilton four folks whom you’ve probably never heard of had a Presidential debate.  It could have been six but of course Mitt Romney and Barack Obama declined to participate. This left us with Jill Stein of the Green Party, Rocky Anderson of the Justice Party, Virgil Goode of the Constitution Party and the better known Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party. The affair was moderated by the greatly respected/greatly mocked Larry King formerly of CNN. When Larry kicked off the proceedings with the first question, forgetting to let the candidates make their two-minute opening statements, you had to wonder if you were watching a Saturday Night Live sketch. If you put aside the poor production quality and the helter skelter debate rules enforcement, you were left with an empty feeling in your gut. Isn’t this exactly what our founders would have wanted? Wouldn’t they have wanted diversity of opinion and voters having a real choice? Would they have signed up for a duopoly in which each side is beholden to big money and neither side offers solutions more weighty than a feather?

The three “official” presidential debates never touched the war on drugs. They never said a peep about getting out of Afghanistan NOW. There were no radical proposals like free higher education, eliminating the Internal Revenue Service, or balancing the budget in 2013, not five or ten years from now. All these topics were discussed last night in Chicago. These candidates talked about change in terms far more specific than anything offered by Barack Obama in 2008, or certainly in 2012.

In the end I was filled with sadness as “The Impossible Dream” played in my head and I watched these four Don Quixote’s dare to believe they could be President.

Atheist Christmas

Christians have their Easter and Christmas. Jews have their Passover and Hanukkah. So I wondered yesterday what holiday does an atheist celebrate? What would qualify as a good atheist holiday? It should be a day in which myths were exploded and science reaffirmed, don’t you think? Such was the case on October 22, 1844 a day to be known as The Great Disappointment. In 1844, Samuel Snow, a follower of William Miller in a sect called Millerism, predicted the second coming of Christ on October 22. When the day began and ended like any other day with not a trace of Christ to be found, many Millerites were disillusioned. I believe Atheists on the other hand should celebrate this day as the day when maybe a handful of people saw organized religion for the bunk that it is. Of course, many Millerites came up with excuses for why Christ did not reappear. Some simply constructed some new fantasy.

The survival of organized religion depends entirely on the non-specificity of its prophecy. Once prophecy becomes specific, the supernatural (to be charitable) beliefs are held to a factual standard and they invariably fail. Such was the case last year when radio minister Harold Camping predicted the end of the world to occur on May 21 (at 6pm no less). Even the most religious among us hedged their bets and scoffed at the man. Why, I don’t know. If you are open enough to believe that Christ rose from the dead and will one day return, then why doubt Mr. Camping? To the atheist it is all entirely preposterous. To the religious, it only becomes preposterous when it gets too specific — when it enters the realm of scientific test where it can be  debunked. As long as it’s vague, it can’t be held to scientific scrutiny. The opiate of the masses only works so long as its ingredients aren’t subjected to real analysis.

So, I say atheists should claim The Great Disappointment as their annual holiday when reality triumphed over mythology.

God’s Will and the GOP

Indiana US Senate candidate Richard Mourdock has himself in hot water over the following quote:

I struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize life is that gift from God and I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.

Only God knows if Richard felt He intended the birth to happen or the rape to happen but honestly I don’t know why people have their undies in a knot over this. The standard religious retort to any tragedy is “it’s God’s will”. If you ask your pastor why your daughter or wife got raped, he’s likely to say something along the lines of “we cannot always understand the mind of God” or “God works in mysterious ways”. Now, Mourdock expresses a pretty commonly held belief by Christians and everybody is in an uproar. I think folks ought to get off Mourdock’s back and check themselves. Either you believe that all life is precious and that God’s benevolent hand is in all things or you don’t. Mourdock may be a fool but at least he is no hypocrite.

The Tragedy of Newsweek

Last week, Editor-in-Chief of Newsweek, Tina Brown announced that no more printed copies of Newsweek would go out after December 31 of this year. On MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” she put on a disgusting display of Mitt Romney style bottom-line thinking as she confessed that folks would lose their jobs but that printing the magazine was no longer cost-effective. Of course she neglected to say that Time magazine (their chief rival) will still be publishing good old-fashioned print versions. So basically the truth is that Time has finally kicked Newsweek’s ass and Tina didn’t have the honesty to admit it.

