The GOP outrage machine: The President’s pies.

November 29, 2013

Source: Wikimedia Commons. Author: Lawrence Jackson - Official Whitehouse Photographer (White House - Executive Office Of U.S.A. President)

Source: Wikimedia Commons.
Author: Lawrence Jackson – Official Whitehouse Photographer (White House – Executive Office Of U.S.A. President)

After months of shamelessly using the tragedy in Benghazi for political gain that eventually led to no scandal whatsoever, a new scandal took hold. The President was not attending Gettysburg for the 250 year anniversary! When that turned out to be in keeping with every other President since Gettysburg, the Tea Party brigade needed a new scandal. Well, this time, they really outdid all expectations of the crazy we’ve all come to expect; The First Family had NINE pies on their Thanksgiving menu!

For reference, here is the White House Thanksgiving Menu:

Honey-Baked Ham
Cornbread Stuffing
Oyster Stuffing
Macaroni and Cheese
Sweet Potatoes
Mashed Potatoes
Green Bean Casserole
Dinner Rolls

Huckleberry Pie
Pecan Pie
Chocolate Cream Pie
Sweet Potato Pie
Peach Pie
Apple Pie
Pumpkin Pie
Banana Cream Pie
Coconut Cream Pie

– Bare in mind, this is the choice. They didn’t eat every single menu item. My fridge and freezer currently contains enough to make about 9 or 10 different dishes that I could put together. This doesn’t mean I will eat all 9 or 10 dishes. It means I have the choice. This is lost on Tea Partiers, who apparently believe that they must order every item that appears on a menu, when they go out to eat, judging by the feigned Twitter outrage below:

– Only Commies would dare to employ chefs capable of offering nine pies on a menu! For reference, I’d like to know how many pies is synonymous with freedom loving Patriots?

– Actually, he might be on to something. Massive war expenditure, and the wealthiest in society choosing not to pay taxes, whilst the most vulnerable are left to suffer? Sounds much like 1789, and the entirety of the Bush White House years. A corporate Versailles.




– The over dramatic whinge, we’ve all become so accustomed to hearing from the Tea Party Right.

– I don’t think this guy can go any better than this tweet. ‘Lying Pig’ is surely enough?

– Arrogant! of course! AND RANDOM capitalised WORDS for dramatic EFFECT!

– What this means to say is, one per GOP-invented, reigned outrage, non-scandal.

– YEA…. wait, what?

– I believe Trotsky himself insisted that the proletariat could only be victorious in the great class struggle, if they had a menu with more than eight pies on it.

– Well, she did make it up a little bit. They had nine on the menu. They didn’t eat nine. They had a choice. Apparently the White House have chefs that are capable of offering several different dishes!

A restaurant I visited recently, had twelve desserts on the menu. It’s a small restaurant, and not once did I consider twelve desserts to be a clear symbol of communism in the UK. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe freedom lovers are fine paying for President Bush’s countless trips to the golf course, but should not be fine with any more than maybe five desserts, six at most on the White House Thanksgiving menu. Perhaps employing chefs willing to cook more than eight pies, is the very epitome of socialism. I have a lot to learn about this freedom loving thing.

Abusing the Filibuster: Some Stats.

November 28, 2013


It has been an interesting week since Harry Reid invoked the nuclear option to ensure Presidential nominees are no longer blocked by an increasingly power-hungry Tea Party minority. From the right of the Republican Party, there appears to be a constant “We’re a republic! Not a democracy!” odd little tantrum, in a curiously weak attempt to justify their horrendous inability to accept that they lost the election. It should be noted that the US is indeed a republic, framed by the Constitution, which, in the case of Congressional rule changes quite clearly states:

“Each House may determine the rules of its proceedings, punish its members for disorderly behavior, and, with the concurrence of two thirds, expel a member.”
Article 1; Section 5; Clause 2.

– Also, when it comes to Presidential nominees to executive branch positions, the President has that right. As long as those nominees are qualified, they are entitled to be confirmed, with the President shaping his administration as he sees fit. The Senate traditionally is there to advise and consent, to block only in the most extreme of conditions, and not to usurp that power and use it for fringe-partisanship. The filibuster not only gives a voice to the minority (who are entitled to that voice, via debate), it gives that minority far more power than both the majority party in the Senate, and the President combined.

That being said, it’s true that both President Obama and Harry Reid condemned the nuclear option during the Bush administration, whilst Democrats were the minority party in the Senate. But it is equally true, and needless to point out that President Bush wasn’t facing the sheer force of extreme obstructionism facilitated by the filibuster that the Obama White House faces today.

The nuclear option, in short, means that nominees by the executive branch require a simply majority of 51 votes for appointment, rather than the 60 votes needed if filibustered.

