Friday, October 31, 2008

"Where's My Bailout?"

Cracks in the foundation of America posted an ad that critiques John McCain's decision to choose Sarah Palin. The focus of the clip is the claim that using a video clip of Palin winking is 'sexist.'

The more interesting narrative can be found in the comments to the video where fellow Americans lodge extremely personal attacks against each other, use terms like "uppity smile," "lesbo sapiens" and "comrade Obama", promote fiery suicide, refer to McCain as the only "honest" "all-American" candidate, and talk about the "messiah of Islam." Whomever wins this election is going to have a tough time winning over the trust of America.

Win or lose people need to take a lesson from little league and shake hands and say "Good game."

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Presidential Election Results/Margin Prediction II

This is the second of three predictions posts I'm doing. Here's the first.

I'm still predicting a solid Obama win, but I'm revising my popular vote margin down to 6 percent and my electoral total for Obama down to 367, meaning McCain has moved up to 171.

I'll put up the third and final post on Monday.

Obama's Knockout Punches

Even as Palin prepares to scurry like a rat off of McCain's sinking ship...

...and McCain himself gets stood up by "Joe the Plumber" in Ohio...

...Obama uses his massive monetary advantage to fill the nation's airwaves with new ads, both positive and negative:

So it's not exactly surprising that Obama is maintaining his commanding lead in the IEM:

Unless numerous polls in multiple states are way off base, this election is effectively over.

"Joe The Plumber" Is An Idiot

If there was any doubt about that fact in your mind, this should remove it:

(Via Andrew Sullivan.)

And yet McCain not only continues to talk about this man, but actually goes so far as to trot the dumb-ass out at his campaign events.

Thankfully, none of this craziness seems to be helping McCain whatsoever. If it were, I don't think I could support the concept of democracy anymore.


CNN reports:
Joe Wurzelbacher, aka Joe the Plumber, has become an integral part of John McCain's presidential bid, but it appears the Arizona senator's campaign and the now-famous Toledo plumber need to work on their communication skills.

McCain aides told CNN's Dana Bash Wurzelbacher would appear with the Republican presidential candidate at his first campaign event in Defiance, Ohio. But in what was slightly awkward moment for McCain, Wurzelbacher was nowhere to be seen when the Arizona senator called out for him.

A campaign aide later said Wurzelbacher had "decided not to come" and may join McCain later in the day.

But reached at his home by CNN's Mary Snow, Wurzelbacher said it was "news to him" that he was supposed to be at the McCain rally. Wurzelbacher said nobody from the McCain campaign confirmed he was attending the event and called the incident a "miscommunication."

Wurzelbacher also said he is headed to Philadelphia for a charity event unrelated to the campaign and has no plans to meet up with McCain today.

Ha! This is just too hilarious.

Well, that's what you get when you expect an unreliable moron to help your campaign. One would think that McCain would have already learned that lesson with Palin, but apparently not.

It seems that next Tuesday is going to be a pretty good day.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

More Windows Into Steve King's Fetid, Festering Soul

Exactly how despicable and demented is Steve King?

This video gives us a pretty good idea:

And then there's this report from the Audubon County Advocate Journal regarding what King had to say about Obama the day before that clip was filmed:

King said, "We put a lot of energy and resources into our children to raise them in the American way and in our Christian faith and teach them values based on these. Obama's upbringing involves his father returning to his first wife after Barrack's birth and becoming a polygamist. His step-father was also a polygamist. He eventually wound up living with his grandparents in Hawaii who were strong leftists. He also writes about his fondness for his Uncle Frank who is a Marxist intellectual. His mother went to The Little Red Church on the Hill in Seattle, a self-proclaimed atheist church where it was said, 'They raise red-diaper babies,' babies that were raised to be left wing hard core atheists."

A quote from one of Obama's books, From Dreams of My Father, was used by King. It said, "The most beautiful sound I've ever heard is the voice in Arabic calling the people to prayer."

King said, "Obama can also quote a lot from the Koran, which tells you a lot about the instruction he received as a youth." King concluded his response to the question by saying, "The information I've just shared with you is to allow you to know what is considered foundational in his life."


In concluding his speech and question/answer period, King said, "Obama was not raised with an intentional attitude toward Americanism. Does he have an understanding of American patriotism, respect for our nation and what it's been through, our culture or the Christian religion upon which our nation was founded? The way to look at the reasons Obama doesn't place his hand over his heart when the National Anthem is playing, or wear an American flag pin is primarily because he is not wilful or spiteful, but because it just doesn't occur to him because it's not the way he's been raised. American patriotism is not imprinted on his mind or in his heart, because he wasn't raised as an American. Is this the kind of foundation you want for your next president? The president of the strongest country in the free world. We need to elect a president that is going to protect us under our Bill of Rights."

Seriously, how can anyone feel good about sending this xenophobic Golem look-alike to Washington to represent the state of Iowa?

Though he's something of a long shot, if you can spare the money, donate to Rob Hubler's campaign to help him in his valiant effort to kick King out of Congress.

(Via the Iowa Independent and Think Progress.)

Economist Lee E. Ohanian On The Bailout

Watch him make the argument that the government's actions have already made the financial crisis worse:


And learn more about Prof. Ohanian here or read a paper he coauthored about how FDR's New Deal actually prolonged the Great Depression here.

Light Versus Darkness

Here's yet another bat-shit-insane anti-marriage equality video:

(Via Andrew Sullivan.)

I agree with these bigots on one thing: this is a battle of light versus darkness. They're just wrong about which side is which.

Gays and lesbians are not sick. There are no such things as evil spirits that possess people and make them homosexual. Homosexuality is present in most species of higher animals such as mammals and birds. It's exact causes are not yet well understood because genetics is extremely complicated. But it's obviously natural.

Furthermore, laws in this country are not supposed to be based on sectarian religious beliefs. If people can't come up with reasonable secular arguments for their public policy proposals, then they have no business even lobbying for them. Enacting laws based solely on a religion's teachings violates the First Amendment's Establishment Clause. Private organizations such as churches can teach whatever they want, but they must not be allowed to legislate those teachings.

The people behind this video are Christianist fanatics who want to impose their peculiar belief system on our entire country. They are dedicated and they are dangerous. They must be stopped.

Please, help stop them. Donate to assist in defeating Prop 8.

A More Dire Warning From The Future

James Dobson doesn't know the half of it...

ROBAMA from ROBAMA on Vimeo.
(Via the Minnesota Independent.)

