Archive for October 2009

The GOP’s Worst Enemy

October 22, 2009

It’s not Sarah Palin.

It’s not Dick Cheney. It’s not Newt Gingrich. It’s not Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, or Ann Coulter.

And it’s certainly not any person in the Democratic Party.

Public Enemy Number One? Taylor Swift.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. Why pick on this poor girl? Hasn’t she suffered enough? Isn’t Kanye West punishment enough for whatever sins she has committed in this lifetime and in any lifetime in the past or future? I have nothing against her, at all. I am a fan of Taylor Swift, along with 2,260,896 of my fellow Facebook users.

Now, why is this a problem for the GOP? Sarah Palin has 899,265 fans.

Why does it matter how many people are fans of Sarah Palin on Facebook? Of course, some say, Taylor Swift would have more; she’s a pretty, young singer. Sarah Palin’s the ex-Governor and ex-Vice-Presidential candidate of a party that doesn’t cater to the Facebook “crowd.” This begs the question, what is the Facebook crowd? Though the majority of users are young people, high schoolers, college students, and recent grads, this niche of social media is rapidly growing among Americans of all ages.

But this is where the problem is: the Republican Party is not reaching outside of the box. I’ll warrant, their message is being heard, but their presentation is what is truly flawed. The headlining ideas of the GOP are being screamed in the faces of generally innocent Members of Congress at townhall meetings, thrown on strange posters at rallies outside federal office buildings and in parks at so-called “tea parties,” being carried on the airwaves by individuals perceived by many as loud and pigheaded such as Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh who are far more interested in the promotion of themselves and their agendas-ironically these are intertwined-than the civilized debate over public policy.

Enter Miss Wasilla. The Messiah of the Message, Sarah Palin was supposed to reinvigorate the party. Reaching out to the young and the yuppie, the faithful and the fiscally conservative, the moms and the mavericks. Yes, Sarah Palin’s mission was to attract the tired, the poor (who don’t like government assistance), and the huddled masses yearning to breathe free (as long as they don’t mind illegal wiretapping).

Taylor Swift became a sensation for her ability to cross the line. Her music has topped both the pop and country charts. In fact, she’s been on 24 different Billboard charts. Her quirky, teen love anthems have captured the hearts and minds of millions of Americans. Their down home influences have been able to transcend genres to appeal to a diverse group of listeners, who have responded enthusiastically. This is what Sarah Palin could have done—but didn’t. She was brought on to bring over Hillary supporters and appeal to the masses. She was supposed to be the Taylor Swift of the ticket, the one to crossover. As Taylor Swift brought country music to millions of Americans, Sarah Palin could have done that with conservatism. She had the ability to look like Americans. She even talks like Americans.

So where did she go wrong? One could say in her first speech on August 29, when she compared herself to Geraldine Ferraro and Hillary Clinton. One could say it was trying to conceal and then being forced to reveal daughter Bristol’s pregnancy. One could say it was in her appearance of complete and utter ignorance regarding a myriad of national and global issues. One could say it was in her incessant critiques of the media-the ones, like it or not, who were responsible for selling her case (or not) to the American people.

Or, perhaps, just maybe, it was her concentration on that infinitesimal group of people who are the Dick Cheney-admiring, Glenn Beck-listening Republicans who just don’t want to think about the outside world. She found comfort (or was forced to reside) in that tiny box of the “foil hat” crowd, and didn’t see any reason to leave or branch out, ignoring the fact that 2008 was a truly national, 50-state election. Madam Maverick rested on her laurels.

Though this election became a circus, the big tent that Sarah Palin was supposed to bring was never raised. As young Taylor Swift brings fans of pop, country, and other genres, Sarah Palin was supposed to unite the fiscal conservatives, the national defense crowd, and the religious right. Why didn’t this happen? She was for the bridge to nowhere before she was against it, she scared the dickens out of people when she insinuated that Russia was flying secret missions over Alaska, and despite her anti-choice and anti-gay positions, she only attended services sporadically and even then it was at a controversial house of worship.

