Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Voter Caging: The legal way to supressing voters!

I came across this interesting article online, which reminded me of a bunch of stuff that I already knew, but which was floating around the back of my head, amid memories of last week's television, music, and video game strategies I'm currently using. Jim Crow Lawswere the series of laws in southern states, which from 1876 till 1965, kept black people separate and unequal from the white population. Part of the Jim Crow laws were rules about voting, which kept black people's vote from getting counted, or which prevented them from even voting in the first place.

One way Black voters were prevented from voting was the POll Tax, which denied votes to people who payed no income tax (as many black people had no income). The most famous way black voters were kept from voting in some parts of the south, were laws mandating that all voters must pass a reading test prior to voting. White voters would rarely, in fact, almost never, be challenged at the polls to take these tests. Only black people were given them. The Black voters would arrive and be given a book to read a passage from. The book would be written in a foreign language like Greek or Classical Latin, and of course, inevitably, the black voter could not read it, so they would not be allowed to vote.

Nowadays, however, more modern, computerized ways of voter supression are being used, and almost exclusively by the Republican party. The practice is called Voter Caging, and is traced to the telemarketer term used to describe how mass marketing firms send out junk mail to addresses on their databases, and erase the entries of people whose mail comes back as "undeliverable".

This is exactly what happened in the 2004 election. But the story is a little more complicated than that. Republicans have been challenging black people's votes, and districts which vote mostly democrat, all throughout the 20th century. They in fact, are the only political party that regularly makes accusations of voting fraud, and which seeks court orders challenging whole districts and individuals.

According to BBC reporter Greg Palast, best-selling journalist, and accused terrorist, the GOP has offices all over the country which work in advance of elections to challenge votes in every state.

According to Slate magazine:

The Bush-Cheney operatives sent hundreds of thousands of letters marked "Do not forward" to voters' homes. Letters returned ("caged") were used as evidence to block these voters' right to cast a ballot on grounds they were registered at phony addresses. Who were the evil fakers? Homeless men, students on vacation and—you got to love this—American soldiers. Oh yeah: most of them are Black voters.

Why weren't these African-American voters home when the Republican letters arrived? The homeless men were on park benches, the students were on vacation—and the soldiers were overseas.

In 1986, the RNC tried to have 31,000 voters, most of them black, removed from the rolls in Louisiana when a party mailer was returned. The consent decrees that resulted prohibited the party from engaging in anti-fraud initiatives that target minorities or conduct mail campaigns to 'compile voter challenge lists.'

Back in 2004, many of the Republican's challenges were routinely denied action by the courts, which had come to see the annual voter challenges for what they were.

New targets for the Republicans now include people whose homes were foreclosed on during the recent mortgage crisis. Apparently, if you've lost your house, you stand a good chance of losing your vote, as well.

The whole process by which the Republicans perform this voter supression, is outlined in this report, which explains the whole chain of discoveries that led reporters to figure this all out.

But perhaps the biggest eye-opener in this is the fact that many of the Judges that the Bush administration fired amid great contraversy, were judges who declined to investigate Republican challenges to votes during the 2004 elections. Apparently the republicans are punishing them for not helping them prevent more people from voting against them.

Friday, September 19, 2008

This is Your Nation on White Privilege

I didn't write this. I got it from The Red Room, but found it so compelling and utterly full of the irony of the Republicans, and the way they reason their way into self-contradiction, that I had to share it. Tim Wise not only hits the nail on the head with why these hypocrites should not be trusted, but he pretty much completely demolishes any notion that McCain and Palin are honorable people who are who they try to market themselves as. So please enjoy this. I am going to look up relevant links to all the facts listed here, which will take time, so keep checking in from time to time as they are added.

This is Your Nation on White Privilege
by Tim Wise

For those who still can’t grasp the concept of white privilege, or who are looking for some easy-to-understand examples of it,perhaps this list will help.

White privilege is when you can get pregnant at seventeen like Bristol Palin and everyone is quick to insist that your life and that of your family is a personal matter, and that no one has a right to judge you or your parents, because “every family has challenges,” even as black and Latino families with similar “challenges” are regularly typified as irresponsible, pathological and arbiters of social decay.

White privilege is when you can call yourself a “fuckin’ redneck,” like Bristol Palin’s boyfriend does, and talk about how if anyone messes with you, you'll “kick their fuckin' ass,” and talk about how you like to “shoot shit” for fun, and still be viewed as a responsible, all-American boy (and a great son-in-law to be) rather than a thug.

White privilege is when you can attend four different colleges in six years like Sarah Palin did (one of which you basically failed out of, then returned to after making up some coursework at a community college), and no one questions your intelligence or commitment to achievement, whereas a person of color who did this would be viewed as unfit for college, and probably someone who only got in in the first place because of affirmative action.

