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Ken Ashford
Winston-Salem, NC
A Nebraska born, New Hampshire raised, Boston and New York educated, North Carolina living lawyer . . . with two dogs. Hi.
Interests: Theater, Blogging, Law & Politics, Good Conversation, Games
Recent Activity
Typepad and therefore this blog has been under attack for the past several days.... for ransom: UPDATE: SAY Media has responded that they, too, received a “ransom” note which didn’t specify an amount. The company ignored the note and focused instead on mitigating the attack. They are also cooperating with the FBI on this investigation. “We’ve made excellent progress this morning, but still have some customers impacted and we’ll keep you posted when there’s more news to share,” a spokesperson said. I say they need to catch the culprits and fry them. Continue reading
Posted yesterday at The Seventh Sense
The story of the Bundy ranch has slowly made its way into mainstream media circles. It started out on the absolute fringes of the far right, then worked its way to Fox News. And now, others are picking it up. It's troubling, not so much for what is actually going on, but because it shows the absolute lack of morality of the right wing -- yes, even the "reasonable" right wing, who caters to the fascist right. For those not in the know, the story isn't complicated. For 20 years the federal government has fined Cliven Bundy for grazing his cattle on protected federal land. And for 20 years Bundy has refused to pay. Last month this dance came to an end when the Bureau of Land Management sent Bundy a letter informing him that it intended to “impound his trespass cattle” that have been roaming on federal property. It closed off hundreds of thousands of acres, and earlier this month, moved to round up Bundy’s cows. Protesters challenged the BLM, and Bundy’s son was arrested for “refusing to disperse” from the area in question. Bundy’s cause caught fire on right-wing blogs, egged on by Fox News and conservative outlets like the National Review, which have held the confiscation as a dangerous intrusion on private property rights, despite Bundy’s lawbreaking. Defending his decision, the rancher told one right-wing radio host that he’s ready to take drastic steps beyond refusing to pay: I told you that I did the legal thing and the political thing and the media thing and it seems like it's down to “we the people” if we're going to get it done. You know the things like militias. You know, I haven't called no militia or anything like that, but hey, it looks like that's where we're at. To that end, hundreds of people from outside Nevada—including “militia” armed with rifles and ammunition—have joined his protests, going as far as to set up camp and confront federal officials with brandished weapons. The federal government blinked, and the Bureau of Land Management announced an abrupt end to its cattle roundup, hoping to avoid violence and further confrontations. This story amazes me. What we have here is, quite simply, a lawbreaker. He's also one of the peope who can rightly be called a "taker" in Mitt Romney language -- someone who literally lives off the federal government and contributes nothing. Other ranchers pay their grzaing fees. What makes Bundy special? The notion that Fox News and others (Mike Huckabee, Ron Paul) would embrace this guy is scary. Right-wing media ought to be condemned for their role in fanning the flames of this standoff. After years of decrying Obama’s “lawlessness” and hyperventilating over faux scandals, it’s galling to watch conservatives applaudactual lawbreaking and violent threats to federal officials. And to those who say there isn't racism on the right, does anyone think this would be happening if the ranchers were black? Anyway, for the crazed nutjobs on the right (some of whom were wishing for a Waco, you can tell), this is only the beginning [AFTERTHOUGHT: I neglected to mention how these guys put women and children up front in the hopes that the U.S. federal government would shoot and kill them]. Let's hope that before they start bombing federal buildings, etc., Fox News and others realize that we are a nation of laws. Some of which, yes, you might dislike. Continue reading
Posted 6 days ago at The Seventh Sense
Heritage Foundation Leader Jim DeMint: DeMint: This progressive, the whole idea of being progressive is to progress away from those ideas that made this country great. What we’re trying to conserve as conservative are those things that work. They work today, they work for young people, they work for minorities and we can change this country and change its course very quickly if we just remember what works. Newcombe: What if somebody, let’s say you’re talking with a liberal person and they were to turn around and say, ‘that Founding Fathers thing worked out really well, look at that Civil War we had eighty years later.’ DeMint: Well the reason that the slaves were eventually freed was the Constitution, it was like the conscience of the American people. Unfortunately there were some court decisions like Dred Scott and others that defined some people as property, but the Constitution kept calling us back to ‘all men are created equal and we have inalienable rights’ in the minds of God. But a lot of the move to free the slaves came from the people, it did not come from the federal government. It came from a growing movement among the people, particularly people of faith, that this was wrong. People like Wilberforce who persisted for years because of his faith and because of his love for people. So no liberal is going to win a debate that big government freed the slaves. In fact, it was Abraham Lincoln, the very first Republican, who took this on as a cause and a lot of it was based on a love in his heart that comes from God. (Emphasis mine) No, no, no! A thousand times no. You just can't make up shit like that as historical fact, and pollute the airwaves like that. Of COURSE big government freed the slaves, you mouthbreathing moron! Linclon's Emancipation Proclamation was nice, but it did not free a single slave. Freedom from slavery came from the Thirteenth Amendment and in the form of a GIGANTIC FUCKING ARMY bringing the Southern states to its knees. You can't get a bigger federal government than that. Also, not for nothing, but "all men created equal" was in the Declaration of Independence, not the Constitution. And if you don't know that, that's fine. But you shouldn't opine on stuff you know nothing about. Continue reading
Posted Apr 10, 2014 at The Seventh Sense
Unbelievably long career - peaked at 25. People forget how really big he was at the time. Bigger than Bieber. Continue reading
Posted Apr 7, 2014 at The Seventh Sense