What’s the difference between a Pop Princess and our Alaskan Annie Oakley? The ability to speak coherently. No, I’m not talking about Sarah Palin’s infamous gaffes immortalized on Saturday Night Live. And no, I’m not talking about the poetic simplicity of “Our Song” or the clever literary references in “Love Story.”  Sarah Palin’s greatest failure is that she has lacked the ability to carry the message of the Republican Party (which is her message, in varying degrees) in the way that Taylor Swift has been able to sell herself and her music to a wide audience. What our favorite hockey mom needs to know is that if she plans to stand a chance at winning the Presidency, she needs to put on the blinders and get her message across, something she’s chronically failed to do. Now’s the hour to stop touring the world, start hitting the books, and be ready and able to present herself next time she decides to ride in on a “White Horse.”

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The War to End All Wars…Again

October 20, 2009

America must leave the Middle East, and the sooner the better. Capturing Osama Bin Laden was a good idea, but didn’t necessarily require a complete military invasion, and in all fairness to former president Bush, not an easy task to accomplish. But now the goal has apparently changed. The hot new idea thought up by the Obama Administration is Nation Building. Nation Building? In an area of the world that trades women as prizes and that rules with the strict laws of a holy book? How can America expect a culture this different from ours to quickly adopt our way of life? We can’t, and we shouldn’t. And is this even a popular idea? I would say most Americans, including myself, supported the war in Afghanistan simply because we wanted Osama Bin Laden’s head on a silver platter, not because we wanted to share our democratic principles with a region dominated by religious dictatorship. History has shown us that this kind of war tends to end poorly, the idea that we can get rid of a group that is not pro-America and replace it with a United States loving capitalist-democratic-republican-freedom loving-non-theocratic-moralistic society. But I think one thing is certain, when Afghanistan is ready to embrace some of the more modern and pro-freedom choices in government, they will do it on their own behalf. The American Revolution didn’t occur because some foreign power told us to do it, and the French didn’t overthrow the King because another country invaded. All revolutions have to be carried out by the oppressed people, and will prevail if the people truly believe in their cause.

Now if you don’t like my previous reasoning for getting out of Afghanistan, let’s try the history of the country itself. Over the years, many strong, powerful imperialists have tried to take over Afghanistan. Alexander the Great, Ghengis Khan, the British Empire, and The Soviet Union are four of the big ones, and all four lost countless troops and soon after their Afghanistan campaigns, their entire Empire. They lost troops due to fierce rebels, blizzards, severe droughts in desert regions, and because of poor planning for mountain warfare. The rebels of Afghanistan always had the advantage of knowing the landscape, and being able to fight on the side of a mountain helped them out too. These four I mentioned were not peace bringing soldiers like the American Army; they were ruthless military forces that simply tried to obliterate the insurgents that tried to stop them. They didn’t have intentions of “spreading democracy” or educating the masses to prevent extremism. Their goal was to take over the territory, and they would do whatever it takes, with however many troops they needed, to take the country. America cannot afford (economically and in terms of human life) to fight the kind of war necessary to take control of Afghanistan, so what are we to do? Fight the war and go even further into debt? Have a military draft? Let’s see how well that goes over with America’s young voters.

General McChrystal just asked for more troops; translation: “we are losing.” It seems President Obama has two options: Send the extra troops that McChrystal wants (and probably more and more over the years we fight this war) and try and win it for the pride of America, or get out, take the loss, and save lives. Just like Vietnam, if we “lose,” do we really lose anything? We don’t need the territory of Afghanistan, and we’re not defending any democratic rebels that want our help in their valiant cause. In fact, the people there absolutely hate the United States and anything related to Western Civilization. That’s a funny parallel to Vietnam, since the people there hated us for trading them to the French government so France would join NATO. The Vietnamese simply wanted their own government, and if the only way was to embrace communism, it was fine by them. The people Afghanistan want their own government to. Do I agree with the current government in Afghanistan? @#$% no! It’s an oppressive theocracy that treats women like crap, keeps its people uneducated so that they will embrace distorted views of the Quran, and supports terrorism. We can’t build a nation in Afghanistan, and with the money we have spent in Afghanistan could have solved other national problems, such as healthcare or clean energy. This is why we need to pull out of Afghanistan, take the “loss”, and move on with our lives. We are not an imperialist nation, and the people of America are tired of being constantly at war. And I know one thing for certain; the American people are tired of being the military force of the United Nations. We should use our military to protect our own interests and our allies. However, if the people of Afghanistan call us tomorrow and say they want help with a revolution to overthrow the oppressive and corrupt government, then we’ll be more than happy to help.

