War on faith… by those of faith

Something to remember as the far right tries to rile up their Christian base with talk of a War on Faith is that about 80% of Americans* are Christian, compared to only about 15% non-religious, atheist or agnostic. So when they say there’s a war on faith, especially in the broader context of a “culture war,” they don’t mean a battle between the faithful and the non-faithful. They mean a battle between their conservative orthodoxy and moderate people of faith.

*American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS) 2001. Percentages are out of the 196,734 people who agreed to answer the question.

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Understanding people different from yourself…

Understanding people different from yourself. That’s supposed to be on the “Blue State” side of the big stereotype slate that’s written in somebody’s guidebook, isn’t it? (You know, the one that says if I’m in favor of gun control then I have to be anti-Israel, and vice versa?)

Heather Hurlburt at Democracy Arsenal has a nice short post on 10 steps Democrats can take to get back on the map WRT national security. Kevin Drum at Political Animal quotes one particular example:

Step 6. Every progressive takes a personal vow to learn something about our military, how it works, what its ethos is, and how it affects our society at all levels — as well as what it does well and less well in the wider world.

Sounds like good advice. Also reminds me of a great piece that NPR’s On The Media did last month about how journalists, in general, just don’t understand gun issues or gun owners, and how they really need to start.

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Same-sex marriage ban struck down in CA (step one)

A SF Superior Court judge just ruled that California’s ban on same-sex marriage goes against the state constitution — now it goes on to the state Supreme Court. From the SF Chronicle blurb:

Rejecting California Attorney General Bill Lockyer’s argument that California is entitled to maintain the traditional definition of marriage, Kramer said the same explanation was offered for the state’s ban on interracial marriage, which was struck down by the state Supreme Court in 1948.

The judge also rejected arguments by opponents of same-sex marriage that the current law promotes procreation and child-rearing by a husband and wife. “One does not have to be married in order to procreate, nor does one have to procreate in order to marry,” Kramer said.

Update 3/18/05: updated the title to no longer mean the opposite of what I meant (by adding the word ban).

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Moon-Mars mission a poison pill?

Bob Parks over at What’s New suggests it is…

So what’s really behind “The Vision”? Why is the administration pushing so hard for a science initiative that scientists scorn, and which won’t take place on Bush’s watch? Ah, but that’s the plan. It will be up to the next administration, stuck with a huge deficit, to decide whether to go ahead with a meaningless but staggeringly expensive program to see if humans can do what robots are already doing. As one well-informed NASA watcher put it, “Moon-Mars is a poison pill. It hangs responsibility for ending the humans-in-space program on the next administration.”

Of course, the same could be said of Bush’s tax cut on the one hand and all his red-ink on other — it might just be a mixed blessing to the Republicans to not have at least one Democrat majority to blame by the time all the chickens are back home to roost.

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ACLU and Human Rights First Sue Rumsfeld Over U.S. Torture Policies

The ACLU and Human Rights First are suing Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, seeking “a court order declaring that Secretary Rumsfeld’s actions violated the U.S. Constitution, federal statutes and international law.”

“We believed the United States could correct its policy without resort to the courts. In bringing this action today, we reluctantly conclude that we were wrong.”

A few months ago I attended a panel discussion about the rule of law in light of recent prisoner abuses a few months ago, sponsored by the Stanford Law School and the International Red Cross, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. After the legal experts detailed abuse after abuse things looked pretty bleak, so I asked the obvious question: With all the egregious abuses you’ve listed, is the rule of law dead? I was surprised to hear the three panelists (law professors from the U.S. Naval War College, Santa Clara University and Stanford) all agree the answer was “no.” Their assessment was that the President and his administration was clearly abusing the law and Congress had rolled over and played dead, but the Judicial Branch was still doing its job to interpret the law. It’s just that the judicial branch is slow, they explained, and so when the other branches abuse their power it takes a while to rectify.

It looks like this, plus the ruling that the government must either charge or release Jose Padilla, are both small steps showing that slow progress at work.

Case against Rumsfeld Timeline

Complaint against Rumsfeld

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…and you’ll go blind too!