A Warning from the Future

James Dobson's group Focus on the Family Action, Inc. has released a "letter" from "A Christian in 2012" telling of the horrors since President Obama took office. It's Justice Scalia's worst nightmare: the homosexuals run everything; the nation is godless; the Supreme Court is the executive, legislative, and judicial branch. Tel Aviv is the new Hiroshima. Russia has reclaimed it's Iron Curtain regional dominance. Americans have no jobs. Socialism reigns and the economy is all but dead. Even the pledge of allegiance has been banned in schools.

Freedom is crushed in Obamamerica. To blame? Christian voters that put Barack Obama in office.

How is it possible that some Christians believe Jesus Christ would be against socialism?

Anyways, here is the evolution... er... intellectual design? of Dobson's views on McCain:

January 2007
February 2008
October 2008

A quick warning of the present: Don't try to steal yard signs

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Prop 8 Update: One Week To Go

Here's another creepy Yes on 8 video, this one exploiting young children:

(Via Glenn Greenwald.)

One week from today, Californians will go the polls to determine whether to take the right to marry away from gay and lesbian couples in their state. This would include nullifying the marriages of those couples who have gotten married over the last several months, which would be terribly unjust.

Check out the gay news blog Towleroad for regular updates on Prop 8-related stories.

If Prop 8 passes, it will represent a major defeat for gay rights in America. Regardless of what happens, full marriage equality will eventually come to the entire country. But Prop 8's passage would delay the inevitable. And it's important that we grant everyone equal rights as soon as possible.

So please, please, please donate to help defeat this backward, bigoted ballot measure.

All The World's A Library

Wonderful news from Google:
Google was built on the principle of making the world's information more accessible and useful. Before the company was even founded, Larry and Sergey imagined a way to make it easier for anyone, anywhere, to access the information held within the world's books. Search simply isn't complete without that content, and providing more access to more books is a vision Google has never lost sight of.

Four years ago, almost to the date, we first announced Google Book Search. Since we launched the service, we've heard countless stories about Book Search helping readers all over the world find books in over 100 languages on topics as diverse as The Physics of Star Trek and the history of Wood Carvings in English Churches. We've seen millions of people click to buy books or find them in a library, and more than 20,000 publishers have joined our Partner Program to allow readers to preview the books they find before buying them.

While we've made tremendous progress with Book Search, today we've announced an agreement with a broad class of authors and publishers and with our library partners that advances Larry's and Sergey's original dream in ways Google never could have done alone.

Continue reading.

You can also check out Google's new site detailing what these developments will mean for Internet users, read more at the company's dedicated Inside Book Search blog, or just start searching for and through books.

Regardless of how amazing this news is, it's really just the beginning.

(Cross-posted at D-(eye) on Arts.)

"Fair And Balanced"

Obama spokesman Bill Burton clashes with Fox News' Megyn Kelly and hilarity ensues:

(Via Andrew Sullivan.)

Kelly seems to think if she says her network is "fair and balanced" enough times, that will make it so. I only wish it were that easy to bend reality to one's whims. If it were, I'd be taking the rest of the day off to repeatedly chant "I am a billionaire" until I was too hoarse to talk anymore.

No honest observer who pays significant attention to Fox News' programming choices could possibly believe they're not strongly biased against Obama. And even the network's own polling indicates that voters would rather hear about serious issues than pedantic accusations of radicalism or socialism. It's pretty obvious what their agenda is.

Regardless, I'm not criticizing them for having an agenda. I'm criticizing them for having a bad one and then denying it. If they'd just admit their goal is to help elect far-right Republicans, I would at least admire their honesty even though I'd still despise them for their ideology. This is why I favor transparency over feigned neutrality. The latter too often leads to baldfaced lying.

Bailout Bullshit Update

Radley Balko writes:
Last week, I noted that despite assurances from Treasury officials that the bailout largess would be distributed in a transparent, accountable manner, one of the first big contracts awarded by the federal government, to the Bank of New York Mellon, had the actual amount of money to be paid to the bank redacted before the contract was made public.

The new website BailoutSleuth now reports that subsequent bailout contracts to PriceWaterhouseCoopers, Ernst & Young, and the law firm Simpson, Thatcher & Bartlett were also posted with significant information redacted.

No matter what happens to the economy, it looks like business and finance journalists will have plenty of job security over the next couple of years, if for no other reason than to track how the government spends all of this money. I'd expect debacles at least on par with the awarding of contracts in Iraq and after Hurricane Katrina.

But, regardless of whatever abuses might be going on, something still had to be done right? Maybe not.

Matt Welch writes:
Three scholars associated with the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis decided to do a little quick fact-checking of "widely held claims about the nature of the [financial] crisis and the associated spillovers to the rest of the economy," and put their findings in a new working paper [PDF]. What'd they learn?
The financial press and policymakers have made the following four claims about the nature of the crisis.

1. Bank lending to nonfinancial corporations and individuals has declined sharply.

2. Interbank lending is essentially nonexistent.

3. Commercial paper issuance by nonfinancial corporations has declined sharply, and rates have risen to unprecedented levels.

4. Banks play a large role in channeling funds from savers to borrowers.

Here we examine these claims using data from the Federal Reserve Board. Our argument that all four claims are false is based on data up until October 8, 2008.

Whole thing, well worth a read (and probably a drink), here.

This is one of those times when, given how awful all of this is, being able to say I told you so doesn't cheer me up whatsoever.

One of the first things Obama does after he's sworn in should be to make all of the bailout's details public. Thankfully, he has a record of championing governmental transparency. In any case, it may be the first real test to see whether he lives up to any of his campaign's hype.


And here comes the auto industry bailout. But what the hell? What's another $10 billion?

Monday, October 27, 2008

The Respective Failings Of Palin And Obama

Noam Scheiber and Matt Welch discuss problems with Sarah Palin and Barack Obama as well as the ongoing financial crisis:


Topics covered:
Exploring Palin’s intellectual insecurities... Is Obama anything but a hard-core leftist?... Obama’s predictable China bashing... Preventing bankruptcy: the mother of all moral hazards?... Financial crisis: irresponsible pants-wetting surprisingly unhelpful... Does the crisis mark the death of libertarianism?...

Lipstick or Diva, which is worse?

In-fighting over the last couple of days raises concern that a McCain-Palin administration will be able to co-exist or that it won't have the ending of a Greek tragedy. Two McCain aides have gone so far as to declare that VP candidate has "gone rogue" and is a "diva... playing for her own future" after Palin rejected advice from Bush and McCain aides on different occasions. Gov. Palin has blamed the Bush aides for her tarnished public image after her national interviews. Sorry Gov. Palin, the bad PR was because you couldn't answer the questions - but of course that was just a symptom of her annoyance at the inane questions of Katie Couric. I'm sure it's only a matter of time before we'll hear from the victim of a hunting accident apologizing for being under the helicopter.