So, why did Harry Reid feel that he had to use a procedural measure to prevent further nominee filibustering in the Senate? Well, it’s quite obvious when you look at the past three years.

Let’s start with the most staggering.
Number of Presidential nominees filibustered over the course of US history: 147.
Number of those Presidential nominees filibustered before Obama took office: 68.
Number of those Presidential nominees filibustered since Obama took office: 79.
More than half of all filibustered nominees for executive branch positions – since before the White House was even built – have taken place during President Obama’s five years as President. This stat alone should be more than enough to convince anyone of the need to curb the abuse of power by a minority wing, or a minority party, that could not win the Presidential election, nor the Senate, nor the popular vote for the House. But in case you’re still on the fence, here are a few more stats:

Between 1949 and 2008, 20 cloture votes had been held to end filibusters, and push for a three-fifths majority vote. In 59 years, 20 votes. Between 2008 and 2013 – just five years – cloture has had to be invoked 27 times.

In President Bush’s two terms, the number of cloture votes for Presidential nominees was 7. In President Clinton’s two terms, the cloture votes for Presidential nominees, was 9. By early 2013, 16 of the President’s executive branch nominees had required cloture votes. In one Presidential term alone.

Interestingly, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who seems to have no problem with the obscene amount of obstructionism his party is willing to adopt in preventing the appointment of Presidential nominees, wasn’t too happy with it when the shoe was on the other foot. During the Bush Presidency, McConnell said:

“To correct this abuse, the majority in the Senate is prepared to restore the Senate’s traditions and precedents to ensure that regardless of party, any president’s judicial nominees, after full and fair debate, receive a simple up-or-down vote on the Senate floor. It is time to move away from advise and obstruct and get back to advise and consent.”

– Ironically, McConnell is now the King of the obstruction he harshly condemned in 2005.

Damningly for McConnell, on top of the 16 cloture votes by March 2013, we see the situation getting worse. Between March 2013, and November 2013, a staggering 11 more cloture votes – taking the total to 27 – for executive branch positions were required after being targets of filibusters from Senate Republicans.

75 executive branch nominations, to incredibly important positions, have waited an average of 140 days for confirmation. The obstruction in the Senate, leads to gridlock across agencies. This isn’t just unfair, it is dangerous. There is absolutely no need nor requirement for the Senate to demand a super majority for Presidential nominations.

And that’s just on nominees. Motions to end a filibuster by procedure during George Bush’s term, and when the party in the White House also controlled the Senate stood at 130 over two terms. Over just one term, and six months of President Obama’s Presidency, that number stands at 307. The era of block-over-debate had to come to an end.

These incredibly telling figures represent another wing – after the ill-considered Republican shut down – of the Republican strategy to destabilise the operation of government departments that people count on every day, simply because the election did not go their own way. The nuclear option was both necessary and inevitable. The reaction from the Republican camp to Reid’s decision has been predictable. Harry Reid – they claim – had choked democracy. This was the end of America as we know it. The usual hyperbole.

Strangely, the same Republicans didn’t react with equal venom when on September 30th of this year, House Republicans changed House rules to take the power to end a government shutdown away from all members of the House, and bestow it upon the House Majority Leader only. It’s a curious hypocrisy, but nevertheless completely expected from that section of the delusional right that holds nothing but contempt for democracy when it goes against them.

Kennedy, Obama, and the Tea Party extremists.

November 26, 2013


The intensity of paranoid right winged hysteria that faces everything the President says, everything he does, and everywhere he goes has grown substantially over the past few years. From those demanding a birth certificate, to public office holders invoking the image of slavery and Stalin whenever they disagree with any policy coming out of the White House. It is all anchored by a paranoid fear of an imminent communist take over. The intensity of the vitriol is growing… but it isn’t new, nor are the people behind it.

In November 1961, President Kennedy gave a speech in which he warns about the “discordant voices of extremism” on the far right fringes, Kennedy said:

“They equate the Democratic Party with the welfare state, the welfare state with socialism, and socialism with communism. They object quite rightly to politics’ intruding on the military — but they are anxious for the military to engage in politics.”

– Echoing these thoughts, the former President, Eisenhower – a Republican – also in 1961 registered his concern about the growing tide of right winged paranoia and extremism that the President and the country were facing in the early ’60s. He expresses concern over what he calls the “super-patriot” and that they tend to wish to:

“…go back to eliminating the income tax from our laws and the rights of people to unionize… [and those] advocating some form of dictatorship.”