Further loosening the reins on the role of money in politics, the U.S. Supreme Court today struck down restrictions on the grand total that any person can contribute to all federal candidates for office. Today's decision left intact the cap of $2,600 per election that a contributor to give to any single candidate for federal office, but it invalidated the separate limit on how much can be contributed to all federal candidates put together — $48,600. The law was challenged by the Republican Party and an Alabama businessman, Shaun McCutcheon, who argued that the contribution ceilings were an unconstitutional restriction on his free expression. "It's about freedom of speech and your right to spend your money on as many candidates as you choose. It's a basic freedom," McCutcheon said in bringing the challenge. Supporters of what's known as the aggregate contribution limit said its purpose was to help prevent corruption. Without it, warned Fred Wertheimer, a longtime proponent of federal regulation of contributions, "you will establish a system of legalized bribery like we used to have before the Watergate scandals." Under the aggregate limits, an individual could donate a maximum of $48,600 to all candidates for federal office plus another $74,600 to national political parties, state and local political parties, and political action committees — a grand contribution total of $123,200 per election. House Speaker John Boehner hailed the decision, saying "freedom of speech is being upheld." Continue reading
Posted Apr 2, 2014 at The Seventh Sense
Just a week ago, things looked bleak for Democrats and Obama for 2014. But then thePaul Ryan Vanity Project collided with 7 million new signups under the Affordable Care Act, and now the Democrats have the makings of a winning ticket for this year: Go on offense. One of Karl Rove’s basic tenets of politics was to attack from your area of weakness. In the same vein, Congressional Democrats and Barack Obama need to treat the next seven months as a sprint, an all-out attack campaign against their GOP opponents, day in and day out to push the GOP on defense for having no solutions except to throw millions off their health insurance, hurt the vulnerable, and protect corporations and the wealthy. Democrats and the White House should aggressively push the ACA, attack the Ryan budget, and tar the GOP as whores for the Koch Brothers, end of story. Hammer the message every day without apology. And watch these poll numbers go even higher. Go for broke and double down, instead of crawling into a hole. Continue reading
Posted Apr 2, 2014 at The Seventh Sense
Yes, human civilization is facing one of the greatest threats it has ever faced and no, we aren’t going to do anything about it. Or so says ExxonMobil in their latest report issued coincidentally on the same day as the latest IPCC report on the dangers of climate change. The report marks a rhetorical turning point of sorts where the fossil fuel industry accepts that climate change does pose significant risks. Apparently ExxonMobil did not get the memo that climate change is a hoax as the world’s largest energy corporation acknowledged that the carbon being pumped into the atmosphere posed serious risks. “We know enough based on the research and science that the risk (of climate change) is real and appropriate steps should be taken to address that risk,” Ken Cohen, Exxon’s government affairs chief, said in an interview. “But given the essential role that energy plays in everyone’s lives, those steps need to be taken in context with other realities we face, including lifting much of the world’s population out of poverty.” 97% of scientists might have a point. But before anyone starts celebrating a new enlightened fossil fuel industry, recognize this public acknowledgement of the danger does not translate into a commitment to reduce carbon emissions. In fact, ExxonMobil sees the climate change issue as part of a larger calculus that still favors their current business model. One that reasonable governments will be “highly unlikely” to mess with. Exxon says that renewable energy sources are not now cheap enough nor technologically advanced enough to meet growing demand for energy, let alone also replace oil and gas. Governments therefore face a choice between restricting access to energy or raising the cost of energy significantly. In Exxon’s view, governments will chose to raise the cost of fossil fuels to encourage alternatives somewhat, but stop well short of enacting policies that will sharply curtail consumption, especially in developing countries, because populations would resist and social upheaval would result. Now that is some impressive rhetorical jujitsu. Unlike Koch Industries which just lobs crazy people at Congress, ExxonMobil takes the warnings that climate change will cause social unrest and political instability and turns them on their head. Regulating carbon consumption, not climate change, becomes the real threat to social stability. GO figure. Continue reading
Posted Apr 2, 2014 at The Seventh Sense
Christian conservatives are complaining about the new Russell Crowe action movie "Noah" because it does not accurately depict the real-life flood as written in the Bible. Oy. By the way, has anyone answered the question as to where all the flood waters went? I mean, the whole planet was covered in water -- higher than the highest mountain. Where did all that water go? Continue reading
Posted Mar 28, 2014 at The Seventh Sense
Somebody went back and looked at all the articles about climate change in peer-reviewed scientific journals. 10,853 articles accepted that climate change is real and humans are the cause of it. 2 did not. Graphically, that looks like this: Can we stop the "debate" now? Continue reading
Posted Mar 26, 2014 at The Seventh Sense
Justice Anthony Kennedy, on whose vote the Hobby Lobby SCOTUS case rests, seems very concerned about the government forcing corporations to cover abortion: WASHINGTON, DC — Justice Anthony Kennedy thinks gay people are fabulous. All three of the Supreme Court’s most important gay rights decisions were written by Justice Kennedy. So advocates for birth control had a simple task today: convince Kennedy that allowing religious employers to exempt themselves from a federal law expanding birth control access would lead to all kinds of horrible consequences in future cases — including potentially allowing religious business owners to discriminate against gay people. Kennedy, however, also hates abortion. Although Kennedy cast the key vote in Planned Parenthood v. Casey upholding what he called the “essential holding of Roe v. Wade,” he’s left no doubt that he cast that vote very grudgingly. Casey significantly rolled back the constitutional right to choose an abortion. And Kennedy hasn’t cast a single pro-choice vote in an abortion case in the last 22 years. So Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood, the two companies claiming that they should be exempt from the birth control rules had an ace in their pocket as well. Their path to victory involved convincing Kennedy that their cases are really about abortion — and it looks like Kennedy convinced himself of that point on his own. It was clear from the get go that the Court’s liberals understood that their best course involved highlighting the dangerous consequences of