White privilege is when you can claim that being mayor of a town smaller than most medium-sized colleges, and then Governor of a state with about the same number of people as the lower fifth of the island of Manhattan, makes you ready to potentially be president, and people don’t all piss on themselves with laughter, while being a black U.S. Senator, two-term state Senator, and constitutional law scholar, means you’re “untested.”

White privilege is being able to say that you support the words “under God” in the pledge of allegiance because “if it was good enough for the founding fathers, it’s good enough for me,” and not be immediately disqualified from holding office--since, after all, the pledge was written in the late 1800s and the “under God” part wasn’t added until the 1950s--while if you're black and believe in reading accused criminals and terrorists their rights (because the Constitution, which you used to teach at a prestigious law school, requires it), you are a dangerous and mushy liberal who isn't fit to safeguard American institutions.

White privilege is being able to be a gun enthusiast and not make people immediately scared of you.

White privilege is being able to have a husband who was a member of an extremist political party that wants your state to secede from the Union, and whose motto is “Alaska first,” and no one questions your patriotism or that of your family, while if you're black and your spouse merely fails to come to a 9/11 memorial so she can be home with her kids on the first day of school, people immediately think she’s being disrespectful.

White privilege is being able to make fun of community organizers and the work they do -- like, among other things, fight for the right of women to vote, or for civil rights, or the 8-hour workday, or an end to child labor--and people think you’re being pithy and tough, but if you merely question the experience of a small town mayor and 18-month governor with no foreign policy expertise beyond a class she took in college and the fact that she lives close to Russia -- you’re somehow being mean, or even sexist.

White privilege is being able to convince white women who don’t even agree with you on any substantive issue to vote for you and your running mate anyway, because suddenly your presence on the ticket has inspired confidence in these same white women, and made them give your party a “second look.”

White privilege is being able to fire people who didn’t support your political campaigns and not be accused of abusing your power or being a typical politician who engages in favoritism, while being black and merely knowing some folks from the old-line political machines in Chicago means you must be corrupt.

White privilege is when you can take nearly twenty-four hours to get to a hospital after beginning to leak amniotic fluid, and still be viewed as a great mom whose commitment to her children is unquestionable, and whose "next door neighbor" qualities make her ready to be VP, while if you're a black candidate for president and you let your children be interviewed for a few seconds on TV, you're irresponsibly exploiting them.

White privilege is being able to give a 36 minute speech in which you talk about lipstick and make fun of your opponent, while laying out no substantive policy positions on any issue at all, and still manage to be considered a legitimate candidate, while a black person who gives an hour speech the week before, in which he lays out specific policy proposals on several issues, is still criticized for being too vague about what he would do if elected.

White privilege is being able to attend churches over the years whose pastors say that people who voted for John Kerry or merely criticize George W. Bush are going to hell, and that the U.S. is an explicitly Christian nation and the job of Christians is to bring Christian theological principles into government, and who bring in speakers who say the conflict in the Middle East is God’s punishment on Jews for rejecting Jesus, and everyone can still think you’re just a good church-going Christian, but if you’re black and friends with a black pastor who has noted (as have Colin Powell and the U.S. Department of Defense) that terrorist attacks are often the result of U.S. foreign policy and who talks about the history of racism and its effect on black people, you’re an extremist who probably hates America.

White privilege is not knowing what the Bush Doctrine is when asked by a reporter, and then people get angry at the reporter for asking you such a “trick question,” while being black and merely refusing to give one-word answers to the queries of Bill O’Reilly means you’re dodging the question, or trying to seem overly intellectual and nuanced.

White privilege is being able to go to a prestigious prep school, then to Yale and then Harvard Business school, and yet, still be seen as just an average guy (George W. Bush) while being black, going to a prestigious prep school, then Occidental College, then Columbia, and then to Harvard Law, makes you "uppity," and a snob who probably looks down on regular folks.

White privilege is being able to graduate near the bottom of your college class (McCain), or graduate with a C average from Yale (W.) and that's OK, and you're cut out to be president, but if you're black and you graduate near the top of your class from Harvard Law, you can't be trusted to make good decisions in office.

White privilege is being able to dump your first wife after she's disfigured in a car crash so you can take up with a multi-millionaire beauty queen (who you go on to call the c-word in public) and still be thought of as a man of strong family values, while if you're black and married for nearly twenty years to the same woman, your family is viewed as un-American and your gestures of affection for each other are called "terrorist fist bumps."

White privilege is when you can develop a pain-killer addiction, having obtained your drug of choice illegally like Cindy McCain, go on to beat that addiction, and everyone praises you for being so strong, while being a black guy who smoked pot a few times in college and never became an addict means people will wonder if perhaps you still get high, and even ask whether or not you ever sold drugs.