The far right attacks on Kennedy grew during the early ’60s, and by November 22nd 1963, the Dallas Morning News printed this full page advertisement attacking the President:

– It is a page dedicated to the subtle hinting that Kennedy was soft on communism and must be resisted by Constitution loving Patriots. For example, one “WHY” on the list reads:

“WHY have you ordered or permitted your brother Bobby, the Attorney General, to go soft on Communists, fellow-travelers, and ultra-leftists in America, while permitting him to persecute loyal Americans who criticize you, your administration, and your leadership?”

– Interestingly, you will note that the name on the bottom of the ad is Bernard Wiessman. During the 60s, Wiessman was a member of the infamous ultra-right ‘John Birch Society’. The society continues to this day. Their website lists Fred Koch – the father of the Tea Party bankrolling Koch Brothers – in its “list of significant figures”. Koch was a founding member of the John Birch Society. The society has played host to some particularly unsavoury characters, not least Fred Koch himself, who laid the seeds for his wealth by building Soviet oil infrastructure, and training Soviet engineers. The Koch family has only ever been interested in increasing its own power and wealth. The same is true today.

Haroldson L.Hunt, the Texas millionaire was a keen member of the John Birch Society during the 1960s. Hunt frequented the radio waves of Texas often to warn of the terrible consequences of President Kennedy’s support for Medicare:

“The plan provides a near little package of sweeping dictatorial power over medicine and the healing arts—a package which would literally make the President of the United States a medical czar with potential life or death power over every man woman and child in the country.”

– According to Hunt – the John Birch member, and someone who clearly doesn’t understand the word ‘literally’ – Medicare would lead to dictatorship, and death panels. According to Tea Party today – including groups with links to the John Birch Society – the Affordable Care Act will lead to dictatorship and death panels.

A ’60s associate of the society, Reverand Billy James Hargis wrote:

“This nation today is in the hands of a group of Harvard radicals who have long ago been “hooked” by the insidious dope of socialism and view human life from the international standpoint – They are a dangerous scourge – and they are so deeply entrenched in power that they can be removed only by a nationwide upsurge of conservatism.”

“They are liberals; liberals are socialists; and Khrushchev himself said that socialism is ‘the first phase of communism.'”

– Hargis headed the fifth annual convention of the Christian Crusade against Communism, which included Robert Welch – the director of the John Birch Society.

In 1961, a report by Congressman Morris K. Udall noted another significant member of the John Birch Society:

“For example, the testimony revealed that Gen. Walker is a member of the John Birch Society, an organization whose leader says former President Eisenhower, John Foster Dulles, Allen Dulles and other high officials of our government have been Communist dupes. Also, it was revealed that Gen. Walker made public statements which were derogatory of other present and former officials of our government. Such statements, of course, are wholly out of keeping for a military officer.”

– General Walker – also a guest at the Christian Crusade against Communism convention – was using his position as a General to amplify his far-right, aggressive John Birch Society beliefs. According to further testimony to the Warren Commission by the aforementioned Bernard Wiessman, Walker was driving around with copies of this in his car, shortly after November 22nd 1963:

– Anti-Christian, Communist race rioters, betraying the Constitution, treason. Familiar vitriolic terms you will still note coming out of the same far right, largely funded by the same Koch family in 2013.

On October 18th, 1963 – just over a month until the assassination – the Delaware State News ran an editorial:

“Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. His name right now happens to be Kennedy. Let’s shoot him, literally, before Christmas.”

– The fear driven, violent rhetoric is the same. But in 2013, the John Birch Society and its Tea Party has just as much – if not more – power than it had in the 1960s. The dangerous conspiratorial tone that a Marxist takeover of government is imminent, now infects legislative bodies across the US. For example, In March 2012, the Tennessee House Republicans drafted House Joint Resolution 587 that read:

“WHEREAS, according to the United Nations Agenda 21 policy, social justice is described as the right and opportunity of all people to benefit equally from the resources afforded us by society and the environment which would be accomplished by socialist/communist redistribution of wealth”

– The wording is eerily similar to a John Birch Society mock-up Bill which reads:

“WHEREAS, according to the United Nations Agenda 21 policy, social justice is described as the right and opportunity of all people to benefit equally from the resources afforded by society and the environment which would be accomplished by a socialist/communist-style redistribution of wealth”

– When I say “eerily similar”, I mean “exactly the same”.

At a Tea Party rally back in 2010, a speaker from Corpus Christi passionately told the crowd that President Obama’s:

“…goal is to do whatever he can to reinvent the United States of America into the aggressively, militantly, secular socialist and post-Christian state he wants it to be. This means … deconstructing the Constitution however he pleases.

Also in the more recent past, Republican darling Ron Paul was not only the first chairman of ‘Citizens for a Sound Economy (CSE)’ which was founded in ’84 by David and Charles Koch, and is now ‘FreedomWorks’ – he was also a key speaker at the John Birch Society’s 50th Anniversary celebration in Wisconsin in October 2008. Interestingly, one of ‘FreedomWorks’ main financers is Crow Holdings, LLC. Crow Holdings has contributed $20,000 to Senator Cruz so far for 2014. This, on top of the $25,000 from Koch industries. 50 years of Koch family promoted vitriol and paranoia, through their hired mouthpieces in Congress.