a victory for Hobby Lobby. Paul Clement, the de facto Solicitor General of the Republican Party who argued the case on Hobby Lobby’s behalf, barely uttered his first sentence before Justice Sonia Sotomayor cut him off to ask what other medical procedures religious employers could refuse to cover in their employee health plans. Justice Elena Kagan quickly joined the party. If Hobby Lobby can deny birth control coverage, Kagan asked, what about employers who object to vaccinations? Or blood transfusions? When Clement tried to deflect this list, Kagan came armed with an even bigger what. What of religious employers who object to gender equality, or the minimum wage, or family medical leave, or child labor laws? If the Supreme Court agrees with Hobby Lobby’s brief, which argues that laws burdening a corporation’s purported religious faith must survive the “most demanding test known to constitutional law,” then there would be few laws corporations could not exempt themselves from following. Clement’s argument time then took a number of detours, with the Court’s three women dominating the questioning. Justice Kagan pointed out that religious liberty cases have never applied the same strict constitutional rule applied in race cases. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wondered how the federal religious liberty law at issue in this case — the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) — could have passed almost unanimously if it lead to the deeply controversial results advocated by Clement. Justice Sotomayor wondered how it is possible for a corporation to exercise religion. The justices also spent a good amount of time discussing whether Hobby Lobby faces any real burden at all, since they could always simply stop offering health benefits and pay a tax — a position first articulated in a blog post written by Professor Marty Lederman. At the end of Clement’s first turn at the podium, Kennedy asked the question that will probably give most hope to Team Birth Control. What about the rights of employees who may be hurt by their employer’s decision not to follow the law? For the moment, it appeared that Kennedy was worried about the parade of horribles that could follow a decision for Hobby Lobby. Indeed, not long after Solicitor General Don Verrilli took the podium to argue the government’s case, it appeared that he may ultimately emerge victorious. Clement spent much of his argument on his heels. The three women on the bench appeared quite confident in their questioning. Kennedy was silent for much of Verilli’s argument. But then he made a statement that will likely doom the government’s case. “Your reasoning would permit” Congress to force corporations to pay for abortions, Kennedy told Verrilli. This was not the Anthony Kennedy that worried about conservatives imposing their anti-gay “animus” on others, this was the Anthony Kennedy that views abortion as a grave moral wrong. Shortly after Kennedy made this statement, Justice Kagan’s face dropped. It appeared that she’d just figured out that she would be joining a dissenting opinion. It’s worth noting that Kennedy expressed a different concern than one offered shortly thereafter by Chief Justice John Roberts. Hobby Lobby objects to four forms of contraception on the mistaken ground that these contraceptive methods are actually forms of abortion — a brief filed by numerous medical organizations explains that they are not. Roberts, however, suggested that someone’s mere belief that something is an abortion is enough to trigger an religious exemption to federal law. This is insane. Suppose I had the "mere belief" -- religiously held -- that black people evolved from mud and white people were descendents of Adam and Eve, and had a rightful place in heaven and on Earth? And in my place of employment? Of course, you don't have to go that far. No Muslim or Jewish employer gets to demand that their employees not get coverage for, say, illnesses resulting from eating pork. No Hindu employer gets to restrict health coverage for people who eat beef or were born to the wrong caste. Why do Christians get a pass? We have actually addressed this issue before, in 1990, in Employment Division, Oregon Department of Human Resources vs. Smith. In that case, Smith and Black were fired by a private drug rehabilitation organization because they ingested peyote, a hallucinogenic drug, for sacramental purposes at a ceremony of their Native American Church. Their applications for unemployment compensation were denied by the State of Oregon under a state law disqualifying employees discharged for work-related "misconduct." That case involved the same question: what happens when one's religious belief runs up... Continue reading
Posted Mar 26, 2014 at The Seventh Sense
Cardinal Columns is a student newspaper at Fond du Lac High School, in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. In last month's issue, a student wrote an article entitled "The Rape Joke", a thoughful article about the rape culture that percades high schools and youth. You can read the article here. And once you do, I hope you'll agree that the student should have received some honor. But that's not what happened. The Fond du Lac school board freaked out. This was not a topic for students to write about, they said, and urged greater oversight of student publications. Which, of course, is dumb. Girls ages 16-19 are 4 times more likely than the general population to be victims of rape, attempted rape, or sexual assault, according to RAINN. 44% of sexual assault victims are under 18 years old. So, no, I don't think high school students are too young to read about the subject. The latest: In response to the new layer of administrative control, students launched an online petition earlier this month asking Sebert to overturn the policy. The petition has garnered nearly 5,500 signatures and has gained national attention among free speech advocates. “All the negative attention drawn to the Fond du Lac School District can be changed to a positive by the Board of Education returning the district to its previously defined policy before Superintendent James Sebert and Principal Jon Wiltzius aggressively suppressed students with prior review,” said Sandy Jacoby, state director of the Journalism Education Association and president of the Kettle Moraine Press Association, an organization dedicated to the support of scholastic journalism in Wisconsin schools. Without the intervention of the Board, Jacoby believes that student journalists may self-censor as they struggle to gain approval from (administration). “If our children cannot learn the practice of responsible press at Fond du Lac High School, then where? If our children cannot learn to grapple with the most challenging issues faced by their generation under the guidance of intelligent and experienced advisers like Matthew Smith, then where?” Jacoby asked. “If our children cannot provoke thought, encourage discussion, arouse public concern and action among teenage peers and parents through the