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Posted by on Sep 13, 2013 in Blog, Essays, Politics, What's Left | 1 comment

Should America Intervene in Syria?

 

syrian-missles

 

Is American intervention in Syria justified?

If so, what are the costs and consequences of taking military action?

How do these costs and consequences compare with the potential risks of non-intervention?

That’s what I’ll discuss in today’s column.

Progressives tend to speak in muted voices these days.  Presumably, one of our own occupies the Oval Office, which draws less criticism.  Partisanship instills trust in foreign policy decisions that deserves more intense scrutiny, especially when weighing the prospects of war.  This is illogical and dangerous.

Based on his actions, does President Obama really deserve the benefit of our collective doubt more than anyone else?  If so, why?  What would progressives be saying right now if President Bush was the commander-in-chief rattling the defense establishment’s sabres, calling for an military attack on Syria?  I suspect that answer is quite obvious.  There would be riots in the streets.

Accordingly, we who tend to be the most suspicious about the reasons for waging war must be entirely consistent in both our evaluation of this President’s judgement and the very real prospect we’re about to engage in what amounts to a third military conflict (following Afghanistan and Iraq) that we can neither afford financially, nor benefit from in any way.  As crass as that sounds, let’s not fool ourselves into believing there’s anything to gain by intervening in Syria.  Call it what you want — an invasion, a liberation, or an occupation.  It’s still going to cost money (and human lives) that we can ill afford to lose.

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Posted by on Apr 26, 2013 in Blog, Politics, What's Left | 5 comments

It’s Time to Charge the Bush Administration with War Crimes

 

the-atlantic

War Criminals

 

I used to believe the campaign to prosecute top Bush Administration officials as “war criminals” was a farce.

Now, I’m convinced they have a point.

Consider the revelation earlier this week which reveals (former) President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld each knew full well that many — in fact a majority — of the detainees at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp were (and are) completely innocent.

Not a few of the detainees.  A MAJORITY.

If Bush Administration officials were aware that even a single person was innocent of involvement in acts related to terrorism, but despite knowing so still demanded the individual be held for years without due process, that disclosure alone would be scandalous.  But the allegations these top officials knew that most detainees languishing behind bars inside a military prison, some being subjected to aggressive interrogation tactics, were in fact innocent isn’t just an appalling desecration of authority, but a miscarriage of justice which demands full prosecution.

A good starting point here is to expose the facts which are now known.  An article in this month’s The Atlantic magazine written by Conor Friedersdorf makes it abundantly clear that top Bush Administration officials knowingly violated the rights of hundreds of innocent people.  Accordingly to sworn testimony in federal court now coming to light, most of the more than 700 people imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay “had never seen a U.S. soldier in the process of their initial detention and their captivity had not been subjected to any meaningful review.”

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Posted by on Apr 11, 2013 in Blog, Essays, What's Left | 12 comments

Why Won’t Religion Just Leave Us Alone?

 

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CLICK HERE:  How Religion Promotes Intolerance and (Gulp!) — Even Murder

 

I’m often asked, “why bother with religion?  Why not instead just let believers pray as they do, and leave them alone?

Oh, how I wish that were possible.  If only things were only that simple.  If only there was such an option — I’d take it.

Trouble is, we don’t have that option.

We anti-theists/agnostics/atheists can’t sit idly by and “let them pray.”  We can’t “leave them alone” — for one simple reason.  Because they won’t “leave us alone.”

No.

The religious faithful insist on invading every sphere of our human existence.  They demand totalitarian control over what we do, and how we think.  They demand absolute servitude, not only to their god but to a narrow set of twisted customs and belief systems prescribed during an ancient era when the worldwide consensus was the earth was flat and deadly diseases were caused by curses.  In short, religious practitioners not only invade our space and attempt to alter our consciousness, they also desire to be our lawgiver, our landlord, and — should we break their commandments — our executioner for eternal damnation.