But Tina’s money-is-all-that-matters approach was not the real tragedy of the announcement. The real tragedy is the number of disenfranchised people who will never have access to the digital Newsweek. We are truly approaching an age where information is being rationed out to the better-to-do. The poor can go pound salt. The panel on “Morning Joe” thought themselves profound as they observed everyone at the airports they frequent using i-Pads or other tablets. Hey, you arrogant out of touch butt holes, the poor don’t go to airports. The poor go to the corner store and buy a friggin’ magazine or newspaper. These same folks, mostly liberal, who belly ache about wealth being concentrated at the top 1% don’t give a second’s thought to information access being concentrated at the top also.

In short, the end of the print magazine Newsweek, is just one more step in keeping the poor down-trodden and ignorant. Tina Brown should be ashamed of herself.

Respectfully,
Rutherford

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Libya and Lesbians

I thought I’d end the week with a couple of brief observations.

Libya

A little over a month ago we were treated to Mitt Romney’s ill-timed condemnation of the Obama administration for their handling of the Cairo and Benghazi uprisings, the latter of which resulted in the murder of our Ambassador Chris Stevens. Romney’s political posturing in the immediate aftermath of a tragedy received bipartisan criticism and rightfully so.  In the weeks following, various conflicting reports flowed from Washington concerning what actually happened in Benghazi, Libya. By the time this week got underway, conservatives even had me angry at the administration. I wondered why UN Ambassador Susan Rice “lied” on the Sunday political talk shows saying that the Libyan attack was prompted by an offensive YouTube video when by then it was clear we were dealing with a premeditated terrorist attack.

I’m actually surprised at myself for not seeing the Republican hand wringing over Benghazi for what it was, pure and simple election year posturing, exploiting a tragedy for political gain. What woke me up? Namely a couple of New York Times articles that make it clear the situation on the ground in Libya was far more subtle than we were previously being led to believe.

To Libyans who witnessed the assault and know the attackers, there is little doubt what occurred: a well-known group of local Islamist militants struck the United States Mission without any warning or protest, and they did it in retaliation for the video. That is what the fighters said at the time, speaking emotionally of their anger at the video without mentioning Al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden or the terrorist strikes of 11 years earlier. And it is an explanation that tracks with their history as members of a local militant group determined to protect Libya from Western influence. – Election-Year Stakes Overshadow Nuances of Libya Investigation

The facts appear to point to an attack that was planned in advance, but not far in advance. There was no peaceful protest that grew out of control or was hijacked by extremists but the extremists did claim that the YouTube video motivated them. As is often the case, the truth is a muddy mix of facts that those with an agenda cherry pick from. And it must be acknowledged that the Administration, not wanting to emphasize a connection to established terrorist groups, cherry picked the YouTube video motivation. But they did not outright lie in doing so. Republicans, licking their lips that al Qaeda might indeed have flexed its muscles again, have stretched the truth:

Is it fair to link the Benghazi attack to Al Qaeda?

Only very indirectly. Ayman al-Zawahri, the leader of Al Qaeda, had called on Libyans to avenge the killing of a Libyan-born Qaeda leader, and American intelligence officials have said they intercepted boastful phone calls after the assault from the attackers to members of the Qaeda affiliate in North Africa, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. – Clearing the Record About Benghazi

As usual, folks have rushed to judgment on Libya. I say let a proper investigation run its course and don’t concern yourself with coming up with an answer by November 6 in the hope of influencing an election.

Lesbians (and folks with other preferences)

I’ll be honest. I support LGBT rights but it doesn’t get my heart pumping as much as some other issues do. So I was surprised to be emotionally moved by a video put out by the Obama campaign featuring Jane Lynch, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Billie Jean King, George Takei, Wanda Sykes, Zachary Quinto, and Chaz Bono. They described the pain of growing up different and the validation they felt due to several pro-LGBT developments under the Obama administration. Among other things, the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and the President’s endorsement of gay marriage gave the LGBT community a huge sense of progress.