On a more serious note, has the party that wagged their collective fingers at Barack Obama for being sexist when he used the phrase "lipstick on a pig" fallen victim to - actual - sexist critiques of Gov. Palin? I seriously doubt the word "diva" was used to describe Gov. Palin's singing ability or as praise in comparing her to a divine nymph. The negative connotation of "diva" refers to women who are high-maintenance, manipulative, fussy, and demanding. If a man is demanding or high-maintenance we usually say he's being stubborn. Instead of using "stubborn" or "obstinate," the McCain aide, I assume purposefully, used a pejorative term reserved for - to steal a term from Rep. Lynn Westmoreland - uppity women; more specifically women that ask for more than their skill or status deserves and are extremely superficial.

Perhaps then, it is apropos that this statement comes on the days preceding Halloween; I believe we have heard this story before, and I believe the quote goes something like this, "It's aliiiive!" When you throw an inexperienced politician into the national spotlight for the second-highest office in the country, protect her from the media, dress her up like a Milan runway model, tell her she is the spark of the Republican party, allow her to shirk her responsibility in her abuse of power, constantly heap praise on her despite actions that deserve rebuke, and allow her stylist to be one of the highest paid members of your campaign... don't start complaining you've created a monster.

Across the Aisle Idiocy

Claiming the hanging Palin effigy is "art" in the "spirit of Halloween" two West Hollywood men cause a stir.

Via Shakesville

As Shakesville points out, heres why it's not funny

N-word Shouted At Palin Rally In Des Moines

Sarah Palin seems to hesitate a bit after the supporter's slur, indicating that she heard what the person yelled. But she just goes on as though nothing had happened. Given the frequency with which this has been going on, it has become obvious that she has no interest in expressing disapproval.

So what reason do we have to believe that she actually disapproves at all?

The End Of Social Conservatism?

Writing for the National Review, Sean J. Miller argues that Republicans will need to consider re-branding themselves following their virtually inevitable crushing defeat next week:
What do you do after a major storm? Rebuild.


After suffering a string of electoral defeats in the last decade, the Conservatives under Prime Minister Stephen Harper are now in the ascendency, having won back-to-back elections.


Fifteen years ago this month, the ruling Progressive Conservative party, as it was known then, lost all but two of its 151 seats in Canada’s House of Commons. Holding so few seats, they lost their “official party status.” The defeat effectively splintered conservatives into two parties, both of which failed to compete with the dominant Liberals. In the political wilderness, they experimented with a mix of issues, slogans, even party names.

In 2004, conservatives reemerged as a single party which emphasized economic issues over social ones. They became a broader, more popular coalition, Sands says. “They talked about lowering taxes, good fiscal management.”

I couldn't agree more. The culture war is basically over. Most Americans care more about economic than social issues.

John McCain's choice of Sarah Palin as his running mate was a craven ploy to draw in the religious right. To some extent it has succeeded in doing that, but it has also alienated many swing voters. Picking a moderate with impressive economic credentials would definitely have been the right thing to do--and it might have even made McCain more competitive.

(Via the Minnesota Independent.)

Reason Interviews Bob Barr

David Weigel writes:
On Memorial Day weekend, former four-term Republican Rep. Bob Barr took the stage at the Sheraton Denver and asked a skeptical Libertarian Party to make him its nominee for president. Hundreds of party delegates were dead set against his nomination. Anonymous flyers claimed the Georgian wanted to turn the Libertarians into "the New Republican Party." Barr's record in the House of Representatives, particularly his hostility toward medical marijuana and his support for President Bush's anti-terrorism policies, were widely seen as deal breakers.

"Many of you have come up to me and asked, ‘Bob, why did you author the Defense of Marriage Act?' " Barr told wary delegates. " ‘If you're so set against the PATRIOT Act, why did you vote for it?' Well, let me tell you: I have made mistakes. But the only way you make mistakes, the only way you get things done, is by getting out there in the arena and making those mistakes, and then realizing, as things go on, the mistakes that you've made. And I apologize for that."

Continue reading.

The Importance Of Videotaping Police Interrogations

Radley Balko points to a Los Angeles Times editorial in which Washington, D.C. police Detective Jim Trainum wrote about the fallibility of suspect interrogations:
Even the suspect’s attorney later told me that she believed her client was guilty, based on the confession. Confident in our evidence and the confession, we charged her with first-degree murder.

Then we discovered that the suspect had an ironclad alibi. We subpoenaed sign-in/sign-out logs from the homeless shelter where she lived, and the records proved that she could not have committed the crime. The case was dismissed, but all of us still believed she was involved in the murder. After all, she had confessed.

Even though it wasn’t our standard operating procedure in the mid-1990s, when the crime occurred, we had videotaped the interrogation in its entirety. Reviewing the tapes years later, I saw that we had fallen into a classic trap. We ignored evidence that our suspect might not have been guilty, and during the interrogation we inadvertently fed her details of the crime that she repeated back to us in her confession.

If we hadn’t discovered and verified the suspect’s alibi — or if we hadn’t recorded the interrogation — she probably would have been convicted of first-degree murder and would be in prison today. The true perpetrator of the crime was never identified, partly because the investigation was derailed when we focused on an innocent person.

To which Balko adds:
If by-the-books interrogations like Trainum’s can elicit a false confession, it isn’t difficult to see how more coercive questioning could as well. California’s legislature has twice passed a bill requiring the police to videotape interrogations. Both bills were vetoed by Gov. Schwarzenegger after lobbying from the state’s police and prosecutors. A third attempt to pass a bill died in committee this year.

Though this sensible policy has yet to be implemented in California, Barack Obama was able to get a similar law enacted during his tenure as an Illinois state senator:
Consider a bill into which Obama clearly put his heart and soul. The problem he wanted to address was that too many confessions, rather than being voluntary, were coerced -- by beating the daylights out of the accused.

Obama proposed requiring that interrogations and confessions be videotaped.

This seemed likely to stop the beatings, but the bill itself aroused immediate opposition. There were Republicans who were automatically tough on crime and Democrats who feared being thought soft on crime. There were death penalty abolitionists, some of whom worried that Obama's bill, by preventing the execution of innocents, would deprive them of their best argument. Vigorous opposition came from the police, too many of whom had become accustomed to using muscle to "solve" crimes. And the incoming governor, Rod Blagojevich, announced that he was against it.

Obama had his work cut out for him.

Continue reading.

Hopefully, Obama will get a chance to bring this kind of transparency to the federal government. After 8 years of extreme secrecy under Bush, we need it.

