Obama takes the gloves off; Coulter is a bigot

First, a light-hearted note from today’s yoga class: I usually get into class early and warm up and do poses that I know that we aren’t going to be doing. Our classroom is really a wooden floor studio that is in the second story of the Riverplex; it has a glass wall that overlooks the entrance to the place (one floor below). As I looked out, a shapey female triathlete came in. She was wearing tight spandex shorts and was bending over her bag. As a guy was leaving, his head swiveled to look at her. Another guy leaves, same thing. 🙂

I start laughing out loud and one of the yoginis asks me “what is so funny?” and I tell her. She chuckles a bit. She then asks “what is the pretty woman wearing?” and I answer “bike shorts”. She looks, grins and says “maybe I should get a pair of those!”. 🙂

Barack Obama: comes to realize that he really is trailing in the polls. So, the gloves have come off, so to speak.


Some of the text:

Game on, folks.

While there’s been some discussion about his nukes stand in the speech today, what’s significant is that Barack Obama directed his fire directly at Hillary Clinton today.

In very stark terms. Drawing contrasts.

And he’s not taking just her on. He’s taking the entire way of thinking that she represents on. […]

This is the 5th anniversary of Obama’s much-touted speech opposing the invasion of Iraq. And he uses that date to drive home the big advantage he has over Senator Clinton–judgment.

You are students. And the great responsibility of students is to question the world around you, to question things that don’t add up. With Iraq, we must ask the question: how did we go so wrong?

There are those who offer up easy answers. They will assert that Iraq is George Bush’s war, it’s all his fault. Or that Iraq was botched by the arrogance and incompetence of Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney. Or that we would have gotten Iraq right if we went in with more troops, or if we had a different proconsul instead of Paul Bremer, or if only there were a stronger Iraqi Prime Minister.

These are all challenges to Hillary, who has issued several of those statements, including the complaint about al-Maliki and the claim that this is George Bush’s war.

These are the easy answers. And like most easy answers, they are partially true. But they don’t tell the whole truth, because they overlook a harder and more fundamental truth. The hard truth is that the war in Iraq is not about a catalog of many mistakes – it is about one big mistake. The war in Iraq should never have been fought.

Damn straight. Collective guilt is no excuse for individual sin.

But the conventional thinking in Washington has a way of buying into stories that make political sense even if they don’t make practical sense. We were told that the only way to prevent Iraq from getting nuclear weapons was with military force. Some leading Democrats echoed the Administration’s erroneous line that there was a connection between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda. We were counseled by some of the most experienced voices in Washington that the only way for Democrats to look tough was to talk, act and vote like a Republican. […]
Some seek to rewrite history. They argue that they weren’t really voting for war, they were voting for inspectors, or for diplomacy. But the Congress, the Administration, the media, and the American people all understood what we were debating in the fall of 2002. This was a vote about whether or not to go to war. That’s the truth as we all understood it then, and as we need to understand it now.

That’s exactly right. Everyone knew that Bush had his heart set on war.

And we need to ask those who voted for the war: how can you give the President a blank check and then act surprised when he cashes it?

Again, the target here is clearly Hillary. John Edwards doesn’t pretend that he wasn’t voting for war. Hillary has slowly but surely backtracked to the point that one would think her vote was a vote for peace. […]

That is one of the reasons Obama is my first choice. Another thing that bothers me about Clinton is her closeness with the pharmaceutical companies.

SiCKO: Hillary Clinton became the second largest recipient in the Senate of health care industry contributions.

* “As she runs for re-election to the Senate from New York this year and lays the groundwork for a possible presidential bid in 2008, Mrs. Clinton is receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from doctors, hospitals, drug manufacturers and insurers. Nationwide, she is the No. 2 recipient of donations from the industry, trailing only Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, a member of the Republican leadership.” Raymond Hernandez and Robert Pear, “Once an Enemy, Health Industry Warms to Clinton,” New York Times, July 12, 2006.

In fact, Senator Clinton walked out on a screening of the movie Sicko.

During a screening of Michael Moore’s new movie SiCKO to the DNC, Hillary Clinton got out of her chair and left the theatre hall in protest of the way she is portrayed in the film.