school paper, then where?” School board reaction School board member Eric Everson said he wasn’t surprised by the widespread attention the article has received in the media. “This type of thing garners big news because you have a very active and involved minority of people who are very sensitive to the word censorship,” Everson said. “We’re not dealing with censorship, we’re dealing with adult oversight.” Kumar said the widespread support of The Rape Joke article has received from media outlets and First Amendment advocates has been encouraging. “The school board has to realize how many people care about this issue,” Kumar said. “The whole school has been truly brought together behind this cause. (Administration and the school board) just can’t ignore it.” School board member Mark Jurgella doesn’t believe the new guidelines will be used to censor future student work. “I’m pretty comfortable that there will be little to no change in what students’ work product will end up looking like,” Jurgella said. “I do hope, however, if we need to have dialogue (with students) we’ll have it and clarify both sides’ point of view on this issue.” Incredible opportunity Sex assault survivor Dr. Anna Nelson said Kumar’s article was especially appropriate for a high school audience. “(Administration) is concerned that students might be too immature for the subject matter; you’re not too immature to learn about rape. One of the girls interviewed was assaulted when she was 5!” Nelson said. “Perpetrators need to know what rape is also. They need to know that once someone says no, that’s it.” In her work as a public prosecutor, former state Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager says she has worked with many victims of sexual assault, and believes Kumar’s article was an “incredible opportunity to have a conversation about something impacting the lives of the students at Fond du Lac High School.” “A commonality among sex assault victims is their fear of speaking out. Ms. Kumar was able to articulate for them on their behalf the horrors of what happened to them,” Lautenschlager said, referring to the three female sex assault victims in Kumar’s story. “And then some days later Ms. Kumar finds out that she (and her fellow writers might occasionally) be silenced because somehow her speaking out on behalf of these victims was inappropriate for school conversation.” Back into the shadows Kumor fears that the stepped up policy may silence a reticent victim back into the shadows. “It took a lot for these three girls to speak up about something truly awful that happened to them. I don’t want them to think that the administration is administering this policy to shame them back into their silence,” Kumar said. “I want them to know they have a voice no matter what happens with this issue.” Fellow Cardinal Column staffer Austin Klewicki says the new guidelines have caused student writers to question future topics. “We’re not sure what they’ll choose to censor. But we’re committed to putting out hard-hitting stories that deal with issues important to students like depression and suicide. Our stories raise awareness among students so they can reach out for help,” Klewicki said. “Right now we’re fighting for the younger generations coming up behind us. If (the administration) stops us, they stop them.” Continue reading
Posted Mar 25, 2014 at The Seventh Sense
That's what the chief of police in Albequerque, NM calls this. There is a verbal confrontation between James Boyd, 38, a homeless and mentally disturbed man camping out in the mountains of New Mexico... and the armed police with attack dogs. But eventually, Boyd agrees to gather his stuff and go. He does not make a move to the officers. And then the police shoot and kill him. Read the full story here, but mostly, watch the video: Continue reading
Posted Mar 25, 2014 at The Seventh Sense
Good news: The Sierra Club on Tuesday released the results of a poll it commissioned from Hart Research Associates that shows broad bipartisan support for regulation of coal ash among voters in North Carolina. Hart polled 600 North Carolina voters earlier this month, and found that 83 percent of respondents want coal ash regulated as a hazardous substance and 90 percent think that Duke should clean up all coal ash sites in the state. Seventy percent of those polled thought Duke Energy was at least mostly at fault for the Dan River spill and 57 percent think that stronger regulations could have prevented the spill. Voters also indicated that they were prepared to let politicians know where they stand on this issue at the ballot box with 70 percent of respondents saying they would be more likely to support a candidate who “favors strong regulations and enforcement…to prevent future spills.” Just 17 percent of voters would be more likely to support a candidate who says that having more regulations and enforcement will hurt jobs and the state’s economy. “You can throw the coal industry’s conventional wisdom out the window,” said Mary Anne Hitt, Director of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign, in a release. “As we saw in West Virginia, this North Carolina coal spill has been a wake up call for voters about the need to protect our water from toxic coal pollution. This poll is yet another indication that Republicans, Democrats, and Independents in coal states want leaders who will stand up to big coal companies and enact common-sense initiatives to protect our air, our water, and our families from toxic coal ash and pollution.” Continue reading
Posted Mar 25, 2014 at The Seventh Sense
Give it up, science deniers. You don't get equal time: Sunday's episode of Cosmos was all about evolution. It closely followed the rhetorical strategy of Charles Darwin's world-changing 1859 book, On the Origin of Species, beginning with an example of "artificial selection" by breeders (Darwin used pigeons, Cosmos used domestic dogs) to get us ready to appreciate the far vaster power of natural selection. It employed Darwin's favorite metaphor: the "tree of life," an analogy that helps us see how all organisms are living on different branches of the same hereditary tree. In the episode, Tyson also refuted one of the creationist's favorite canards: the idea that complex organs, like the eye, could not have been produced through evolution. Over at the pro-"intelligent design" Discovery Institute, they're not happy. Senior fellow David Klinghoffer writes that the latest Cosmos episode "[extrapolated] shamelessly, promiscuously from artificial selection (dogs from wolves) to minor stuff like the color of a polar bear's fur to the development of the human eye." In a much more elaborate attempted takedown, meanwhile, the institute's Casey Luskin accuses Tyson and Cosmos of engaging in "attempts to persuade people of both evolutionary scientific views and larger materialistic evolutionary beliefs, not just by the force of the evidence, but by rhetoric and emotion, and especially by leaving out important contrary arguments and evidence." Luskin goes on to contend that there is something wrong with the idea of the "tree of life." Tell that to the scientists involved in the Open Tree of Life project, which plans to produce "the first online, comprehensive first-draft tree of all 1.8 million named species, accessible to both the public and scientific communities." Precisely how to reconstruct every last evolutionary relationship may still be an open scientific question, but the idea of common ancestry, the core of evolution (represented conceptually by a tree of life), is not. Continue reading
