May 2010

In a sad attempt at being relevant to the times, Republicans have created the totally hip website American Speaking Out, with hopes of changing the image of the Republican party from gun-totin’, minority-hatin’, money-grubbin’, irrelevant bigots to a more hip party that anyone can be proud of joining and blogging about on their iPhones. I can see them now, smug smiles on their faces: “Look, we’re now downloaded on the internets!”

And as they want to convince people, they will let the voices on their website shape the political policies that they focus on from here on out (well, you know, if it agrees with what they already believe). From their website:

America deserves a Congress that respects the priorities of the people. Unfortunately, Washington hasn’t been listening. Let’s change that. America Speaking Out is your opportunity to change the way Congress works by proposing ideas for a new policy agenda. Republicans have offered solutions, and we have our principles, but this is a new venue for us to listen to you. So Speak Out.

Oh, and spoke out they have. The site contains five clickable categories where anyone can “debate ideas that are posted, offer one of your own, or just look around.” Then people can post responses and vote them either up or down the priority list. Look under all of the lists and most of the top suggestions are more progressive, liberal ideas – and of course, liberals have invaded the site with some hilariously over-the-top conservative ideas, but the frightening part is that sometimes I couldn’t tell whether or not the suggestions were liberal tongue-in-cheek suggestions or teabaggers serious thoughts. Here are just a few popular suggestions:

all leaders should proclaim faith in Jesus Christ. anyone who does not, like muslims and atheists should be removed from office.

I should have the right to name my children using numbers. If I want to name my child l33t, I should be able to name him that.

we need to employ some of those invincible black knights from Monty Python and the Holy Grail

Robots aren’t yet people, but someday they will be. We must plan ahead and grant robots full voting rights, as well as the ability to seek the presidency. We must also make sure they get whatever demand, because a new form of life should be welcomed into the world. Further, they must be allowed to serve in the military. In fact, they should be in charge of the military. WE MUST DRAFT A ROBOT RIGHTS ACT before we need one!

Of course, there are plenty more that are serious. Here are some of the issues that have been voted to the top of each respective category. Take note, GOP.

Each year taxpayers foot the bill for a “war on drugs” that costs tens of billions of dollars, results in hundreds of thousands of arrests, and does absolutely nothing to solve the drug problem in this country. It’s time that we end the ineffective prohibition approach (just like we did with alcohol), and enact a new system of legalized regulation and taxation for drugs like marijuana. In addition to generating fiscal savings and new tax revenue for our economy, legalization will also improve public safety and national security by bankrupting the violent gangs and cartels who control the currently illegal market for drugs.

Repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” Simple. Let the LGBT community serve in the military.

Government funds should not go towards religious organizations. I don’t want big government getting involved in my religion, and I don’t want money being wasted on something I don’t believe in. End the “christian nation” bull, taxpayer money shouldn’t be wasted on religion (it falls into the category of “wasteful government spending”). So repeal the law about faith based initiatives.

Good for you, Republican party. Good for you. Welcome to 1998.

From the producers of Sherlock Holmes comes Darwin: Evolution of a Madman. Is it crazy that I actually want to see Hollywood make an action-adventure about a swashbuckling Darwin? Awesome.

This is the cartoon drawn by Lars Vilks that pissed extremist Muslims off in 2007. Seriously.

You may know Lars Vilks as the Swede who published a series of drawings depicting Islam’s prophet Muhammad as a dog. Apparently having nothing better to do, Islamic extremists around the globe threatened him with death, one organization even going as far as offering $150,000 for his murder. Of course, this reaction was exactly what he predicted and only furthered his point, which was that everyone in the world should be entitled to freedom of speech, regardless of how offensive it might be (I’m offended by the Bible’s condemnation of women and homosexuality – should I riot and attack anyone that preaches it?).

Recently, you may have heard about Vilks giving a presentation on free speech at Uppsala University in Sweden, where almost immediately he was assaulted by protesters who amount to little more than savages. Fortunately, only his glasses were broken before police stepped in. You can watch the entire ten minute insanity below.