The opposition to both Kennedy and Obama from the fringe of the right wing has never been a reasonable opposition built on democratically scrutinising ideas. Their brand of opposition has been consistent for the past 50 years; to present any policy slightly to the left of father Koch, as ‘unamerican’, as ‘communist’, as a threat to the fabric of American society, needing to be dealt with outside of the democratic process if necessary, and to spend an obscene amount of money sponsoring candidates and running “Welcome Mr Kennedy” ads to help spread the paranoid fantasies of one far-right family, whilst presenting itself as “grassroots”.

The Tea Party in 2013, and to a growing extent – the Republican Party in 2013 – is the John Birch Society of the 1960s. The same meaningless yet vicious and provocative manipulative and paranoid phrasing, bankrolled by the same family for the sake of the power of that one family, and working to inspire the same reactions from those who suffer the most from its manipulations. They inhabit the realm of paranoid fantasy that is usually considered fringe. It has been key to the far-right’s 50 years of manufacturing false and delusional hysteria, and as of 2013, the power of John Birch-style extremism had the power to shutdown the government in September. That’s a worrying development.

The United States House of Wall Street.

November 25, 2013

Source: Wikimedia Commons. Author: Andrés Nieto Porras.

Source: Wikimedia Commons.
Author: Andrés Nieto Porras.

An interesting vote took place in the House of Representatives at the beginning of this month. A vote completely overshadowed by constant Republican tantrums over the rollout of the Affordable Care Act. A vote that has potentially serious consequences in the future.

The Wall Street Reform Act of 2010 (Dodd-Frank) included Section 716, which ensured that banks insured Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, move their ‘swaps’ (a certain derivative) into non-bank arms of the business that aren’t insured by FDIC; not eligible for bail out funds. It ensured protection for the consumer’s savings, and ensured protection for the taxpayer, by enforcing banks to place their more risky derivative deals outside of the realm of Federal assistance.

At the end of October 2013, House Resolution 992 passed the House by 292 votes to 122. The Bill – H.R.992 – or The “Swaps Regulatory Improvement Act” – severely limits the reach of Section 716 of Dodd-Frank, ultimately striking down a key regulation that Dodd-Frank implemented back in 2010. The implication, simply put, is that incredibly risky Wall Street behaviour surrounding the dealing of derivatives could be backed by a taxpayer funded bailout – for exchanges that are not at all related to banking – if it all goes wrong again.

Despite the Treasury raising concerns about striking down such an important provision, the House – including many Democrats – voted to pass H.R.922. But why? What is the motivation? Well, one only has to look at the lobbying on this Bill to understand just how this may have come about.

Contributions to House members from interests groups who expressively support H.R.992 are rather eye watering. On the list of top contributions to House Members, Jim Himes (D-CT4) – a co-sponsor of the Bill – received $437,179 from special interests in favour. More than any other Democrat in the House. The second ranking figure in the Democrat House Leadership chain of command, Steny Hoyer (D-MD5) received $266,510 from Wall Street supporters of the Bill. The most expensive ‘Yes’ vote for Wall Street comes to us via Eric Cantor (R-VA7), who received $525,400. The main sponsor of the Bill Randy Hultgren (R-Ill) received more contributions from the Securities and Investment industry than any other industry, at $136,500.

In all, special interests supporting H.R.992 contributed 5.9 times more to House members than those groups that opposed it. Wall Street has been staggeringly influential in ensuring regulations from 2010 are struck down. Citigroup were among the contributors. Citigroup also wrote ‘recommendations’ that appeared to be reflected almost word for word in the final draft of H.R.992. The Citigroup recommendations reads:

(d) Only bona fide hedging and traditional bank activities permitted. The prohibition in subsection (a) shall apply to any covered depository institution unless the covered depository institution limits its swap or security based swap activities to:
(1) Hedging and other similar risk mitigating activities directly related to the covered depository institution’s activities.
(2) Acting as a swaps entity for swaps or security-based swaps that are structured finance swaps, unless–
(i) such structured finance swap is undertaken for hedging or risk management purposes; or
(ii) each asset-backed security underlying such structured finance is of a credit quality and of a type or category with respect to which the prudential regulators have jointly adopted rules authorizing swap or security-based swap activity by covered depository institutions.