The Core Of Obama's Appeal

Reason's Steve Chapman writes:
Barack Obama's success so far in this campaign is a puzzle. How is it that a youngish first-term senator with so many disadvantages—a slight resume, a foreign-sounding name, an exotic background, a professorial manner, a thoroughly liberal voting record, and a skin color unlike any previous president—has come so far, and even leads in national polls with less than two weeks to go?

He does have some things going for him, of course: his rhetorical skill, his unflappability, and not least of all a financial crisis that reflects badly on the party occupying the White House. But none of those explains how he managed to defeat a daunting Democratic rival and outshine an inspiring war hero with demonstrated crossover appeal. If you had written the story as fiction a few years ago, publishers would have rejected it as grossly outlandish.

Continue reading.

Channeling Orwell, King Claims Only Republicans Champion Freedom

Republican Rep. Steve King, who represents Iowa's 5th District, over the weekend added yet another absurd statement to his long list of ludicrous contentions.

Speaking at a campaign event in Sioux City on Oct. 25, King repeated what has become the Republican mantra in these final, frenzied days before the election: Sen. Barack Obama is a socialist. The Iowa congressman even insisted that many other Republicans aren't going far enough with this line of attack.

"When you take a lurch to the left, you end up in a totalitarian dictatorship," the Iowa Independent reported that King said. "There is no freedom to the left. It's always to our side of the aisle."

Apparently, King would have us believe that electing Obama will represent such an extreme change in American government that we won't merely wind up with a bloated French-style welfare state but rather, a headlong dive into Stalinism. There's nothing new about a politician such as King throwing some red meat to a highly partisan crowd, but the seriousness of his accusations, especially when considered alongside their obvious falsity, makes his remarks truly beyond the pale. Though we have severely criticized King several times in the past, we feel compelled to once again publicly denounce his bizarre extremism.

Ideologues who stray too far into the fringes of the left or right often tend to lose their respect for liberty. To assert that only those on the left are ever guilty of such excesses is to ignore history. For every Mao Zedong or Joseph Stalin, there is an Adolf Hitler or Benito Mussolini. Disregard for human rights and individual freedoms is the problem in such cases, not differences in the details of fiscal policy. Countries such as France, Germany, and even the United Kingdom are far more socialistic than the United States, but none of them are even remotely close to being totalitarian dictatorships. King's pedantic slippery-slope argument cannot survive even superficial scrutiny.

Despite being utterly devoid of truthfulness, King's assertion that electing Democrats could lead to the end of democracy or capitalism in America is actually less insulting to the average voter's intelligence than is his shamelessly Orwellian claim that freedom can only be found on his side of the aisle.

The word "Orwellian" is particularly apt in this case because King, whether he realizes it or not, has shown himself to be a proponent of doublethink. This concept originates from George Orwell's classic novel 1984, which tells the story of a man struggling to find freedom in a world dominated by totalitarian regimes.

In the novel, Orwell defined doublethink as follows: "To tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient, and then, when it becomes necessary again, to draw it back from oblivion for just so long as it is needed, to deny the existence of objective reality and all the while to take account of the reality which one denies."

Thus, even though King froths at the mouth about how the Democrats are out to take away Americans' liberties, he himself strongly supported all of George W. Bush's policies that actually had that effect. He faithfully backed the president in both passing and renewing the USA Patriot Act as well as in granting retroactive immunity to telecommunications companies that engaged in illegal spying on Americans. On all of the greatest civil-liberties issues of our time, King has been on the wrong side.

Talk in favor of freedom is cheap. And talking about freedom is virtually King's only connection to the concept. Attempting to scare Iowans into believing that a President Obama would obliterate what is left of America's core liberties after having personally voted in favor of the laws that have eroded those liberties is a paradigmatic example of doublethink in action.

We urge Iowans to help end King's tenure as the state's most embarrassing public figure. Support Democrat Rob Hubler's attempt to unseat this despicable, demented demagogue. Go to Hubler's website to learn about what you can do:

(Cross-posted at the Daily Iowan's main site.)

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Daniel Dennet On Evolution And Morality

Check out these two great talks by one of my favorite living philosophers.

Dennet on the amazing design power of evolution:


Dennet on evolution's relationship to human morality:


A Bizarre Interview With Joe Biden

I don't know about anyone else, but I'd love to see more journalists ask politicians if they aren't really just like Karl Marx. It makes for excellent television.

(Via Reason.)

For Once, I Really Get Sarah Palin

CNN reports:
Campaigning Saturday in Fort Wayne, Indiana, a city once represented in Congress by another vice presidential candidate named Dan Quayle, Sarah Palin delivered one of her longest stump speeches to date and revealed that she was “annoyed” with the line of questioning presented by Katie Couric in her now-infamous interview with CBS.


“Last time I was here I got to tell a crowd that I had to give a national interview that didn’t go so well,” she said. “And it was because I was kind of annoyed with the questions that I was being asked because I thought they were kind of irrelevant to, you know, national security issues and getting our economy back on track, so I kind of showed some of that annoyance.”

Couric did, in fact, ask Palin several questions about the economy and national security, focusing in particular on the congressional bailout package, the mortgage crisis, John McCain’s record on regulation, the war in Afghanistan, hunting terrorists in Pakistan, Russia, Iran, Syria, Israel and the role of the United States in the world.

If an interviewer had exposed me as an incurious, idiotic political token, I would also be quite annoyed with that person. It's only natural.

I feel your pain, Sarah, and it warms my heart.

Friday, October 24, 2008

The Guardian Gets With The Program

Google reports on the company's Reader blog:
We've always used Reader to keep up to date on news and current events and today it just got a little easier: The Guardian just moved all of their RSS feeds from partial to full-text. They are the first major newspaper in the world to do so, and this is, well, great news.


This is a huge first step in making more content available in more places, and we applaud the Guardian for taking it.

Come on major American papers, join the Brits in embracing the 21st Century.

If it were up to me, the Daily Iowan would have made this move months ago. But, unfortunately, it's not up to me.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Republican Party Is Lashing Out Like A Cornered Animal

Republicans in Minnesota and Virginia are mailing out this flier:

But it doesn't seem as though voters are buying it. Which is good because this whole Ayers thing is entirely ridiculous.

And if the Republicans really think Ayers is such an important topic, then why shouldn't voters be equally concerned about McCain's relationship with G. Gordon Liddy?

Presidential Election Results/Margin Prediction

This is the first in a series of three posts. I'll update my predictions one week from today and the day before the election. I'm making these educated guessed based on what I've been seeing at several different poll tracking sites as well the IEM.