Posted Mar 25, 2014 at The Seventh Sense
The film didn't come out 30 years ago today; it took place thirty years ago today. Continue reading
Posted Mar 25, 2014 at The Seventh Sense
Q: Why are Putin and Russia showing their teeth in the Ukraine? Sarah Palin: Because Putin wrestles alligators, while Obama wears mom jeans. *Giggle* *Snort* Q: Uh, thanks. But seriously, why are Putin and Russia showing their teeth in the Ukraine? Lindsey Graham: Because...... Benghazi!!! Thanks for that helpful analysis. Now go away. Continue reading
Posted Mar 4, 2014 at The Seventh Sense
Yes, I haven't posted in a loooooong time, and it's very frustrating because some interesting stuff has been going down (the excuse is work -- I'm covering for a sick co-worker and it has been time-consuming). The MOST interesting story, as far as I am concerned, came from Arizona and SB1062, the "religious freedom" pro-bigotry bill which would permit businesses to discriminate against homosexuals for "religious" reasons. Issues of religious freedom have been cropping up lately everywhere -- see, for example, the debate about Catholic hospitals not providing insurance which includes birth control -- but SB 1062 was a fantastic example of the rubber meeting the road. It was brazen in its attempt to codify discrimination -- bigotry, to be exact -- in the name of religious freedom. Arizona governnor Jan Brewer last night vetoed the bill. Sadly, she didn't do it because it was morally repugnant. She did it because of pressures from the business community. The NFL was considering moving the Supre Bowl from Arizona. Major League Baseball weighed in. As did Intel and other large corporations. Even companies that didn't reside in Arizona threatened to move their corporate get-away conventions from that state. Suddenly, when it came to massive loss of business revenue, "religious freedom" didn't seem so important. And Arizona's reputation had been further damaged. Sadly, this is not over. Georgia is looking to pass the same law. Fools. Continue reading
Posted Feb 27, 2014 at The Seventh Sense
So there was a debate between Bill Nye vs Ken Ham (founder of the Creationist Museum) last night on the subject of evolution vs. creationism. It was fascinating to watch. One of my key takeaways was that Ham actually admitted that evolution takes place. He says it explains the varieties of "kinds" of animals. Rather than say that Noah took thousands of kinds of cats on his ark 4000 years ago, he says that Noah took one pair of cats, and from those two cats, we get all the various cats (lions, tigers, pumas, domestic cats) today. That's a startling admission, if only because it makes evolution work at a much faster pace than Darwin (or any other scientist) claims. Now, obviously I am in the pro-Nye pro-evolution camp, because I think. But even then, I was surprised at how BAD the arguments were for the creationism side. They weren't scientific at all. He admitted as much. But I'll farm out the rest of my review: When I first heard this debate was going to happen, I couldn’t wait. I never thought as a child that somehow “Bill Nye the Science Guy,” who I watched on Saturday mornings, would one day become a leading figure in the political battle of science vs. delusion. Keep in mind that I am a Christian, so I don’t discount everything in the Bible. Though I’ve made it clear that I don’t put a whole lot of stock in the Bible as it’s obvious (to me at least) that much of it has been rewritten – and poorly translated – over centuries. The dawn of the tea party brought about the attempted hijacking of the GOP by radicals, and science that had never really been up for debate previously (besides between people who were borderline insane) because it had always been accepted as scientific fact, suddenly became a “debatable topic.” Not because the science changed, but because insane people were suddenly given a voice in mainstream politics thanks to the tea party. All of a sudden these people began pushing the ridiculous idea that climate change was a “global hoax” perpetrated by over 95% of the world’s scientists and that evolution didn’t belong in the classroom. And if we were going to teach evolution in the classroom, creationism should be taught along side of it as another “scientific theory.” Except, there’s just one problem with that. Creationism isn’t a scientific theory! Which is what led to this debate. Over the last several years, Bill Nye has been quite public with his assertion that it’s insane how certain people want faith-based beliefs to be taught alongside proven science in our schools. Well, Nye wasted no time in asserting that he would make Mr. Ham look like a fool this entire night. Going into this night, I had imagined giving specific quotes and a detailed examination of what I had just seen. However, it didn’t take me long before I realized that wouldn’t be necessary. Honestly, a quick summation of what I saw is enough to properly convey just how badly Mr. Nye embarrassed Mr. Ham. There were questions, rebuttals, long presentations and scientific facts (well, from Nye anyway) that would make most of our heads spin. There was talk of radiometric dating, bedrock layers, tree rings, the expansion of the universe, evolutionary patterns of animals, technological advancements of ships, common sense and all sorts of scientific data which has been proven by some of best and brightest over many years. Then there was Mr. Ham’s argument. Which I will summarize: “Well, there’s a book which tells me…” No, I’m not kidding. That was honestly his answer for most questions. Because the Bible says something, that makes it fact. Because a book that’s been translated over centuries says something, that proves it to be fact. I’m really not lying, that was his answer to most questions. Oh, that and, “Well, because we can’t see the earth billions of years ago – how do we know?” Then Mr. Ham’s “proof” being not that he can prove what’s in the Bible in any way – just that it’s in the Bible. Seriously, that’s what he used as “proof” for most of his argument, “Because the Bible says.” Bill Nye used facts, logic, science, data, research and common sense while Ken Ham countered these arguments with, “Well, the Bible says…” I seriously started laughing during parts of this. But my favorite part came during the question and answer section when someone submitted a question for Mr. Ham asking if he took all parts of the Bible literally (citing a part about touching pig skin or having multiple