– Unsurprisingly, given just how much money Wall Street has spent buying its Congressional support for the Bill, H.R.992 reads:

(A) Hedging and other similar risk mitigation activities.
Hedging and other similar risk mitigating activities directly related to the covered depository institution’s activities.
(B) Non-structured finance swap activities.–
Acting as a swaps entity for swaps or security-based swaps other than a structured finance swap.
(C) Certain structured finance swap activities.
Acting as a swaps entity for swaps or security-based swaps that are structured finance swaps, if–
(i) such structured finance swaps are undertaken for hedging or risk management purposes; or
(ii) each asset-backed security underlying such structured finance swaps is of a credit quality and of a type or category with respect to which the prudential regulators have jointly adopted rules authorizing swap or security-based swap activity by covered depository institutions.

– Practically word for word. In fact, according to the New York Times, 70 of the 85 lines in the Bill were penned by Citigroup. A Bill that deregulates the risky aspects of the financial industry – and spreads the risk of failure and the obscene costs of such, to the taxpayer if it all collapses again – was written by the financial industry. Welcome to the House of Wall Street.

The Bill passed the House, and was referred to the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs at the end of October. It is unlikely to pass the Senate, though if somehow it does, it is unlikely to be signed by the President. The White House has already registered its opposition to the Bill, though stopping short of threatening a veto. It might be worth noting that Jack Lew – current Treasury Secretary – worked as Citigroup’s Chief Operating Officer between 2006 and 2008, overseeing the Alternative Investments unit that invested in a hedge fund that had bet on the housing market to collapse.

The US is still recovering from the destruction wrought by, among others; Citigroup. In 2013, Citigroup and Wall Street have successfully managed to lobby Congress into ensuring that incredibly risky derivatives deals – that helped to cause the problems in the first place – are now fully exposed to a risk of a future bailout. This, despite the Federal Reserve reporting in 2012 that Citigroup was one of four financial institutions to fail its ‘stress test’; a test of the institutions ability to withstand another crisis like that of 2008. Also in 2012, Citigroup had to settle an investor lawsuit for $25,000,000 for allegedly misleading investors over the nature of its mortgage-backed securities. Why on earth is this institution allowed anywhere near the strings of government, to shape policy that has such far reaching implications?

Under such circumstances, Citigroup’s lobbyists must be in for a huge Christmas bonus. They’ve certainly earned it.

November 22nd, 1963: The day the FBI failed.

November 21, 2013


I must confess that for at least the past five years I had been convinced that President Kennedy was murdered by a conspiracy of rogue CIA elements. I even touched upon the idea that Lyndon Johnson may have been involved somehow. The questions raised by Oliver Stone in the movie, lead me to questions raised by Mark Lane in his books and countless others. And I bought into it. It was revenge for the Bay of Pigs disaster. Nixon was somehow involved. Howard Hunt was one of the tramps in Dealey Plaza. Back and to the left! Maybe Bush Sr was involved. Perhaps the CIA stole the President’s brain! I didn’t really spend time entertaining the other theories – the Israelis, the ‘military industrial complex’, the Mafia, the Cubans, the Soviets, the Federal Reserve – but nevertheless the circle of blame grew every day. Half of the US was involved in the assassination, by the time I reached 2012 Hell, I even wrote an article on it. It took me a while to realise there was no hard evidence for any of it.

Then, earlier this year – with the help of the wonderful Vincent Bugliosi – I came to the realisation that Oswald was the lone gunman. I looked over testimony, hard evidence, Oswald’s own actions – which are often neglected or skirted around by conspiracy theorists – and concluded that there was absolutely no conspiracy directly related to assassinating the President. There just wasn’t. I am however convinced that the conspiracies that have progressed since November 22nd 1963, were the result of FBI incompetency and attempts to deflect attention away from the failures of the Bureau.

It is clear from the evidence that Oswald was known to the FBI for months leading up to the assassination. They knew he’d visited Mexico City, and wanted to flee to Cuba to assist the Castro administration. They knew he had defected to the Soviet Union and openly hated the US. They had twice attempted to speak to Oswald whilst he was at Ruth Paine’s house, but missed him. Special Agent James Hosty of the FBI was the agent tasked with investigating the Oswalds. Hosty testified:

“I had in fact on two occasions been to the house where his wife lived, once on November 1 and then again on November 5. The purpose of these visits was to make preliminary contact — introduce myself and establish the identity, address, and place of employment of the subject in the case, which was a counter-espionage concern. In these initial contacts with Marina Oswald, I was hoping to set up a time to conduct an in-depth interview with her. Both Oswalds — he being a former Marine who had defected to the Soviet Union and then returned the United States, she a Soviet citizen — made for a classic counter-espionage case. The question was: Could either of the Oswalds be Soviet intelligence agents? In November 1963, the Bureau had no direct information that the Oswalds were Russian agents, but this was the height of the cold war, and for national security purposes we had to be prudent.”