I predict Obama will win the popular vote by 8 percent. As to the electoral college, I foresee a massive blowout. Obama will secure 381 electoral votes to McCain's 157.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

All Tax Plans Are Wealth Redistribution

Will Wilkinson writes:
My commentary on this morning’s Marketplace reminds America’s most loved and hated non-licensed plumber of an ugly truth: democratic politics just is a wealth-spreading exercise, and there’s no avoiding it. If you’re gonna pick sides, you’re just picking your favorite redistributive poison.

Listen to the commentary here:

What Fourth Amendment?

Radley Balko reports:
In the 1976 case U.S. v. Martinez-Fuerte, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that contra the Fourth Amendment, the government can set up roadblock checkpoints within 100 miles of the nation's borders in order to check for illegal immigrants and smuggling. The Court ruled that if the stops are brief, limited to that purpose, and not fishing expeditions, the minimal invasion to personal privacy is outweighed by the government's interest in protecting the border.

The ACLU says that since September 11, 2001, the government has been steadily stretching the limits of Martinez, to the point where the Department of Homeland Security is using that case and the terrorism threat to conduct more thorough, more invasive searches at dozens of checkpoints across the country. With 33 checkpoints now in operation, we're not exactly to the point of "Ihre Papiere, bitte" Berlin yet, but the ACLU does warn that the area of the country 100 miles from every border and coastline would include about 190 million people, or nearly two-thirds of the U.S. population (see map below):

Continue reading.

Well, at least we still have the First Amendment. Oh wait, I guess not.

Andrew Sullivan On Blogging

He writes:
For centuries, writers have experimented with forms that evoke the imperfection of thought, the inconstancy of human affairs, and the chastening passage of time. But as blogging evolves as a literary form, it is generating a new and quintessentially postmodern idiom that’s enabling writers to express themselves in ways that have never been seen or understood before. Its truths are provisional, and its ethos collective and messy. Yet the interaction it enables between writer and reader is unprecedented, visceral, and sometimes brutal. And make no mistake: it heralds a golden era for journalism.

Continue reading.

And, quite appropriately (thanks to this beautifully bizarre evolving world-brain that we call the Internet), we can also watch Sullivan discuss the piece in video form:


(Cross-posted at D-(eye) on Arts.)

John McCain Accidentally Left On Campaign Bus Overnight

John McCain Accidentally Left On Campaign Bus Overnight
(Via Slog.)

Check out more hilarious videos from the Onion here.

"Why, Congressman Latham?"

This year, Democrat Becky Greenwald is challenging incumbent Republican Tom Latham in Iowa's 4th Congressional District.

Here's a new Greenwald ad attacking Latham on veterans' issues:

(Via Bleeding Heartland.)

I'll make my prediction now: Given the enthusiasm for Obama in the state, Latham is going to be out of a job on Nov. 5.

It's unfortunate that the 5th District's Steve King is far less likely to lose his seat. But Democratic challenger Rob Hubler is certainly putting up a spirited fight nonetheless.

So, removing the quotation marks and the comma, why Congressman Latham?

Though Latham isn't the obscene embarrassment to our state that King is, he's far more likely to suffer from the generalized anger at the Republican Party that is a major dynamic in this election. But that's just the way US House seats work--the most extreme candidates are in the safest districts. Hence, the eminently respectable Jim Leach's tragic defeat to the less than impressive Dave Loebsack in 2006. Leach was a far better Republican than Latham. And King isn't worthy of shining Leach's shoes. Politics just isn't fair.

The Blind Leading The Blind

Arnold Kling writes:
I am shocked at the behavior of my fellow economists during this crisis. They are claiming to know much more than they do about causes and solutions. Rather than trying to understand and explain what is going on, they are engaged in a fierce battle over narrative.

For example, many economists breathlessly cited high short-term interest rates in interbank lending markets as an indicator of credit markets "freezing up." However, as some Minneapolis Fed economists point out, the volume of lending does not indicate such a freeze. In fact, very short-term interest rates are a ridiculously melodramatic indicator to use, because even a small increase in default probability can cause the annualized interest rates to soar. (Thanks to Alex Tabarrok for the pointer to this article.)

Where are the stories of businesses canceling projects because of lack of funding? Yes, I am sure that there are homebuilders who want to do their part to contribute to the excess of housing stock and are being told to get lost by banks, but are there economically sensible projects being canceled? Continue reading.

This is why liberals who are running around proclaiming the death of libertarianism are so full of crap. Our modern economy is almost unimaginably complex. Now more than ever it's clear that no one really understands how the whole thing works. Thus, the best strategy is to avoid excessively centralized economic decision making.

Mucking around in areas we don't understand is always dangerous--particularly when those doing the mucking claim to know more than they actually do. Especially in times of crisis, we must maintain healthy skepticism about the decisions the government is making. Fiscal liberals' faith in our government is barely more rational than social conservatives' faith in their religion.

Though critics often accuse libertarians of putting too much faith in the free market, favoring laissez-faire policies is in reality more about a lack of confidence in central planning than it is faith in the invisible hand. The idea is just that the people most closely connected to given sets of circumstances are best equipped to make decisions about them. Of course people often make mistakes. That's why we don't want to put all our eggs in one basket.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

David Sedaris On Undecided Voters

This is a perfect example of why Sedaris is such a good writer.

While I tell:
I simply can't figure out how a reasonable person could be undecided at this point and still feel competent to vote. Sens. John McCain and Barack Obama have quite thoroughly distinguished themselves from each other by now. In order to still not know which one to support a person has to either be almost completely ignorant of what has transpired in the election process thus far or be simply be an idiot. If a person has been paying any attention whatsoever and has even vague notions of what sort of economic, foreign, or social policies he or she favors, choosing between McCain and Obama ought not to be a challenging exercise.

But, obviously, those in charge over at CNN don't share my perspective.

I made the mistake of watching the vice-presidential debate on CNN. Looking back on it, I really ought to have suggested that we change the channel, but I was attending a debate-watching party with some friends. And I generally try not to question other people's programming choices when I'm sitting on their couch and watching their TV. But if a similar situation ever arises again, I will speak up. This is because CNN gathers up focus groups of undecided voters and puts little dials in their hands. These people then proceed to constantly give feedback about whether they approve of disapprove of any given phrase a candidate happens to be speaking in real time. Because men and women have different dials, one also gets to see how possessing different sets of genitals affects one's rhetorical judgments.

Initially, such an instant feedback mechanism from ordinary people seems like it might be an interesting tool to observe how the debate is going. It's not. All it managed to do was create in me a pitch-black, noxiously bubbling hatred toward undecided voters in Ohio, which was where this group was from. As the debate wore on, I became increasingly convinced that the people CNN had recruited for their focus group were both ignorant and idiotic. And this is despite the fact that Gov. Sarah Palin's favorability rankings generally seemed lower than Sen. Joe Biden's.

