Wednesday, April 29, 2009

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Monday, April 27, 2009

Meaning in Life

After a cheap shot claiming I want to abridge the right of a free press to print what it deems news, and a false claim that I said “the Easter celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ is a concoction of the Bronze Age mentality that arose out of ignorance and superstition,” [which of course it is], George Vavrek in a recent “My Turn” op-ed in The Daily World got down to his point: in essence the writer claimed that I and other atheists believe there is no meaning or purpose to our existence. He made this claim so that he could put in a plug for the wonders of Easter and his belief that “the resurrection of Jesus Christ . . . is the key to knowing the answers to life’s most important questions. . . .” In other words, the writer is yet another delusional, sky-god, true-believer. Certainly he is entitled to his delusions but I wish the sky-goders would stop telling those of us who do not adhere to their theistic delusions what we believe. In fact, contrary to what Vavrek claims for me, I know that there is meaning and purpose to our existence - - not in the sense that Vavrek means when he uses those terms, that some sky-god will provide answers in an afterlife and for Vavrek and other sky-goders the meaning and purpose in life is to serve their god, obey authority and await His revelations after death.

No, the meaning and purpose to our existence comes from life itself. The universe, life on this planet is wondrous, lush, mystifying and amazing, full of aesthetic inspiration and existential feeling.

One need not have Jesus to experience the joy of living. There is a “sense of amazement, and [a] deep, almost mystical appreciation,” says atheist Phil Zuckerman, a “sweetly, wistfully, mournfully churning” when one sees crocus pushing their leaves out of the ground after a hard winter, the buds on the fruit trees swelling as the weather warms, when one hears a Mozart concerto late at night or sees a magnificent Broadway musical, remembering my grandmother, smelling dirt in my hands as I garden, read a good book, watch the waves break over the cliffs during a storm on the Oregon coast, “act altruistically” or attend an anti-war march. Meaning and purpose for existence come through these sensations “not to mention a deep sense of the profound mystery that is existence, the beauty that is creativity, and the power that is justice.”

Contrary to what sky-goders claim, being an atheist does not mean that a person does not have morals or that one believes in nothing. I believe in a lot of things: single-payer health care for all citizens; the prohibitions enumerated in the First, Fourth and Fifth Amendments; the rights of people to live free from fear and free from want; protecting the environment; the right of marriage for gay people; economic justice fighting racism. Many of the things in which I believe sky-goders have opposed - - women’s rights, gay rights, the rights of Black people to live as equal citizens. Many things sky-goders believe in I have opposed; the death penalty; torture; preemptive war; McCarthyism.

I believe, as do secular humanists, “in the potential of humans to solve problems and make a world a better, safer, and more just place . . . reason, science, and rational inquiry . . [a commitment to] democracy, tolerance, open debate, human rights.”

Life and living are far from meaningless. “Existence,” Zuckerman writes, “is ultimately a beautiful mystery: being alive is a wellspring of wonder, and the deepest questions of life, death, time, and space are so powerful as to inspire deep feelings of joy, poignancy, and sublime awe. Atheists ask those deep questions; examine themselves; seek answers although I suspect that most of us know we will never find the answers. It’s enough to ask the questions. I wish the sky-goders would ask more questions rather than proclaim their hubristic knowledge in the answers.

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Bet she wishes she could have this one back.

Hey, Susan? Think any those sick people might be workers?

From HuffPo

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Sunday, April 19, 2009

"Government is too big!" - Rick Perry's Hypocrisy

Galveston, Texas is going through an enormous disaster this weekend. Flooding at critical levels brought on by thunderstorms is causing great distress in the region.

Just two days after whined the federal government oppression:

Perry told reporters following his speech that Texans might get so frustrated with the government they would want to secede from the union.

“There’s absolutely no reason to dissolve it. But if Washington continues to thumb their nose at the American people, you know, who knows what might come out of that.”

...the Governor calls federal aid due to a disaster.

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Monday, April 13, 2009

Havana calling...

President Obama lifted travel restrictions to Cuba on Monday.

There was no mention in the Executive Order regarding the number of Cohibas that can legally be brought back in to the States.

The Wrong Wing, of course will be in partial melt down after White House Latin American policy adviser Dan Restrepo spoke in Spanish from the Press podium. It seems it may be the first time a foreign language was uttered in the Press Room... not counting some of comments made by President Bush, of course.