The movie investigates America’s notorious healthcare system and presents several arguments against its existence. But the movie also lays some of the blame on complicit and corrupt politicians for taking bribes and cutbacks from HMOs and drug manufacturers in return for passing laws in their favor. Amongst the politcians mentioned is New York Senator Hillary Clinton, who is accused of accepting contributions in return for abandoning her campaign for free healthcare.

When this segment aired at the screening, Senator Clinton walked out of the theatre.

Moore’s “SiCKO” is being hailed as a catalyst for change

But most controversial are claims that as Clinton left, she was overheard mentioning a “deal” with Michael Moore, presumably one that would have left out the segment from the film. One of those that overheard the conversation reported hearing talk of a budget contribution to Moore’s film by the Clinton campaign. It is suspected that Clinton herself payed off Moore to exclude this scene, an agreement he may have ignored.

When questioned about the incident, Clinton campaign representative Sarah Golding told the press:

“Senator Clinton loved the movie and thinks it should serve as a catalyst for change. However, it is unfortunate Mr. Moore decided to make this personal… especially considering the recent controversy surrounding contributions to his documentary’s budget.” When asked to elaborate, Ms. Golding continued by saying, “Or did he not mention that his movie was being indirectly funded by Al-Qaeda?”

Huh? I hope that was a “botched joke”.

Nevertheless, Clinton is being seen as the likely Democratic Nominee; just look at this pathetic Republican fund raising letter:

Dear Heidi,

The Hillary Clinton fundraising juggernaut keeps on rolling.

Today, the Clinton campaign announced that they have raised $27 million over the last three months, putting Hillary’s total campaign cash at $90 million for the year. She is on pace to raise much more than $100 million by the end of the year.

But that’s not all. The Democrats have taken in $100 million more than Republicans this year. And this doesn’t even count the hundreds of millions of dollars Big Labor, Hollywood elites and liberal groups like are raising to defeat Republicans in 2008.

If Republicans don’t close the fundraising gap with the Democrats by the end of this year, we will not be able to defend our candidates from their vicious attacks and outright distortions. […]

Translation: in the Republican world, “facts” are “distortions”. 🙂

Check out the photo that came with the letter:

Religion: Richard Dawkins responsible for Islamic Fundamentalism?

Listening to Start the Week yesterday I was startled to hear the theologian Karen Armstrong blaming Richard Dawkins for Islamic fundamentalism. She didn’t put it quite like that, of course, but in the course of a passing remark about literalist interpretations of the Koran she made the point that this was a relatively new tradition in Islam and explicitly connected it with Dawkins’ intellectual attacks on religion in general.

The implication seemed to be that if we could just get Professor Dawkins to pipe down then more hard-line Muslims would give up their intransigent views about evolution, among other things, and adopt a more Church of England approach to their Holy Book – treating it as a collection of useful parables and metaphors.

I have my doubts, to put it mildly, that any such mechanism exists – however unintentionally flattering it might be about Professor Dawkins’ impact on world Islam. Sadly, I suspect Koranic fundamentalists are perfectly capable of coming up with their own follies without outside prompting.

I hope it isn’t just an over-reaction anyway, because Professor Dawkins shows no signs of piping down, but has actually just expanded his sphere of operations – launching an organisation, the Out Campaign, which aims to act as a lobby group for bashful or sidelined atheists. Not big on faith in general, the Out Campaign does have one central belief – which is that atheists are far greater in number than is ever acknowledged in public policy or public debate. […]

Sam Harris: strikes a nerve?

Now, it is not often that I find myself in a room full of people who are more or less guaranteed to agree with me on the subject of religion. In thinking about what I could say to you all tonight, it seemed to me that I have a choice between throwing red meat to the lions of atheism or moving the conversation into areas where we actually might not agree. I’ve decided, at some risk to your mood, to take the second approach and to say a few things that might prove controversial in this context.

Given the absence of evidence for God, and the stupidity and suffering that still thrives under the mantle of religion, declaring oneself an “atheist” would seem the only appropriate response. And it is the stance that many of us have proudly and publicly adopted. Tonight, I’d like to try to make the case, that our use of this label is a mistake—and a mistake of some consequence.

