Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Alabama Has Apparently Driven Off the Deep End…

Take a look at this advertisement being aired by “True Republican PAC” against Bradley Byrne, a candidate for the Alabama Republican gubernatorial nomination:

Wow! A Republican PAC attacks a candidate for believing in … gasp … evolution! So how did Bradley Byrne respond? Did he stand up for science and a belief that church and state should remain separate? Yeah, right.

•    I believe the Bible is the Word of God and that every single word of it is true. From the earliest parts of this campaign, a paraphrased and incomplete parsing of my words have been knowingly used to insinuate that I believe something different than that. My faith is at the center of my life and my belief in Jesus Christ as my personal savior and Lord guides my every action.

•    As a Christian and as a public servant, I have never wavered in my belief that this world and everything in it is a masterpiece created by the hands of God. As a member of the Alabama Board of Education, the record clearly shows that I fought to ensure the teaching of creationism in our school text books. Those who attack me have distorted, twisted and misrepresented my comments and are spewing utter lies to the people of this state.

Stop and think about that for a moment. To one political action committee, belief in evolution instead of creation is a valid point of political attack. But apparently, in Alabama, a Republican who does believe in evolution is unelectable because the targeted candidate quickly, and in harsh and strident terms, disavowed belief in evolution and stated his clear belief in creationism. Those who believe in science are apparently not eligible for the GOP’s nomination to be Governor of Alabama.

Of course, one of the other candidates, former Judge Roy Moore (yes “Ten Commandments” Judge Moore) also felt the need to insert religion into the campaign:

Moore said the U.S. has the best form of government that has ever existed and one firmly founded on a belief in God as the source of basic rights.

“President after president have [sic] recognized that our constitution exists because there is a God,” he said.

Moore also said the happiness mentioned in the Declaration of Independence is synonymous with the idea of justice as defined in the Bible.

“You can’t be happy if you don’t follow God’s laws,” he said. “If you follow God’s law, you can’t help but be happy.”

Not to be totally left out, Tim James, another candidate for the Republican nomination, is airing this lovely bit of nativist racism disguised as a campaign ad:

Note that the issue isn’t road signs; it is simply whether the test would be given in other languages. Of course James makes his feelings perfectly clear by telling people to learn English. Hey, I have no problem with the suggestion that people in the United States, especially American citizens or those wanting to be American citizens, learn English. It’s a good idea that will serve them well. But do we really want to suggest to people that they’re not welcome unless they learn English? Boy, that seems like a good way to encourage investment in Alabama. Think about it this way: Did James ever mention illegal immigrants in his message? Nope. All he talked about was learning English.

But those aren’t the only crazy advertisements currently running in Alabama. See how many Republican and/or Southern clichés you can spot in this advertisement for Dale Peterson, running for Agriculture Commissioner.

I was almost expecting him to turn around and punch his horse (think Mongo in Blazing Saddles). What exactly was the point of showing us his really big gun? Is he going to shoot people who disagree with him? Then again, you know what they say about people who feel the need to show off their big gun. Anyway, I’m less frightened by his actual message than I am by the fact that anyone would think that a message like this would be appropriate in the first place or, even worse, that the people of Alabama might actually be swayed by an ad like this one.

And just so you know that all of the craziness isn’t isolated to campaign trail, there’s this story from earlier this week:

A Jefferson County teacher picked the wrong example when he used as­sassinating President Bar­ack Obama as a way to teach angles to his geome­try students.

The teacher was appar­ently teaching his geometry students about parallel lines and angles, officials said. He used the example of where to stand and aim if shooting Obama.

"He was talking about angles and said, 'If you're in this building, you would need to take this angle to shoot the president,' " said Joseph Brown, a senior in the geometry class.

Very classy, don’t you think? Maybe Dale Peterson was going to help the teacher demonstrate the right angles to use. He does have a big gun, after all.

Oh, and remember when windows were broken in Democratic Congressional offices following passage of the health care reform legislation? Well guess where the idea for mass window breaking was born? Yep, Alabama.

Can somebody tell me what is going on in Alabama to cause this degree of craziness?

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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Video Roundup

I wanted to gather and post several interesting videos that I’ve come across online over the last week or three.

First, by now you’ve probably heard that Indiana Congressman Mark Souder (R-Indiana) is resigning (just two weeks after winning a primary) because of an affair with a staffer in his office. From the “you can’t make this shit up department” I offer the following video from Rep. Souder’s office (made in late 2009). The woman in the video is the staffer with whom he had the affair. You don’t need to watch more than a few moments (if you do, you may begin to lose IQ points…), but make sure to take note of the subject matter of the video. Oh, and ask yourself why in the world she would sleep with him?

Apparently, much like in the Palin family, abstinence is to be taught, not practiced.

Over the years, a number of campaign ads have become famous (or notorious). Here is a campaign ad that has been flooding the airwaves in Pennsylvania. Before the ad first aired, Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pennsylvania) trailed Sen. Arlen Specter (D/R-Pennsylvania) by double-digits. If polls are correct, it appears that Rep. Sestak has closed that gap and may, in fact, win today’s Pennsylvania Senate primary. If he does, I think that this ad will have been largely responsible.


In another primary battle, Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) has been forced to move to the right to try to fend off a challenge by former Rep. J.D. Hayworth (R-Arizona). That gave rise to the following unintentionally hysterical ad. Note that the sheriff that Sen. McCain is talking to is not actually the sheriff of a county on the Mexican border. The sheriff of the county with the fence that they’re walking along opposes the fence being discussed.

