Palin's Pastor Problem

Would Sarah Palin bring back witch hunts?

Top 10 Reasons I Don't Believe in God

Top 10 Reasons I Don't Believe in God @ Greta Christina -- This is an excellent list and lines up well with my reasons, too. Read it. If you like it, Digg it.

Nice line

Barack Obama: If you think those lobbyists are working day and night for John McCain just to put themselves out of business, well, then, I've got a bridge to sell you up in Alaska.

That's a hell of a good line. Some speechwriter deserves a pay raise for that.

Emma's new film: Space Adventures

Emma, age 6, is back behind the camera for a new claymation short.

Download the high quality version (15.4 MB, requires Quicktime)

Are you rich?

Are you rich? Maybe it depends on how we define the word. Both presidential candidates were asked to define rich. Barack Obama said, "If you are making more than $250,000, then you're in the top three or 4% of this country. You are doing well." John McCain refused to give a direct answer to the question, but jokingly suggested the number $5 million. By either of these definitions, I'm not rich, and I'm guessing you aren't either. If you are, congratulations. You've worked hard and achieved the American dream (or you inherited money from your rich family.) I can understand that a rich person would want to vote according to their financial interests. If you are rich and you want to be richer, then John McCain may be the candidate for you. But for the rest of us, I believe the Barack Obama is the best candidate.

When I watched the speeches of both political conventions, it was clear to me that the Republicans were trying to appeal to the richest Americans, the top 2-3%, and the Democrats were trying to appeal to the other 97%. You can see the difference in the stories they tell about American people:

A story from Obama speech

We're a better country than one where a man in Indiana has to pack up the equipment that he's worked on for 20 years and watch as it's shipped off to China, and then chokes up as he explains how he felt like a failure when he went home to tell his family the news.

A story from McCain's speech

I fight for Bill and Sue Nebe from Farmington Hills, Michigan, who lost their real estate investments in the bad housing market.

For some Americans bad times mean losing real estate investments. For other Americans bad times mean getting laid off and being unable to feed your family. Which of those stories do you relate to?

You can also see the difference in the candidates' tax policies:

If you're rich, John McCain will work to make you richer. If you are not rich, Obama is the candidate that will improve your financial situation.

You can see the same pattern in the health care proposals of the candidates. Obama's plan attempts to secure health care coverage for the 47 million Americans who currently have none. McCain's plan makes no attempt to cover everyone. Rich people can afford good health care. For the rest of us, it can be a struggle.

McCain's campaign is run by a cadre of rich Washington lobbyists. Obama's campaign has been funded by a record-breaking number of small donors. McCain cheated on and then left his first wife and married a young, rich beer empire heiress. He now owns more homes than he can keep track of. In spite of his father's high rank in the Navy, McCain graduated from a military academy near the bottom of his class. Obama came from a middle-class family and worked hard to earn scholarships to good schools. He could've taken a high-paying job as a Wall Street lawyer, but he went to Chicago to help those less fortunate and to teach constitutional law. If you are rich, you can probably relate to McCain's story. If you're not, then Obama's may seem more inspiring to you.

McCain wants to continue the war in Iraq, which has benefited the rich owners of private contractors like Halliburton and Blackwater. Obama wants to bring our (mostly non-rich) combat forces home.

In the struggle between organized labor and company owners, McCain serves the interests of the rich yet again. Obama has received several endorsements from unions. If you are an executive or company owner, then McCain is looking out for you. If you or someone in your family has health care and good wages because of a union, then Obama is your candidate.

When it comes to energy, McCain wants to give more of our land over to oil companies even though it will have little to no effect on the price you pay at the pump. McCain didn't always support offshore drilling, but once he began supporting the oil companies with this position, they began supporting him with increased donations to his campaign. Obama is willing to upset the rich oil companies by reducing their tax loopholes and putting that money to work creating new jobs and moving toward the long-term goal of homegrown and sustainable energy sources.

So, if McCain's policies do the most good for the top 3% of the population, then why does the race seems so close? I think there are a few reasons. First, the rich can give more money to the campaign and to third-party attack groups. Second, many voters who are not rich are convinced that they will be rich soon. Call it optimism or naivete, but they are willing to vote against their own interests now in order to benefit themselves in some imagined future.

There's another important reason that McCain and other Republicans can get 50% of the vote while serving the needs of 3% of the population. It's called the Culture War. There are many questions for which there is no clear answer that we can all agree on. Various religious organizations come to different conclusions and for most of these questions, our holy books and our Constitution provide no specific answer. Here is a sample of some of these questions.

Do homosexuals deserve the same rights and privileges as heterosexuals?
Can we enforce some restrictions on gun ownership or does the Second Amendment guarantee unrestricted gun rights?
Is the death penalty an ethical punishment?
How do we balance the short-term needs of humans with the long-term safety of our environment?
Does a fertilized embryo deserve the full complement of human rights?
Should women have access to birth control?
Should underage women have access to birth control?
Should we teach sex education for the safety of our children or does it only encourage teens to become sexually active?
What is the line between free speech and pornography?
How do we balance our needs for privacy and security?
Where is the line between institutionalized Christianity and institutionalized atheism?
When is a war a just war?
Which drugs should be legal in which should be illegal? What criteria do we use to decide?
How do we balance the promise of "Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free" with the downsides of immigration?

