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Fearless Philosophy For Free Minds: October 2006

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid!

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Fearless Philosophy Flashback: Sorry Kids, Halloween is Evil

Originally posted on 10/31/05

Since when did parents become so uptight when it comes to celebrating holidays at school? I can remember when I was growing up that every Halloween all the kids dressed up and we held a costume parade either in the gym or outside. We got to wear hats and masks and face paint for the whole day. The PTA used to make a haunted house at the school. I thought it was bad enough that when my oldest son was in Kindergarten, their costumes were limited to fairy tale characters, nothing scary.

Then when my youngest son was in Kindergarten, he had to dress up as a character from their Zoo Phonics. Okay, fine, I can live with that, but down the hall where his brother was in first grade; his teacher didn’t believe in Halloween, this = no party, no dressing up. That whole class was left out while other classes had a little party and a costume parade through the school. Now, if you are lucky enough to get to have a class party, you don’t get to have it until the last 30-45 minutes of the day.

It seems these days all it takes is for one parent to complain that it goes against their beliefs and if the school celebrates, their child will not come to school that day. At my kid’s school, their party is at the end of the day, no masks, no face paint, and no weapons. The school district has even officially banned the word 'Halloween' and replaced it with 'Fall Festival' or something P.C. like that. Some people believe that for kids who don’t celebrate they will be left out or made fun of for not dressing up. Why can’t the child go home before the party starts, or send them to the library or something? I understand not having the masks or weapons, but some of these schools excuses are so absurd that it leaves me shaking my head in disbelief.

At Underwood Elementary School in Boston, the principle has canceled Halloween celebrations because of parents threatening to keep their kids home that day. Why make a whole school stop a tradition because of a handful of students? This next excuse made me laugh, in the school district of Puyallup in Seattle; Superintendent Tony Apostle announces they have banned celebrations for fear of offending Wiccans. What? "Building administrators should not tolerate such inappropriate stereotyping (images such as witches on flying brooms, stirring caldrons, casting spells, or with long noses and pointed hats)," Apostle's memo states. Fine, don’t let them dress up like witches then, end of problem. When was the last time you heard a ghost complain of being improperly represented by a kid in a bed sheet with eye holes?

In Kingsport, a Christian Evangelist Mark Poff says:

I believe it [Halloween] is a major trick of the devil. The enemy wants to make us think that these things are all right, when in fact, you give somebody Like the devil an inch, he's going to invade your mind and spirit. This kind of activity is dangerous.
Man, what a buzz kill. Since when did dressing up like a super hero, giant sponge, or a princess become dangerous? I know several churches (and there are many) in my area are having festivities of their own. Some churches are having participants give out candy from the trunks of their cars, and they are encouraged to decorate said trunk.

For one thing, the origin of Halloween has nothing to do with the occult or the devil. It started out as a blend from October 31st into November 1st where the Celts believed the spirits of the dead roamed the earth, at this point in time the celebration was referred to as Samhain. I found some interesting facts about how Samhain evolved to the holiday we know as Halloween on the History Channel website.

My point to this whole thing is, let the kids have their little harmless parties, let them have their candy and let them be someone else for a night. Some say that it takes away from learning time. Please! Come up with something better than that. How many times were you required to attend an assembly in elementary school where a guy knows how to use a yo-yo really, or Junior High to see the Harlem Globe Trotter wannabes, or High School as you are dragged from class to have a pep rally for the football team? I seriously doubt that taking less than an hour away from these kids is going to set them back any. What’s next; take away their recess? Oh wait that has already happened in some schools. Maybe we should all just live in seclusion so as not to offend anyone.
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Friday, October 27, 2006

The Drive-by Media Targets Limbaugh Once Again

Rush Limbaugh has once again found himself in the crosshairs of what he cleverly (and quite accurately I might add) refers to as “the drive-by media” over remarks he made on Monday’s program concerning Michael J. Fox’s campaign ad concerning stem cell research. Since then Limbaugh has devoted a substantial amount of the past week to the subject to better explain his problems with Fox’s ad and respond to criticisms he has received.