Now I will be the first to admit that Obama’s saying he was alright with gay marriage was a clear election year pander. Sometimes a pander can move the ball forward. More importantly, the video got me thinking about Mitt Romney. Not since the days of George Wallace have we had a party platform and a candidate so intent on denying people’s rights.

I agree with the celebrities in the video that the Obama administration has taken several important steps in making this a more inclusive society. We cannot allow a Romney administration to take us backwards.

Respectfully,
Rutherford

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Hey Ho, West and Bachmann Gotta Go!

With the first Obama-Romney debate in the can even the calmest Obama supporter is worried about the future. Andrew Sullivan was downright apoplectic. Bob Herbert seemed just plain angry: The president let his people down. And if he’s capable of doing that in an election that is clearly so important, it means he’s capable of doing it again if he wins a second term.

Come November 6, whether Obama wins or loses, the far more important issue will be what kind of Congress we will be looking at. It is unlikely that the House will return to Democrat control but we can at least hope to be rid of a few nutjobs. We cannot afford to lose the Senate, which would guarantee more gridlock in a second Obama term or give Mitt Romney carte blanche to take us back to the days of Ozzie and Harriet.

So, on election night I’ll be keeping one eye on the POTUS race and the other on the following legislative battles:

Allen West: This certifiably loony Congressman from Florida must be given his walking papers. Back when he was running he famously claimed he had a higher security clearance than the POTUS. Then, more recently he channeled Joseph McCarthy, claiming that a very precise margin of Democrats were card carrying Communists.

I wrote more about crazy Allen back in the day.

Michele Bachmann: MSNBC’s Chris Matthews put Minnesota’s Bachmann on the map when she channeled her inner Joseph McCarthy on “Hardball” saying that the media should investigate which of her peers in Congress were “anti-American”.

More recently she made baseless accusations against a devoted public servant, Huma Abedin because of supposed family associations to the Muslim Brotherhood. Even conservatives such as John McCain could not stomach this. Despite her record as paranoid crackpot, I have a small place in my heart for Michele. During a Presidential campaign event, a lesbian used her child as a prop to humiliate Bachmann. Bachmann’s behavior toward the child was kind and gracious. Then during her appearance on Jimmy Fallon’s talk show, the house band played “Lyin’ Ass Bitch” as Bachmann came on stage, no doubt fully knowing that Bachmann would not be in on the “joke”. Fallon later apologized. I felt very bad for Bachmann in both these instances and I was left with the impression that’s she’s well meaning, albeit nutty as a fruitcake. She even seemed to tamp down the crazy a bit during her bid for President. Still, Michele needs to go.

Todd Akin: Not content to be a knuckle dragging Neanderthal in the House of Representatives, Todd decided to run against Claire McCaskill for a Senate seat from Missouri. As we all know by now, Todd thinks that when a woman is REALLY raped (or in his words the rape is “legitimate”) the woman’s body has special powers to fight off rapist sperm and not get pregnant. Do I really need to say any more?

Joe Walsh: No, not the former member of the Eagles. This is Illinois’s GOP contribution to the House of Representatives. Joe is an over caffienated gaffe machine who recently said that his opponent Tammy Duckworth was talking too much about her military service. We won’t go into the fact that Tammy left a few limbs behind while serving her country. We also won’t discuss that Joe is behind on child support.

George Allen: More proof that there is always a second act in American politics (see Bill Clinton), George ran against Jim Webb for Senate in 2006 and while on the campaign trail referred to a brown skinned Webb staffer as “Macaca“. I’m not sure anyone ever figured out exactly what the heck George was talking about other than that it seemed ethnically antagonistic and ultimately cost George the election. Well, he’s baaaaaaaaaaaack and trying to defeat former Virginia Governor Tim Kaine for a seat in the Senate. Let’s hope Kaine prevails.

The Following Birthers:

Cliff Stearns, Florida

Mike Coffman, Colorado

Vicky Hartzler, Missouri

Anyone supporting this basically racist theory that Obama is not an American deserves a kick out the nearest Capitol exit door.

We may not be able to return Obama to the White House but perhaps we can return some sanity to the House and Senate. Who are your choices for the crazies who must go?

Respectfully,
Rutherford

Allen photo by: Gage Skidmore [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Bachmann photo by: Gage Skidmore [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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