Brian Lehrer and Lawrence Lessig Discuss Copyright Law

30 November 2008

This Week's Links

28 November 2008

Thanksgiving Pardon

25 November 2008

In Thanksgiving Tradition, Bush Pardons Scooter Libby In Giant Turkey Costume

Ben Stein vs. Neil Cavuto: Whoever Wins, We Lose

23 November 2008

Ben Stein and Neil Cavuto are both kinda crazy. Neil Cavuto thinks that national healthcare is a "breeding ground for terror," blames Obama for the stock market decline (relying on economic experts such as Hollywood's Kelsey Grammer), and has hosted an entire panel discussion devoted to the topic: "Do married men hate Hillary because she sounds like their nagging wives?" In addition to using his show to promote partisan hackery, Cavuto also likes to focus on topics such as these: "KNOCKOUT GIRLS: GIVING MEN 'HOT' HAIRCUTS," "LINGERIE BOWL," "NEW DATING SERVICE HOOKS UP 'SUGAR MAMAS' WITH 'BOY TOYS,' " and "PORNO-TAX!"

Ben Stein, on the other hand, is a creationist who frequently compares scientists to Nazis, and once compared the police officers who caught homosexual Senator Larry Craig in a public restroom to Nazis.

In the above video, the two men shout at each other about something.

Marc Elias Sets the Wall Street Journal Straight

21 November 2008

Ever since election night, the Wall Street Journal's editorial page has been huffing and puffing and insinuating that Al Franken is trying to "steal the election," "conjure up. . . disqualified[] ballots," "invent votes," etc. They utterly fail to back up any of their voter fraud claims, and just rattle on and on about how they see "funny business" and "potential fraud."

Today, Marc Elias (Franken's attorney) goes through the Wall Street Journal's ridiculous claims, one-by-one, and tears them apart. On the Wall Street Journal editorial page itself, no less.

UPDATE: On FOX News, in their never-ending quest to de-legitimize the state-mandated recount process, they are now falsely claiming that Minnesota Secretary of State Ritchie is a "former member of the Communist Party." That is a shameful lie, and the crudest kind of propaganda.

UPDATE II: Former Republican congressman Joe Scarborough (R-FL) is now saying that "Al Franken only needs to steal 130 more votes to win that thing," apparently insinuating that Franken is a brazen vote-thief, hatching a plot to steal the votes and steal the election. Scarborough, of course, does nothing whatsoever to substantiate his claims. The best he can do is make vague allusions to the discredited votes-in-the-car meme ("he can . . . hide 130 votes in the back of a station wagon"), which Marc Elias thoroughly debunked.

UPDATE III: Without citing any evidence, Rush Limbaugh jumps on board:

The Democrats are in the process of stealing the Franken-Coleman election in Minnesota. They're doing it. They're finding all these votes. . . . They're stealing that Senate race right under everybody's nose. . . . I think our elections have been corrupted. In fact, there's no doubt in my mind the elections have been corrupted.

UPDATE IV: FOX News' Fred Barnes is also peddling the votes-in-the-car meme.

FOX News Has the Story - Part XVIII

Part I: Sex Robots
Part II: Sex Teachers
Part III: Lingerie Bowl
Part IV: Panty Bandits
Part V: Hooters Haircuts
Part VI: Sexy Stripper Scam
Part VII: Stripper Fitness
Part VIII: Exotic Erotic Ball
Bonus: FOX Attacks
Part IX: Drunk Upskirt Pictures
Bonus: FOX Porn
Part X: Bunny Bar
Part XI: Teens Seen Grinding
Part XII: Porno-Tax!
Part XIII: Sexy Teacher
Part XIV: Sugar Mamas and Boy Toys
Part XV: Sexy Part-Time Job
Part XVI: Hot Cops
Part XVII: Sex Sells

This Week's Links

"Another Black Eye for the Bush Administration's Detention Policy," Harper's
"Brawl on Voter Fraud Allegations Breaks Out in Senate Judiciary Committee Report on U.S. Attorney Firings," Election Law
"Five Detainees Ordered Released 'Forthwith' After Seven Years at Guantanamo," Salon
"FOX News' Napolitano Falsely Smears Minnesota Secretary of State Ritchie as a 'former member of the Communist Party,' " Media Matters
"Has There Been Too Much Bipartisanship or Too Little?," Salon
"Judge Orders Release of Five Guantanamo Detainees," McClatchy D.C.
"The Myth of the 1970s Global Cooling Consensus," American Meteorological Society
"Preliminary Thoughts and Facts About Eric Holder," Salon

Daniel Henninger Has a Crazy Theory About Our Economic Problems

20 November 2008

Daniel Henninger is the "deputy editor of The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page." This major, nationally circulated newspaper pays Henninger a salary to come up with intelligent and insightful commentary about politics, culture and the economy.

