Sunday, July 29, 2007

Bjork: The Hunter

Monday, July 16, 2007

At Last

At last, I have a representative in Congress to be truly proud of -- for now, anyway.

From the Mineapolis StarTribune:

"You'll always find this Muslim standing up for your right to be atheists," he told the group.
By Mike Kaszuba, Star Tribune
Last update: July 08, 2007 – 8:40 PM

Freshman Congressman Keith Ellison was among friends Sunday -- in this case, a gathering of atheists -- so his support for a fistful of hot-button opinions, including the impeachment of Vice President Dick Cheney, brought enthusiastic nods of approval and standing ovations.

As he was introduced to the eclectic gathering, which included one man wearing a black T-shirt that read "Investigate 9/11," Ellison was told that after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Muslims had joined atheists at the bottom of popular opinion polls.

"You'll always find this Muslim standing up for your right to be atheists all you want," Ellison, the first Muslim to serve in Congress, said in a speech to more than 100 atheists at the Southdale Library in Edina. As Minnesota's first black member of the U.S. House ends his first six months in office, Ellison did not disappoint a crowd that seemed energized the more pointed he made his opinions.

On impeaching Cheney, which the Minneapolis DFLer supports: "[It is] beneath his dignity in order for him to answer any questions from the citizens of the United States. That is the very definition of totalitarianism, authoritarianism and dictatorship."

On calling the war in Iraq an "occupation": "It's not controversial to call it an occupation -- it is an occupation."

On commuting the prison sentence of Cheney aide Lewis Libby: "If Libby gets pardoned, then he should not have the cover of the Fifth Amendment. He's going to have to come clean and tell the truth. Now, he could get Gonzales-itis [referring to U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales], you know, with 71 lapses of memory within a two-hour period."

On comparing Sept. 11 to the burning of the Reichstag building in Nazi Germany: "It's almost like the Reichstag fire, kind of reminds me of that. After the Reichstag was burned, they blamed the Communists for it and it put the leader of that country [Hitler] in a position where he could basically have authority to do whatever he wanted. The fact is that I'm not saying [Sept. 11] was a [U.S.] plan, or anything like that because, you know, that's how they put you in the nut-ball box -- dismiss you."

On President Bush's "faith-based" initiative: "This is basically the Department of Religious Outreach ... it's essentially a public-relations outreach arm for the Bush administration to reach out to the far right of the evangelical Christian movement. That's really all it is."

Ellison's noontime speech before Atheists for Human Rights, a Minneapolis-based group, drew the largest gathering in recent memory for the organization, said Marie Castle, the group's spokeswoman. "We're trying to upgrade the image of atheists," Castle said of the 350-member group. "They don't think we have a moral compass."

Sunday, July 15, 2007


Fear believes—courage doubts. Fear falls upon the earth and prays—courage stands erect and thinks. Fear retreats—courage advances. Fear is barbarism—courage is civilization. Fear believes in witchcraft, in devils and in ghosts. Fear is religion, courage is science.
Robert G. Ingersoll
[H/T: Norm]

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Theocrats at the Helm

Several years ago, I read about a huge dam project in China. The project was taking longer than expected because the Buddhist construction workers would drop their shovels every time they encountered an earthworm or bird’s nest or whatever and gently carry the violated animal to safety; such was their devotion to all forms of life. This happened several times a day, but the project foremen could do nothing to convince the workers that this procedure was wrecking the completion schedule. So the dam took much longer than expected to complete. Although this practice must have been irritating to the workers who did not share the Buddhists’ faith, there’s no denying the inherent honor in Buddhists walking it like they talked it. They lived exactly according to the values of their religion, even at the expense of efficiency.

A few weeks ago, President Bush cited his religious convictions when he vetoed the stem cell research bill ratified by congress. There is something truly admirable about someone choosing moral rectitude over popularity—like Henry Fonda in 12 Angry Men. According to a USA Today/Gallup poll taken in April, more than two thirds of the nation opposes President Bush’s decision, and yet he stood firm, guided by his faith.

As long as we have religion, we will never truly achieve the Founders’ intent to maintain a wall of separation between church and government. All we can do is try to be as fair and objective as possible, and to apply constant vigilance in our assault on our own hypocrisy. Leaving aside for now the scientific fact that no more embryos would be destroyed with stem cell research than are now being destroyed without it, one must respect a president’s decision that is based on personal convictions rather than economic or political interests, as is so often the case. President Bush made the difficult decision to follow his heart over the fierce opposition of the majority of his countrymen. Is this not precisely the mettle we long for in our leaders?

Well, isn’t it?

The obvious problem with that line of reasoning is that President Bush is cherry picking his religious convictions, which is what always happens in a theocracy. His devotion to embryos is not matched by his devotion to the 250 thousand or so fully gestated human lives his illegal war in Iraq has aborted. Nor was it matched by his devotion to the Golden Rule (do unto others as you would have them do unto you) when he ruined the careers and reputations of Joe Wilson and Valerie Plame. Nor was it matched by his glaring disregard for the thousands of people killed or displaced by Hurricane Katrina. And on and on and on…you’ve already encountered the long, long list of Bush’s un-christian transgressions.

No, President Bush’s veto had nothing to do with religious conviction; it had to do with pandering to a tiny-but-powerful political bloc whose exit from the American electoral process—not to mention the planet—is long overdue. Like Peter Popoff, President Bush has tapped into the very heart of American ignorance, not to bring enlightenment to the backward and superstitious minority that progress forgot, but to exploit that minority for his own shallow avarice.

And once again, the working poor—in this instance, Buddhist construction workers—have demonstrated that their understanding of personal integrity is broader and deeper than that of the greedy self-absorbed nincompoops we have chosen to lead us.