Crazy like a FOX.

October 18, 2009

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White House Communications Director Anita Dunn recently came forward to reveal the patently obvious, that FOX news channel was in effect the propaganda arm of the Republican party and their cynical puppet masters, working tirelessly to whip up primitive patriotism,  support for destructive religiosity, and paranoid post-McCarthy Marxiphobia.

While  the tone she used was  professionally tailored for public consumption, her statement was blind to a central fact in the manipulation of public thought for oligopolistic benefit:  It does not matter whether something is true or holds up against rational scrutiny, the repetition of propaganda will always create an army of believers; relatively poor people ranting in the streets about socialism like abused dogs vigorously protecting their masters. Alas Czar Anita Dunn,  isn’t that what the Fascio-liberal  Marxist propaganda minister would say about the shining beacon of truth and objectivity?

The deep truth is that while we in the liberal elite scoff at sideshow that is FOX news, we must realize that with each passing day, their ratings continue to grow, and so does their power to influence popular thought. What we are dealing with is a viewership that is deeply hostile to facts, one that has to some extent been engineered and encouraged to be as such.  These are the people who applaud when Bill O’Reilly( moving his head around like a schoolyard bully) tells Richard Dawkins that he is “sticking to his Judeo-Christian god because YOU GUYS,[ collectively scientists]  can’t tell me how all this got here. ”

As if  succumbing to anesthetic platitudes on the machinery of the universe were a virtue. As if fairy tales were better than the cautious pursuit of  facts and the suspension of judgment.Somebody get Orwell on the phone we have a problem.  While the myth makers at Fox have been  whipping up anti-socialist fervor and protecting Jesus Christ from liberals who want to heal the sick ,  income taxes  are being used to ensure the profitability of privately owned corporations. Insurance companies are vying for fixed government contracts to insure  45 million, private military contractors comprise the majority of the U.S. military at the same time that habeus corpus, right to privacy and other fundamental Americanisms  are being systematically eliminated. If this is Marxism or Leninism, then Fox news is a shining beacon of journalistic independence. If there is any reek coming from Washington  these days it is the reek of conciliatory proto-fascism, that is to say that the stench of the fusion of  the interests of the private sector with that of the public interest have been misted with the cologne of pretended populist reform.

So one must ask themselves the most basic of critical questions: If FOX news is playing puppetmaster to the religious right, fanatical, scared, paranoid and just plain stupid, what are their objectives in doing so?  Are they simply providing a political product for pure profit , while at the same time keeping a Republican-oriented viewership on full-boil for the next election?  Do you fools in the Bible Belt think Rupert Murdoch actually cares about “preserving the sanctity of marriage, christmas, etc..?”  Do you think  he sits around with his  25 year old trophy wife on christmas eve waiting eagerly to go worship with the cult that was formed around a 1st century semite after his death?  Elites care about the same things they have throughout all of history, which is preserving whichever myths, fairy-tales,  conflicts, and moral distortions keep the masses from fully understanding the extent of their exploitation. So we  who consider ourselves to be concerned with truth in society cannot just be reationaries to the  day-to-day antics of FOX news,  lest we dive headlong into the echochamber never to return.  We must realize that FOX news  is there to distract and distort, and if we want to get a close look at what the oligarchs are afraid of watch what they do, and not what they say.  What’s that I said?  I said you don’t need a weatherman to tell which way the wind blows. Over and Out.

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A Nobel Winner?

October 11, 2009

It’s 2009. We have three years until the world might end– and frankly, it is quite possible. We’re polluting our own atmosphere, the West is at war with the East, the East is at war with itself, thousands die everyday from malnutrition and underdeveloped living conditions. I really don’t know what else could go wrong. And to be quite honest, we are so far into destroying the earth as well as each other, it seems impossible to ever fix these things.

But President Barack Obama has hope. (Slogan pun intended.) He won the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize. Hey, I was just like most of you a couple days ago: “What has he even done?!” But, I have done some reflecting, and now, think otherwise.

As a college student, the longing for intellectual development and elitist information floods my mind everyday. My sole purpose, as an employee to the education system is to learn, and hopefully prevent ignorance through knowledge. I am a force for the future. At least that’s what they say.