Rep. Henry Waxman’s (D-CA) office has come out with a report on The Content of Federally Funded Abstinance-Only Education Programs (pointer via the SJ Mercury News). These are federally-funded (though not federally supervised) programs to teach teenagers the importance of not having sex before marriage — often by scaring the bejesus out of them. I’m all in favor of teaching teenagers (and adults) to think twice and three times before having sex, but it would seem quite a number of the programs have found that it’s easier to scare people with opinion, distortions and outright falshoods than to let kids think for themselves with all the facts on hand.

From the report’s executive summary:

The report finds that over 80% of the abstinence-only curricula, used by over twothirds of SPRANS grantees in 2003, contain false, misleading, or distorted information about reproductive health. Specifically, the report finds:

  • Abstinence-Only Curricula Contain False Information about the Effectiveness of Contraceptives. Many of the curricula misrepresent the effectiveness of condoms in preventing sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy. One curriculum says that “the popular claim that ‘condoms help prevent the spread of STDs,’ is not supported by the data”; another states that “[i]n heterosexual sex, condoms fail to prevent HIV approximately 31% of the time”; and another teaches that a pregnancy occurs one out of every seven times that couples use condoms. These erroneous statements are presented as proven scientific facts.
  • Abstinence-Only Curricula Contain False Information about the Risks of Abortion. One curriculum states that 5% to 10% of women who have legal abortions will become sterile; that “[p]remature birth, a major cause of mental retardation, is increased following the abortion of a first pregnancy”; and that “[t]ubal and cervical pregnancies are increased following abortions.” In fact, these risks do not rise after the procedure used in most abortions in the United States.
  • Abstinence-Only Curricula Blur Religion and Science. Many of the curricula present as scientific fact the religious view that life begins at conception. For example, one lesson states: “Conception, also known as fertilization, occurs when one sperm unites with one egg in the upper third of the fallopian tube. This is when life begins.” Another curriculum calls a 43-day-old fetus a “thinking person.”
  • Abstinence-Only Curricula Treat Stereotypes about Girls and Boys as Scientific Fact. One curriculum teaches that women need “financial support,” while men need “admiration.” Another instructs: “Women gauge their happiness and judge their success on their relationships. Men’s happiness and success hinge on their accomplishments.”
  • Abstinence-Only Curricula Contain Scientific Errors. In numerous instances, the abstinence-only curricula teach erroneous scientific information. One curriculum incorrectly lists exposure to sweat and tears as risk factors for HIV transmission. Another curriculum states that “twenty-four chromosomes from the mother and twenty-four chromosomes from the father join to create this new individual”; the correct number is 23.

The report finds numerous examples of these errors. Serious and pervasive problems with the accuracy of abstinence-only curricula may help explain why these programs have not been shown to protect adolescents from sexually transmitted diseases and why youth who pledge abstinence are significantly less likely to make informed choices about precautions when they do have sex.

…and you’ll go blind too! Read More »

My Nightmare

It’s 2008, a constitutional amendment has been passed to allow immigrants who have been US citiziens for more than 20 years to run for president, and in a surprise move Rupert Murdoch beats Arnold Schwarzenegger in the primaries and at age 77 becomes the nation’s oldest president.

I gotta stop eating rich foods right before bed…

(As a side note, that constitutional amendment makes a lot of sense to me in this day and age. I’ve been pretty impressed with Schwartzenegger this past year too, for that matter…)

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Guantanimo in New Jersey?

NPR just did a 5-month investigative report on how Homeland Security is jailing non-citiziens without trial for up to two years, where they’re being threatened or attacked & bitten by guard-dogs, beaten by guards and then eventually deported.

Guantanimo? No, New Jersey. It’s all in response to a Clinton-era law calling for the deportation of non-citiziens who have ever in the past been convicted of a crime — even people like Hemnauth Mohabir who had been fined $250 for carrying about $5 worth of drugs, had a steady honest job, is married to a US citizien and has a child with her.

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Salute to the Honorable Republican Of The Day


Cuddos to Representative Christopher Shays (R-CT) for speaking out against the Republican repeal of their own Gingrich-Revolution-era rule that would require Tom DeLay to step down as Speaker if he’s indicted for violating state campaign finance laws.

“This is a mistake,” said Representative Christopher Shays of Connecticut.

When the Republicans gained control of the House in the elections of 1994, “we were going to be different,” Mr. Shays said.

But “every time we start to water down what we did in ’94,” he said, “we are basically saying the revolution is losing its character.”

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