– There’s no reason to doubt this, and it seems a reasonable position for the Bureau to hold at the height of the suspicions of the Cold War. Oswald didn’t take to kindly to the FBI visits. He left a hand written note (to Special Agent James Hosty) that – according to the receptionist that day – read:

“Let this be a warning. I will blow up the FBI and the Dallas Police Department if you don’t stop bothering my wife”

– Marina was questioned by Hosty, in relation to Oswald’s communist connections. Hosty also questioned many other suspects and their families, and didn’t realise the note was from Oswald at first. Gordon Shanklin was James Hosty’s superior at the FBI. Hosty had told Shanklin that the note was “typical guff”, believing it had been written by a right-winged subversive that he’d interviewed the wife of days before. Shanklin responded:

“What do you mean, ‘typical guff’? This note was written by Oswald, the probable assassin of the president, and Oswald brought this note into this office just ten days ago! What the hell do you think Hoover’s going to do if he finds out about this note!”

– The note was destroyed by Hosty, on orders from his superior, Gordon Shanklin, when Oswald was named as the prime suspect in the Kennedy Assassination.

Shanklin knew that in his town, a man had threatened to blow up the FBI building, had at one point defected to the Soviet Union, had attempted to assassinate General Edwin Walker a few months earlier, and yet his details were not passed onto the Secret Service, nor did the Bureau work to keep Oswald as far away from the President during his trip to Dallas as he absolutely should have been. The FBI essentially drew a massive target on the President in Dallas.

Oswald; a man who should have been handled by the FBI that day, slipped through the net, and assassinated the President of the United States of America, in Shanklin’s back yard. That is beyond incompetence. It represents the very essence of a failure beyond anyone’s comprehension.

Hoover knew that had it came to light that the FBI had knowledge of the danger Oswald presented, and that they could have, and absolutely should have prevented Oswald from having any opportunity to even catch a glimpse of the President in Dallas, he would be out of a job. The biggest failure in law enforcement history up until that point had happened on Hoover’s watch. And this is a job and an institution that Hoover had made his own. He wasn’t about to let it all die with three shots in Dallas.

Hoover had seen the capture or killings of several high profiled gangsters in his career. Dillinger, Machine Gun Kelly for example. He’d expanded the Bureau’s recruitment drive, was at the front of intelligence gathering during World War II and the Cold War with the Venona Project, the covert COINTELPRO initiative, and other massive expansions of FBI power. By the 1960s, each FBI Special Agent in Charge had a drawer of files on field agents that never made the official record, so to keep a distance between their potential misdeeds, and J.Edgar Hoover. Hosty noted:

“the Hoover FBI… The absolute privacy of this drawer afforded Hoover “plausible deniability” ”

– For 30+ years, J.Edgar Hoover was the FBI, and vice versa.

Hoover’s ego was greater than the FBI itself. He had carved the position out of nothing, and became the chief law enforcer in the nation’s history. For Hoover, that legacy also threatened to be a victim, shot down by Lee Oswald that day. And those FBI agents like Hosty, and Shanklin in Dallas knew it. Their mishandling of Oswald could lead to the fall of the Director of the FBI, and would put the Bureau itself is jeopardy. Hoover was never going to risk that.

Hoover had told people privately that he feared that the Warren Commission was out to embarrass the FBI. Former assistant director of the FBI, William Sullivan later said:

“Hoover did not want the Warren Commission to conduct an exhaustive investigation for fear that it would discover important and relevant facts that we in the FBI had not discovered in our own investigation, [since] it would be greatly embarrassing to him and damaging to his career and the FBI as a whole.”

– He isn’t talking about a grand conspiracy to murder the President, he’s talking about the very fact that a man known the FBI, a man who had threatened to blow up their building, and had Soviet and Castro sympathies was allowed to go to work in a building that directly overlooked the path the President’s motorcade was taking that day in Dallas. The FBI should have stopped the assassination well before it had the chance to occur. They didn’t. They, and ultimately J.Edgar Hoover were responsible for the death of the President.

There is not one shred of verifiable hard evidence that suggests a conspiracy to assassinate the President. Only conjecture and mostly weak understanding of the actual facts. Believe me, it’s taken me a long time to get to that stage of reasoning. There is however a mountain of evidence that points to Oswald as the lone assassin. This evidence often gets lost and creatively reinterpreted due mainly to a clear attempt by the FBI to deflect blame from itself and to not reveal the extent of the knowledge they had on Oswald prior to the assassination. This was Hoover trying to rescue his legacy from its darkest hour. From that, conspiracy is born.