Because of such, it is only mandatory that I accept President Obama’s new award with an open heart and a congratulatory welcome. He has epitomized what us college students are trying to do, according to the Nobel Peace Prize Committee.

The committee said in its four-paragraph statement issued with the delivery of the prize, that President Obama was rewarded “for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.” He is even stated to have “created a new climate in international politics.” Let me tell you, it’s true!

I recently returned home to the States in May after spending almost six months abroad. My spring semester of 2009 was amazing, and I have never changed more. I am very grateful I was able to travel like I did, and will forever be indebted to all those who supported me in my journey. But it was there that I saw firsthand just how fucked up Bush left our reputation overseas. After the initial question of where I was from, “America,” I responded gleefully, came the inevitable, “How do you like Obama?” Shocked, I answered that I liked him very much, and was excited to see what he could do the first months in office. This is where things get tricky. I was overseas during this crucial newborn time, and most of you, were not. Here in the States, Obama was criticized and put to a timer: “When will he fix this? When will he fix that?” I, however, was with the Europeans, observing him from afar, and loving it. They most always said that they liked him as well, and was excited to see America get back to its feet.

Now, ten months into his term, we have seen even more impatience on home soil, demanding that this “superhero” we elected get down to business. Well, I have news for you, he is. And it is outrageous for us to ask him to go any quicker when our population stood and watched President Bush ruin our country for 8 long years. Unfair, to say the least.

President Obama received the Nobel Peace Prize not for what he has done; I know, I know, Guantanamo is still up, the war is still active, Health Care Bill isn’t passed, and Palestine and Israel are at each other’s throats. I get it.

But, President Obama received this award because of the his groundbreaking public policy practices. He lives with hope for peace and world order, supports discussions, not violence, takes interest in climate change, and dreams for a world without nuclear weapons. It is this mindset that won him an award. He is seen as an innovator, a role model, and already someone of historic value. These peaceful practices are things that can only help our county and duty to others as a world superpower.

As a student, if we are not to learn our history, and grow from it, only ignorance can resonate. We should believe only in peace. We should support others who do, as well. And who better to support than our active in-office president?

We should look at this award as not a symbol of what he hasn’t yet accomplished, but what time, like the next three years in office, could do. It took president Bush eight years to ruin international confidence in America, and it has only taken 10 months for Obama to regain it and be rewarded by a peace committee based in Norway. Mind you, he is only the third sitting president to receive it. I think, for once, peace is talking.

Would you like some Freedom Fries with that McDemocracy?

October 11, 2009

It certainly is not uncommon to hear of high-ranking policy makers in Washington (among other places) articulating their views on transforming the political, social and economic landscape of the Middle East. What our leaders and their intellectual backscratchers fail to see, however, is that ancient and indigenous civilizations and multifarious peoples cannot so easily be shaken up like marbles in a jar.

I have a great deal of admiration for the abilities of those in that region- the Middle East and bordering areas who unfalteringly continue to resist and fight for their individual autonomy, right to self-determination, overarching perspective of who they are and what they would like to be.

In recent years, there has been such an enormous and calculatedly antagonistic assault on contemporary Arab and Muslim societies, apparently for their backwardness, dearth of democracy, and annulment of women’s rights. The reality is that such notions as modernity, enlightenment and democracy are not simple agreed-upon theories (owing much to the fact that there is no universally accepted definition of ‘enlightenment’ or ‘modernity,’ nor is the concept of democracy universally accepted) that one finds like Easter eggs in the living room appears to have been forgotten by a great deal of people.

The incredible insensibility of insipid “experts” who attempt to converse in the language of foreign policy yet have no genuine knowledge of the language real people actually speak has engineered an illusory acrid landscape at long last ready and yearning for the American model of free market “democracy.” One needs not to be able to speak Farsi or Arabic to evangelize that the “democracy domino effect” is exactly what the Arab world needs.

It is no question that there exists a difference between the knowledge of other societies and eras that comes about as a result of careful understanding, examination and study for their own sakes and a knowledge that seeks shameless self-validation. That there is a deep distinction between the will to comprehend for the purpose of co-existence and broadening of perspectives and the will to comprehend for the sole purpose of domination is self-evident as well. It truly ranks as one of the utmost intellectual catastrophes of history that an imperialist war developed by a splinter of unelected US officials was put into effect against a distraught Third World dictatorship on nothing more than meticulous dogmatic justifications dealing with scant resources, security and world domination.

