Thank you, Jerry Brown, for standing up for constitutional democracy

Posted on: Mon, 12/22/2008 - 11:29 By: Tom Swiss

At the Huffington Post, Jeffrey Feldman reports how the bigots behind Proposition 8 are demanding that the California Supreme Court nullify the 18,000 same-sex marriages that went through before the ballot initiative - and how that state's Attorney General Jerry Brown is sticking up for the notion of constitutional government, asking the court to invalidate the Proposition 8 because it "deprives people of the right to marry, an aspect of liberty that the Supreme Court has concluded is guaranteed by the California Constitution...Proposition 8 must be invalidated because the amendment process cannot be used to extinguish fundamental constitutional rights without compelling justification."

Thank you , Jerry Brown. The will of the majority of voters cannot remove citizens' basic rights, such as equal protection under the law.

fake license places and speed cameras

Posted on: Mon, 12/22/2008 - 11:16 By: Tom Swiss

Montgomery County high school students have been "pimping" spped cameras
by creating duplicate license plates of people they're pissed off at, taping the on cars, and whizzing by automated speed traps. According to the Montgomery County Sentinel, the automated traps started in March; cameras are set up in residential zones and near schools, and a $40 ticket is mailed to the owner of a car that trips the machine.

Not the driver, mind you, in the usual gross violation of basic due process, but the owner. Or rather, as this "prank" the owner of the car with the license plate bearing the number that

Might I suggest that an excellent protest of this bit of nonsense would be to duplicate the license plates of the Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett and County Council President Phil Andrews and zip by a few speed cameras?

famous torture experiment replicated

Posted on: Sat, 12/20/2008 - 10:49 By: Tom Swiss

Researchers at Santa Clara University have replicated the findings of the famous Milgram experiment, where by using the trappings of authority they were able to get volunteers to administer torturing electrical shocks to innocent people. (The shocks were simulated, the victims actors.)

If you've never heard of the Milgram experiment, you should stop and read about it right now. Unless you're in a burning building, there is nothing more important you can do - without this understanding of authority, little in the world of human action makes sense.

Is this tendency to blindly follow authority just a laboratory artifact? Sure, there's Abu Ghraib, but maybe that was the result of military conditioning.

Sadly, the case of the fast-food joint strip searches demonstrates that very ordinary people will do horribile things on command of authority, in real life without any special training or conditioning. In over 70 cases spanning a decade, a caller was able to manipulate managers and employees of fast food restaurant into performing strip searches and other abusive acts merely by posing as a cop over the telephone.

And this, my friends, is why we must question authority. Make a habit of it.

An Open Letter to the Obama Transition Team

Posted on: Fri, 12/19/2008 - 01:21 By: Tom Swiss

Dear Mr. Obama and company:

You blew it.

You almost had me. I was on your side, all set to back you up. I was willing to overlook the backpedaling on telecomm immunity and on cannabis decriminalization. I gave money, did some canvassing for the Obama campaign on Election Day.

I wept when Barack Obama gave his Election Night speech. In that moment, hell, I would've taken a bullet for him.

I've stood up for him in the weeks since the election, defended some questionable Cabinet appointments with the idea that we should wait to see what policy decisions will be made, that some compromise would be necessary to get things done.

But for you to endorse a bigoted, anti-science, anti-choice, anti-religious liberty figure like Rick Warren by choosing him to give the invocation at the Inauguration...

Nope. I'm out.

Yes, the New Deal worked

Posted on: Tue, 12/16/2008 - 12:06 By: Tom Swiss

With talk of federal spending to help the economic recovery, it's become a right-wing talking point that FDR's New Deal didn't work.

Like most talking points from right-wing pundits these days, it's a bunch of malarkey.

Employment began to recover in FDR's first term. By 1937, the labor force had reached just short of the boom's 1929 peak. In 1937, conservative opposition slowed New Deal projects - and employment fell again, though not as steeply. Opposition ebbed, the New Deal was strengthened, and employment recovered to higher than 1929 levels - and was trending still higher - by 1940, before the U.S. entry into WWII. (Note this chart shows non-farm, non-WPA employment.)

the $70-an-hour autoworker lie

Posted on: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 18:58 By: Tom Swiss

The Huffington Post takes the New York Times to task for claiming that Big Three auto workers are making $70 an hour:

As Media Matters and other critics reported last week, it's a conservative myth concocted by totaling all wages, plus health and benefit costs to current workers and 450,000 retirees and their families -- and then deceptively dividing that huge total payout by the number of current UAW workers, about 140,000 in Detroit.

Obama victory means more vampire flicks?

Posted on: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 18:53 By: Tom Swiss

This story from SignOnSanDiego.com claims that during Democratic administrations, vampire movies are popular, while GOP ascendence corresponds with more zombie flicks:

“Democrats, who want to redistribute wealth to 'Main Street,' fear the Wall Street vampires who bleed the nation dry,” Newitz argued, noting that Dracula and his ilk arose from the aristocracy. “Republicans fear a revolt of the poor and disenfranchised, dressed in rags and coming to the White House to eat their brains.”

Or perhaps the bloodsuckers' latest incarnation, as less-threatening undead citizens, reflects a more inclusive politics. “Suddenly,” said Robert Thompson, professor of television and popular culture at Syracuse University, “the vampires have become people just like us.”

“After the upsurge of zombie films that symptomized the Bush era, the latest re-investment in vampirism signals hopefulness,” said Larry Rickels, a UC Santa Barbara professor of German and comparative literature.

Kentucky law says "dependence on Almighty God [is] vital to the security of the Commonwealth"

Posted on: Sat, 12/06/2008 - 15:03 By: Tom Swiss

Just in case you thought for a second you were living in a sane country: in Kentucky in 2006, state Rep. Tom Riner, a Southern Baptist minister, got an amendment into homeland security legislation that requires the Kentucky Office of Homeland Security to stress "dependence on Almighty God as being vital to the security of the Commonwealth."

According to the Lexington Herald-Leader, Riner "said he expects Homeland Security to include language recognizing God's benevolent protection in its official reports and other materials — sometimes the agency does, and sometimes it doesn't — and to maintain a plaque with that message at the state's Emergency Operations Center in Frankfort."

American Atheists and 10 "non-religious" Kentuckians are filing suit to get rid of this bullshit. The suit notes that the 9/11 attacks which led to the founding of Homeland Security departments were carried out by religious fundamentalists, referring to 9/11 as "a faith-based initiative."

Evangelical teens say they believe in abstainance, but are more sexually active (wish I'd known then...)

Posted on: Wed, 11/26/2008 - 23:18 By: Tom Swiss

Margaret Talbot reports in The New Yorker on how religion influences what evangelical teens say they think about sex - and who it impoacts what they actually do:

Regnerus argues that religion is a good indicator of attitudes toward sex, but a poor one of sexual behavior, and that this gap is especially wide among teen-agers who identify themselves as evangelical. The vast majority of white evangelical adolescents—seventy-four per cent—say that they believe in abstaining from sex before marriage... evangelical virgins are the least likely to anticipate that sex will be pleasurable, and the most likely to believe that having sex will cause their partners to lose respect for them. (Jews most often cite pleasure as a reason to have sex, and say that an unplanned pregnancy would be an embarrassment.) But, according to Add Health data, evangelical teen-agers are more sexually active than Mormons, mainline Protestants, and Jews. On average, white evangelical Protestants make their “sexual début”—to use the festive term of social-science researchers—shortly after turning sixteen. Among major religious groups, only black Protestants begin having sex earlier.

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