But just in case that wasn’t funny enough:


As long as humor is the subject, let’s take a look at this next video featuring the former voiceover actor for Geico (not the gecko) who was fired after he “dialed drunk” and left a nasty voicemail on the answering machine for Freedom Works, the non-grassroots organization chaired by former Rep. Dick Armey (R-Texas) that is largely behind the rise of the Tea Party movement (though they keep denying it). Warning: Language.


Last week, I posted my latest entry for The Indianapolis Star’s IN Touch blog (which, by the way, was included in the print edition of The Indianapolis Star for Sunday, May 16, 2010). Here’s a video demonstrating why we don’t need prayer’s at public school graduations (this video is from the late ’90s from a public university in Texas).


Here’s a brilliant takedown of Glenn Beck from Lewis Black on The Daily Show.

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Back in Black - Glenn Beck's Nazi Tourette's


And finally, I bring you this gem (which should really be the subject of its own post). I’m not a big fan of David Horowitz. He’s a bit too far right for my tastes. But I’m including this post not for his part in it but rather for the sentiments expressed by the woman representing the University of California San Diego Muslim Students’ Alliance. Listen carefully. This is what passes for dialogue on our campuses now. I’ve got a lot more to say about this video and the thoughts expressed by this woman, but I wanted to be sure that people had a chance to see the video as I’m not sure when I’ll have a chance to discuss this issue at more length.

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Thursday, May 13, 2010

What Price Should BP, Haliburton & Transocean Pay?

Take a few minutes and look at these photos from the Boston Globe of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. As you look at these photos (go to the Globe’s website for even more photos), stop and think to yourself what you think should be the appropriate cost to and punishment against BP, Haliburton, and Transocean. Don’t forget: This was preventable.

Can any punishment adequately address this degree of damage? At bare minimum, any executive of the companies that caused this should spend a very, very long time in a very, very dirty prison cell, writing handwritten letters of apology to every fisherman, coastal resident, and anyone else adversely affected by this environmental disaster.

Oh, one more thing. Every single person who stood at a protest or a political rally and chanted “Drill, Baby, Drill” should be on their hands and knees on the Gulf Coast cleaning the feathers of sea birds or scrubbing the skin of dolphins with their own toothbrush. And Sarah Palin should be at the front of their line. Gee, I wonder if her “Ain’t Alaska Pretty” reality show will talk about the fact that more than 20 years later, Prince William Sound has still not fully recovered from the Exxon Valdez spill?

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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

IN Touch: Spotlight on Public Prayer

My fourteenth post on The Indianapolis Star's IN Touch blog is now online. As I keep saying when I post these entries, I'm going to keep re-posting my IN Touch entries here (at least until someone from the Star asks me to stop). Go ahead and visit the post on the IN Touch site, anyway.

Two recent court decisions have once again put the spotlight on government-sponsored prayer. A federal court in Indiana issued an injunction to prevent a student-led, school-sponsored prayer at Greenwood High School's graduation. And a federal court in Wisconsin held that, as enacted, the National Day of Prayer was unconstitutional. Not surprisingly, those who support public prayer have voiced their opposition to these rulings.

However, it appears clear that proponents of public prayer seem to misunderstand several fundamental principles (or perhaps understand but choose to ignore them). First, it is absolutely critical to recognize that neither judge in any way prohibits prayer. Americans, including students at Greenwood, remain free to pray. They can pray in their respective houses of worship, at home, at work, on the street corner, or even in school. A student can even choose to pray during Greenwood's graduation ceremony.

All the court rulings did was to remind us that the government cannot sponsor prayer, as doing so falls within the prohibitions of the establishment clause. These rulings have no impact upon the free exercise clause, because people remain absolutely free to practice their individual religions; they simply cannot look to the government to promote or endorse their religion or prayer.

Next, proponents of public prayer often argue that the First Amendment applies only to acts of Congress. Thus, for example, they argue that Greenwood's prayer should be acceptable because it wasn't an act of Congress. This line of reasoning, however, completely fails to acknowledge that the Supreme Court has ruled that certain protections of the Bill of Rights apply to the states, too, pursuant to the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment.

Finally, proponents of public prayer argue that the objections of a minority should not be allowed to veto the will of a majority, expressed in a democratic vote (like that of Greenwood's students). However, this argument fails to recognize that a core purpose of the Bill of Rights is to protect minorities from the "tyranny" of the majority. Would anyone suggest that a majority could vote to outlaw a particular religion or vote to rescind freedom of the press for a particular television news station or vote to make a certain class of people slaves? Of course not.

And finally, some questions for those who advocate for public prayer: Why does your religious observance require public prayer? Why is prayer in your home and place of worship insufficient? And why do you need the government - our government - to support your religious efforts?

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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

SCOTUS Nomination: Let the Insanity Begin

Only a day after President Obama nominated Solicitor General Elena Kagan to become an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, the Republican insanity machine has already begun to spew idiocy and nonsense. Look, I’m not sold on Kagan, yet. I don’t know enough about her (though I plan to try to read and learn more). Of course, my worry is that she’s not liberal enough. But some of the criticism we’ve already heard is ridiculous. Let me offer two examples.