White privilege is being able to sing a song about bombing Iran and still be viewed as a sober and rational statesman, with the maturity to be president, while being black and suggesting that the U.S. should speak with other nations, even when we have disagreements with them, makes you "dangerously naive and immature."

White privilege is being able to claim your experience as a POW has anything at all to do with your fitness for president, while being black and experiencing racism and an absent father is apparently among the "lesser adversities" faced by other politicians, as Sarah Palin explained in her convention speech.

And finally, white privilege is the only thing that could possibly allow someone to become president when he has voted with George W. Bush 90 percent of the time, even as unemployment is skyrocketing, people are losing their homes, inflation is rising, and the U.S. is increasingly isolated from world opinion, just because a lot of white voters aren’t sure about that whole “change” thing. Ya know, it’s just too vague and ill-defined, unlike, say, four more years of the same, which is very concrete and certain.

White privilege is, in short, the problem.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

A Heartbeat away!

Think Sarah Palin is ready to be Vice president -- or potentially the President?
When asked her opinion of the recent government takeover of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, Palin ignorantly stated that the two had “gotten too big and too expensive to the taxpayers,” which shows a basic ignorance of what were not government programs, but private corporations!

Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae are privately owned banks that were no burden at all to taxpayers. As the federal government takes them over, they will now become our burden. This basic ignorance of these two well-known institutions, and Palin's ignorant comments about them should concern anyone who votes for McCain. Do we want someone in the white house who is so ignorant that they don't even know the basic facts of a currently in-the-news organization?

Of course, what happened to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac is not unlike what happened in the Savings and Loan crisis in the late 1980s. Guess who was receiving bribe money from Charles Keating during that scandal, and publicly rebuked by the senate back then? You guessed it -- John McCain! Can we really trust this guy, who helped bring about one of the costliest financial scandals in US history, and who willingly accepted bribe money and attempted to obstruct justice? Because of people like McCain accepting bribes to lobby on behalf of financial criminals, US taxpayers had to shell out 160 billion dollars. Neil Bush, son of former president George H. Bush, alone, cost taxpayers 1.6 billion dollars!

In the Savings and loan Scandal, McCain was cleared of impropriety, but publicly condemned for exercising poor judgement. What does this speak of his character, even now? He makes poor judgements, apparently, and his running mate is clueless. What a great combination!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Palin is a Religious nut-job, plain and simple!

I'm not going to hide behind any careful wording here, because it's not really neccesary. The title says exactly what any reasonable person will conclude after they see the evidence I present.

But first, let's go back a few months and see what happened in the press when someone commented about Barack Obama's former pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright. As you will remember, Wright made a few statements that can be considered highly charged and inflamatory rhetoric. Wright said things that a lot of people think, and which he presented as opinions, as opposed to what God was telling him to say. In fact, he pretty much never claimed to be God's mouthpiece when making these statements. For example:

"The government gives them the drugs, builds bigger prisons, passes a three-strike law and then wants us to sing 'God Bless America.' No, no, no, God damn America, that's in the Bible for killing innocent people... God damn America for treating our citizens as less than human. God damn America for as long as she acts like she is God and she is supreme."

In it's context, there really isn't anything insane about this rhetoric. He's merely stating a political opinion, and using facts and opinions. This is not something that we can really point out as evidence of insanity on Wright's part, or Obama's part, for attending his church. The plight of Americans of african heritage is pretty well documented and lived by millions of people. Wright, and many other Americans of African ancestry are pretty well justified in their anger, and are entitled to these opinions.

As we remember, the media took this story and essentially condemned Obama's relationship with Rev. Wright, to the extent that Obama had to publicly denounce him. Well, let's hope the media is fair to Obama, and takes an honest look at Sarah Palin, because old video of her at her church reveals something that should be considered far more contraversial, and perhaps reveals that her beliefs are quite insane. The videos come from the official Wasilla Assembly Of God Church website, and when they showed up on You Tube, the church took them down. A direct link to their online video library is here.

You can watch some of the video of Palin addressing her church over at the Huffington Post. I mean, she literally tells these people that getting an oil pipeline built is God's will, and that the Alaskan government can only do good when the people are "right with God". Okay, maybe that's not too contraversial. Lots of reasonable people in America talk that way. Hold on, there's more.

Her church holds weekly prophecy sessions, and in this video, Palin learns that we're living in the final days, before the end times, and that the Iraq war is God's will. Scary stuff. Lots of fundamentalist nut-jobs believe this stuff. Do we really want to have this person one heartbeat away from the presidency? I mean, we just spent 8 years having George W. Bush, who believes many of the same idiotic things, ruin this nation's economy, world alliances, and cheapen the constitution.