My concern with the use of the term “atheism” is both philosophical and strategic. I’m speaking from a somewhat unusual and perhaps paradoxical position because, while I am now one of the public voices of atheism, I never thought of myself as an atheist before being inducted to speak as one. I didn’t even use the term in The End of Faith, which remains my most substantial criticism of religion. And, as I argued briefly in Letter to a Christian Nation, I think that “atheist” is a term that we do not need, in the same way that we don’t need a word for someone who rejects astrology. We simply do not call people “non-astrologers.” All we need are words like “reason” and “evidence” and “common sense” and “bullshit” to put astrologers in their place, and so it could be with religion.

If the comparison with astrology seems too facile, consider the problem of racism. Racism was about as intractable a social problem as we have ever had in this country. We are talking about deeply held convictions. I’m sure you have all seen the photos of lynchings in the first half of the 20th century—where seemingly whole towns in the South, thousands of men, women and children—bankers, lawyers, doctors, teachers, church elders, newspaper editors, policemen, even the occasional Senator and Congressman—turned out as though for a carnival to watch some young man or woman be tortured to death and then strung up on a tree or lamppost for all to see.

Seeing the pictures of these people in their Sunday best, having arranged themselves for a postcard photo under a dangling, and lacerated, and often partially cremated person, is one thing, but realize that these genteel people, who were otherwise quite normal, we must presume—though unfailing religious—often took souvenirs of the body home to show their friends—teeth, ears, fingers, knee caps, internal organs—and sometimes displayed them at their places of business.

Of course, I’m not saying that racism is no longer a problem in this country, but anyone who thinks that the problem is as bad as it ever was has simply forgotten, or has never learned, how bad, in fact, it was.

So, we can now ask, how have people of good will and common sense gone about combating racism? There was a civil rights movement, of course. The KKK was gradually battered to the fringes of society. There have been important and, I think, irrevocable changes in the way we talk about race—our major newspapers no longer publish flagrantly racist articles and editorials as they did less than a century ago—but, ask yourself, how many people have had to identify themselves as “non-racists” to participate in this process? Is there a “non-racist alliance” somewhere for me to join?

Attaching a label to something carries real liabilities, especially if the thing you are naming isn’t really a thing at all. And atheism, I would argue, is not a thing. It is not a philosophy, just as “non-racism” is not one. Atheism is not a worldview—and yet most people imagine it to be one and attack it as such. We who do not believe in God are collaborating in this misunderstanding by consenting to be named and by even naming ourselves.

Another problem is that in accepting a label, particularly the label of “atheist,” it seems to me that we are consenting to be viewed as a cranky sub-culture. We are consenting to be viewed as a marginal interest group that meets in hotel ballrooms. I’m not saying that meetings like this aren’t important. I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t think it was important. But I am saying that as a matter of philosophy we are guilty of confusion, and as a matter of strategy, we have walked into a trap. It is a trap that has been, in many cases, deliberately set for us. And we have jumped into it with both feet. […]

I hear what he is saying. But I think that it is necessary to challenge the (almost universal) assumption that everyone is a theist of some sort. Not all of us are, and we should let people know. I wish that religious superstition was as rare as astrology, but it is not; even our political leaders (especially?) embrace it, though not all of them!

Ann Coulter: calls Arabs “Camel Jockeys” in her latest book.

On the October 1 edition of Fox News’ Hannity & Colmes, during a discussion with right-wing pundit Ann Coulter, co-host Alan Colmes said, referring to a chapter in Coulter’s new book, If Democrats Had Any Brains, They’d Be Republicans (Crown Forum): “[Y]ou’re quoted as saying, ‘Maybe I’m winning the camel jockeys over,’ ” to which Coulter responded: “Yes … That’s actually in the book. That’s not a made-up quote.” Colmes then asked: “So you have no problem referring to Arabs as camel jockeys?” Coulter responded: “Oh. Yeah. No. They killed 3,000 Americans. I’ll be very careful with my language.” In response, Colmes said: “[W]hen you refer to an entire ethnicity as camel jockeys, it sounds bigoted,” to which Coulter again asserted: “Yes, and it’s so mean after they killed 3,000 Americans, and I shouldn’t be mean to them,” adding, “We have sure moved away from the day when we called them Krauts and Nips.” […]

Keep in mind that Coulter is NOT on the extreme wing of the Republican party; she is someone that candidates actively seek out!


October 3, 2007 - Posted by | hillary clinton, obama, politics/social, religion, yoga

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