First, we’ve already heard several Republicans express concern that she doesn’t have any experience as a judge (let alone a federal judge). Just for fun, let’s look at the vast judicial experience of Chief Justice John Roberts. He clerked for a federal appellate court for one year and for the Supreme Court for one year before going into government service and later private practice (Kagan also clerked for a federal appellate court and the Supreme Court). Roberts was nominated to the bench but his nomination was not taken up by the Senate and died at the end of the first Bush administration (Kagan was also previously nominated and, like Roberts, her nomination was not taken up by the Senate and died at the end of the Clinton administration). He became a federal appellate court judge (not a trial judge) in June 2003. Just two years and one month later, President Bush nominated him to become an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court and two months after that, President Bush nominated him to become Chief Justice. I don’t recall hearing Republicans suggest that barely two years on an appellate court bench was insufficient experience to become a Supreme Court justice, let alone the Chief Justice. So, it appears that we’re expected to believe that a nominee must have judicial experience and two years is sufficient? Please.

While all recent justices have had at least some appellate or trial court experience, that hasn’t always been the “rule”. In fact, here’s a list of some former Supreme Court justices who had never sat on a bench until appointed to the Supreme Court:

  • William Rehnquist
  • Lewis Powell
  • Abe Fortas
  • Byron White
  • Arthur Goldberg
  • Earl Warren
  • Tom Clark
  • Harold Burton
  • Robert Jackson
  • James Francis Byrnes
  • William O. Douglas
  • Felix Frankfurter
  • Stanley Forman Reed
  • Owen Josephus Roberts
  • Harlan Fiske Stone
  • Pierce Butler
  • George Sutherland
  • Louis Brandeis
  • James Clark McReynolds
  • Charles Evans Hughes

And that list is limited to the last 100 years. Ah, but Republicans want us to think that Elena Kagan is different.

Somehow, this whole experience thing reminds me once again of the argument that many on the right made during the 2008 election that Sarah Palin had “more” or “better” experience than Barack Obama.

More troubling is the Republican decision to start their substantive criticism against Kagan on the basis of an article that she wrote talking about Thurgood Marshall for whom she clerked and viewed as a mentor. Remember the whole “wise Latina” controversy during the Sotomayor nomination? Well this one is worse. Yesterday, Michael Steele, chair of the Republican National Committee issued a statement in response to the nomination of Kagan. Here is an excerpt (emphasis added):

Given Kagan's opposition to allowing military recruiters access to her law school's campus, her endorsement of the liberal agenda and her support for statements suggesting that the Constitution "as originally drafted and conceived, was 'defective,'" you can expect Senate Republicans to respectfully raise serious and tough questions to ensure the American people can thoroughly and thoughtfully examine Kagan's qualifications and legal philosophy before she is confirmed to a lifetime appointment.

First, let’s be sure to hold Republicans to the claim that they will “thoughtfully examine” the nomination. But I really want to focus on the portion of the statement that I’ve emphasized. First, here is what Kagan wrote:

During the year that marked the bicentennial of the Constitution, Justice Marshall gave a characteristically candid speech. He declared that the Constitution, as originally drafted and conceived, was "defective"; only over the course of 200 years had the nation "attain[ed] the system of constitutional government, and its respect for... individual freedoms and human rights, we hold as fundamental today."

But what was Thurgood Marshall talking about when he called the original Constitution “defective”? Here’s an excerpt of Marshall’s Bicentennial Speech (emphasis added):

I do not believe that the meaning of the Constitution was forever "fixed" at the Philadelphia Convention. Nor do I find the wisdom, foresight, and sense of justice exhibited by the Framers particularly profound. To the contrary, the government they devised was defective from the start, requiring several amendments, a civil war, and momentous social transformation to attain the system of constitutional government, and its respect for the individual freedoms and human rights, we hold as fundamental today. When contemporary Americans cite "The Constitution," they invoke a concept that is vastly different from what the Framers barely began to construct two centuries ago.

For a sense of the evolving nature of the Constitution we need look no further than the first three words of the document's preamble: 'We the People." When the Founding Fathers used this phrase in 1787, they did not have in mind the majority of America's citizens. "We the People" included, in the words of the Framers, "the whole Number of free Persons."  On a matter so basic as the right to vote, for example, Negro slaves were excluded, although they were counted for representational purposes  at three-fifths each. Women did not gain the right to vote for over a hundred and thirty years.

These omissions were intentional. The record of the Framers' debates on the slave question is especially clear: The Southern States acceded to the demands of the New England States for giving Congress broad power to regulate commerce, in exchange for the right to continue the slave trade. The economic interests of the regions coalesced: New Englanders engaged in the "carrying trade" would profit from transporting slaves from Africa as well as goods produced in America by slave labor. The perpetuation of slavery ensured the primary source of wealth in the Southern States.

Despite this clear understanding of the role slavery would play in the new republic, use of the words "slaves" and "slavery" was carefully avoided in the original document. Political representation in the lower House of Congress was to be based on the population of "free Persons" in each State, plus three-fifths of all "other Persons."  Moral principles against slavery, for those who had them, were compromised, with no explanation of the conflicting principles for which the American Revolutionary War had ostensibly been fought: the self-evident truths "that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

In other words, Marshall was critical of the original framework of the Constitution that permitted slavery and counted slaves (blacks) as 3/5 of a person; a framework that Marshall correctly noted was not resolved until the Civil War some 60 years later. Now reread what Kagan wrote:

During the year that marked the bicentennial of the Constitution, Justice Marshall gave a characteristically candid speech. He declared that the Constitution, as originally drafted and conceived, was "defective"; only over the course of 200 years had the nation "attain[ed] the system of constitutional government, and its respect for... individual freedoms and human rights, we hold as fundamental today."