Oh, so you don't think that's so bad? OKay, watch this video of Palin's church, as these people act like lunatics running amock in an insane asylum.

Think Palin has normal beliefs now? Think this church, which she is still a proud member of, is a normal church, full of normal average folks? Want to see a future vice president or potentially a president roll around on the floor, mumbling gibberish, and foaming at the mouth? Better yet -- think foreign diplomats would be amused by it if she did it for them while they were visiting her in the White House?

Let's get real, folks. Palin is a fundamentalist whack-tard, as are all people whose churches teach this end-days prophecy shit, and who do the Jesus-boogie on the floor while speaking in tongues. It is insane behavior, period. No sane individuals do this kind of stuff, or believe that kind of prophecy crap. The press needs to air these videos, to be fair to Obama, because of the lynching he got for what Rev. Wright said. Rev. Wright may have pissed off some white people when he made his remarks, but at least he didn't jiggle around on the floor like someone getting holy shock-treatments from the lord. Be fair. Show Palin's church to the world so everyone can be fully informed about McCain's Vice Presidential pick.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Is Atheism a Religion?

Ray Comfort, once again, is repeating himself, and perhaps a gazillion other droolers like him, when he responds to an atheist rightfully claiming that atheism is not a religion.
Ray comfort drooled:

It’s interesting to note that one definition of religion is:

"A cause, principle, or activity pursued with zeal or conscientious devotion."

He just stops right there with the definition. You will note that this is only one of the many definitions of religion. Here is the rest of the dictionary entry for "religion":

  • 1. a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, esp. when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.
  • 2. a specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally agreed upon by a number of persons or sects: the Christian religion; the Buddhist religion.
  • 3. the body of persons adhering to a particular set of beliefs and practices: a world council of religions.
  • 4. the life or state of a monk, nun, etc.: to enter religion.
  • 5. the practice of religious beliefs; ritual observance of faith.
  • 6. something one believes in and follows devotedly; a point or matter of ethics or conscience: to make a religion of fighting prejudice.
  • 7. religions, Archaic. religious rites.
  • 8. Archaic. strict faithfulness; devotion: a religion to one's vow.

This is very typical of religious people who insist that anything that they are opposed to is just another religion, as though everyone's religious views are equally valid when it's just one religion against another.

Of course, it also completely ignores what people usually understand when they read or speak the word "religion" in conversation. Most people in real life associate "religion" with robes, silly hats, candles, prayers, ceremony, clergy-collars, churches, holy books, priests, nuns, and clergy.

Ray continues:

That rightly describes the ardent atheist cause. Despite protests to the contrary by its faithful adherents, atheism is a form of religion.

Despite being educated in an English speaking country, Ray continues to have trouble thinking his thoughs over and proofreading.

"A cause, principle, or activity pursued with zeal or conscientious devotion." does not describe "the ardent atheist cause" at all. It doesn't even tell us anything about atheism. Ray's selective word definition can describe anything from being a sports fan, a Ford automobile enthusiast, a political activist, a collector, Soccer-moms, musicians or music fans, and a whole spectrum of different activities that people "pursue with zeal or conscientious devotion."

Being possibly one of the dumbest people in the English Speaking world, Ray, like all the idiots who echoe his statement (he's not the first person to make this argument by far) doesn't realize that not only is he pretty much calling any activity that is pursued with zeal and devotion, a religion, he's completely devaluing the concept of "religion" by equating himself and what he does with those guys who paint their faces blue and shout slogans in the stands at football games (which you have to admit is kind of close to what I equate religious people with).

Ray continues:

Though their numbers are small—-only 2 percent of the world’s 6.5 billion inhabitants—atheists are an ever-growing group of people with a "belief" system. Although many flinch at the thought that they have faith in anything, they believe that there’s no God, and even have "works" to confirm it.

Atheism is apparently a "belief system". Of course, whenever hard pressed to list the basic tennants of this belief system, most religious people will either pooh-pooh it and make a joke answer up, or they will try to conflate "atheism" with liberalism, evolution, communism, abortion, homosexuality, and other topics.

Ray concludes:

Their lifestyle is fruit of their belief system.

This implies that there is automatically something unpleasant or negative about the lifestyle of the average atheist. Of course, no details are ever given about what, in the lifestyle of an atheist, is not acceptable or pleasant. This is because like most of the brain damaged preachers out there who crusade against their "enemy of the week", Ray has no idea what the "atheist lifestyle" is, because he's never asked. In fact, if he did ask, he wouldn't find much commonality between atheists in their lifestyles that differs from that of the average Christian, beyond not going to church and not believing in gods. Atheists have lifestyles that are representative of a cross-section of society. There are certainly a lot fewer atheists in our prisons, which I can't interpret as saying anything bad about our lifestyle.