Limbaugh’s assertions (as I understand them at least) are as follows:

-The Democrats are using Michael J. Fox’s emotional plea to accuse Republicans of wanting to restrict or criminalize embryonic stem cell research

-Fox’s ad is misleading (as is the ballot measures Fox is promoting); offers victims of conditions such as Parkinson’s false hope

-Fox was likely either not taking his medication or used his acting ability to make the ad more dramatic and effective

-When anyone, regardless of who he or she is, enters the political “arena of ideas” he or she is fair game for fair criticism

Out of all of these assertions, the drive-by media chose to focus on the third argument. From there certain media outlets selectively quoted Limbaugh to make it appear as though he was doing nothing other than personally attacking Fox for three hours of his program. The Washington Post’s headline reads “Limbaugh Mocks Michael J. Fox’s Political Ad.” WaPo does not go into any of Limbaugh’s other points at all and he certainly was not mocking Fox. In the online edition by MSNBC, there is also a poll that asks “Did Limbaugh’s comments go too far?”

The poll question is a fair one (which I will answer below), but what about the other questions Limbaugh raised? Are they not worthy of debate? It seems to me that WaPo could have provided a little more context.
In the spirit of context, this one of the ads in question:



Now let’s analyze Limbaugh’s assertions:

The Democrats are using Michael J. Fox’s emotional plea to accuse Republicans of wanting to restrict or criminalize embryonic stem cell research.

I believe this to be a fair criticism. In the ad Fox accuses Jim Talent for trying to criminalize embryonic stem cell research. Talent is opposed to the Missouri ballot initiative in question and voted against easing restrictions on FEDERAL FUNDING of embryonic stem cell research that President Bush eventually signed early in his presidency. This is not the same thing as criminalizing the research; being opposed to federal funding of the research is not the same thing as being opposed to the research. One would be very hard pressed to find lawmakers in either party who would criminalize the PRIVATE research of embryonic stem cells (but give the Christian Right/Pro Life crowd enough time and they will get their hooks into at least a few).

Fox’s ad is misleading (as is the ballot measures Fox is promoting); offers victims of conditions such as Parkinson’s false hope.

I would also agree with this assertion that the ad offers victims of Parkinson’s false hope. While I think Rush Limbaugh is wrong about embryonic stem cells not showing any promising results, I also think Fox is overstating the progress of the research. There seems to be no middle ground here (outside of the scientific community at least). Yet, if you read peer reviewed medical journals [pdf], you will likely find that progress is being made but there is still a long, long way to go (surely Fox knows this?). This is precisely why this research is so important. But for Michael J. Fox to suggest that if Democrats are elected the cure will be all but found is wrong. I hate to be the bearer of bad news here but I doubt the cure will be ready in time to benefit Fox or anyone else who currently suffers with Parkinson’s. I would really like to be wrong about this but the cure is likely to be several decades away. It simply is not fair to act as though the cure will be found soon for those who are suffering now.

Fox was likely either not taking his medication or used his acting ability to make the ad more dramatic and effective.

Limbaugh based his medication claim on something Fox wrote in his autobiography several years ago. In the autobiography, Fox admits that he purposely chose not to take his medication when appearing before congress to speak on the issue. I think that’s a fair assumption. But assuming he didn’t take his medication for the ad: so what? Fox is trying to make a point about his condition. I don’t think it is dishonest in any way.

The second part of Limbaugh’s assumption is just idiotic. Yes, I know he’s an actor and sometimes the Hollywood types do some outrageous things to make a point but when someone has an actual medical condition and shows signs of that condition, you just have to give him the benefit of the doubt. Rush Limbaugh is not a medical doctor and therefore unqualified to make such a determination. To answer the MSNBC poll question; yes, Rush Limbaugh did go too far with his comments.

For what its worth, Limbaugh apologized for his “acting” remark and was critical of those who misquoted him as saying that Fox was “faking” his symptoms (I fail to see a difference here).

When anyone, regardless of who he or she is, enters the political “arena of ideas” he or she is fair game for fair criticism.

I absolutely agree with this last assertion. For example: I personally have a problem with the media going after the family members of politicians who choose to lead private lives. However, when that family member decides to make political statements or advance policies, he or she is fair game for criticism. Similarly, Fox has chosen to enter the political arena. Having Parkinson’s or any other ailment does not give one a license to say whatever he or she wants without criticism. Such criticism should be based on the facts of the argument though. Rush Limbaugh did not need to get into whether or not Michael J. Fox was taking his meds or if he was acting. His other arguments would have been much more effective if he had stuck to his other points. If Fox’s political ad is misleading, it is quite proper to point out where the ad is wrong.