Not quite so horrifying now, is it?

But I also want to take issue with the very concept that the Republican National Committee’s statement seems to endorse; to-wit, if Kagan was wrong for commending Marshall who had, in turn, called the original Constitution defective, then doesn’t that mean, by implication, that the Republicans believe that the original Constitution was not defective? Do the Republicans believe that the original 3/5 compromise was good? Do the Republicans believe that slavery was good? Do the Republicans believe that the original Constitution was so perfect that it didn’t need to be amended? If that were true, we wouldn’t have the 1st Amendment, let alone the 2nd Amendment. I’m sure that Republicans beholden to the NRA would agree to that, right? And think about some of the other amendments that followed the Bill of Rights; amendments that, if the Constitution was so perfect, must not have been necessary. You know, little things like changing how the President and Vice President were elected (12th Amendment, 1804), equal protection (14th Amendment, 1868), having Senators elected by popular vote (17th Amendment, 1913), women’s suffrage (19th Amendment, 1920), and prohibition of poll taxes (24th Amendment, 1964) to name just a few.

For that matter, if the original Constitution was so perfect, then why would the Republican Party Platform call for at least four new Constitutional amendments? The 2008 Republican Party Platform called for a balanced budget amendment, an amendment to respect the rights of victims of crime, a “human life” amendment (extending the protections of the 14th Amendment to fetuses), and an amendment to prohibit same-sex marriage. Yep, it sure sounds like the Republicans think that both the original Constitution and the current amended Constitution are pretty darn perfect … except when they’re not. Or, to say it another way, the Republicans want to amend the Constitution to give rights to fetuses and crime victims, make sure that rights aren’t extended to homosexuals, and change the basic framework of how budgeting works, but someone (like Marshall or Kagan) who suggests that the original Constitution’s treatment of slaves and women and other fundamental freedoms and human rights wasn’t perfect is clearly far outside the mainstream of American society.

When will the idiocy stop?


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Monday, May 10, 2010

Belief vs. Science: Quick Observations

Scientists believe* that life on Earth, including humans, has evolved from primitive organisms to the modern, complex forms of life with which we are familiar. Some, however, believe that a deity or “intelligent designer” created humans; they do not believe in evolutionary biology.

Scientists believe* that the Earth is about 4.5 billion years old. They’ve reached this determination on the basis of radiometric age dating and other scientific methodologies. Some, however, believe that the Earth was “created” about 6,000 years ago.

Scientists believe* that human actions are causing global climate change. Some either do not believe that the Earth is experiencing climate change or suggest that it is "natural” and not caused by human action.

Scientists believe* that vaccines do not cause autism. Some believe that these scientists are wrong.

Scientists believe* that small microorganisms called viruses or bacteria cause certain illnesses. Some believe that illness is caused by impure thoughts or evil humors or an angry deity.

Scientists believe* that medications help fight illnesses. Some believe that prayer fights illnesses.

Scientists believe* that earthquakes and the eruption of volcanoes are caused by shifts and the Earth’s tectonic plates and underlying geology. Some believe that earthquakes and the eruption of volcanoes are the acts of an angry deity.

Scientists believe* that hurricanes are a natural phenomena that is part of the planet’s global climate and weather pattern. Some believe that hurricanes, like earthquakes, are the acts of an angry deity.

Scientists believe* that the Earth is a sphere that orbits the Sun. Some believe that the Earth is flat and that the Sun orbits the Earth.

So, in which category do you fall? Do you agree with science? Or do you reject science? And, when we look generally at those who reject the scientific beliefs set forth above, what similarities do we note and what conclusions can we draw? Just askin’…


*Yes, I know that scientists are not unanimous in these beliefs. But there is certainly an overwhelming scientific consensus supporting these positions.

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Friday, May 7, 2010

Is This the Best That Republican Climate Change Deniers Can Do?

Yesterday, the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming of the House of Representatives held a hearing on “The Foundation of Climate Science”. According to the press release that announced the hearing, one purpose of the hearing was “to address the claims of deniers head-on”. To that end, the witnesses called by Committee Chair Rep. Edward D. Markey (D-Massachusetts) included the following:

  • Dr. Lisa Graumlich, Director, School of Natural Resources and the Environment, University of Arizona, and member of the “Oxburgh Inquiry” panel
  • Dr. Chris Field, Director, Department of Global Ecology, Carnegie Institution of Washington, and co-chair of “Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability” portion of new IPCC report due in 2014
  • Dr. James McCarthy, Professor of Biological Oceanography, Harvard University, past President and Chair of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, co-chair of “Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability” portion of IPCC report published in 2001
  • Dr. James Hurrell, Senior Scientist, National Center for Atmospheric Research, contributor to IPCC reports

Who did the Republicans select to offer testimony in opposition to Dr. Graumlich, Dr. Field, Dr. McCarthy, and Dr. Hurrell? The Republicans called Lord Christopher Walter Monckton, 3rd Viscount Monckton of Brenchley. I wanted to take a moment to provide a bit of background on Lord Monckton. And remember, this is who the Republicans chose to testify at the hearing (and the only person they chose).

First, it is important to understand that though he is called Lord Monckton, he is not, in fact, a member of Britain’s House of Lords (though he has been known to suggest otherwise). More importantly, recall that Lord Monckton is testifying in opposition to a group of scientists. But Lord Monckton is not a scientist; he is a journalist and Classics major. Ah, but that is only the tip of the proverbial melting iceberg.