These are difficult questions with no simple answers. The best approach to these questions is for us all to understand the complexity of the issues, to respect the convictions and opinions of other people and to work toward compromises that we can all be happy with. The cynical, opportunist approach to these questions is to use them to turn Americans against each other. Both parties may share the guilt for this, but I believe that the Republican Party has been the worst offender. For many of these difficult issues, they choose a side, claim that God agrees with them and they accuse those who disagree of hating freedom, scorning God and loving evil.

But you don't have to be taken in by this trick. You are smarter than that. Even if you have strong opinions about the questions above, you can balance that with an understanding of differing opinions. You can also realize that the culture war issues are not the only issues that should be considered when you vote. Your financial interests are another part. You should also consider how well a candidate's ideas have worked in the past. (To evaluate McCain's ideas, just look at the last eight years.) You should consider the education, experience, wisdom and temperament of the candidates. When I look at this whole picture, it's clear to me that Barack Obama will get my vote. I don't agree with him on everything, but I'm not a one-issue voter.

Rove vs Rove

In case you weren't already convinced that Karl Rove and Bill O'Reilly were duplicitous partisan hacks:

Clips like this are why I watch the Daily Show.

Palin Lies

Gov. Sarah Palin officially accepted the nomination for VP tonight. Then she proceeded to tell at least 6 lies:

Factchecking Palin

Sarah Palin

Since John McCain announced last week that his running mate would be Sarah Palin, the obscure first-term governor of Alaska, we have learned a few more interesting facts about her. None of them have made her look like a good choice.

Palin is presented as a reformer of the corrupt political system in Alaska. There is some truth to this, but that may be overshadowed by her ties with recently indicted Alaska Senator Ted Stevens. Palin served as the director of the 527 group that raised money to support Stevens. McCain is on record as saying that 527s are disgraceful and illegal. Though in her debut speech Palin criticized the "bridge to nowhere" that Ted Stevens tried to have built in Alaska, she previously supported it. In this video, which the campaign would like to disappear, Ted Stevens (and his vest) endorses Palin during her 2006 gubernatorial campaign.

Palin is in favor of more domestic drilling and seems uninterested in reducing our dependence on oil. In fact, she said "I beg to disagree with any candidate who would say we can't drill our way out of our problem." Her husband works for an oil company and she has publicly supported drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, which McCain has opposed. Palin's oil policy will not bring down prices, but it will enrich the oil companies. We have seen the results of electing champions for big oil to the highest offices in the government.

Palin is currently under investigation for allegedly putting pressure on the public safety commissioner to fire a state trooper who happened to be her sister's ex-husband. When the commissioner didn't comply, he was fired. This investigation will continue to unfold over these last two months of the campaign.

Palin supports the teaching of creationism in public school classrooms. Several court cases have shown that creationism is religion and not science and therefore has no place in our public schools.

I agree with Barack Obama when he says that the recently disclosed pregnancy of Palin's 17-year-old daughter should be off-limits to political attack. However, it serves as a poignant reminder that abstinence-only sex education, which Palin emphatically supports, does not work.

Palin was asked if she was offended by the words "under God" in our Pledge of Allegiance. Her answer shows a startling ignorance of history: "Not on your life. If it was good enough for the founding fathers, its good enough for me and I’ll fight in defense of our Pledge of Allegiance." The pledge wasn't written until 1892 and "under God" wasn't added until 1954, so all of the founding fathers were long dead before the pledge was written and could never have recited it.

Religious radicals like James Dobson may be thrilled with the selection of Sarah Palin for Vice President, but I think that her inexperience and her misguided opinions make her a terrible choice.

Hubbard on Xenu

Scientologists avoid public discussion of some of the stranger elements of their mythology. L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology, was a science fiction author, so it's no surprise that he included some space aliens. South Park famously lampooned this mythology in the episode "Trapped in the Closet". An audio clip of Hubbard explaining the story of Xenu has been making the rounds on the Internet. Here's a copy of the clip on gawker.com.

After listening to it, I think the South Park episode was pretty accurate.

People actually believe this.

Warren on atheists

The day after interviewing Barack Obama and John McCain on the stage in his church, Rick Warren said this:

"I could not vote for an atheist because an atheist says, 'I don't need God,' " Warren said. "They're saying, 'I'm totally self-sufficient by [myself].' And nobody is self-sufficient to be president by themselves. It's too big a job."
LA Times

As for as I'm concerned, anyone is free to vote or not vote for someone based on any criteria. Our Constitution forbids any official religious test for office, but individuals can take religion under consideration if they think it's important. However, I have some problems with the way Warren justified his statement.

First, atheists don't say "I don't need God." We say that there is no such thing as God. We also don't say "I hate God," "I'm running from God," "I love to sin" or "I'm angry at religious people." I cannot hate or run from something that doesn't exist. The fact that Warren said this shows that he either doesn't understand atheism or refuses to take it seriously.

Second, he's right that the president needs help, but shouldn't that help come from knowledgeable human advisors? I think that a good president should listen to advice from trusted staff, trained experts, public opinion and even political rivals.

Third, how, exactly, does God help a person govern? Does he send intra-office memos? Does he call the president on a private line? Does he attend cabinet meetings? Does he speak to the president in dreams? How does it work? Wouldn't it be better if our president sought and took the advice of humans rather than trying to puzzle out the will of a silent God?

Fourth, for the last seven years we've had a president who claimed to be called and guided by God. I don't think that's going very well. In fact, I think that the delusion of God's favor has made President Bush especially arrogant and reckless. Because he thinks God is on his side, he is capable of ignoring good advice and going it alone. An atheist president would understand better than anyone that all we have is each other, and that we should take care of the earth, the only home we have.

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