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Sunday, April 12, 2009

This is a good thing. Happy Easter.

U.S. Sea Captain Freed In Swift Firefight

U.S. Navy snipers opened fire and killed three pirates holding an American captain at gunpoint, delivering the skipper unharmed and ending a five-day high-seas hostage drama on Easter Sunday.

Capt. Richard Phillips was in "imminent danger" of being killed before snipers shot the pirates in an operation authorized by President Obama, Vice Adm. Bill Gortney said.

He said the pirates were armed with AK-47s and small-caliber pistols and were pointing the rifles at the captain when the commander of the nearby USS Bainbridge gave the order to open fire.

Gortney, the commander of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, said the White House had given "very clear guidance and authority" to take action if Phillips' life was in danger.

Phillips' crew, who said they had escaped after he offered himself as a hostage, erupted in cheers aboard their ship docked in Mombasa, Kenya. Some waved an American flag and fired flares in celebration.

Phillips, 53, of Underhill, Vt., was not hurt in several minutes of gunfire and the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet said he was resting comfortably on a U.S. warship after receiving a medical exam.
"I'm just the byline. The real heroes are the Navy, the SEALs, those who have brought me home," Phillips said by phone to Maersk Line Limited President and CEO John Reinhart, the company head told reporters. A photo released by the Navy showed Phillips unharmed and shaking hands with the commanding officer of the Bainbridge.

Obama said Phillips had courage that was "a model for all Americans" and he was pleased about the rescue, adding that the United States needs help from other countries to deal with the threat of piracy and to hold pirates accountable.

The Defense Department twice asked Obama for permission to use military force to rescue Phillips, most recently late Friday evening, U.S. officials said. On Saturday morning, Obama signed off on the Pentagon's request, as he had a day earlier, said the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

The Navy said Phillips was freed at 7:19 p.m. local time. He was taken aboard the Norfolk, Va.-based Bainbridge and then flown to the San Diego-based USS Boxer for the medical exam, 5th Fleet spokesman Lt. Nathan Christensen said.

Gortney said Richard Phillips was found to be in good health and suffered no apparent injuries despite being "tied up inside the lifeboat" over much of the ordeal. The USS Boxer was in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Somalia, Christensen said.


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Friday, April 10, 2009

No More Dicks in Congress

I gotta tell ya, when I decided to run for Congress last year I had no idea how our sainted Congressman, Norm Dicks, is beloved around the country - - from our little corner of the Pacific Northwest all the way to, well, take Florida, for instance. Who could have guessed that our humble, folksy, member of Congress has worked his way into the hearts of common, work-a-day guys in Florida - - working people like Amelia Island, Ritz-Carlton sommelier John Pugliese. Amelia Island is in the Atlantic off the coast of Florida near Jacksonville. For those of us who don’t dine regularly at the Ritz-Carlton, a sommelier is a French term for a waiter who is in charge of wines. Now waiters in Florida, waiters at the Ritz-Carlton must make a lot of money - - further proof that I may have chosen the wrong profession - - because since the summer of 2005, John Pugliese has given $77,000 to members of the Senate and the House. Or how about Jon C. Walker, another Floridian, who works at both the Ritz-Carlton and the Amelia Island Golf Club. He must put in a lot of overtime at both jobs. At any rate, he still had time to read up on, and, like Pugliese, evidently really come to appreciate the hard work of our Norm. On 25 May 2006, Pugliese and Walker donated $4,000 to Dicks campaign. Not long after those donations our Norm told the Seattle Times, “People, if they want to support me, they support me,” while a spokesman for Dicks, George Behan, said he found nothing suspicious about the donation.

Suspicious? Why would anyone find $77,000 in donations from a Ritz-Carlton sommelier suspicious? All in a day’s donations for our Norm. As it turns out, the FBI and Justice Department prosecutors actually finds those donations suspicious. It seems that the powerhouse lobbying firm PMA Group, which is closing its doors next week, is under suspicion for having used “straw campaign contributors” - - sirs Walker and Pugliese for instance, to funnel large sums of illegal cash to members of Congress - - a felony that could carry a minimum sentence of five years. Senator Patty Murray, who also accepted cash from the Florida Two and Dicks will probably walk away unscathed but their involvement in this shady business is a timely reminder about the corrupt nature of the whole campaign finance system.