Indeed, Lord Monckton really is a bit of a crackpot. After all, who else would refer to environmentalist students engaged in peaceful (though inappropriate) protests as “Hitler Youth” and then, when questioned on that reference, would not only stand firm in his claim but go so far as to say that the number of people killed by the “misplaced belief” in climate change is greater than the number of people killed by Hitler. He even claims that “coal and oil are just as clean as any other form of energy”. Here’s the video:

Lord Monckton continued to stand by his statement. After being confronted by a student protestor who took umbrage at being called a “Hitler Youth” and said to Lord Monckton, “As a Jew I'm not really sure how I should take that”, Lord Monckton simply replied: “I'll tell you how you should take it. You should take it”. Classy guy, hm? Of course when asked about his “Hitler Youth” comment by Associated Press – you know, the comment that he acknowledges making in the video above – Lord Monckton denies having said it (claiming instead the comment came from “three Germans and a Dane in the audience"). Of course, the fact that there is video of him saying it, not once, but twice, is apparently meaningless. Then again, as I’ve demonstrated in the past, to modern right, facts are meaningless.

(For the record, I don’t condone protests like this one that prevent a speaking from speaking. That is not the way to get the point across. But that isn’t the point of this post.)

So Lord Monckton is clearly a climate change denier who has no trouble with calling those with whom he disagrees “Hitler Youth”. OK. Fine. But guess what? He’s also a birther. At a tax day tea party protest, Lord Monckton (um, if he’s a British “climate expert” why was he speaking at an American tax protest?) opened his speech by saying, “America! Land of opportunity! You can be born in Kenya and end up as president of the United States!” Lord Monckton previously told a Wisconsin Republican county group that President Obama is a “monster”.

Finally, and I think that I’ve saved the best for last, here is what Lord Monckton had to say about HIV/AIDS in a 1987 article in The American Spectator (unfortunately, only available to subscribers):

.... there is only one way to stop AIDS. That is to screen the entire population regularly and to quarantine all carriers of the disease for life. Every member of the population should be blood-tested every month ... all those found to be infected with the virus, even if only as carriers, should be isolated compulsorily, immediately, and permanently.

So, with all of this in mind, one does have to ask of the Republicans who chose Lord Monckton to be their witness at yesterday’s hearing: Is this the best you can do? Or, said differently, is this a person with whom you really want to be associated?

Oh, one more thing: As to the actual issue of climate change and Lord Monckton’s views (with a little bonus revisiting of some of the foregoing), here are some great smackdowns from Peter Sinclair:


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Wednesday, May 5, 2010

I Don’t Understand (And I’m Not Sure That I Want to Understand)

In yesterday’s Democratic primary for Indiana’s 5th Congressional District, Tim Crawford defeated Dr. Nasser Hanna. The vote totals weren’t even close; Crawford received 61% of the 16,000+ votes cast. Well, you might say, that’s democracy in action. But is it? Let’s take a closer look.

The first thing to note is that in Indiana, candidates are listed on the ballot in alphabetical order. Thus, Crawford appeared on the ballot before Hanna. I’d be curious to see if there are any studies on whether candidates who appear first on a ballot are more likely to get elected. If so, then it seems that alphabetical order might not be the best way to determine ballot placement (but I’ll leave that discussion for another day).

More importantly, I’d like to compare the two candidates. First, let’s look at some of the biographic information that they each provided to The Indianapolis Star for the paper’s voter guide. Both men are Christian (Hanna is Catholic). Crawford is single; Hanna is married with children. Crawford is 29; Hanna is 41. Crawford has lived in Hamilton County since he was 4; Hanna moved to Hamilton County 11 years ago. With those vital statistics out of the way, let’s look at their respective educations:


I graduated Core 40 from Carmel High School in 1999. From 1999 to 2001 I attended Vincennes University, majoring in general studies and liberal arts. In 2001 I chose to leave college to join the American workforce. I enjoyed college but found I'd rather have an income rather than an outcome. I do believe degrees are important but there are other forms of education that are just as effective i.e. real life, workplace, and business mentors.


University of Missouri School of Medicine (MD); St. Louis University (BA Biology).

Now I don’t know about you, but I’m much more impressed with a doctor who earned a degree from a well-respected university than I am with a man who dropped out of Vincennes University. And for those who don’t know, “Core 40” is the State of Indiana’s base requirement for a high school diploma. However, as I understand it, Core 40 wasn’t adopted until 2007, so I’m not sure how Crawford graduated “Core 40” in 1999.

What about their respective employment?


I am currently working for Southern Retail Construction as senior estimator and general manager. We are a small business trying to diversify and maintain.


Oncologist at the IU School of Medicine.

Again, I find Hanna’s credentials to be vastly superior to Crawford’s. In fact, the comparison is beginning to remind me a bit of the comparisons of Barack Obama to Sarah Palin.

Let’s look at a few more bits and pieces. The Star’s voter guide includes information about civic involvement:

Founder, Cancer-Free Lungs (2004-present): nonprofit organization that serves school children throughout Indiana; Professional Advisory Board, Wellness Community, 2002-present; Member of 1st class Leadership Development Program, American Society of Clinical Oncology, 2009-2010;

Previous civic involvement/accomplishment highlights: Chairman of the Board, Hoosier Oncology Group (2007-2010): nonprofit cancer research organization; IU Trustee's Teaching Award, 2009; Recipient of a 40 under 40 award (Indianapolis Business Journal), 2008; IU Simon Cancer Center Torchbearer Award, 2007; Recipient RTV-6/Sagamore Leadership Award, 2006; Recipient Healing Spirit Award, Wellness Community, 2006; Outstanding Young Clinician Award, Indiana University, 2005.