Daniel Henninger has failed at his job. His latest article is a serious candidate for Worst Op-Ed of the Year, blaming our current economic woes on atheism and "
the disappearance of [the phrase] 'Merry Christmas.' " Seriously.

This year we celebrate the desacralized “holidays” amid what is for many unprecedented economic ruin — fortunes halved, jobs lost, homes foreclosed. People wonder, What happened? One man’s theory: A nation whose people can’t say “Merry Christmas” is a nation capable of ruining its own economy.
Over the past year, the United States has lost 1.2 million jobs, consumer sales have plummeted, the automobile sector has bled money and failed to move its inventory, retail sales have plummeted, oil price shocks have driven down transportation and demand, banks have failed, and institutional investors have gone under, bringing with it a credit freeze that fundamentally affects the entire economy.

Daniel Henninger blames "Northerners and atheists" who are "throwing out nurturers of useful virtue." All because some retailers prefer to use the more expansive "Happy Holidays" phrase, in an attempt to reach out to non-Christian shoppers.
It has been my view that the steady secularizing and insistent effort at dereligioning America has been dangerous. That danger flashed red in the fall into subprime personal behavior by borrowers and bankers, who after all are just people. . . .

The point for a healthy society of commerce and politics is not that religion saves, but that it keeps most of the players inside the chalk lines. We are erasing the chalk lines.

Feel free: Banish Merry Christmas. Get ready for Mad Max.

Seriously. This man got paid by a nationally circulated newspaper to write and print this. Can you believe it?

: Here is a video of Henninger being stupid:

UPDATE II: This is pretty spot-on:
[E]ach of Henninger's points seems more ridiculous than the last. There is no "dereligioning" of America. "Dereligioning" isn't even a word, but more importantly, the United States is the most religious of any industrialized democracy, and among the most religious countries on the planet. "Happy Christmas" has not been banned. The financial crisis is not the result of secular values. Morality is not being "erased."

Why anyone would attach their name to such transparent foolishness is a mystery to me. Why anyone would publish such inanity is even harder to understand.

Cardinal Stafford Cries "Hot, Angry Tears" Over the Election

18 November 2008

Cardinal James Stafford recently had this to say about the election of Barack Obama:

"His rhetoric is post-modernist and marks an agenda and vision that are aggressive, disruptive and apocalyptic. Catholic weep over his words. We weep over the violence concealed behind the rhetoric of our young president-to-be. What should be do with our hot, angry tears of betrayal?"
What should Mr. Stafford do with his "hot, angry tears"? Maybe he should go to his bedroom and release his anger on an electronic drum.

No word on whether he had similar "hot" tears when his organization enabled serial child predators to access and abuse innocent children. In fact, Stafford tried to pin the abuse of children on "homosexuality" instead of his own organization's high-level negligence, saying of the children abuse scandal that "I think it's more of an acting out homosexually."

In other news, the U.S. Conference of Bishops released a statement saying that "A Catholic cannot vote for" Obama, a South Carolina priest has called it a "mortal sin" to vote for Obama, and a high level Republican has been denied communion for voting for the President-elect Obama.

Despite all this, "Obama won the Catholic vote 54 percent to 45 percent."

UPDATE: Oh no! Postmodern!

UPDATE II: McClatchy has more here.

Down the Tubes

It looks like convicted felon Ted Stevens (R-AK) will not be serving another term in the Senate. After a long vote-count process, the race has just been called for this guy.


16 November 2008

According to WorldNetDaily, evolution is "an element of witchcraft" and Harry Potter is a clear and present danger to your children (WorldNetDaily refers to these children's books as being "pro-bigotry" and possibly leading to children practicing the occult). It's not unusual to go to this website and see a line such as this: "Liberals want mass starvation and human devastation."

Basically, WorldNetDaily is a news outlet for unhinged, angry and paranoid conservatives with little regard for facts or rational discussion.

If you don't believe me, then please take the time to read this WorldNetDaily article by Janet Folger. She writes it from the perspective of a prisoner in the future, who has been put in jail by Hillary Clinton simply for being a Christian.

Nov. 20, 2010

To the Resistance:

I'm writing this letter from prison, where I've been since the beginning of 2010. Since Hillary was elected in '08, Christian persecution in America has gotten even worse than we predicted. . . .

For a while now, as you might have guessed, WorldNetDaily has made it their mission to pass along any anti-Obama story it could, no matter how baseless and absurd. They first argued that Obama was a gay coke-fiend. That didn't pan out, as their career criminal source failed a polygraph test.