In the final minutes of the film, the fools cheer with “unrestrained jubilation” at the announcement that the presentation will stop due to security reasons – perhaps not realizing that they only furthered the point of what Vilks was trying to convey: religion is dangerous to free speech (and society). Religion deludes the mind. You cannot possibly view this video and come to the conclusion that these folks are not completely delusional due to their religious beliefs.

They bullied to get their way with threats of violence and to “take him out,” meanwhile only furthering the resentment of their religion around the world for the hundreds of millions who already believe Islam to be a religion of hate, violence, and bigotry (which, for the vast majority of Muslims, it is not).

Days after this, Vilks home was set fire, windows were smashed, and bottles of gasoline were thrown in. Thankfully, it did not burn to the ground.

Sometimes, all I can do is sigh and shake my head.

Holy hell – this is why I love Florida Congressman Alan Grayson (well, one of many reasons – how about this speech?). If there were politician trading cards, I would be collecting Grayson.

Grayson is introducing a bill called ‘The War Is Making You Poor Act’ – you can see his official website for it right here, where you can also sign a petition saying that you support the bill (or really, what it is that the bill stands for – we are wasting too much money on these wars). His introduction on his site says that the US government’s budget next year “allocates $159,000,000,000 to ‘contingency operations,’ to perpetuate the occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq. That’s enough money to eliminate federal income taxes for the first $35,000 of every American’s income each year, and beyond that, leave over $15 billion that would cut the deficit.”

Watch the video and please pass it on.

We could very well see this man as our President someday.

New Rule: The Republican leadership in America must produce their birth certificates! Not because I doubt they’re Americans, I just want to make sure they’re not eight-years-old. I mention this because a major talking point on Fox News and hate radio these days is that, after a year and a half of Obama, it’s time to bring the “adults” back into power, so they can rein in our deficit, defeat terrorism, and focus on America’s real enemy: cleaning ladies in Arizona. But I must protest the premise, because conservatives are the ones who tend to believe in magical ideas, like: America is never wrong; you can defeat terrorism militarily; and lower taxes will somehow fix the deficit. And I’m not even mentioning the stuff about how Jesus used to fly around on a pterodactyl and just hated it when homos ate wedding cake.

Now, am I saying there are no adults in today’s Republican Party? Absolutely not, there are — but like a lot of parents today, the adults let their kids cow them. And silence them. And rule over them. Rush Limbaugh is a child, a primal scream of a man, but he gets his way because he’s the fat bully on the playground; and Glenn Beck is the weepy kid who’s always crying because he’s insane and you don’t know what he’s going to do and who he’s going to take with him.

-Bill Maher, May 2010

Muslims appear to be far more concerned about perceived slights to their religion than about the atrocities committed daily in its name. Our accommodation of this psychopathic skewing of priorities has, more and more, taken the form of craven and blinkered acquiescence. There is an uncanny irony here that many have noticed. The position of the Muslim community in the face of all provocations seems to be: Islam is a religion of peace, and if you say that it isn’t, we will kill you. Of course, the truth is often more nuanced, but this is about as nuanced as it ever gets: Islam is a religion of peace, and if you say that it isn’t, we peaceful Muslims cannot be held responsible for what our less peaceful brothers and sisters do. When they burn your embassies or kidnap and slaughter your journalists, know that we will hold you primarily responsible and will spend the bulk of our energies criticizing you for “racism” and “Islamophobia.”

-Sam Harris, “Losing Our Spines to Save Our Necks”

While the above excerpt can be attributed to most all the major religions of the world, I am taking a break from slamming the insanity of Christianity’s warping of American politics to point this out due to the recent publicized banning of YouTube and Facebook in Pakistan – a move that I admit to finding somewhat surprising, even having known that the county is not merely a Republic but an Islamic Republic. I don’t claim to be well-versed in Pakistani history and politics, although I am knowledgeable and comfortable enough to say that my first thought this morning upon reading this news was that Pakistan has far many more important problems that they should be tending to, not worrying about a few thousand nerds around the world drawing their religious prophet Muhammad (a big no-no in Islam) and posting it on the internet.