I presume that Crawford either has no civic involvement or didn’t respond because no civic involvement is listed. None.

What about endorsements?


Reality, logic, and free trade.


State Democratic Party.

In addition to the State Democratic Party, Hanna’s website (more on that in a minute) lists these other endorsements:

District 5 Democratic Committee
Keith Clock - District 5 Democratic Party Chairman
Hancock County Democratic Club
Michael Adkins - Hancock County Democratic Committee Chairman
Fort Wayne Journal Gazette
Glen Jordan - Brown Township Trustee in Hancock County
Riley Lemmons - Noble Township Trustee in Shelby County
John Ripberger - County Councilman in Tipton County
Ken Ziegler - County Commissioner for Tipton County
Mary Boswell - Richland Township Trustee in Miami County
Frank Fritch - Sheriff for Tipton County
Linda Williams - Adams Township Trustee in Hamilton County
Daniel Brock - County Councilman in Grant County

As for money, again looking at the Star’s voter guide, Hanna had raised approximately $85,000; Crawford: $0.

To finish the comparison between the two candidates from the Star’s voter guide, let’s just look at their responses to the question “What specific background or experience makes you the best candidate?”


The number one issue facing Americans today is the decay of their rights. A large majority of politicians around the nation are reading between the lines of the United States Constitution and not the lines themselves. Their deceptions are revoking our rights as individuals and as citizens of the states in which we reside. The federal government was designed to grant the greatest extent of freedoms, while regulating righteously to provide safety and fairness for residents. Under these circumstances the health care bill needs to be removed from our government and everyone should have the right to keep and bear arms.

I will remind the politicians and the American people of the fundamental ideas of our forefathers. I will vote against any bill I deem to be unconstitutional and find to be revolved around a socialist ideology.


There are many issues we face in our district and country. We know that a change in one has impacts on many others. We can’t always simplify the issues into black and white solutions. We must address complex issues with thoughtful, creative actions and solutions. Standing still and doing the same thing over and over again will never solve a problem.

I believe that there is a health care crisis and that we must address the crisis in a meaningful way. As I answer this question, our current congress is making what seems like hourly changes to the health care bill. I don’t know what will come from that bill, but I do strongly support immediate action. As a doctor, I know the state of today’s health care and the impact of rising costs, denial of coverage and lack of insurance have on the people of the 5th District. Health care costs today also have a major negative impact on an individual finances and our state and national budgets and the deficit. We must recognize that our current health care system works for some people but ignores or devastates many others. I know that the cost of health care limits our ability to address issues in Education, Job Creation, Homeland Security and many other important activities. Health care costs affect every budget discussion that an individual, a state or the Federal government has. It is the most important issue we face today. We must move forward without petty name calling, bickering and unfounded fear tactics. With the support of the people of the 5th District we can bring reform to health care.

Now on the basis of that information, who would you be supporting (presuming that you’re a Democrat voting in the Democratic primary)?

I also want to look briefly at a few other items. First, take a few minutes and go look at Crawford’s campaign website and then look at Hanna’s campaign website. Does one of those websites suggest a serious, knowledgeable, viable candidate more than the other? Then compare the issues pages of Crawford’s and Hanna’s respective sites. Again, does one of those issue pages suggest that one candidate is a more serious, knowledgeable, viable candidate than the other? And finally, take a few minutes to read Crawford’s issue page. If you didn’t know his party affiliation, would you guess that Crawford was a Democrat or a Republican (or even a Tea Party supporter)?

Finally, just a few days before the primary, the Chair of the Hamilton County Democratic Party sent the following email:

Dear Supporter,

I write to you today to urge you to not just vote on Election Day this Tuesday, but to vote in the Democratic Party primary. This may sound like a no-brainer for most of you, however to some Democrats this isn't second nature. There have been some good Democrats in the past that have voted in the Republican primary to vote against Dan Burton or to have a voice in some local elections. For those Democrats who ask for a Republican ballot, I ask for you to NOT do that this election. 

In past elections, the Democratic Party candidate for Congress has not fared well in competing against Rep. Burton and his power of incumbency. However, this year is different. This year we have the opportunity to nominate and elect a viable candidate who we can all be proud of. This election, Democrats have an excellent candidate in Dr. Nasser Hanna.  He is a very impressive and energetic individual who we can all be proud to call our Congressman from the fifth district.  He has managed to garner a record amount of financial support for a Democrat running in the fifth district and gain key party endorsements. Nasser has been endorsed not only by the Fifth District Central Committee but also by the Indiana Democratic Party. You can read more about Nasser and his positive agenda on his website at

The most important element about voting in the Democratic Party primary is due to Dr. Hanna having an opponent. Although this individual is running as a Democrat against Dr. Hanna, his opponent is NOT a Democrat. He is an admitted Republican who says we are living in a Socialist nation. His issues are not what any Democrat could support and are not good for our nation as a whole. Our district has a history of embarrassing candidates in our primary and this opponent is no exception. I urge you to leave the Republican primary up to the Republicans and support a great Democrat in our primary who deserves to be on the ballot in November. 

Thanks so much for your support for Nasser. Again, visit Nasser's website at for more info and to learn how to support his campaign. 