The ease with which these know-nothing citizens from Ohio were manipulated was astounding to me. And it takes a lot to astound me with regards to the gullibility of the masses - for whom, as a raging elitist, I already have an unhealthy level of contempt. This is not to say that I feel this contempt is undeserved, but primarily simply to suggest that it is likely bad for my health, raising my blood pressure as it does. Regardless, apparently all a person has to do to tilt a swing voter from Ohio in one's direction is to hold out some candy and say nice things about them.

Sedaris shows:
To put them in perspective, I think of being on an airplane. The flight attendant comes down the aisle with her food cart and, eventually, parks it beside my seat. “Can I interest you in the chicken?” she asks. “Or would you prefer the platter of shit with bits of broken glass in it?”

To be undecided in this election is to pause for a moment and then ask how the chicken is cooked.

I mean, really, what’s to be confused about?


(Via Slog.)

Most Internet Users May Be Violating Federal Law

Wired's Kim Zetter reports:
Orin Kerr, professor of law at George Washington University Law School, was a criminal trial attorney in the Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section at the Department of Justice as well as a special assistant U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia.

But earlier this year when federal prosecutors in Los Angeles indicted a woman named Lori Drew with violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act -- an anti-hacking law -- for allegedly violating the MySpace terms of service in providing false information to set up the MySpace account used to harass the teen, Kerr didn't hide his disagreement with the charges.

Kerr wrote on the Volokh Conspiracy blog that the government was essentially charging Drew with criminal trespassing on MySpace's server for allegedly providing false information to open a MySpace account under the false identity of a nonexistent teenage boy. Kerr said this essentially made it a federal crime to violate any contractual agreement... Continue reading.

Though I don't think any of my active online accounts contain false information, I have created pseudonymous accounts in the past. Almost everyone probably has. And, given that neither I nor virtually anyone else actually read any of the terms of service agreements that we all theoretically agree to when we use almost any website, very few of us have any idea whether we're violating these supposed contracts. The notion that this behavior makes us all federal criminals is insane.

This just goes to show the enormous moral hazard of prosecutors looking for a way to punish people for bad behavior that turns out not to have fit well into the existing criminal code. The US Constitution is quite clear that people cannot be prosecuted for acts that were not illegal when they were committed. And the government's bizarre reading of the federal statute they're trying to use in this case would pretty obviously make that law unconstitutional under the doctrines of substantial overbreadth and vagueness.

So, yes, the woman in this case did a horrible thing. But she committed only a moral, not a legal wrong. Prosecuting her in this way is terribly dangerous. I have difficulty imagining that any conviction could possibly survive the appeals process. The government should give up now and stop wasting valuable resources.

Culture Jamming The War On Terror

Cory Doctorow writes:
Today's Wellington Grey comic says it all: "Warning: In Case of Terrorist attack, do not discard brain." He's selling posters. We need to put these up everywhere. I've just had a British Airways purser threaten to arrest me, my wife and baby because my wife endangered the plane by saying "bullshit" when confronted with a "safety measure," while complying with the measure. Warning: In Case of Terrorist attack, do not discard brain:

Read more about culture jamming here.

(Cross-posted at D-(eye) on Arts.)

Frontline On Global Warming

PBS's Martin Smith debuts his two-hour investigation tonight, Oct. 21, 2008, from 8 to 10 p.m. CT. Watch it if you have time.

Here's a preview:

(Via Climate Progress.)

It's long past time for our country's political establishment to wake up to the gravity of this problem. Addressing climate change ought not be seen as a liberal issue--it's a pragmatic issue. The empirical data are overwhelming. We have to act now.

Bullet Train Proposition & Dangerous Habits

Californians have more than the President, local officials, and gay marriage on the ballot in November. Wired reports on Proposition 1A; a proposition that would fund a high-speed train line between L.A. and S.F. Having ridden high-speed trains in Europe, I'm all for the proposition. Of course, I don't have to pay any of the taxes. But just think if there were a high-speed line between Iowa City and Chicago, or Iowa City and Des Moines, students could commute and not have to live in Iowa City.

The article mentions the recent L.A. Metrolink crash that killed 25 as a significant obstacle for the proponents of 1A. The engineer was receiving and sending text messages while driving the train. ZDNet speaks on a related topic: dangerous use of mobile devices.

Monday, October 20, 2008

D-(eye) On Arts

Though we've long included a link to our sister blog, D-(eye) on Arts, on our site, I just wanted to take a moment to give it a little special attention. This could be because I've started posting there as well and am a shameless self-promoter. Or it could be a purely altruistic gesture towards the wonderful arts and culture staff. Yeah, let's go with that second option.

Anyway, check it out. Doing so will let you know what this picture is all about:


Muslim McCain Supporters React To Far-Right Xenophobia

(Via the Minnesota Independent.)

As a gay man who would consider being a Log Cabin Republican if the party weren't so intent on catering to a bunch provincial jerks who are hostile to me out of a mix of ignorance and stupidity, I definitely understand the position these conservative Muslims are in. But, just as I feel toward current gay Republicans, I can't understand how these Muslims are able to support a party that refuses to pressure all its members to be decent, tolerant people. It's really not too much to ask.

Another Take On Why The Republicans Must Be Defeated This Year

Radley Balko writes in a column for, of all possible outlets, Fox News:
I grew up in a particularly conservative part of the already conservative state of Indiana. I voted for Bob Dole in 1996 and George Bush in 2000, generally because — though I'm not a conservative (I'm a libertarian) — I'd always thought the GOP was the party of limited government. By 2002, I was less sure of that. And by 2004, I was so fed up with the party that I did what I thought I'd never do — vote for an unabashed leftist for president.

Since then, "fed up" has soured to "given up." The Republican Party has exiled its Goldwater-Reagan wing and given up all pretense of any allegiance to limited government. In the last eight years, the GOP has given us a monstrous new federal bureaucracy in the Department of Homeland Security. In the prescription drug benefit, it's given us the largest new federal entitlement since the Johnson administration. Federal spending — even on items not related to war or national security — has soared. And we now get to watch as the party that's supposed to be "free market" nationalizes huge chunks of the economy's financial sector.

This isn't to say that Barack Obama would be any better... Continue reading.

I'd love to see Sean Hannity go apoplectic upon reading Balko's remarks on Of course, it's barely more likely that such a pedantic and partisan philistine as Hannity would be able to comprehend Balko's points than it is that his knuckle-dragging, mouth-breathing fans would be able to define all of the words in this paragraph.

