Legal, but not constitutional: how the government is weasel wording the public about Edward Snowden and the NSA

The Edward Snowden/NSA/PRISM uproar continues, and in the argument over whether or not he’s a Real American Patriot or your basic criminal vigilante the whole fucking point is getting lost. In fact, that argument is precisely the one that the … Continue reading Legal, but not constitutional: how the government is weasel wording the public about Edward Snowden and the NSA

The devil is in the details: WHICH Christianity are we making the official state religion, exactly?

Legislators in North Carolina recently introduced a bill to make Christianity the official state religion. That bill has now been turfed, but we can probably expect similar moves in the future.

An Omnibus Poll, sponsored by YouGov.com and the Huffington Post, reveals just how far from the nation’s roots we have traveled on the subject of separating church and state and retaining the nation’s neutrality when it comes to how Americans chose to practice their respective religions.

According to the survey, 34 percent of Americans would favor making Christianity their official state religion while less than half (47 percent) oppose the concept. Thirty-two percent of those polled indicated that they would also favor a constitutional amendment that would make Christianity the official religion of the United States with just over half (52 percent) opposing the notion.

Leaving aside for a second the abject failure of millions of Americans to grasp the most basic precepts of their Constitution, this poll actually provides more questions than answers. Continue reading “The devil is in the details: WHICH Christianity are we making the official state religion, exactly?”

A quick, nonpartisan democracy lesson for our anonymous faux-patriot thugs

Let’s start with this.

DENVER – A Mexican restaurant in the Highlands neighborhood declined a Mitt Romney campaign stop.

Now the owners of Rosa Linda’s Mexican Café are getting death threats, nasty threatening phone calls, and insulting e-mails criticizing their choice.

“I don’t want people to be angry at me,” Rosa Linda Aguirre, the owner of the neighborhood staple, said. Continue reading “A quick, nonpartisan democracy lesson for our anonymous faux-patriot thugs”

Heads up, Denver: Hot Coffee director in town for Wednesday night screening

American propagandists and PR hacks have developed remarkably innovative ways of making words lie. Back in the ’80s we had “freedom fighters,” which was the way we described death squads who were friendly to America. “Pro-life” can be used to describe those who bomb clinics and murder physicians. “Enhanced interrogation,” of course, means “torture.” And so on. In some cases this Orwellian distortion of the language falls under the category of “euphemism,” but the more insidious innovations can be so subtle that we don’t recognize the way the language is being gamed unless we think about it very hard.

One of the most dangerous new lies: “tort reform.” Continue reading “Heads up, Denver: Hot Coffee director in town for Wednesday night screening”

Imagine there’s no boycotts: that sounds like Communism to me

Following up on yesterday’s post about how unfair it is when progressives fight fire with fire

One of the architects of the modern conservative boycott movement back in the day was the now-deceased Rev. Jerry Falwell, founder of the “Moral Majority.” His strategy was simple. Identify those television and radio stations whose programming “promoted” a “liberal agenda” or “secular humanist” values, then leverage the purchasing power of the congregation to bully offenders into changing their programming. Sadly, this brand of thuggery (remember, this is generally the same crowd screeching right now about how “liberals” are “censoring” the “free speech rights” of the richest, most successful, most widely heard man in political talk radio) proved effective enough that it has now become a go-to weapon in the arsenals of interest groups across the partisan spectrum. Continue reading “Imagine there’s no boycotts: that sounds like Communism to me”

Are you ready for some FOOOTBAALLLL?! A couple of notes on the Hank Williams, Jr. hullaballoo

Hank Williams, Jr. said some stupid shit. Because, you know, he’s not exactly a rocket surgeon or a model of progressive, pro-human ideals. I can’t imagine that this comes as much a surprise to anyone. Now ESPN has done what they pretty much had to and kicked Hank to the curb. Read all about it.

Two quick thoughts.

First, that Monday Night Football intro sequence was getting tired. Five years ago, in fact. Continue reading “Are you ready for some FOOOTBAALLLL?! A couple of notes on the Hank Williams, Jr. hullaballoo”

America vs. the Terrorists, 9/11/10: a status report, nine years on…

In September 11, 2001, al Qaeda terrorists hijacked four passenger jets. They flew three of them into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The fourth was retaken by the passengers and crashed in a field in Pennsylvania. These things we know. Since then, much has transpired. For example:

When Jesus Attacks! Why don’t we care that the Catholic Church is officially whipping Congress?