We do not know if John Kennedy would have made a great President. He was certainly on the road to greatness. His rhetoric was impassioned, brilliant, and engaged the World. The youthfulness of Camelot seemed to echo the new and vibrant generation of the 60s. Kennedy’s life was cut short in the middle of his first term, with those horrific few seconds etched on Zapruder’s film for posterity. We will never know what could have been had Kennedy lived. Had the FBI done its job correctly that day, history could have been very different.

President Obama & the Tea Party Gettysburg non-scandal.

November 19, 2013

gettysburg address, snub gettysburg, obama gettysburg

It is 150 years today that President Lincoln gave perhaps the most important, and brilliant speech he would ever give. A speech that defined the era, and solidified the ideals on which the United States was born. The Gettysburg Address is one that rings as true today as it did in November 1863.

Predictably, conservatives over the pond have used the anniversary as a platform to launch yet another misleading and absurd attack on the President. This new line of attack comes in two parts; both equally as absurd. Firstly, that the President “snubbed” the Gettysburg Address memorial at Gettysburg, and secondly, that the President omitted the words “under God” when reciting the Gettysburg Address earlier today. Both – as expected from this current crop of conservatives – are entirely misleading, and represent a complete lack of respect by those on the American Tea Party right who will use anything to concoct bullshit to aim at the President.

Nothing is sacred to the Tea Party conservatives. It seems that they have decided it is acceptable to abuse the memory of Gettysburg, in order to launch a cynical and misleading attack on the President, today. Let’s look at their two claims in a little more detail:

gettysburg address, gettysburg address snub, president obama gettysburg address, "under god"
– “Stunning snub!” The hysteria couldn’t be more feigned and ridiculous. And not least because it’s entirely misleading. The President did not ‘snub’ the Gettysburg Address anniversary today. He just didn’t attend it. Like every other sitting President since Lincoln – with the exception of Taft – hasn’t attended a Gettysburg Address anniversary. This includes Kennedy in 1963, at the 100th anniversary. This includes conservative hero President Reagan who did not attend the 125th Gettysburg Anniversary. I have searched thoroughly and cannot locate any media outlet from the 125th anniversary, that feigns outrage over the “stunning snub” by President Reagan. Strange that.

We should also be keen to note that the President has quoted Lincoln, and paid tribute to Lincoln plenty of times in the past. Both of President Obama’s inaugural speeches mention Lincoln, he was sworn in on the Lincoln Bible and he consistently refers to Lincoln as his inspiration as President. This, in contrast to Republicans, who invited Ted Nugent to the State of the Union, despite Nugent having said:

“I’m beginning to wonder if it would have been best had the South won the Civil War.”

And then there’s the second claim:
This is just as ridiculous as the first, and used as nothing more than another cynical attempt to launch an ill thought out attack on the President:

gettysburg address, obama snub gettysburg address, under god gettysburg address
The Library of Congress website states:

“Of the five known manuscript copies of the Gettysburg Address, the Library of Congress has two. President Lincoln gave one of these to each of his two private secretaries, John Nicolay and John Hay. The other three copies of the Address were written by Lincoln for charitable purposes well after November 19.”

It is those three “well after” November 19th that contain the words “under God”. The two in the Library of Congress – one of which Lincoln brought to Gettysburg itself – given to Lincoln’s secretaries, do not include the words “under God”.

As part of a documentary, President Obama was today asked to read from the Nicolay copy. The Nicolay copy does not include the words “Under God”. Therefore, the President did not omit the words “under God” from the draft of the address. Lincoln did. The other three copies were used for fundraising purposes. The second written version of the address, is called the Hay draft, and was the draft handed personally to his secretary John Hay upon Lincoln’s return from Gettysburg. The first version, also not including the words “under God” is called the “Nicolay draft”. President Obama today, was asked specifically to read the Nicolay draft copy by the documentary crew – headed by the brilliant Ken Burns – filming it. This, he did. There was no snubbing.

It would be of great service to the increasingly Confederate-like Tea Party conservatives, if they read the words of the Gettysburg Address and worked to put them into practice. “…that all men are created equal”. As opposed to their own version of that statement of equality, that seems to consistently preclude gay people, women, the least wealthy, non-Christians, and anyone with a slightly darker skin tone. It would do conservatives great service to ponder the idea that all are created equal, rather than focusing entirely on the word “God”. And whilst they’re at it, perhaps stop following the President around with Confederate flags.

We will of course never know whether or not Lincoln said “under God” at Gettysburg. But if he did it certainly wasn’t in the drafts of the speech leading up to Gettysburg, and only appeared written down after the 19th, for charity purposes. Regardless, President Obama was specifically asked to read a specific draft of the address, for a documentary. This he did. To complain or to invent a scandal, is nothing more than to attempt to hijack the day, for political purposes from a regressive Republican Party that has absolutely no connection to its roots with the Republicans of Lincoln. Given that the US Tea Party right wing has attempted to hijack the Benghazi tragedy for political purposes, has shut down the government for political purposes, and consciously chosen to horrifically compare the Affordable Care Act to slavery, for political purposes… it is no surprise that they’re willing to abuse the memory President Lincoln and the solemnity of Gettysburg with equal contempt.