And there you have it: a more complete analysis of the points Rush Limbaugh was trying to make. Why can’t the drive-by media do this? Are they afraid to look into these arguments? That would mean they would actually have to do some research. It’s much easier to misrepresent someone who many people already despise anyway.

Related:
Michael J. Fox responds saying he was not off his meds
One More Time: I Did Not Make Fun of Michael J. Fox by Rush Limbaugh
New Scientist Stem Cell Page
How Stem Cells Work by Stephanie Watson
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Wednesday, October 18, 2006

2 Fearless Political Ads the G.O.P. Should Run (But Won’t)

The Republican Party has been a disappointment when it comes to living up to their stated beliefs, not doubt about it. Among their many faults is their inability to effectively advocate their positions and present their accomplishments to the American people in a persuasive way. Yes, it is true that Republicans have to contend with a very biased Left-wing media, but that is still no excuse in this information age. The G.O.P. has the bully pulpit of the presidency and have control of both houses of congress (for now at least). Do they think it is too arrogant to brag about accomplishments or too mean to point out differences between themselves and Democrats?

I recently wrote a post called Choose and Lose where I explored reasons not to vote for anyone in the Republican, Democrat, and Libertarian parties. On the flip side, there are still a few good reasons to support the Republicans and plenty of reasons not to support the Democrats. As for the Libertarians, as usual just a blip on the radar screen in the American debate. These two amateur ads (neither of which have been sanctioned by G.O.P) point out that there are still some very distinct differences between the two parties.

This first ad by Braden Barty and Larry Elder does a great job of reminding the American people of some of the accomplishments of the Bush Presidency. Some of these facts (facts, the mortal enemy of Leftists everywhere) might receive passing mention at best in the MSM. As you will see, these facts contradict much of what the MSM and Democrats have been saying these past 5 years. Enjoy!



The second ad was produced by David Zucker (producer of ‘Airplane’ and ‘Scary Movie’). This one his been out for a couple of weeks and you have probably seen it. Still, I find it very entertaining. If you haven’t seen it, the point of the ad is about the dangers of appeasement. Appeasement was the policy of the Clinton Administration.



Of course Zucker adds some humorous elements that didn’t happen such as Madeline Albright mowing Kim Jong Ill’s lawn and painting Osama bin Laden’s cave in much of this ad (so all of you who were so angry about a few factual errors in ‘The Path to 9/11’ which made Clinton look a little less than perfect, lighten up…it’s a joke…really!), Albright’s meeting with Ill did happen (and yes she did give him a basketball autographed by Michael Jordan!).

Now Democrats have the nerve to blame this current crisis with North Korea on George W. Bush. Bush has made his share of mistakes but he sure as hell did not create the mess in North Korea. Clinton trusted a mad man with nuclear technology and now we are paying the price (What? Despots lie?). We can joke about this now but the idea of North Korea with a nuke that could reach the West Coast is no laughing matter.

These two ads say many things that the G.O.P. should be saying. What are they so afraid of; that the Democrats might be angry and say hateful things?
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Friday, October 13, 2006

Ritter Smears Beauprez for Supporting of the Fair Tax

The Bill Ritter (D) campaign has decided to smear Bob Beauprez (R) with a misleading ad about Beauprez’s support for the Fair Tax as part Ritter’s strategy to become Colorado’s next governor. If this ad proves effective, Beauprez and the rest of the Republican Congressional campaign are partially to blame. Even though the Fair Tax is supported by a number of Republicans, these same Republicans have failed to make the Fair Tax a central issue in this campaign. Because the Republican supporters of the Fair Tax have failed to educate the people (who has even heard of the Fair Tax outside of those who have found The Fair Tax Book in bookstores or listen to Neal Boortz on the radio), the door is left wide open for Democrat challengers such as Bill Ritter to make misleading claims about those who support the legislation. It will be very interesting to see how Fair Tax supporters such as Beauprez will respond in the coming days and weeks ahead.

For the benefit of those with a slow internet connection or cannot otherwise view the above video, the following is the script for Ritter’s attack ad:

Narrator: "What kind of ideas has Congressman Bob Beauprez picked up in Washington?"

"Beauprez pushed for a national sales tax of 23 percent on everything we buy including new homes, food, and medicine."

"He's proposed a 25 percent Colorado sales tax increase, and even supports unlimited tuition increases for college."