Keith Clock, Chair
Hamilton County Democratic Party

And yet Crawford beat Hanna 61% to 39%. How is that possible?

I already mentioned the fact that Crawford’s name came before Hanna’s on the ballot. So that may have accounted for some of the difference. But let me offer two other things that I believe factored heavily into the decision that voters in the 5th Congressional District may have made. First, compare the names:

  • Tim Crawford: A nice, safe, suburban, American name.
  • Nasser Hanna: That “Nasser” bit sounds almost as scary as Hussein (as in Barack Hussein Obama). Hey, maybe he’s really another one of them scary sekrit Muslims!

And then compare their photos:



Can you guess which candidate is Crawford and which candidate is Hanna? Hmm. How were you able to guess?

Thus, while I’d prefer not to presume that voters in Indiana’s 5th Congressional District voted against Dr. Nasser Hanna because of his ethnic name and appearance, I have a very hard time trying to come up with any reason that 61% of the voters would have chosen to vote for Tim Crawford.

As the title of this post suggests, I don’t understand and I’m not sure that I want to understand. What I do know is that Rep. Dan Burton is going to be reelected to Congress in November and the voters of Indiana’s 5th Congressional District have lost their chance to support a knowledgeable, viable opponent.

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Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Primary Election: Which Ballot?

I had every intention of crossing over and voting as a Republican in today’s Indiana primary. I wasn’t going to vote in the Republican primary because I’m a Republican (far from it, as anyone who reads this blog surely knows), but rather, for the sole purpose of giving a vote to someone other than Rep. Dan Burton. I’ve been embarrassed to have Rep. Burton as my Congressman for a long, long time. I firmly believe that he would have lost the primary in 2008 if Hamilton County Democrats didn’t finally have something to vote for (remember that little tussle between then-Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. Clinton…?). As it was, Rep. Burton was barely able to beat challenger Dr. John McGoff.

And so I had every intention of pulling a Republican ticket this morning and voting for Dr. McGoff. From what I’ve seen and read and, most importantly, from what I learned from actually talking to Dr. McGoff, he seems like the most moderate of the Republican candidates. Don’t get me wrong: He is still a conservative Republican and I found myself disagreeing with him on a lot of issues (we did agree on some things…). But I found his knowledge of the issues to be commendable, his willingness to engage in discussion and debate to be refreshing, and his sanity to be … um … well, un-Burton-like. So, he would have gotten my vote today.

However, I responded to an appeal from the Hamilton County Democratic Committee asking Democrats not to cross over into the Republican primary and, instead, to vote in the Democratic primary in order to select Dr. Nasser Hanna to challenge Rep. Burton (or whoever may win the right to replace him as the Republican candidate). Unfortunately, the Democratic party has a history of nominating (accidentally or through a total lack of knowledge) not just unelectable candidates, but total nutjobs (like cross-dressing, check-kiting, judge-impersonating, name-changing Bobby Hidalgo Kern). This year could be more of the same, for Dr. Hanna’s challenger Tim Crawford (who identifies himself as an “American Realist”) appears to be yet another in that line. From reading Crawford’s bio and issue statements, I’m not sure that he’s really even a Democrat; he sounds more like a tea party candidate to me.

Do I think Dr. Hanna has a chance to win in Indiana’s 5th Congressional District, often considered one of the most Republican districts in the country? No, of course not. But do I think he will be capable of running an effective and viable candidacy that will at least require the Republicans to make some effort and spend some money? Yes. And getting the Republicans to focus on this race, even just a little, means that they will have that much less time and money to spend on tighter races where those few extra dollars could have been important.

So I cast my ballot for Dr. Hanna today and I look forward to supporting him in his challenge to the Republican stranglehold on the seat for Indiana’s 5th Congressional District.


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How Crazy Scary Has the Right Become

Forget the tea partiers for a second. Instead, let’s take a brief look at just how crazy – not to mention scary – the elected right has really become. I’ve selected three very recent examples.

I’ll start with Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-California). Now, before I get into Rep. Hunter’s crazy scary lunacy, let me remind you of two things. First, some may recall the basic framework upon which our country operates: the United States Constitution. Here is Section 1 of the 14th Amendment (emphasis added):

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

And here is the oath taken by members of Congress:

I, AB, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.

(Interesting to note that the reference to God is in the statute. That might be worth some thoughts another day.) So anyway, back to Rep. Hunter. Here is a transcript of Rep. Hunter responding to a question at a tea party rally in San Diego late last month (video follows; the portion excerpted in the transcript begins at 2:03):

Question: Would you support deportation of natural born American citizens that are the children of illegal aliens?”

Rep. Hunter: Would I support the deportation of natural born American citizens that are the kids of illegal aliens?

Question: Yes.

Rep. Hunter: I would have to, yes.


Just to be absolutely clear: A member of the United States Congress, after repeating the question (so we know that he heard it correctly) affirmatively stated that he would support deporting natural born American citizens if their parents were illegal aliens. Just think about that for a minute. If it doesn’t chill you to the bone, I don’t know what will.

Well maybe Rep. Hunter misspoke and didn’t really understand the question. Uh, no:

In an interview, [Hunter] clarified, amplified and strongly defended the claim — and said he stuck by it even though the 14th Amendment stipulates that people born here are American citizens.

Hunter clarified his original claim by saying he only supported deporting kids if their illegal parents were deported. “The policy should be, the kids follow the parents,” Hunter said. “You’re not gonna break up the family. If you have illegal parents, who are deported, what do you do with the kids?”