Next, they argued that Obama was planning to create a "massive but secret national police force that will be even bigger than the Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force put together" (false), that his energy plan consisted of nothing more than tire inflation (false), that he supports cash reparations to blacks for slavery (false), etc.

Lately, WorldNetDaily has been promoting the myth that Barack Obama was born in Africa, and thus is ineligible to serve as the President of the United States. Their sources, as usual, are nutcases who have utterly failed to substantiate any of their claims.

These psychopaths will never rest.

UPDATE: As you might have guessed, college fail-out Rush Limbaugh frequently uses WorldNetDaily as a source. It's all a big crazy circle.

UPDATE II: They use actor Chuck Norris to argue against the scientific theory of evolution, for God's sake!

UPDATE III: WorldNetDaily recently settled a libel claim after baselessly asserting that an Al Gore supporter was "a suspected drug dealer."

UPDATE IV: My favorite WorldNetDaily headline is this: "Soy is Making Kids 'Gay' "

UPDATE V: Here is another actual WorldNetDaily headline: "Is Obama Devotee of Monkey-God Idol?"

Reminder: Mos Def Is Insane

First, Mos Def ruined the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Then he went on national television to say that (1) Bin Laden was not responsible for the 9/11 attacks, (2) the moon landing was faked, (3) O.J. Simpson didn't kill his wife, and (4) Bigfoot is real. Now I see that he has a video claiming that "Bush knocked down the towers." Even though the song is kinda catchy, this serves as a reminder that Mos Def is insane and/or stupid.

Michael Barone and Dennis Miller Are Hacks

14 November 2008

The post-election coverage on cable news has left us with a wealth of asinine commentary. However, what I find most mind-boggling is how several wacko (and sadly influential) conservatives have created some sort of weird psychodrama martyr out of Sarah Palin. For example, conservative columnist Michael Barone recently made the off-the-wall absurd argument that "The liberal media attacked Sarah Palin because she did not abort her Down syndrome baby." Conservative comedian Dennis Miller similarly argued that "the Left hate her — mostly women on the Left hate her — because to me from outside in it appears that she has a great sex life, all right?"

What's wrong with these people?

UPDATE: Sarah Palin herself once argued that her critics were just "ticked off" at the idea "that normal Joe six-pack American is finally represented in the position of vice presidency."

How on Earth Did This Happen?

The International Herald Tribune recently ran this headline: "Saudi Arabia to lead UN talks on religious tolerance"


The first half of the first sentence in this article reveals how absolutely bizarre this situation really is: "Saudi Arabia, which deploys a special police force to ensure that only one narrow sect of Islam predominates in the kingdom. . . ."

Stop right there. This is too ridiculous.

UPDATE: See also Bill Donohue.

Reminder: Bill Donohue Is Insane

13 November 2008

Video proof is here. In responding to an atheist group's self-advertising in a public place, Donohue first compares the group to "gay terrorists," then to Jeffrey Dahmer ("Jeffrey Dahmer had a conscience, too -- You know what he did, he destroyed his victims and he ate them -- we saw what happened"), and finally to "Pol Pot, Hitler, Mao." Donohue concludes that there are "fifty million people dead because of this man's philosophy."

This man is insane.

This Week's Links

11 November 2008

"Anti-Gay, Anti-Family," The New York Times
"Drawing Lines," Columbia Journalism Review
"Fixing Election Administration," Election Law
"Guantanamo Down To 250 Detainees, Future Uncertain," McClatchy D.C.
"Joe Lieberman, The Progressive Who Lost His Way," Center For American Progress
"Joe Scarborough: Hoisted By His Own Sanctimonious Petard," Glenn Greenwald
"Oral Arguments in Summum Case," Ed Brayton
"A Senior Fellow at the Institute of Nonexistence," International Herald Tribune

Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA) is a Cazy Person

10 November 2008

Back in July, Obama gave a speech about national service, and made a comment about how we can't just rely on our military to achieve our goals. Rather, we also needed "a civilian national security force that's just as powerful."

Reasonable people interpreted this as Obama "talking about expanding a range of domestic and international agencies such as AmeriCorps, the Foreign Service, and the Peace Corps — and adding some new ones"

Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA) (left), however, is not a reasonable person. Rather, he is a crazy person who interpreted this as Obama openly declaring that we needed some sort of Marxist Gestapo:

"It may sound a bit crazy and off base, but the thing is, he's the one who proposed this national security force. I'm just trying to bring attention to the fact that we may -- may not, I hope not -- but we may have a problem with that type of philosophy of radical socialism or Marxism. That's exactly what Hitler did in Nazi Germany and it's exactly what the Soviet Union did. When he's proposing to have a national security force that's answering to him, that is as strong as the U.S. military, he's showing me signs of being Marxist."
You were right the first time, Broun. It does sound crazy and off base.

But Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA) is not the only unhinged maniac to make crazy statements this past week. Over in Poland, Polish MP Arthur Gorski had this to say:

"Someone regarded by the (American) Republican right as a crypto-communist has become the leader of the world's greatest power ... and al Qaeda are rubbing their hands with glee that the new president wants peace, not war. . . . The black messiah of the new left has crushed the Republican candidate John McCain, and America will soon pay a high price for this quirk of democracy. . . . Obama is an approaching catastrophe. This marks the end of white man's civilisation," he said in an address.

Just to repeat, Gorski thinks that Obama marks "the end of white man's civilisation."

In other news, there are still crazy people who desperately insist that Obama was born in Africa (despite the fact that this myth has been repeatedly debunked).

UPDATE: Broun also said this: "We can't be lulled into complacency," Broun said. "You have to remember that Adolf Hitler was elected in a democratic Germany. I'm not comparing him to Adolf Hitler. What I'm saying is there is the potential of going down that road."

UPDATE II: You may remember that Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA) also tried to spread some false rumors about Barack Obama during the primaries. Why does Georgia elect so many crazy people to Congress?

UPDATE III: Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA) has also introduced legislation prohibiting adult military personnel from purchasing and possessing pornography. I'm really sick of Congressmen like Broun dictating what consenting adults can and cannot view.

UPDATE IV: Broun is not the first conservative wacko to compare Obama to Hitler (FOX News, Jonah Goldberg, Ann Coulter, and Ben Stein have all done it at various times). However, this deserves mention because it is an actual Congressman.

UPDATE V: Broun just released a statement defending his crazy remarks.

The Electoral College and National Popular Vote

08 November 2008

Rush Limbaugh, In a Nutshell

07 November 2008

For the past ten months, the United States economy has lost jobs. A lot of jobs. 1.2 million in 2008, to be precise. The automobile sector has been hit hard, bleeding money and failing to move their inventory. Retail sales have plummeted. We've seen banks fail and major institutional investors go under, bringing with it a credit freeze that fundamentally affects the entire economy.

This has been the major story of 2008. The other day brought even more bad news, as unemployment figures were higher than most expected.

Given all this, how does Rush Limbaugh explain yesterday's stock market decline?

By blaming Barack Obama, of course (see Obama Recession in Full Swing, November 6, 2008).

According to Limbaugh, "his ideas are killing the economy." In this bizarre alternate universe, all of the most obvious explanations are cast aside in order to pin blame on the guy Limbaugh insists is "an Arab" and a "man-child." The overwrought Limbaugh thinks that "His ideas are killing Wall Street. . . . He's causing it! He is causing the sinking economy." He also insists that "the market sell-off is Obama fear-based. There's no question." Limbaugh, of course, does not cite any evidence to back up his claims. He does, however, shout a few times.

UPDATE: FOX News, of course, is following suit.

Gretchen Carlson: “There’s a lot of feeling in the market not reacting very well to the election of Barack Obama.”

Fred Barnes: “We have seen the stock market go down over 800 points the last two days. There is great uncertainty out there about [Obama’s] policies.”

Dick Morris: “Now the other thing that I predicted in “Fleeced” is that the stock market would go crazy after he was elected. Not just because he’s a radical, not just because he’s a Democrat, but because he’s going to raise the capital gains tax. […] Its going to continue to tank.”


UPDATE III: The Dow rose 250 points on Friday. I wonder if these people will attribute that to Obama, as well.

UPDATE IV: The Los Angeles Times sees it, too.

UPDATE V: Sean Hannity predictably joins the chorus.

"Wall Street keeps sinking. Could it be the Obama recession: the fear that taxes are gonna go up, forcing people to pull out of the market?"

Not So Fast On Proposition 8

Under California law, simple "amendments" to the state constitution may be added by a simple popular vote ballot initiative. "Revisions" to the state constitution, on the other hand, require that you meet higher demands. Instead of requiring a simple popular vote, "revisions" demand that each state house first approve the measure by a 2/3 vote before it can be submitted to a popular vote.

The California state constitution is apparently not entirely clear on what separates "amendments" from "revisions."

On Tuesday, the people of California passed Proposition 8 by a closely divided popular vote. Although it was described as an "amendment," Prop 8's opponents point out that it actually stripped what California considers to be a "fundamental right" (the right to marry) from a "suspect class" of people (homosexuals). In legal jargon, "suspect class" just means that this group of people is the likely subject of discrimination, and that reviewing courts should use heightened scrutiny when reviewing legislation that tends to work to their disadvantage. In practice, Prop 8's foes argue, this should work to classify Prop 8's changes as a major "revision" (requiring a higher procedural hurdle) rather than a simple "amendment" (requiring a simple popular vote majority).