Bill Ritter: "The last thing we need to do is make it tougher for our kids to go to college, or families to buy a home."

"I'll keep the Colorado Promise of an economy that helps families and rewards hard work."

Notice anything Ritter left out? The first major thing I noticed is that he does not verbally mention any specific legislation Beauprez supported to in reference to any of these claims. The apparent hope is that most voters will take Ritter at his word and not look into these issues. To the ad’s credit, it does however make reference to “HR 25” in the bottom right of the screen. HR 25 is the Fair Tax.

While the claim that "Beauprez pushed for a national sales tax of 23 percent on everything we buy including new homes, food, and medicine" is accurate, it is very disingenuous. Nowhere in the ad does Ritter mention that the 23 percent sales tax would REPLACE the existing income tax, leaving unsuspecting voters to believe that the 23 percent tax would be in addition to the existing income tax. This is a very important detail and a lie of omission.

While it is true that the 23 percent tax would apply to homes, food, and medicine, a couple of other key facts Ritter conveniently left out was that the tax applies only to NEW purchases and that those who spend below the poverty line would pay ABSOLUTLY NO FEDERAL TAXES. Under the Fair Tax, a person could buy a used car, used home, or any other used items tax free. Taxes are only paid at the retail level for new purchases.

To suggest that the Fair Tax would harm ‘working families’ is a lie. How would the elimination of the federal income tax, the death (estate) tax, the gift tax, Social Security, Medicare, and the self employment tax possibly hurt families who struggle to make ends meet? Does Ritter really believe the government can better spend your money? Well, he is a Democrat; I think that answers my question.

Other Fair Tax related posts:
We Can Make April 15th Just Another Day
End Success-Based Taxation
What I Have Learned from Air America: Morning Sedition/Final Thoughts
Be sure to check out the Fair Tax Friday weekly blog carnival. This post was not completed in time for the deadline for this week but I have submitted for next week’s (10/20/06) consideration.

Visit http://www.fairtax.org/ for more details on this important reform of the federal tax code.

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Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Personal Attack Ad…Against Myself!

The political attack ads this election season seems to be particularly vicious (and therefore very entertaining). Sometimes these negative attacks have the opposite of the desired effect. Regarding the House district I live in I’ve received anti-Rick O’Donnell mailings and watched anti-Rick O’Donnell television ads that point out that O’Donnell once wrote an article titled: “For Freedom’s Sake, Eliminate Social Security” (never mind that he was in his early twenties when he wrote the piece and is now in his late thirties and has since moderated his position to reform the program instead of eliminate it). The ads also call O’Donnell “another vote for Bush’s agenda” with prominent photos of the candidate standing next to President Bush.

Whaaat? A Republican who supports the Bush agenda? That’s supposed to be a big revelation? A candidate who wants to at least reform Social Security so maybe there will be something left for me when I retire? These are supposed to be bad things? Though I still believe I am in a lose/lose situation when it comes to voting in this election, these ads have done more to encourage me to possibly vote for Rick O’Donnell in this election than anything his campaign has put out. Since this is an open seat, I could reason that I’m not voting for an incumbent, who has betrayed those of us who are for secure borders, tax relief, and fiscal responsibility (on the other hand, a vote for any Republican means they could still maintain control of the House and continue their slide towards Socialism).

This race is but one example of what’s out there. I have often wondered what it would be like to be on the receiving end of a negative campaign. What kinds of things would my opposition say about me? These thoughts inspired me to write my own attack ad…against myself!

[Cue the unflattering grainy black and white video with dreary music]

Who is Stephen Littau and why can’t we trust him? For starters, he often advocates
ending the war on drugs, suspending drug raids on suspected dealers, and repealing mandatory minimum sentencing laws for drug offenders. He has even gone as far as to defend a man who shot and killed a police officer who was simply serving a lawful search warrant.

But that’s not all…

Stephen Littau once wrote
“Go ahead and call me an infidel, I will readily embrace this label” and that “an end of faith is way overdue.” Do we really want to put our trust in such a Godless heathen?

Not if you want to defend marriage, the flag, and traditional
family values. Stephen Littau opposed the Defense of Marriage Amendment and the Flag Desecration Amendment. He also wants to take God off our currency, out of the Pledge of Allegiance, and remove religious monuments such as the Ten Commandments from government property using the tired old “wall of church and state” argument.