For the sake of the country as a whole, the decent common-sense conservatives who make up the Republican Party's silent majority need to kick the loud and proud know-nothings to the curb. As I've said before, a willingness to appeal to the very worst in human nature merely to win an election automatically disqualifies one from being worthy of wielding political power. This is why I'm so deeply disappointed in John McCain and so forcefully contemptuous of Sarah Palin. Real conservatives can, should, and must do much better.

Thank you, Iowa

My former Islamic studies professor at the University of Iowa was born in Tehran. He was a California transplant in Iowa City after getting admitted into the Writers' Workshop. Based on what he learned in school in California, the "flyover states" - like Iowa - were nothing but fields, livestock, and hicks. When the tragic events of 9/11 happened he was worried about backlash. He had heard negative stories from some of his friends and former classmates now teaching across the United States. He was proud of the reaction here in Iowa; in short, we didn't lash out against the local Muslim community. He later told me that he shouldn't have been surprised that Iowans reacted so maturely, for we are the home of the "Mother Mosque of America" - the oldest mosque in the United States (Cedar Rapids is also home to the first, exclusively, Muslim cemetery in the United States, the National Muslim Cemetery).

As the campaigns come to a close and the bigots stream from the sewers like rats, scared that a minority with a non-Anglo name may become their Commander in Chief, I would like to thank my fellow Iowans for not aping our Midwestern brethren and embarrassing America. For every Steve King linked to Iowa, there are the tens of thousands of Iowans that promote tolerance and goodwill just because it's the right thing to do. I would like to take a moment to say thank you to Iowans of the past that welcomed change in the form of Lebanese and Syrian immigrants; I would also like to thank the Iowans of the present for showing America that we may be a flyover state filled with fields, livestock, and hicks, but we still believe in tolerance and aren't afraid of change.

Chris posted this showing that I was too early in my praise. Stay classy, Des Moines.

Obama Should Speak Out Against California's Proposition 8

Andrew Sullivan writes:
As expected, one reason Proposition 8, stripping gay couples of marriage equality, is still viable in California is because of strong African-American support. Black Californians back the anti-gay measure by a margin of 20 points, 58 - 38, in the SUSA poll. No other ethnic group comes close to the level of opposition and black turnout is likely to be very high next month.

All this makes it vital, in my opinion, that Barack Obama strongly and unequivocally oppose Proposition 8 in California, rather than keeping mainly quiet as he has done so far. We need him to make an ad opposing it. This is a core test of whether gay Americans should back Obama as enthusiastically as they have in the last month. If he does not stand up for gay couples now, why should we believe he will when he is in office? And if black Americans are the critical bloc that helps kill civil rights for gays, that will not help deepen Obama's governing coalition. It could tear it apart.

Memo to Obama: make an ad. Speak loudly. Defend equality. Defend it when it might actually lose you some votes. Show us you are not another Clinton.

(Via Slog.)

Admittedly, doing this would be at least mildly risky for Obama politically. But it's the right thing to do. As an African American, he should understand the importance of standing up for civil rights--especially when doing so is politically risky. Because that's when courageous leadership can make a real difference.

Is The Republican Ragnarök At Hand?

Peter Beinart and Jonah Goldberg discuss current tensions in America's ideological right-wing:


Topics covered:
Peter thinks the conservative crackup is finally at hand... David Brooks vs. Sarah Palin... Is the culture war starting to ebb?... Should liberals cheer if the libertarian right is crushed?... Fearing a nationalist right and a socialist left... Will Obama side with the liberals or the leftists?...

(Post title explained here.)

The End Of Libertarianism?

Probably not.

Slate's Jacob Weisberg proclaims the end of libertarianism:
A source of mild entertainment amid the financial carnage has been watching libertarians scurrying to explain how the global financial crisis is the result of too much government intervention rather than too little. One line of argument casts as villain the Community Reinvestment Act, which prevents banks from "redlining" minority neighborhoods as not creditworthy. Another theory blames Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac for causing the trouble by subsidizing and securitizing mortgages with an implicit government guarantee. An alternative thesis is that past bailouts encouraged investors to behave recklessly in anticipation of a taxpayer rescue.

There are rebuttals to these claims and rejoinders to the rebuttals. But to summarize, the libertarian apologetics fall wildly short of providing any convincing explanation for what went wrong. The argument as a whole is reminiscent of wearying dorm-room debates that took place circa 1989 about whether the fall of the Soviet bloc demonstrated the failure of communism. Academic Marxists were never going to be convinced that anything that happened in the real world could invalidate their belief system. Utopians of the right, libertarians are just as convinced that their ideas have yet to be tried, and that they would work beautifully if we could only just have a do-over of human history. Like all true ideologues, they find a way to interpret mounting evidence of error as proof that they were right all along... Continue reading.

But Cato's Brink Lindsey says not so fast:
In an article for Slate (another version appears in Newsweek) entitled “The End of Libertarianism,” Jacob Weisberg mocks libertarians and other free-market supporters for arguing that interventionist government policies contributed to the financial crisis. In italicized exasperation he cries, “Haven’t you people done enough harm already?” According to Weisberg, it’s already clear that, when it comes to what caused the meltdown, “any competent forensic work has to put the libertarian theory of self-regulating financial markets at the scene of the crime.” Consequently, he argues, libertarians in general have now been utterly discredited. “They are bankrupt,” he concludes, “and this time, there will be no bailout.”

In firing this broadside, Weisberg poses as the pragmatic, empirically minded anti-ideologue. In fact, he is engaging in the lowest and most intellectually trivial form of ideological hack work.

As every good hack does, he bulls ahead with completely unjustified certainty. We’ve just experienced a global disruption of financial markets on a scale not seen in seven decades. And we’re still in the middle of it: the ultimate extent, severity, and consequences of this crisis remain unknown. Yet Weisberg can already sum up the story in a single sentence: the libertarians did it... Continue reading.

Unsurprisingly, I find Lindsey far more persuasive.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Republican Party's Disgusting Anti-Muslim Rhetoric

Andrew Sullivan writes:
"Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer is no. That's not America. Is there something wrong with a seven-year-old Muslim-American kid believing he or she could be president? Yet I have heard senior members of my own party drop the suggestion that he is a Muslim and might have an association with terrorists. This is not the way we should be doing it in America," - Colin Powell, standing up to the disgusting rhetoric and tactics of the McCain-Palin campaign.

More on Muslim-American hero, Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan, here, here and here. The photo of Khan's mother that so moved Powell can be seen here:

The perverse xenophobia that the Republican Party has embraced this election cycle makes me ill. If the American people don't repudiate this shit at the polls in November, we will no longer have nor deserve the global community's respect.