Part 2 of 2. (Read part 1…)

It’s Time to Separate Church and State, Once and for All

If you recall, anti-Catholic prejudice was once a problem for Catholic politicians in the US. John F. Kennedy went so far as to address the issue head-on in his 1960 campaign – probably because he didn’t feel he had much choice. Here’s what he told the Greater Houston Ministerial Association on September 12 of that year:

I am not the Catholic candidate for President. I am the Democratic Party’s candidate for President who also happens to be a Catholic. I do not speak for my Church on public matters — and the Church does not speak for me.

He went on to assert his respect for the separation of church and state and vowed that Catholic officials would not dictate policy to him. As noted in part 1, the times, they have a-changed. Continue reading “When Jesus Attacks! Why don’t we care that the Catholic Church is officially whipping Congress?”

Jesus Gone Wild! It’s time to separate church and state, once and for all

Part 1 of 2.

I tripped across a provocative headline in the Wall Street Journal the other day: “They Need to be Liberated from Their God.” Turns out the story was about Mosab Hassan Yousef and his spying on Hamas. Which was a little disappointing. There’s no doubt that Palestinian Muslims need to be liberated from their god, but given the recent explosion in documented attacks by US Christians on their fellow Americans (as well as on reason and basic common sense), I thought perhaps the WSJ was going to be the first mainstream “news” outlet to do a story on Jesus Gone Wild!

I keep a running tab of stories that strike my interest. Continue reading “Jesus Gone Wild! It’s time to separate church and state, once and for all”

Constitution 2.0: Money Talks and Bullshit Walks

Bad attitude and strange bedfellows at the dawn of the Reich, and What Would Hunter Do, anyway?

Ever since five members of the Supreme Court declared the Constitution unconstitutional yesterday morning I’ve been in something of a snit. Along the way, I’ve said a variety of things that struck me as insightful, pithy, even witty. Others, however – bitter, lonely misanthropic types simmering in their own humorless bile – seem to be finding me mostly snarky and cynical.

So here are a few samples. You be the judge. Assuming you’re a corporation with enough spare cash that your opinion matters, that is.

Why isn’t Rush happy?: Limbaugh inadvertently illustrates democracy in action

America’s democratic ideal doesn’t work perfectly. Sometimes it doesn’t work at all, and in these cases it feeds our cynicism to the point where we’re tempted to conclude that the very possibility of true freedom is a sham. I know whereof I speak, because there are few people out there more soaked in bile than I am.

Still, this whole “marketplace of ideas” is a marvelous concept. Perhaps the most marvelous concept in history. Drawing on the Miltonian belief that if people are allowed to enter the agora and freely state their cases, then “the truth will out” (that is, an educated and informed citizenry will unerringly perceive the truth and that weaker ideas will be disregarded in favor of stronger ones), our nation’s founders crafted a Constitution that assured people the right to voice their opinions, free from government intrusion. Continue reading “Why isn’t Rush happy?: Limbaugh inadvertently illustrates democracy in action”

The Summer of Hate provides a watershed moment for “reasonable Republicans”

I’m not a Republican, but I know many people who are. I have GOP friends, co-workers and family members, and for that matter I used to be a Republican myself. A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, to be sure. But it’s true.

It’s no secret that I don’t agree with the GOP on much of anything these days, but there’s kind of an odd element to my conversations with Republican acquaintances lately: a lot of them profess significant disagreement with the platform and policies of their party, too.

Taken in a vacuum, this is hardly surprising. Continue reading “The Summer of Hate provides a watershed moment for “reasonable Republicans””

Michael Vick and the problem with forgiveness

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has conditionally reinstated former Atlanta quarterback Michael Vick, who was convicted of running a dogfighting ring in 2007. Vick served 23 months in federal prison, followed by two months of house arrest.