One only needs to walk into a bookstore to come across manuscripts crying the link between Islam and terror; Islam exposed; the Arab peril and the Muslim menace- each written by political sophists claiming to possess marvelous knowledge and who have presumably infiltrated deep into the heart of these strange Oriental people. Leading the war-mongering effort are the major news outlets and publications, all of them doing nothing more than regurgitating the same centuries-old drivel, unverifiable fables and gross oversimplifications in the effort to whisk together Americans’ anxieties and fears against the foreign devils.

Had there not been an extremely regimented conviction that this group of people over there were nothing like “us” and didn’t appreciate “our” values and thus wanted to destroy us- the Iraq war would never have occurred in the first place. Thus, from the same pool of professional scholars recruited by the British conquerors in Egypt and India, the French colonialists of Indochina and North Africa and the Dutch imperialists of Malaysia and Indonesia came the advisors to the Pentagon and White House. These modern “scholars,” recruited by American leadership formulaically utilized the same rationalizations for aggression, the same age-old clichés, and the same debasing stereotypes as their colonial predecessors.

In its officially proffered statements of dialogue, every single empire that has ever existed has explicitly made the case that it is not at all comparable to its contemporaries or predecessors, that its underlying circumstances are extraordinary, that it has a task to enlighten, liberate, civilize, bring order and democracy, and that coercion is only used as an act of last resort. What is still sadder though, is that there always is a healthy choir of enthusiastic intellectuals who are more than happy to speak calming words about benevolent or altruistic empires.

Let us not forget the fact that a credible link between Iraq and Al Qaeda was never established. Our sole reason for invading Iraq was to topple a dictator- yet another textbook example of the West “straightening the crooked timber” of the East.

A final point I would like to stress and which really is what I’m trying to make the case for is that no matter what ideas or ideology are deemed “objectively right”, Middle Easterners are humans who have just as much the ability and right to determine their future as anyone else and it’s fundamentally racist even to feel the responsibility to “correct” their path.

Religion or Civilization: Why Democrats should support the war in the Middle East.

October 6, 2009

islam1In 2003, when US marines first invaded Iraq,   I looked on with familiar sadness as death and destruction were brought to me live via CNN, Fox Noise, MSNBC and others. At the time I thought the old PBS line  “This program is made possible with support from viewers like you,” should be shown as  fitting reminder to the American people that each  of us were morally responsible for suffering caused by the actions of our military, and that by being apathetic or voting for a hawkish pro-war Republican we were saying that the cause of wrenching Iraq from the hands of a brutal , rogue dictator was worth the price it would be paid in human tragedy; that above  the scars of war ten, fifteen, or thirty years from now a beautiful civilization would spring forth once again between the Tigris and Euphrates and that this would be worth the fatherless children, amputated lives, and bitter hatred toward the sources of that  anguish. Feeling that such a radical social transformation was not possible I opposed the war with a deep indignance, considering it to be the Vietnam of my generation.

Five and 1/2 years later with extremist violence in Iraq still on-going and U.S. withdrawal sure to leave an explosive power vacuum we must ask ourselves that same moral question that we did in Vietnam. Now that we have come to set the stage for Iraqi westernization, how are we to act if our leaving will eventually mean that over 700,000 people, and a handful of American soldiers in comparison  have died as a direct result of our invasion. As Sen. John Kerry so wisely put in his youth ” how do we ask a man to be the last man to die in Vietnam.”  Are we to let so many Iraqis die by our hands in vain? How will history judge us if we do not continue fight this fight, more importantly, what will be our history?