Stephen Littau is so morally depraved that he considers selfishness a
“virtue” and wants to eliminate social welfare and entitlement programs leaving Americans to fend for themselves. Stephen Littau wants us to believe that such selfish attitudes are actually compassionate by allowing people to suffer from their poor choices.

Let’s be sure not to suffer from this bad choice. This November, send Stephen Littau a clear message:

Yes to the war on drugs!
Yes to religion in government!
Yes to defending marriage, the flag, and the Ten Commandments!
Yes to a compassionate government!
And No to the secular philosophy and dangerous ideas of Stephen Littau!

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Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Update II: The Plight of Cory Maye

This is some rather old news now but for those of you who are following the Cory Maye case and have not heard Cory Maye will at the very least receive a new death sentencing trail. On September 21st, Judge Michael Eubanks agreed with the defense that Cory Maye’s council, Rhonda Cooper, was incompetent in presenting her case in the death penalty phase. This means that for the time being, Maye is off death row.

Hopefully, there will be more good news to follow. Radley Balko, who has been relentlessly following this case and was present at the hearing, believes it could take “a month or more” before Judge Eubanks makes a decision on the remaining arguments (.pdf) which the defense hopes will result in a complete dismissal of all charges or a new trial.

Besides this news, Balko has uncovered information about the informant who led to the raid on Maye’s apartment. The defense team hired a private investigator and discovered that the name of the informant was Randy Gentry. The defense team tried to set up a meeting with Mr. Gentry but Gentry backed out once he found out who they were. Gentry did, however, give the defense team a gift on their answering machine. The message was laced with profanity and racial slurs and could explain why Maye’s apartment was targeted to begin with. Among some of the most impeachable statements include “I don’t like f---n n---ers” and “the day I help that f---n c--k sucker Cory Maye get out of jail is going to be one hell of a damn day.” You can read the whole message here completely uncensored, but you get the point. The man isn’t one who I would consider a credible witness.

Despite these positive developments, justice is still yet to be done. Balko fears that many in the blogosphere who have been writing about this case will move on since Maye has been temporarily taken off death row.

Balko writes:

Life without parole doesn't carry nearly the same sex appeal as a looming date with the death chamber. I hope that doesn't happen -- I hope the people who've done great work promoting this will case continue to write about it and call attention to it. An innocent life spent in prison isn't a life saved. Cory's two kids will still grow up without a dad. And a good guy will still wrongly waste away his life in a jail cell.

I couldn’t agree more. We cannot become complacent. It is my pledge that I will not stop writing about this case until Cory Maye is a free man. There is even yet another reason why we should continue to write about this case. Apart from the fact that this injustice has received very little media attention (I haven’t even heard about this case on talk radio), Balko was informed by Cory Maye himself (Balko met Maye for the first time outside the courtroom) that the defense team has been printing out blogposts about his case and pass them on to him for encouragement. We should continue to lift Cory’s spirits in any way we can. It cannot be easy spending time in an 8x10 cell, especially when you know that you shouldn’t be there in the first place.

With that in mind, I would like to say a few words directly to Cory if he by chance receives a copy of this post.

Dear Cory,

While the death of Officer Jones is tragic and regrettable, you have no reason to apologize. What happened to Officer Jones was not your fault. The police entered your home in the dark of night with no warning. It is completely understandable that you would believe that you and your daughter’s lives were in danger. You did what any responsible father would do by protecting your daughter and home from intruders. I believe your testimony that you would not have fired your weapon if you knew at the time that you were lawfully being raided by the police. The police should know that when they enter a home of an unsuspecting person that they are taking their own lives at risk and should not find fault with the homeowner when he or she takes measures to protect his or her home.

Whatever you do Cory, don’t lose heart. As you now know there are lots of us out here who are bringing attention to your plight. Martin Luther King Jr. said it best: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” In your case, the injustice occurred in Prentiss, Mississippi but such an injustice could have just as easily happened where I sit in Denver, Colorado to just about anyone.

We’ve got your back Cory. Don’t ever forget that.


Be sure to read Radley Balko’s Cory Maye page for all the latest developments. Events in this case are moving rapidly but Balko has been doing a great job of documenting each turn this story takes and is much more knowledgeable than I. But for all of Balko’s hard work, this story would likely have never been brought to light.

Related posts:
The Plight of Cory Maye
Update I
Collateral Damage of the War at Home (Part I, Part II)
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