wives). That’s when Mr. Ham proved himself to be an absolute hypocrite. While the whole night he confidently spoke about the earth being 6,000 years old because that’s what the Bible says, or all these specific things in the Bible which should be taken for their literal word, yet during this part he stumbled over what is or isn’t taken from natural parts. Essentially saying, well – I guess you can’t take every word of the Bible literally because it doesn’t make sense. Because as most of us know, the Bible is full of passages that give men the right to stone their wives and all sorts of other heinous acts that in a modern society would seem barbaric. It was quite comical to see Mr. Ham suddenly start to “subjectively” interpret the Bible when it came to some of the more controversial aspects of what’s written inside. This entire night showcased that Bill Nye (over and over again) proved with science that there’s evidence to support theories and beliefs of the scientific community based on quantitative data collected by some of the best and brightest this world has ever seen. While Mr. Ham’s answers basically consisted of two things: Well, we didn’t see the world during that time so how do we know? The Bible says… And that’s about it. No proof,... Continue reading
Posted Feb 5, 2014 at The Seventh Sense
It was just last week when RNC chairman Reince Priebus threw a huge fit of fake outrage and got MSNBC president Phil Griffin to apologize and fire a staffer who tweeted "maybe the rightwing will hate it" about that new Cheerios ad with a biracial family. How dare MSNBC imply that the right wing doesn't support bi-culturalism, screamed the wounded right wing. Flash forward to the Super Bowl, and guess what happens? The right wing flew into frenzy of racism and nativism about a different Super Bowl ad -- the Coca-Cola ad featuring a multi-racial cast singing "America the Beautiful" in many different languages: The multilingual aspect of the ad drew fire from former Republican Congressman Allen West, who wrote a blog post saying, "If we cannot be proud enough as a country to sing "American the Beautiful" in English in a commercial during the Super Bowl, by a company as American as they come -- doggone we are on the road to perdition." Conservative columnist and Fox News Radio host Todd Starnes tweeted his dislike of the ad, writing, "So was Coca-Cola saying America is beautiful because new immigrants don't learn to speak English?" For awhile, the hashtag #BoycottCoke trended on Twitter, with some calling for a boycott of the soft drink for daring to desecrate the national anthem by using foreign languages. (It should be pointed out for anyone confused on the matter, that America's actual national anthem is "The Star-Spangled Banner.") And there are gay people in it, too! (Never mind the fact that America the Beautiful's lyrics were written by a gay woman). Paul Whitefield atThe Los Angeles Times had the best response: Frankly, I’m getting more than a little tired of hearing from angry America. I’m also less than fond of knee-jerk America. And when you combine the two with the Internet, you too often get stupid America, which is really annoying. Face facts, folks: A lot of people came here not speaking English. We like to think that they all quickly learned it. Some did; many didn’t. But, their kids did. And their kids speak English; many probably couldn’t speak the grandparents’ native language if they wanted to. So get a grip: We’re not being overrun by hordes of Spanish speakers. Just like always, we’re growing a new crop of Americans. They are enriching the country. They are working hard, paying taxes. And they will create future Nobel Prize winners and future presidents and future titans of industry. In short, they will make America beautiful. Continue reading
Posted Feb 4, 2014 at The Seventh Sense
Actor Philip Seymour Hoffman was found dead on Sunday in his Manhattan apartment. He was 46. Hoffman was steeped in his profession — in film, on stage, in the spotlight and behind the scenes. In 2005, he won the Oscar for best actor for his portrayal of Truman Capote. The movie focuses on Capote's interviews with two murderers on death row for his novel, In Cold Blood. He was, to me, the greatest charactor actor of all time. Astounding performances in Truman and Doubt. I saw him off Broadway in 2007 in Jack Goes Boating, and even then - a memorable performance. A big loss to both stage and screen. Continue reading
Posted Feb 3, 2014 at The Seventh Sense
A major bombshell has just dropped in the Bridgegate scandal. David Wildstein, Governor Chris Christie’s appointee to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, has publicly claimed that Governor Christie knew about the improper and illegal lane closures on the George Washington Bridge. In a letter Wildstein not only relays that Governor Christie knew about the lane closures – which is in direct contradiction to what Christie said in his marathon press conference – but that Wildstein has evidence to back up the charge. In a letter released by his lawyer, the official, David Wildstein, a high school friend of Mr. Christie’s who was appointed with the governor’s blessing at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which controls the bridge, described the order to close the lanes as “the Christie administration’s order” and said “evidence exists as well tying Mr. Christie to having knowledge of the lane closures, during the period when the lanes were closed, contrary to what the governor stated publicly in a two-hour press conference” three weeks ago. If true, that fact would not only undermine Governor Christie’s political future but possibly subject Christie to impeachment proceedings if not criminal prosecution. Wildstein, through his attorney, has already expressed interest in an immunity deal with various law enforcement agencies. He seems quite willing, perhaps even desperate, to talk to authorities under the condition he not be prosecuted for his involvement in Bridgegate. Wildstein has already been implicated by various officials in the scandal and emails he provided to a New Jersey Assembly Committee proved further involvement both by Wildstein and Governor Christie’s deputy chief of staff, Bridget Kelly, in the lane closures. It could be a he-said, he-said deal at the end of the day. Unless he does have hard evidence. Continue reading
Posted Jan 31, 2014 at The Seventh Sense