Let us make no mistake, the gauntlet is off and there is no going back. It is not unreasonable to say that the scourge of Islamic extremism is now an ever present danger in every nation on Earth. At the heart of this campaign is dark form of cultural and religious extremism equivalent to the Catholics during the crusades and the National Socialism of the early 20th century. Radical Islam yearns for world domination and the imposition of wacky religious laws that are based on twisted distortions of the Quran. They feed of of the economic stagnation of many Middle Eastern countries to breed hatred toward Israel and the West. We must push forward with all we have or not push at all. The Islamic extremists are right about one thing, there is a conspiracy to secularize the Middle East and to subvert Islamic theocracies, and I think it’s about time all Democrats got on board. Barack Obama and his army of lets-all-just-respect-each other-and-talkocrats need to buck up and defend the fort.  If sending in 40000 more US troops into Pakistan and Afghanistan means that we make headway against the rising tide of Islamic Extremism, then I say that this is a moral cause not unlike fighting Hitler during WWII, or with  much irony, Catholics during the crusades. While we are there, perhaps we can pass out copies of  The Origin of Species.

A friend and fellow Democrat told me something promising today over lunch, he said that when he goes home to visit his cousins in Pakistan, he finds that more and more of the people around him are Atheists.  Rejection of religion is the only rational insight to have when you see hoards  of barbarians blowing themselves up in the name of some socially reproduced  delusion called “god,”  or in Arabic “Allah.”

The question one must ask him or herself  when considering  whether the U.S. involvement is warranted must go beyond pretensions of pacifism, or blind faith in the milk of human kindness. The question is one of a combination of ethical judgment in the spirit of Jeremy Bentham, and practical wisdom of Winston Churchill. Bentham argued that “that which is ethical  minimizes pain and maximizes pleasure for the largest number of people.”  Churchill continuously warned British prime minister Neville Chamberlain of the danger the rise of National Socialism posed to Europe and the world many years before  the ruthless Hitler violated the Warsaw pact by annexing Czechoslovakia. If Chamberlain and the isolationist United States had heeded his call for action the world could very well have avoided a long and brutal war which caused human suffering on a truly unimaginable level. Alas, this is the argument for the neoconservative doctrine of  pre-emption, a dangerous ideology which must measure the need for intervention with the imagined need for intervention, or the call for war in the name of military-industrial, or other economic reasons.

As this doctrine is dangerous to our democracy, and yet still the threat that militant Islam poses to the world is very real and very frightening, we must point to  the larger philosophical driver for the reproduction of militant Islam in the first place- religion. It is without hesitation that all of us, in good conscience and clear thought , cannot deny that at the heart of this conflict is human religiosity and that it should be fitting that  the place where the three major world religions were born is also the place that they should die.  Now this sounds harsh to the cultural and moral relativist ear of the average Democrat,  but we must remain objective and realistic about what drives , and has been the driving factor behind the scourge of war throughout human history.  Behind nearly every dark story of the suffering of war is a leader or movement which claims to be divinely ordained. Hitler claimed to have been acting under the authority of an Aryan Jesus, and even visited the head of the Palestinian army before embarking on a brutal campaign of ethnic genocide.  Mahmood Amadinejad and his theocratic overlords have repeatedly claimed divine authority in their campaign to engage in a proxy war using the Palestinian  PLO and Hamas as fronts. In WW II we had emperor Hirohito of Japan, who claimed divinity by inheritance. In Ireland we have Protestants and Catholics, in the Middle east we have Shia and Sunni. When confronted with proof of evil in tangible human suffering throughout modern history, religion answers back with nothing but dangerous superstition. It is time to wrestle our world from the hands of myths wrought in human fear. Religion is the poison which allows otherwise moral and decent people to be manipulated into purveyors of the inhumane.  And if we oppose the war in the Middle East because we are disgusted by the  endless parade of human suffering we must also oppose the core ideology which  begot  its existence.  Thus as a Democrats , We should support  the war because occupying the middle east, and installing leaders who support our interests will help facilitate the spread of  western secularism to the Middle East, which will serve as an antidote to the emergence of dangerous Islamic Theocrats, and Caliphate ideology in the future. In short, the less religion is accepted in the  Middle East, the more stable, prosperous, and peaceful it will be.

Democrats have too long  straddled the fence on this all-too-important issue, we have walked softly and now it is time to show those lunatics just how big our stick really is. Barack Obama should follow the advice of his Pentagon advisors and send in more ground support. And you, as a Democrat, and especially as an Athiest or Agnostic Democrat should stand in full support, sad that while we are temporarily increasing human misery,  in the end it will serve as a great first step toward a New World Order in which religion will be considered as quaint as burning witches. Over and Out.