Last Thursday the Philadelphia Eagles answered the question as to which team would sign a convicted dog-killer (there were 32 possible answers to the question, and “none of the above” wasn’t one of them), and in doing so touched off a long-awaited PR war for the souls of their stunned fans. Continue reading “Michael Vick and the problem with forgiveness”

Biz: SCOTUS to hear Sarbanes-Oxley challenge

Several years ago, in the wake of Enron and several similar debacles, it was rightfully agreed that we needed to assure more responsible behavior on the part of American corporations. The result was Sarbanes-Oxley, a law that has since been at the center of any number of debates over the difference between “we should do something” and “DO SOMETHING!!!” I’m not an expert on compliance issues, but I’ve heard enough mind-numbing horror stories from enough people in enough places to suspect that a review of the law, as it has been implemented, might be in order.

Now this news, courtesy of John Carney at BusinessInsider.com: the Supreme Court will hear a challenge to SarbOx. As Carney notes, this particular decision by the Court is a little unusual: Continue reading “Biz: SCOTUS to hear Sarbanes-Oxley challenge”

Still not ready to make nice: what does the Dixie Chicks saga tell us about freedom in America?

We do not want this war, this violence, and we’re ashamed that the President of the United States is from Texas. – Natalie Maines

I don’t even know the Dixie Chicks, but I find it an insult for all the men and women who fought and died in past wars when almost the majority of America jumped down their throats for voicing an opinion. It was like a verbal witch-hunt and lynching. – Merle Haggard

Last night over dinner the subject of The Dixie Chicks came up, and I got mad all over again. Which is unfortunate, because when you think about artists that talented the last thing on your mind ought to be anger. But still, it’s been six long years now since “the top of the world came crashing down,” and I can’t quite free myself of my rage at the staggering ignorance that led so many Americans to piss on the 1st Amendment by attempting to destroy the careers of Natalie Maines, Martie Maguire and Emily Robinson. Continue reading “Still not ready to make nice: what does the Dixie Chicks saga tell us about freedom in America?”

Dicktator-for-Life: Nixon, Cheney and Constitutional Calvinball über alles

dicksIn 1977, former president Richard Nixon offered up some interesting thoughts on the concept of legality.

FROST: So what in a sense, you’re saying is that there are certain situations, and the Huston Plan or that part of it was one of them, where the president can decide that it’s in the best interests of the nation or something, and do something illegal.

NIXON: Well, when the president does it that means that it is not illegal.

FROST: By definition. Continue reading “Dicktator-for-Life: Nixon, Cheney and Constitutional Calvinball über alles”

Dear Lord Baby Jesus, we come before you today to inaugurate the new president of the United States of God…

Well, here’s a fine howdy-do: Rick Warren, pastor of the mother of all mega-churches, has been tapped to channel Jesus conduct a seance deliver the invocation at Barack Obama’s inauguration. Because Warren is, you know, a “moderate.”

…in 2004 Warren declared that marriage, reproductive choice, and stem cell research were “non-negotiable” issues for Christian voters and has admitted that the main difference between himself and James Dobson is a matter of tone.  He criticized Obama’s answers at the Faith Forum he hosted before the election and vowed to continue to pressure him to change his views on the issue of reproductive choice.  He came out strongly in support of Prop 8, saying “there is no need to change the universal, historical definition of marriage to appease 2 percent of our population … Continue reading “Dear Lord Baby Jesus, we come before you today to inaugurate the new president of the United States of God…”

Is America ready for an honest conversation about abortion yet?

In this season’s eighth episode, Boston Legal – the relentlessly liberal ABC dramedy starring William Shatner and James Spader – lobbed an absolute bomb at those of us on the pro-choice side of the Roe v. Wade question. The bunker-buster was posed, predictably enough, by Crane Poole & Schmitt’s resident conservative, the gleefully Republican Denny Crane, portrayed by Shatner. BL fans know Crane to be positively Cheney-esque in his politics (although he did finally cross the aisle to vote for Obama because even he couldn’t stomach four more years like the last eight), and he routinely plays the straw man for the passionate liberalism of Spader’s litigator par excellence, Alan Shore.

This time, though, Crane (who’s battling through the early stages of Alzheimer’s) breaks through to a moment of pristine, Emmy-worthy clarity. Continue reading “Is America ready for an honest conversation about abortion yet?”