McCain Talks The Fiscal Conservative Talk But Walks The Big Government Walk

Cato's David Boaz writes:
In his Saturday radio address [McCain] seized on Joe the Plumber’s question to candidate Obama:
My opponent’s answer showed that economic recovery isn’t even his top priority. His goal, as Senator Obama put it, is to “spread the wealth around.”

You see, he believes in redistributing wealth, not in policies that help us all make more of it. Joe, in his plainspoken way, said this sounded a lot like socialism. And a lot of Americans are thinking along those same lines. In the best case, “spreading the wealth around” is a familiar idea from the American left. And that kind of class warfare sure doesn’t sound like a “new kind of politics.”

This would also explain some big problems with my opponent’s claim that he will cut income taxes for 95 percent of Americans. You might ask: How do you cut income taxes for 95 percent of Americans, when more than 40 percent pay no income taxes right now? How do you reduce the number zero?

Well, that’s the key to Barack Obama’s whole plan: Since you can’t reduce taxes on those who pay zero, the government will write them all checks called a tax credit. And the Treasury will cover those checks by taxing other people, including a lot of folks just like Joe.

In other words, Barack Obama’s tax plan would convert the IRS into a giant welfare agency, redistributing massive amounts of wealth at the direction of politicians in Washington. I suppose when you’ve voted against lowering taxes 94 times, as Senator Obama has done, a new definition of the term “tax credit” comes in handy.

At least in Europe, the Socialist leaders who so admire my opponent are upfront about their objectives. They use real numbers and honest language. And we should demand equal candor from Senator Obama. Raising taxes on some in order to give checks to others is not a tax cut it’s just another government giveaway.

That just might remind lots of voters why they don’t like to elect Democrats. Of course, it might work better if the Republicans hadn’t raised spending more than a trillion dollars. And if the current Republican administration hadn’t just nationalized the banks. And if McCain himself didn’t have a health care “tax credit” that also means that “the government will write them all checks.”

Real believers in economic liberty and small government have little reason to support McCain. The enormous military budget he favors dwarfs the pork barrel spending he loves to rail against. Not to mention his proposal to effectively nationalize an enormous swath of the housing sector. McCain's mere assertion that he is a legitimate fiscal conservative doesn't mean that he is. As I've pointed out before, Barry Goldwater is no doubt spinning in his grave over what the Republican Party has become.

Only those who favor bigoted social policies and a unilateralist, militaristic foreign policy have any reason to support today's Republican Party.

More Crass Economic Nationalism From Obama

Here's a new Obama ad that attacks American companies for opening factories in China:


Obama's demagoguery on globalization is the part of his candidacy that irritates me the most. Though some Americans may lose their jobs when multinational corporations take advantage of cheaper labor in China, all American benefit from low-cost Chinese products. If China weren't the world's factory, most people wouldn't be able to afford nearly as many consumer goods as they now can.

And economics isn't a zero sum game. As history has proven, everyone can get richer together. This notion that China's gain is necessarily America's loss is pathetically pedantic. So much so that Obama obviously knows damn well it's not true. But he's still willing to say it because it will likely win him votes amongst angry blue collar workers in key states like Ohio.

It's highly unfortunate that the American public's scandalous lack of understanding in the field of economics makes arguing for freer trade an unpopular position. This is one of the few areas where I view McCain's position as significantly superior to Obama's. I wish Obama's multilateralist foreign policy in the political and military spheres and McCain's embrace of economic globalization were present in the same candidate.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Opponents Of Gay Sex Should Favor Gay Marriage

I really wish I'd been the one to create this meme:

If You Support Gay Rights, God Will Burn Down Your House!

I love YouTube. It gives all sorts of crazies the virtual soap boxes they need to show off their insanity to the whole world. The number of cracked-out anti-gay marriage videos up on the site is astounding.

This is a pretty typical example:

Seriously, how can anyone not be deeply ashamed of supporting a ballot initiative that has backers like this guy? And, ultimately, religious arguments such as the one espoused by this troglodyte are all there is underlying opposition to gay marriage. Try as they might, the more media savvy people leading the charge against marriage equality can't hide this fact. Behind all their euphemisms and hand-waving there is only ignorance and bigotry--nothing more.

If you can afford it, please donate money to help protect marriage equality in California. I promise, God won't burn down your house.

Friday, October 17, 2008

My secret life as a Muslim

It has recently come to my attention that, according to the standards of many sites and e-commentators, I have been living a secret life as a Muslim.


  • I have said the Shahada (the proclamation of faith) in Arabic three times [The 1st pillar of Islam]

  • I know and understand the five pillars of Islam and the Arabic words for them

  • I have read the Qur'an on numerous occasions

  • I have read Sunna and Hadith

  • I have read and written an exegesis on Rumi's poems

  • I have fasted during Ramadan; I have also read the ajiza' during Ramadan

  • I have taken Arabic classes in Cairo taught by Muslims and have conversed with Muslims in Arabic

  • I learned about Islamic jurisprudence and Islamic property law in Cairo taught by Muslim scholars

  • I have applied and analyzed Islamic jurisprudential commentary

  • I have been to lectures at Al-Azhar; I have been in the mosque and madrasahs at Al-Azhar

  • I went into Al-Hussein Mosque, one of the holiest Islamic shrines in Cairo

  • I read multiple volumes on and have been taught about the history of Islam and Islamic law

  • I know the theological differences between Sufi, Sunni, and Shi'a Muslims

  • I know the history of and differences between the four schools of Sunni jurisprudence

  • I have taken part in a Sufi dhikr

  • I have Al-Jazeera feeds on my Google Reader

  • I have read all of Osama bin Laden's published "letters"; I have also read the writings of the core Islamist figures

  • I own and display a Qur'an written in Arabic (only) - meaning it is the word of Allah

Aside from being named after Muhammad's grandson and having a non-practicing "Muslim" father, I should be "more Muslim" than Obama. Moreover, Andy Martin and Fox News would certainly brand me a member of al-Qaeda given the texts on my bookshelf and the presence of Al-Jazeera in my feeds.

The foundation of Islam is rooted in the submission to Allah and the very words of the shahada.
The Shahada can be declared as follows:


The English translation is:

"I bear witness that there is no deity (none truely to be worshipped) but, Allah, and I bear witness that Mohammad is the messenger of Allah",

However, it would not be sufficient for anyone to only utter this testimony oraly either in private or in public; but rather, he should believe in it by heart with a firm conviction and unshakeable faith. If one is truly sincere and complies with the teachings of Islam in all his life, he will find himself a new born person.

Being a believer isn't some sort of balancing test where the existence of enough facts will tip the scale towards a certain faith.


I'm not much a Sean Penn fan, but this looks really, really good. December 5 can't come soon enough.