The classification of Prop 8 (as an "amendment" or a "revision") is important. It is highly unlikely that the California legislature (which has twice voted to extend marriage benefits to same-sex couples) would vote to deny marriage to homosexuals (especially by a large, 2/3 margin).

Dale Carpenter has a brief summary of the opposing legal arguments here. Legal groups are now challenging Prop 8 in court.

Meet Your New White House Press Secretary, Robert Gibbs

06 November 2008

I love this clip, and I think that this guy would make an excellent White House Press Secretary. For more information on Andy Martin and the Sean Hannity interview, check out this excellent article by Glenn Greenwald.

The Next President of the United States of America

05 November 2008

I'm happy to say that the man I voted for in the primaries and in the general election has won the Presidency. It's been a long campaign season, and I can finally take down all of my election and polling bookmarks.

Now comes the hard part (after a well-deserved breather).

UPDATE: What to expect, with respect to Iraq:

...with respect to energy policy:

UPDATE II: More information on Obama's cabinet and transition is available at this page.

Yes, This Really Happened

Voting Machines Elect One of Their Own As President

04 November 2008

Voting Machines Elect One Of Their Own As President

Why I'm Voting For Barack Obama

02 November 2008

I. Energy Policy:

  • Summary: This is one of the most important issues for me in the 2008 election. As I see it, we need to reach three goals: (1) change our auto fleet so that it is no longer dependent on oil as a fuel source; (2) reduce greenhouse gas emissions from our power plants; and (3) make sure that our energy policy isn't written by industry lobbyists, and that it doesn't ignore informed expert opinions. These are all tough goals to reach, and each will require a future President to be both honest and aggressive.
  • (1) Dependence on Oil: With respect to the first goal (which is long-term), Obama simply has a better plan. First of all, Obama will increase fuel efficiency standards by 4% every year. This is a very important step, and is really integral to reducing our dependence on oil. McCain, on the other hand, only promises to enforce existing fuel economy standards. In fact, he has actively opposed increasing fuel economy standards in the past (in 2003 and 2005). This is simply bad policy. Without updating our fuel economy standards, we'll continue to be the world's largest consumer of oil. McCain's hands-off approach means more fuel-inefficient cars, and more oil consumption for the foreseeable future. This approach simply hasn't worked for the past 20 years. If we keep this hands-off approach up, we'll only get hit harder by future price shocks.

    In addition to fuel economy, Obama also supports Amtrak funding and increased public transportation. McCain does not. In fact, he has actively opposed increased public transportation funding, and has attempted for years to dissolve Amtrak.

    Both candidates propose tax credits for the purchase of efficient vehicles, but Obama's proposal is better (it's $2,000 more than McCain's, and not as restrictive in where it applies). This is important, because the best end-result we could hope for is plug-in electric vehicles that cost less than traditional gas-powered vehicles. Tax credits are important because they encourage both investment and future purchases.

    McCain gets some points for his "$300 Million Prize To Improve Battery Technology For Full Commercial Development Of Plug-In Hybrid And Fully Electric Automobiles," but Obama still has better investments to promote similar technologies and make electric cars commercially available.

    In addition to falling short on these important issues, McCain has made a big lie the centerpiece of his energy plan. McCain has repeatedly told the public that drilling in the protected OCS areas would lead to consumers "pay[ing] less" at the pump. It wouldn't, and McCain is lying when he says that it would. In reality, the Department of Energy estimates that OCS drilling in the protected areas would only result in an additional 200,000 barrels of oil per day at peak production (in the year 2030, by their estimates). This, they say, would have an "insignificant" impact on the price of gas. Even the National Petroleum Council (which exists "to represent the views of the oil and natural gas industries") only argues (unrealistically) that we would see an extra 900,000 barrels of oil per day at peak production in the year 2025. When you compare that to a world market that currently consumes 86 million barrels of oil per day today (and will consume much more in 2025 and 2030), that works out - at best - to a savings of pennies per gallon. "Insignificant" is the right word. Yet McCain has consistently pretended that he has the power to reduce the price of gas by tapping these "insignificant" resources. If he wants to argue that this will reduce our trade deficit, that's one thing (though not the most compelling argument). But to lie about its effect on the price of gas is ridiculous.

    McCain and his lobbyist advisers have also repeatedly lied about the environmental risks of increased OCS drilling in the protected regions, telling us that "not even Hurricanes Katrina and Rita could cause significant spillage." In reality, they did. The Department of Homeland Security estimated the total oil spills at 9 million gallons. The Mineral Management Services' pipeline damage report measured 113 destroyed platforms and 124 offshore spills, resulting in 734,000 gallons (17,700 barrels) of oil spilled into the Gulf of Mexico. You could even see the oil slicks, 10 miles wide, from space.