I thought Obama's speech was wonderful. It wasn't very ambitious, but the tone was amazing. It was nationalistic and populistic, and very non-partisan. The non-partisan nature of it was clearly disappointing to the Fox News people, who clearly were hoping to engage in post-speech whining and victimhood. Obama simply said, "Here are the problems; here's what I can do as President; I hope Congress will join me." The thing was, Obama didn't need to bash Republicans to make them look bad. All he had to do was say "Women deserve to be paid the same as men for the same work" and then have all the Republicans sit on their hands while everyone else stood and applauded. They made themselves look bad, again and again. The best commentary I've read so far comes from the New York Times contributing writer, Timothy Egan: The least productive Congress in nearly half a century has rarely looked more out-of-sorts than during the speech that put its members on notice for their irrelevance. That, essentially, was the triumph of the rhetorical trick President Obama employed in his fifth State of the Union address. The president’s wish list — a rise in the minimum wage, healthcare that doesn’t dump sick people, resolve to do something over the basic fact of climate change and the scourge of income inequality — is backed in poll after poll by a majority of Americans. What stands in the way of doing something about these issues are the people who sat on their hands Tuesday night in that chamber. For some time now, the Republican House has made it clear that they have no intention of governing. They shut down the government for 16 days, in case you didn’t get the point. And on Tuesday, they seemed more interested in having their pictures taken with the “Duck Dynasty” guy than finding middle ground with the American majority. For freak value on the fringe, Representative Randy Weber, Republican of Texas, tweeted just before the speech: “Waiting for the Kommandant-in-Chef [sic]” and the “Socialist dictator who been feeding US a line.” Need more proof? Two-thirds of Americans rated this Congress the worst in their lifetime, in a recent CNN poll. And 81 percent disapproved of them in the latest NBC News-Wall Street Journal survey. What Obama did in his speech, in outlining a unilateral map for the sixth year of his presidency, was to finally join the majority of citizens in dismissing the lawmakers who will not do their bidding. On raising the minimum wage, Obama framed it as a simple measure to keep out of poverty the people “who cook our troops’ meals or wash their dishes.” In one of the speech highlights, he urged Republicans to “join the rest of the country. Say yes. Give Americans a raise.” That was the Democratic campaign slogan going into the midterms, birthed in the den of the opposition. Having marginalized a branch of government that is already on the wrong side of popular sentiment, Obama now takes his bully pulpit on the road, to Nashville and Milwaukee and other stops. But if he really hopes to have a lasting impact — “I really want to make a difference,” he told The New Yorker — he has to do more than staged road stopovers. If he’s truly going to take his case to the people, he has to spend more time with the people. For starters, he could treat the West Coast, a big part of his base, as something more than a fundraising fount. It’s certainly heartening to hear Obama, in full-throated defiance that is rare for him, proclaim, “America will not stand still — and neither will I.” But executive orders can only go so far. He needs the majority of the people back with him in order to govern around the say-no, do-nothing Congress. This speech was a muscular start — one of the better efforts by a man whose orator skills were missing for most of the last year. Noticeably missing from the speech was any reference to NSA reform, or the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement -- both of which are of tremendous concern to the left base. Continue reading
Posted Jan 29, 2014 at The Seventh Sense
A piece of Pete Seeger's congressional testimony before the House Unamerican Activities Committee in 1955: MR. TAVENNER: The Committee has information obtained in part from the Daily Worker indicating that, over a period of time, especially since December of 1945, you took part in numerous entertainment features. I have before me a photostatic copy of the June 20, 1947, issue of the Daily Worker. In a column entitled "What's On" appears this advertisement: "Tonight-Bronx, hear Peter Seeger and his guitar, at Allerton Section housewarming." May I ask you whether or not the Allerton Section was a section of the Communist Party? MR. SEEGER: Sir, I refuse to answer that question whether it was a quote from the New York Times or the Vegetarian Journal. MR. TAVENNER: I don't believe there is any more authoritative document in regard to the Communist Party than its official organ, the Daily Worker. MR. SCHERER: He hasn't answered the question, and he merely said he wouldn't answer whether the article appeared in the New York Times or some other magazine. I ask you to direct the witness to answer the question. CHAIRMAN WALTER: I direct you to answer. MR. SEEGER: Sir, the whole line of questioning- CHAIRMAN WALTER: You have only been asked one question, so far. MR. SEEGER: I am not going to answer any questions as to my association, my philosophical or religious beliefs or my political beliefs, or how I voted in any election, or any of these private affairs. I think these are very improper questions for any American to be asked, especially under such compulsion as this. I would be very glad to tell you my life if you want to hear of it. MR. TAVENNER: Has the witness declined to answer this specific question? CHAIRMAN WALTER: He said that he is not going to answer any questions, any names or things. MR. SCHERER: He was directed to answer the question. MR. TAVENNER: I have before me a photostatic copy of the April 30, 1948, issue of the Daily Worker which carries under the same title of "What's On," an advertisement of a "May Day Rally: For Peace, Security and Democracy." The advertisement states: "Are you in a fighting mood? Then attend the May Day rally." Expert speakers are stated to be slated for the program, and then follows a statement, "Entertainment by Pete Seeger." At the bottom appears this: "Auspices Essex County Communist Party," and at the top, "Tonight, Newark, N.J." Did you lend your talent to the Essex County Communist Party on the occasion indicated by this article from the Daily Worker? MR. SEEGER: Mr. Walter, I believe I have already answered this question, and the same answer. CHAIRMAN WALTER: The same answer. In other words, you mean that you decline to answer because of the reasons stated before? MR. SEEGER: I gave my answer, sir. CHAIRMAN WALTER: What is your answer? MR. SEEGER: You see, sir, I feel- CHAIRMAN WALTER: What is your answer? MR. SEEGER: I will tell you what my answer is. (Witness consulted with counsel [Paul L. Ross].) I feel that in my whole life I have never done anything of any conspiratorial nature and I resent very much and very deeply the implication of being called before this Committee that in some way because my opinions may be different from yours, or yours, Mr. Willis, or yours, Mr. Scherer, that I am any less of an American than anybody else. I love my country very deeply, sir. CHAIRMAN WALTER: Why don't you make a little contribution toward preserving its institutions? MR. SEEGER: I feel that my whole life is a contribution. That is why I would like to tell you about it. CHAIRMAN WALTER: I don't want to hear about it. MR. SCHERER: I think that there must be a direction to answer. CHAIRMAN WALTER: I direct you to answer that question. MR. SEEGER: I have already given you my answer, sir. MR. SCHERER: Let me understand. You are not relying on the Fifth Amendment, are you? MR. SEEGER: No, sir, although I do not want to in any way discredit or depreciate or depredate the witnesses that have used the Fifth Amendment, and I simply feel it is improper for this committee to ask such questions. MR. SCHERER: And then in answering the rest of the questions, or in refusing to answer the rest of the questions, I understand that you are not relying on the Fifth Amendment as a basis for your refusal to answer? MR. SEEGER: No, I am not, sir. Seeger was held in contempt for this testimony and sentenced to one year in jail. He finally won on appeal after years of legal wrangling. Continue reading