We anti-theists promise to remain open-minded.  We even welcome the opportunity to debate, although we’re rarely given the chance.  We’re willing to let believers think and do entirely as they wish.  They can worship, so long as they don’t expect us to live in the same imaginary temple.

To my religious friends:  You can worship your god if you so chose.  Please, go ahead.  You can attend your church.  Please, do so.  Just don’t ask the rest of us to pay for your roads, bridges, utilities, power lines, and sewers that service your houses of superstition — and then have the audacity to demand tax exemptions.

We’ll even let you poison the minds of your own families.  Personally, I think there should be a period of compulsive non-religious education, in other words, something other than church indoctrination.  But I’m willing to concede to your law-given parental right to shackle your children’s minds and buckle their brains to your own religious mythology.  As horrific as the prospect is of cult mythology passed from one generation to the next, I’m willing to let you incubate your offspring with the idolization of angels and the giant sky daddy — that is if you’ll simply let the other children be educated according to science and evidence.

Let’s agree to meet in the middle, shall we?  I’ll grant you your rights.  But your rights end where my home, my brain, and my desires begin.  I won’t violate your space if you don’t violate mine.

But religion won’t go for this.  Unfortunately, those of you who support religion not only violate my space.  You steamroller over it.

Worse, religious beliefs aren’t merely pronounced from the pulpit.  In fact, they are written into our laws.  They tell us what we can and cannot do.  They determine curriculum inside our classrooms.  They even guide our foreign policy with the rest of the world.

Consider areas of your private life where religion has invaded your personal space and denied you the option of making a decision for yourself:

— Religion seeks to sanction who can and cannot marry.

— Religion seeks to deny women the right to control of their own bodies.

— Religion seeks to restrict scientific research and inhibit potential advances in medicine.

— Religion seeks to alter the teaching of science.

— Religion seeks to censor free speech and artistic expression

— Religion seeks to control our sexual behavior — including who has sex with who to which sex acts are acceptable.

— Religion aims to prohibit the legalization of drugs.

— Religion aims to prohibit the sale or consumption of alcohol during certain hours, on some days, and in various areas.

— Religion seeks to ban and criminalize online poker and gambling.  It opposes gambling in any form when it appears as an option for voters.

— Religion seeks to ban pornography and sexually-explicit businesses.

— Religion seeks to deny you the right to die, even if you’re suffering unbearable pain.

— Religion hijacks foreign policy away from self-interest in order to serve what are alleged to be holy instructions.

_____

But religion isn’t necessarily against everything.  Churches and religious institutions — and those who support them — are for lots of things.  They overwhelmingly favor policies some might even consider hypocritical.

Here’s a short list of things religion (and religious people) tend to favor:

— Religion favors the death penalty.

— Religion favors guns, even the most deadly weapons of assault.

— Religion favors and enthusiastically supports wars, as long as we’re killing the right people.

— Religion favors censorship.

— Religion favors the imposition of restrictions on things most people enjoy — like drinking, gambling, and sex.

— Religion favors an economic system whereby corporations and the wealthy can enrich themselves at the cost of the rest of society.

— Religion favors the use of animals as consumable objects to be used and then discarded.

— Religion favors the exploitation of nature and environment purely for consumption and profit.

— Religion favors methods of torture in the name of national defense.

— Religion favors colonialism, military theatrics, and preemptive aggression.

— Religion tends to vehemently oppose other (rival) religions, resulting in hate and hostility.

 

Most of these generalities apply to modern-day Christianity.  Associated faith-based movements profess unwavering support for individual freedom.  Moreover, they rally against government involvement in the lives of ordinary citizens.  Yet when it comes to enforcing their moral codes, these same groups trumpeting individual freedom fall right into line with extremists in other religions.  Let’s call them for what they are — Taliban-light.  They want government everywhere — from our bars to our bedrooms.

Of course, this argument pales in comparison to even more troubling concerns.  As abominable as religious beliefs and believers often are, they’re only a fraction of the transcontinental state of repression and terror inflicted by the Islamic religion on the often powerless citizenry within many Muslim societies.  Judeo-Christian life might be considered downright blasphemous compared to these extreme theocracies where half the population are second-class citizens and terror is an instrument of conversion to the faith.