    McCain also loses points for his ridiculous "gas tax holiday" proposal (which would starve public transportation of funding and increase our dependence on oil).

    Finally, McCain constantly touts nuclear power as something that will lead to a "reduction in our dependence on foreign oil." The problem here is that only 3% of our electricity here in the United States comes from oil. Our dependence upon oil comes pretty much entirely from our auto fleet (as well as from home heating). Yet McCain opposes increases in fuel efficiency standards, and his official spokesman George Allen has already said that "John McCain does not wish to mandate any particular building standards for energy efficient homes or buildings." So unless McCain is proposing nuclear powered cars (he's not), he's simply not being honest about our country's oil use.
II. The Federal Budget:
  • The nation is already $10,000,000,000,000 in debt. This is a really big, but often overlooked, problem. This section is still a work in progress, but for now you can just read through this non-partisan analysis of the candidates' positions, and these two independent fact-checks (1, 2) calling McCain out for his dishonesty/confusion on the issue. This report (pdf) is also worth a read. So is this post, and this Wall Street Journal article (contrast that with this one). Also, take note whenever McCain's top economic adviser says something like this: "I would like the next president not to talk about deficit reduction."
III. Health Care

IV. Social Security
V. General Intelligence:
  • Summary: The next President will be making some very important decisions, managing one of the largest organization on the planet, and dealing with some very complex issues. Therefore, he must be a very, very smart person. He has to be able to think on his toes and quickly come to understand the problems (and potential solutions) at hand. Although it is a tough thing to quantify, general intelligence is one of the most fundamental requirements for the next President.
  • Obama: When it comes to general intelligence, Obama certainly has the credentials. Obama studied at Columbia and Harvard on scholarship, where he received degrees in international relations and law. He even became President of the Harvard Law Review, which is one of the highest academic achievements a young lawyer could hope to reach. Afterwards, Obama taught Constitutional Law (something important for a future President to know) at one of the nation's top law schools. These are things that you can't accomplish unless you are really, really smart.

    During interviews, as well, you'll notice that Obama is very thoughtful and careful to address the questions actually being asked. Even when a question has multiple parts, he'll go through them one-by-one. Rather than mindlessly repeating the campaign's talking-points, he listens, understands, and responds. This isn't the most remarkable feat in the world (everyone should be capable of understanding and addressing basic questions), but Obama's basic communication skills just make McCain's bloopers and blunders look all the worse in comparison.
  • McCain: When it comes to general intelligence, McCain looks really bad on paper. McCain graduated fifth from the bottom of his class (894/899) at the Naval Academy, and holds no other degrees.

    During debates and interviews, McCain consistently looks like a fool. Whether he is dodging questions, misunderstanding issues, forgetting his own position, or mindlessly falling back on talking points, McCain has an uncanny ability to make me cringe. Just look at these clips:

    McCain didn't make it into politics based on his big ideas or intellectual credentials. He made it there based on his compelling personal story.

VI. Temperament and Diplomacy
  • Summary: In the world of politics and diplomacy, you won't be in agreement with all of the people all of the time. Especially on the global scale, you'll find yourself in situations where compromise is necessary. You can't just be an irrational hot-head. You need to keep your bearings and keep the peace without unnecessarily making concessions to irrational positions. It's a tough balance to strike, and a tough thing to predict. Nonetheless, it is one of the most important traits for a potential President to possess, and we can get an idea of how a future President would act by looking back at their past efforts to behave as adults.
  • McCain: Although McCain has indeed taken some positions contrary to that of his party (although he's pretty much flip-flopped back on all of those by now), he has often been inflexible and undiplomatic in those contrary positions.

    For example, McCain once bucked his party on immigration reform (though he has since flip-flopped back on the issue). However, in bipartisan meetings to negotiate the bill, Sen. Cornyn (R-TX) raised some objections to the judicial appeals process for immigrants. McCain exploded at Cornyn, shouting "Fuck you! I know more about this than anyone in the room!" He added, "This is chickenshit stuff!"

    On a separate occasion, during a select committee meeting in the Senate, McCain "mocked Grassley to his face and used a profanity to describe him" (Chuck Grassley is a Republican Senator from Iowa, who was at the same meeting). After Grassley requested an apology, McCain stood up from his chair and refused to show Grassley any civility. Instead, "[t]here was some shouting and shoving," which Sen. Bob Kerrey (D-NE) had to break up. McCain called Grassley "a fucking jerk" and they stopped talking altogether for a long time.