Wow. Can you imagine living in Rep. Hunter’s version of America? “Gee, sorry. We know that you’re an American citizen with the same rights and privileges as Duncan Hunter and every other American citizen, but because you’re parents came here illegally, we’re gonna throw you out too. So sorry.” Is that the America that you want to live in? Hey, while we’re at it, maybe we should imprison people for crimes committed by their parents, too.

Moving on, we come to America’s favorite maverick who isn’t a maverick, Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) who this week, in response to the arrest of an American citizen in the attempting car bombing in Times Square, claimed that it would be a mistake give the suspect his constitutionally mandated Miranda rights:

It would have been a serious mistake to have read the suspect in the attempted Times Square car bombing his Miranda rights, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said Tuesday.

McCain, the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and a longtime leading Republican on national security issues, said he expected the suspect in the case could face charges that might warrant a death sentence if convicted.

"Obviously that would be a serious mistake … at least until we find out as much information we have," McCain said during an appearance on "Imus in the Morning" when asked whether the suspect, 30-year-old Faisal Shahzad, a naturalized American citizen from Pakistan.

"Don't give this guy his Miranda rights until we find out what it's all about," McCain added.

Funny, I don’t recall hearing Sen. McCain say that we shouldn’t give Miranda warnings to Timothy McVeigh, Eric Rudolph (the Olympic and abortion clinic bomber), or any of the other right-wing domestic terrorists. No, that appears to be limited to Muslim terrorists. Look, I’m not a big fan of Muslim terrorists either and I’m not particularly interested in the rights of someone captured on a battlefield in Afghanistan (short of torture, that is…). But Shahzad is an American citizen arrested within the United States. He is entitled to the same rights that Sen. McCain would be entitled to. Can you imagine the outcry if the Hutaree militia was denied Miranda rights (or access to counsel, or civilian trial…)?

You see, the thing that Sen. McCain and seemingly many other Republicans tend to forget is that it is possible, perhaps unlikely, but still possible, that the police arrested the wrong guy. That’s part of why we give our criminal defendants certain rights. We want to be sure that we get the right person and we want to be sure that we don’t imprison someone for the wrong reasons or without proper evidence. Miranda rights don’t exist to protect criminals; those rights exist to protect our system and the rights of innocent people wrongly accused. But Sen. McCain is too busy trying to score points with the ultra-right wing of the Republican party to remember any of that. Nope, the Islamic terrorist boogeyman has scared Sen. McCain to the point that he’s willing to suspend the constitutional rights of American citizens. If we go down that road, haven’t the terrorists already won?

Finally, and on a completely different subject than our first two right-wing crazy scary idiots, I’d like to introduce you to the legislature of the State of Oklahoma which just passed – and then overrode the Governor’s veto – legislation that would require a woman seeking an abortion to undergo an invasive vaginal ultrasound, without an exemption for rape or incest, and require the doctor to show (on a monitor) and describe the fetus to the woman, in detail. Follow that one through for a moment in the worst case scenario. A young woman has just been raped by her father. In order to get an abortion, she must allow a doctor to shove an ultrasound probe up her vagina and watch a video and listen to the doctor describe the fetus. I mean, it’s not like being raped or even the decision to have an abortion are difficult enough; nope, in Oklahoma, we’re going to force an invasive medical procedure. By the way, I’m curious to know whether Oklahoma would be in favor of other invasive medical procedures, like for example forcibly castrating men who don’t pay child support or removing the tongues of politicians caught lying? But we know that Oklahoma is really in favor of government involvement in health care decisions, right. After all, that’s why Oklahoma supports the recently passed … oops, my bad. Oklahoma is one of the states suing the Federal Government over the new health care law. You know … too much government involvement in health care.

Thankfully, a court has, at least temporarily, blocked enforcement of this law.

But just in case you think that part of Oklahoma’s abortion law isn’t draconian enough, they’ve gone a step further! In Oklahoma, a doctor is now protected from suits brought against the doctor for failing to inform his pregnant patient that the fetus has birth defects. I like the way Nicole Belle of Talking Points Memo puts its:

Just take a minute to digest that. In Oklahoma, it's now legal to keep health information from patients in order to make their reproductive decisions for them. Of course, the doctors who perform prenatal tests won't be raising the children born to the prospective parents they treat. And yet those doctors can have a say — through subterfuge — in whether those parents choose to give birth or not. Now that this has passed, it's tempting to wonder what information Oklahoma doctors will get to lie about next. Perhaps they could tell teen girls that condoms spread AIDS. Or maybe just convince women that they're not actually pregnant until it's too late for an abortion. The possibilities are endless!

In other words, if while giving the woman the unwanted invasive vaginal ultrasound the doctor should happen to notice that the fetus has birth defects, the doctor can nevertheless simply describe what a lovely beautiful baby that fetus will develop into and escape any responsibility. I think that it’s safe to say that the State of Oklahoma has declared war on a woman’s right to make her own reproductive choices. Moreover, given that the protection afforded doctors applies in the non-abortion realm as well, it is safe to say that Oklahoma has declared war on a family’s right to make reproductive choices. Now, the choice of whether to allow a pregnancy to proceed to term may have been effectively removed from prospective parents.

So that concludes today’s brief look at the scary crazy right: deport US citizens, no Miranda rights for US citizens, forced invasive medical procedures, and permit doctors to lie to patients. Again, is that your America?

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