All the while, people are being provocative in their depictions of Muhammad for the sake of being provocative – and it is only as a direct result to the vocal cries and complaints (and often violent threats, such as what happened in Denmark in 2008) in the first place. The surge of intentionally-offensive drawings of Muhammad has led to probably more offensive photos of him existing now than ever before – and the only ones to blame are the ones who complain and make threats in the first place, putting pressure on spineless companies such as Comedy Central to censor their “offense” as not to offend Muslims, and thus causing the reaction that they have.

If this vocal number of the Muslim population were to only heed international human rights lawyer Arsalan Iftikhar’s advice in which he tweeks an ever-popular evangelical phrase for the purpose of his argument:

If we ask ourselves the simple question ‘What would Mohammed do?’ about this, the even simpler answer would be two words: ‘Absolutely nothing.’

Iftikhar seems flabbergasted by the responses of “irrational threats of violence aimed at the silliness of some sophomoric cartoons” and condemns Pakistan’s reaction saying that they “should focus their political attention and economic resources on educating their women, improving their rule of law system and truly understanding the repercussions that come with ominously naming your country the ‘land of the pure.'”

There is little that is more important than having the freedom to speak one’s mind – and having freedom of speech means understanding that you must support the freedom to offend. Although I am limiting my depiction of the Islamic prophet to the old Persian painting of him speaking to Jesus and Moses and others above, I have no qualms with “Draw Muhammad Day” anymore than I have qualms with someone creating a “Jesus Banged a Prostitute,” “Jews Murdered Jesus,” or “Atheists Eat Babies” group. Especially when the source of the offense is the internet, Muslims can easily choose to ignore what it is that they find so infuriatingly offensive – you know, just as I steer clear of Fox News.

Please, feel free to chime in with your thoughts.

Thursday, May 20, 2010, marks one month since BP’s oil rig exploded in the Gulf Coast, killing 11 people and unleashing one of the worst environmental disasters our nation has ever seen.

Since then, millions of gallons of oil have gushed into the ocean, poisoning marine life and threatening hundreds of miles of coastal waters, beaches and estuaries from the mouth of the Mississippi to the Florida Keys.

This is the clearest picture we could have of our failed national energy policy — which extends over many decades and administrations. Yet, shockingly, our elected officials in the Senate continue to drag their feet on enacting the policies that would bring the real change we need to shift our country from dirty to clean energy sources, while creating jobs and cutting our dependence on oil.

This oil disaster is threatening marine life and habitat in a region that accounts for about 70 percent of U.S. production of shrimp and oysters, as well as millions of pounds each year of red snapper, grouper, bluefin tuna and other fish. Fishing has been shut down from the Mississippi River to the Florida Panhandle — an area of 46,000 square miles, or roughly the size of the state of Pennsylvania. These closures are devastating to thousands of Gulf Coast families who depend on this bounty for their livelihood. Many of these people are still reeling from the trauma of Hurricane Katrina five years ago.

I am glad that President Obama announced that he would appoint an independent commission to look at the causes of the blow out and determine what we must do to prevent this from ever happening again. This is an important first step in addressing the national tragedy and coming up with real solutions to prevent future drilling disasters.

But it is not enough.

Right now, the Senate has legislation on the table that would help move us in a new direction and put America back in control of its energy future. The American Power Act, drafted by Senators Kerry and Lieberman, is not perfect– but it is a significant step toward cutting our dependence on fossil fuels, limiting carbon pollution, and encouraging businesses to shift to clean energy sources.

Unfortunately, the full Senate continues to stall — weighed down by too much infighting and too many special interests. That’s why we need the president to assert his voice and leadership by letting the Senate — and the American people — know that he is serious about getting clean energy and climate legislation passed this year.

Source: Huffington Post

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