    The list goes on. Pretty much everyone who has worked with McCain in the Senate agrees. That's why he saw so little support from the GOP during his last run for President. Sen. Bob Smith (R-NH) has said "His temper would place this country at risk in international affairs, and the world perhaps in danger. In my mind, it should disqualify him." So when it comes to reaching across the aisle and engaging in diplomacy, I doubt that McCain would seriously do either.

    In addition to these temper tantrums, McCain has made some childish formulations of how he would conduct his diplomacy. For example, at the height of Sunni/Shia violence in Iraq, McCain said this: "One of the things I would do if I were President would be to sit the Shiites and the Sunnis down and say, ‘Stop the bullshit.’ " He has also insulted
  • Obama: This subsection is a work in progress. For now, I recommend reading through this FOX News article (seriously).
VII. Federal Agency Appointments
VIII. Federal Judges
IX. The First Amendment and Civil Rights
  • Free Speech: Take note that McCain pushed to ban flag burning, and Palin repeatedly pestered her town librarian to find out how she could go about banning books (asking her on three separate occasions about it). Keep in mind that at the same time, Palin's church was pushing to remove the book "Pastor I Am Gay" from bookstores. When the librarian refused to comply, Palin said that she would be fired (for not fully supporting Palin). Palin now says (implausibly) that she was only asking a "rhetorical" question (on three separate occasions). That is absurd on its face, and any thinking adult should find it obvious that Palin is now lying.
  • Church and State: The United States Constituion only mentions religion twice. First, it says this: "no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States" (Article VI). Second, it says this: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion" (The First Amendment). Just to underscore the point, Congress unanimously signed the Treaty of Tripoli in 1796, saying this: "the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion." The reason for this separation, as stated by James Madison (father of the Constitution), is that "religion and Government will both exist in greater purity the less they are mixed together." When James Madison objected to a bill granting public land to a Baptist church, this is what he told the protesters: "Having always regarded the practical distinction between Religion and Civil Government as essential to the purity of both, and as guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States, I could not have otherwise discharged my duty on the occasion which presented itself."

    John McCain, on the other hand, says things like this: "The Constitution established the United States of America as a Christian nation." This comment is precisely backwards. Whether he is insincerely pandering to what he thinks people want to hear (as the BeliefNet interviewer himself suspected) or truly clueless, I think that we have to hold McCain accountable for his off-the-wall wrongness.

    McCain also says equally absurd things about the United States being "a nation founded on Christian principles." If he really believes this, I'd like for McCain to explain a few things. Which religious belief informed the Founding Fathers to create a Democracy? That concept is nowhere to be found in the Bible.

    Which religious belief informed the Founding Fathers to allow freedom of speech and of the press? That concept is nowhere to be found in the Bible, which actually advocates the death penalty for heresy ("anyone who blasphemes the name of the LORD must be put to death. The entire assembly must stone him. Whether an alien or native-born, when he blasphemes the Name, he must be put to death").

    Which religious belief informed the Founding Fathers to create a system of checks and balances? Separation of powers? Bicameralism? Those concepts are totally alien to the Bible, and are secular in origin.

    I'm really getting tired of people like John McCain trying to pretend that the Constitution was based off of the Christian Bible. It wasn't. The United States government is a completely separate institution, which performs a completely separate function. As a practical matter, the blurring of these lines could lead to a McCain administration funneling more tax dollars to exclusively religious institutions, as well as appointing federal judges who erode the line of separation
  • Don't Ask, Don't Tell: One of the big issues (that has been building for years now) is the right of homosexuals to serve in the military without lying about their sexual orientation. Under the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy we currently have, homosexuals are allowed to serve in the military only if they conceal the fact that they are in fact gay. This is an extraordinarily silly (and immoral) policy.

    Unfortunately, John McCain supports this kind of discrimination in the military. Not only does he support it, but he says things like this: "Open homosexuality within the military services presents an intolerable risk to morale, cohesion, and discipline." He also calls it a threat to national security. As if the military will fall apart if homosexuals tell the truth. John McCain needs to grow up.

    But that's not all. McCain also says things like this: "I believe polarization of the personnel and breakdown of unit effectiveness is too high a price to pay for well intentioned but misguided efforts to elevate the interests of a minority of homosexual servicemembers above those of their units." But it hardly seems like a misguided effort to elevate your interests when all you're asking for is to not get fired for being who you are. Since the DADT was first implemented, more than 11,000 servicemembers have been discharged for just that (many of whom even had special skills needed by the military).