Posted Jan 28, 2014 at The Seventh Sense
A name that has been appearing in my dead pool the past few years (although not in my "select" list this year). He was 94. I grew up with Pete Seeger. He may have been the first singer I could identify. A good old-fashioned "red", he was the father of folk music, inspiring everyone from Bruce Springsteen to Peter, Paul & Mary. I had the fortune of knowing his half-sister, Peggy, a little bit, who wrote and recorded this tribute to her half-brother noly a few months ago: The Guardian's tribute: On the first Friday of the month, in fine weather and sometimes foul, you will find Pete Seeger, the folk-singing legend and pioneering environmentalist, in a small wooden clubhouse by the Hudson river, 70 miles north of Manhattan. At 87, and only slightly stooped by age, he looks much as he did 40 years ago, when he was the voice of the left, and an inspiration to young folk singers like Bob Dylan. Here at his beloved Beacon Sloop Club, in jeans and with shirt sleeves rolled up, he is still the driving force for a weekly dinner that draws a few dozen similarly conscientious folk at the river's edge. "The town gave us use of the building 45 years ago," recalls Seeger. "My wife suggested we call it a pot-luck dinner and we've been busy ever since." Seeger has won many awards, including the National Medal for the Arts, but his main concern these days is teaching children about the natural life of the Hudson. Ecology is so much his passion that sometimes he likes to be called a river singer. Indeed, along with raising anti-war consciousness in the 1960s, he played a key role in the movement to clean up the Hudson, which forced General Electric to pay half a billion dollars for the removal of toxic substances. "I still call myself a failed communist," says Seeger, preparing the club's stage for a late afternoon sing-song. And it's true that his most famous compositions, Where Have All the Flowers Gone? (adapted from an old Russian song about Cossacks going off to war) and Turn, Turn, Turn (a big hit for the Byrds) don't sound as revolutionary as they did. Seeger's banjo once sported the message: "This machine surrounds hate and forces it to surrender" (an echo of the message on Woody Guthrie's guitar: "This machine kills fascists"). The anti-fascist, union anthems he sang with Guthrie and later with his own band, the Weavers, placed him at the forefront of the action. He was targeted as a communist sympathiser in the 1950s (he was called before the McCarthy hearings after being warned that If I Had a Hammer would go down badly with the authorities, found guilty of contempt of Congress and sentenced to a year in prison). During the civil rights movement of the 1960s, he led a crowd, with Martin Luther King, in a rendition of We Shall Overcome. Nowadays, Seeger doesn't play before large audiences, partly because he fears his voice is no longer strong enough. But he'll spend hours in the club, mischievously giving out bumper stickers reading "Gravity - it's just a theory" and encouraging people to send them to anyone in Kansas, heartland of the anti-Darwinism, creationist movement. He'll sing along at the club and tell stories for hours - but his best story is his own. Born in 1919, and immersed in music by his teacher parents, Seeger got his big break in 1940. His parents were helping famous folk team John and Alan Lomax to transcribe songs recorded in the south. Woody Guthrie was persuaded to come to Washington to record them and Seeger accompanied him in the studio. The results were eventually published as a book: Hard Hitting Songs for Hard Hit People. "I went out west with Woody," says Seeger. "He taught me how to sing in saloons, how to hitch-hike, how to ride freight trains. Then I went out on my own." Guthrie, he says, taught him how to busk. "He'd say put the banjo on your back, go into a bar and buy a nickel beer and sip it as slow as you can. Sooner or later, someone will say, 'Kid, can you play that thing?' Don't be too eager, just say, 'Maybe, a little.' Keep on sipping beer. Sooner or later, someone will say, 'Kid, I've got a quarter for you if you pick us a tune.' Then you play your best song." With that advice, Seeger supported himself on his travels. Last year, Bruce Springsteen - a friend since the 1990s - released an album of songs Seeger had performed over the years. We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions put Seeger back in the spotlight. "I wish he hadn't used my name," says Seeger. "I've managed to survive all these years by keeping a low profile. Now my cover's blown. If I had known, I'd have asked him to mention my name somewhere inside." While he likes Springsteen's renditions ("They're not my songs, they're old songs, I just happened to sing 'em,"), he says the renewed attention has added to the admin work that falls to his wife of more than 60 years, Toshi. "Most men chain their wives to a sink. Mine is chained to a table covered with correspondence. 'Oh, Mr Seeger, won't you listen to my record? Read my book, come over here and accept this award ...'" He refuses almost all such requests. The business of the mighty river comes first nowadays. He's the enduring, seemingly ageless, folk-singing socialist-ecologist, and a fervent believer in thinking globally and acting locally. And down by the river, after the monthly pot-luck dinner, there's always time to take out the old five-string banjo and sing a song. "The real revolution will come when people realise the danger we're in," he offers in parting. "I'm not as optimistic as people think I am. I think we have a 50-50 chance of there being a human... Continue reading
Posted Jan 28, 2014 at The Seventh Sense
Oy. I think the record is pretty clear that the Left is responding to the GOP's obsession with a woman's uterus, from forced mammograms to banning abortions to not including contraception as something health insurance should cover. Honestly, I think women would prefer not having their "below the waist" being politicized, but as long as the GOP wants to treat women like chattel, I'm afraid women (and progressives) are going to speak up. Continue reading
Posted Jan 27, 2014 at The Seventh Sense