That said, it’s hardly a virtue for Christians to rightly claim in their defense — “at least we’re not as bad as them.”

Since I don’t believe in religion, what do I believe in?  What do I stand for?  What virtues are worth a fight?  Actually, I am a believer — though not in god or the supernatural nor superstition.

_____

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MY PERSONAL MANIFESTO

My “religion” is based on the virtues of humanism.  This means….

1.  Individual enlightenment and personal fulfillment

2.  True equality and opportunity — equality regardless of gender, sexual orientation, or race

3.  Love for humanity, animals, and the environment

4.  Freedom of speech, open exchange of ideas, and artistic expression (even if it offends me)

5.  Cooperation, not competition and conflict

6.  Constant curiosity and exploration, which includes open discussion and dialogue (about any subject)

7.  The belief that bigger, faster, and newer does not always mean better

8.  The application of logic to all questions

9.  Education based on science and fact

10.  The repudiation of lies, censorship, patience, faith, religion, and superstition.

 

Thank you for reading.

 

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Posted by on Mar 4, 2013 in Blog, What's Left | 1 comment

Catholicism Goes Up in Smoke

cheech-and-chong

 

Imagine the possibilities.

The script reads as follows:  Cheech and Chong win a free trip to Italy.  While traveling, the old Pope resigns and a new Pope gets picked.  The two dope heads somehow stumble into the Vatican.  When the new Pope finally gets chosen, white smoke is traditionally released to the crowd gathered outside in Saint Peter’s Square, and a billion cheering worshipers watching worldwide.

Cheech and Chong.  White smoke.  You can pretty much figure out the rest.

At least the plot for “Cheech and Chong Visit the Vatican” would make sense.

But nothing makes sense in Catholicism.

*     *     *

Catholics are in a state of denial, which is nothing new.  This has been a recurring problem ever since — oh, let’s see — around the year 624.

It took centuries to finally end the senseless torturing of hundreds of thousands of innocents during the Inquisition.  It took centuries to put a stop to the Crusades which sought to convert the conquered at the point of a sword.  It took centuries to save so-called heretics from being burned alive at the stake.  So why would anyone think the Catholic Church is now finally ready to turn over a brand new fig leaf and join the 19th Century, let alone the contemporary world of 2013?  The church still conducts services in Latin, for Crissakes. 

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Posted by on Jan 8, 2013 in Blog, Rants and Raves, What's Left | 2 comments

Who College Football Needs the Most

Marvin Miller

 

Marvin Miller.

That’s right.

Marvin Miller.

For those unfamiliar with that name, Marvin Miller was a man who changed sports forever.  He was arguably the most influential figure during the past 50 years when it comes to reshaping the four major professional sports leagues and revolutionizing where the money goes.

Miller died last month.  Back in his heyday, during the 1970’s, Miller headed the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA).  He’s the pioneer most responsible for transforming professional athletes from seasonal blue-collar workers into multimillionaires and celebrities.

Team owners hated Miller.  That’s because he made them all share their wealth.  Unfortunately, many sports fans also despise Miller — largely because of what the player labor movement later deteriorated into after he retired.  His aims and objectives twisted by the likes of Donald Fehr and others, Miller’s original intent was simply to achieve fairness.  He recognized that athletes possessed special skills which were not being rewarded proportionally to the risks they were taking and the sacrifices they were making.  While team owners supposedly take risks when purchasing sports franchises (highly debatable, since virtually no pro team are ever sold at a loss), it’s the athletes who take staggering levels of risks every second they’re on the field, on the court, or on the ice.  Careers can be over in an instant.  Future earning power can be shattered with the tear of a tendon.  This doesn’t even begin to address the intense pain of injuries of the potential for a lifetime of disfigurement.  Go take a look at former pro football great Earl Campbell, who can barely walk after a career in football.

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