    Furthermore, this is hardly a question about "unit cohesion." Charles Moskos, the principle author of DADT himself, has stated: "Fuck unit cohesion. I don't care about that...I should not be forced to shower with a woman. I should not be forced to shower with a gay." It should be perfectly clear to any observant person that this is a question of whether or not the private prejudices of certain individuals within the military should be sufficient to bar an entire class of people from military service. The answer to that question is clearly "no."

    In contrast, Obama has said that he would repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell. However, he won't make this a litmus test for his appointees to the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Eh, at least that's not nearly as bad as McCain's position.
  • Defense of Marriage Act: This subsection is a work in progress. Suffice it to say that McCain voted for this horrible bit of legislation. McCain also campaigned in Arizona in favor of a ban on gay marriage, running political ads devoted exclusively to the issue. Because of people like John McCain, homosexual couples and families will be materially worse-off.
X. Honesty and Integrity
  • This section is a work in progress. For now, you can check out these examples of McCain dishonesty. There is plenty more on the way.
XI. Science and Technology
  • This section is a work in progress. You can read about Obama's plan here, and McCain's plan here. I also recommend watching this video.
XII. Ultimate Fighting
  • I happen to be a fan of Ultimate Fighting. Therefore, I don't like the fact that McCain, a lifelong boxing fan, has made it his personal crusade to shut down the sport.
  • From Slate:

    "When I tell people I'm an ultimate fighting fan, they invariably respond: "Don't people get killed all the time doing that?" But no one has ever been killed at the UFC--though boxers are killed every year. No one has even been seriously injured at the UFC. On the rare occasions when a bout has ended with a bloody knockout, the loser has always walked out of the ring.

    But this does not impress boxing fans, who are the most vigorous opponents of extreme fighting. McCain sat ringside at a boxing match where a fighter was killed. When I asked him to explain the moral distinction between boxing and ultimate fighting, he exploded at me, "If you can't see the moral distinction, then we have nothing to talk about!" Then he cut our interview short and stormed out of his office."

  • As far as I know, Obama isn't in the business of shutting down UFC.
XIII. Abstinence-Only Education:
  • Congress spends a lot of money on abstinence-only education. About $87.5 million each year. Recently, Congress commissioned a study from Mathematica to find out if it was really worth it to spend so much money on such programs. It turns out, abstinence-only education doesn't really do anything: "The impact results from the four selected programs show no impacts on rates of sexual abstinence." The American Medical Association, Office of National AIDS Policy, Institute of Medicine, Center for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute of Health, and American Academy of Pediatrics all agree: comprehensive sexual education would be much better. As it stands, we're basically flushing millions of dollars down the toilet, doing nothing other than subsidizing certain groups to proselytize and spread misinformation about condom failure rates. This is madness, and I'd rather not have another President who is unreasonable and fiscally irresponsible enough to extend these programs.
  • It's also worth noting that federal funding of abstinence-only education has a history of subsidizing religious proselytization. For example, over $1 million in federal funds were spent on the Silver Ring Thing, an abstinence-only group that attempted to achieve its goal by handing out silver rings lined with bible quotes. Currently, the Stop and Think program is receiving funds for abstinence-only education in Oregon. This group requires that its supervisors “possess an authentic relationship with Jesus Christ; possess knowledge of the Word of God, and the ability to communicate it’s [sic] truth; exhibit a loving and merciful spirit; [and] attend a Bible believing local church or fellowship.”
  • On this particular issue, John McCain "strongly opposes efforts by the Democratic-controlled Congress to eliminate abstinence-only sex education classes for school-aged children." This is an irrational position, and a waste of money.
  • This bizarre exchange with a reporter speaks for itself:

    Q: “What about grants for sex education in the United States? Should they include instructions about using contraceptives? Or should it be Bush’s policy, which is just abstinence?”

    Mr. McCain: (Long pause) “Ahhh. I think I support the president’s policy.”

    Q: “So no contraception, no counseling on contraception. Just abstinence. Do you think contraceptives help stop the spread of HIV?

    Mr. McCain: (Long pause) “You’ve stumped me.”

    Q: “I mean, I think you’d probably agree it probably does help stop it?”

    Mr. McCain: (Laughs) “Are we on the Straight Talk express? I’m not informed enough on it. Let me find out. You know, I’m sure I’ve taken a position on it on the past. I have to find out what my position was. Brian, would you find out what my position is on contraception – I’m sure I’m opposed to government spending on it, I’m sure I support the president’s policies on it.”

    Q: “But you would agree that condoms do stop the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. Would you say: ‘No, we’re not going to distribute them,’ knowing that?”

    Mr. McCain: (Twelve-second pause) “Get me Coburn’s thing, ask Weaver to get me Coburn’s paper that he just gave me in the last couple of days. I’ve never gotten into these issues before.”