As I mentioned repeatedly during the campaign and as the Seattle Times David Heath wrote recently, “Congressman Norm Dicks has never been shy about accepting campaign donations from favor seekers.” Between 2001 and 2007 Norm Dicks landed $434,800 in campaign contributions just from military-related contractors and many PMA clients -- businesses for which he then put earmarks in the federal budget. The list of companies involved in this disgusting legalized bribery reads like a who’s who of the military-industrial-congressional complex: Boeing, $49,500; Science Applications International, $27, 750; Lockheed Martin, $27,000; General Dynamics, $26,500; Raytheon, $21,000; Northrop Grumman, $20,000; and on and on and on.

This system of contributions for earmarks is a betrayal of the public trust. No member of Congress should ever accept a campaign contribution from an individual or a company or a lobbyist for a company that receives federal funding. That’s bribery and it should be illegal. We must establish a system of public financing to destroy the influence of dirty money.

I’m not sure why Democrats keep supporting our Norm who has been in Congress way to long. “We have to be loyal to what we believe,” the comedian Bill Mahar said recently, “not to people.”

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A $91 Billion gift to their friends

Washington State Senators Murray and Cantwell were among the 10 Democrats joining all 41 Republicans to cut estate taxes for America's wealthiest families.

We'll have to wait and see what comes out of the compromise bill. The give-away to the rich is not in the House bill nor in the Obama budget.

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Thursday, April 02, 2009

Diplomacy... after eight years in the wilderness

Obama Plays Peacemaker in French-Chinese Smackdown Over Tax Havens

Jake Tapper - ABC News

According to sources inside the room, President Obama just played peacemaker in a spat between French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Hu Jintao, President of the People's Republic of China.

In the finaly plenary session among the G-20 leaders, Sarkozy and Hu were having a heated disagreement about tax havens.

France and other European nations have been pushing for rules and regulations to apply to various tax havens; Germany's Finance Minister Peer Steinbrueck has said "these tax havens are also places where unregulated financial market deals are made."

But Chinese leaders fear a crackdown would hurt banking centers in Macao, Shanghai and Hong Kong. Other countries agree, though they are less outspoken publicly.

The exchange between Sarkozy and Hu got so heated, said a source -- who is not a member of the Obama administration -- it was threatening the unity of the G-20 leaders' meeting.

"They were going through the revised draft," a senior Obama administration official said.

The issue: Sarko wanted "a list of non-compliant jurisdictions," tones that allow tax havens, he senior official said. "Other countries wanted it too, but (Sarkozy) was the most outspoken."

Sarkozy specifically was pushing for a list from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) to be included in the G-20 Leaders' Statement.

Headquartered in Paris, the OECD has 30 member countries -- all capitalist democracies.

China opposed any such list being included in the final Leaders' Statement.

"China tends to have a problem endorsing the documents of organizations like the OECD that they're not a party to," the senior administration official said.

But Mr. Obama, according to this account, stepped between the two men, urging them to try to find consensus, and giving them a "pep talk" about the importance of working together.

The senior adminstration official said that Mr. Obama pulled Mr. Sarkozy aside, took him to a corner, "and discussed possible alternatives," the senior official said.

Once they arrived at one, President Obama "sent a message to the Chinese" that a counter-offer was on the table. The Chinese spent some time considering the offer. But they took a few minutes.

So Mr. Obama, with the assistance of translators, suggested that he and Mr. Hu have a conversation as well. They, too went to the corner to talk. After a few minutes, Mr. Obama called upon Mr. Sarkozy to join them.

"Translators and sherpas in tow, they reached an agreement," the official said. "There was a multiple shaking of hands."

The agreement: the final G-20 document would state that the G-20 nations "stand ready to deploy sanctions to protect our public finances and financial systems. The era of banking secrecy is over. We note that the OECD has today published a list of countries assessed by the Global Forum against the international standard for exchange of tax information."

The Obama administration official described this compromise as a "meeting in the middle." The word "note" -- as in "we note the OECD has today published a list" -- doesn't necessarily carry any weight.

Moreover, any sanctions are "future-oriented," the senior official said, meaning there are as of now no actual sanctions.

The OECD also has yet to publish any such list, though Obama adminstration officials said the organization would do so today.

Soon after Mr. Obama helped to resolve the problem, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced that "we have agreed to tough standards for those (tax shelters) who don't come into line in the future," which seems to overstate the case.

"I'd suggest we'd still be in there had he not done this," the senior Obama administration official said.

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