Operation Christmas Child: The Cult of Franklin Graham.

November 18, 2013

operation christmas child, atheists north carolina school, samaritan's purse, franklin graham, atheism,

It is around that time of year again when the cries of “Keep CHRIST in Christmas!” spring up, the same time of year we hear that there is some sort of conspiracy of Atheists and Muslims trying to ban Christmas. The persecuted Christians (who oddly, are in all major positions of power in the US) spring to life in an attempt to conceive of an anti-Christmas Atheist agenda that doesn’t actually exist. Sarah Palin has already used the phrase “The War on Christmas” this year and it isn’t even December yet.

This week saw a new apparent example of heartless Atheists attempting to undermine the spirit of Christmas whilst simultaneously impoverishing children further. The story is brought to us across the evangelical blogs and news sites. For example, WLTX reports that due to the big bad Atheist bullies, East Point Academy in Cayce South Carolina had cancelled its toy drive after being threatened by the American Humanist Association, simply because it was a Christian concoction. That’s the story posted. They even include a back up quote from the Principle Renee Mathews here:

“There’s no religious literature tied with it. There’s no speakers who come. There’s no religious affiliation at all.”

– The problem is, this isn’t true. It isn’t a case a benevolent charity giving gifts to the needy, for benevolent reasons, with no religious affiliation at all, as Mathews claims. Quite the opposite, and rather sinisterly so.

Operation Christmas Child, ran by Reverend Franklin Graham’s Samaritan’s Purse is an evangelical program designed to bribe the most vulnerable people into converting to Franklin’s particular brand of Christianity. They openly state their goal is:

“…the advancement of the Christian faith through educational projects and the relief of poverty”.

– Relief of poverty for the sake of itself is not good enough for this organisation, it must be linked intrinsically to the spread of the cult of Franklin Graham.

The cult preys on US school children by inviting them to give to what is believed to be an honest charity dedicated to helping the poorest children in the World, but before delivering those gifts, they slip in Reverend Franklin Graham’s propaganda material. Your children are not sending toys to vulnerable children, the toys are just a marketing technique for a cult that wishes to spread to message.

As chairman of Samaritan’s Purse, Franklin Graham is given around $400,000 a year. Graham is as Tea Party-esque as the Christian Right gets, having once claimed:

“The Muslim Brotherhood is very strong and active in our country. It’s infiltrated every level of our government. Right now we have many of these people that are advising the US military and State Department on how to respond in the Middle East, and it’s like asking a fox, like a farmer asking a fox, “How do I protect my henhouse from foxes?” We’ve brought in Muslims to tell us how to make policy toward Muslim countries. And many of these people we’ve brought in, I’m afraid, are under the Muslim Brotherhood.”

– He also claimed that the Japanese tsunami may have signalled the beginning of Armageddon. He publicly maintains that President Obama is not a Christian – which he deems to be unacceptable – has said that the President was born Muslim, is influenced by the Muslim Brotherhood, and he recorded a public message insisting that same-sex marriage should be banned, with no same-sex union recognised by the state at all. Graham, therefore, has a very political agenda. A very public agenda. Whilst pushing this public agenda, he also have a right winged Christian agenda, that Samaritan’s Purse manipulates school children into being an unwitting part of. Why not agree to send those toys without any mention of religion, or Jesus, or God, as defined by a right-winged American evangelical?

When they seek out donors, Operation Christmas Child usually downplays its evangelism, so as to attract funding. So much so that South Wales Fire Service here in the UK halted their involvement with Operation Christmas Child after discovering the true nature of the ‘charity’. Director of Corporate Services for South Wales Fire Service, upon discovering the real motives of Operation Christmas Child wrote:

“Our involvement in Operation Christmas Child has been on the basis that the project was no more than a charitable event. We do not lend support to any political or religious organisation in their own right, neither do we wish to be associated with anybody whose activities would bring the brigade into dispute.”

– It seems Samaritan’s Purse completely manipulated the fire service, and abused their generosity.

In 2001, in response to two earthquakes in El Salvador, Samaritan’s Purse received $200,000 of federal aid money to provide relief in the country. They then proceeded to hold prayer meetings, before showing people how to rebuild their homes. Franklin Graham wrote:

“When we go into these villages and help people get back into their homes, we hope we’ll be able to plant new churches all over this country”

– The use of US aid money, to spread a cult defined by the Graham family, is not a cause that the US government should be funded, nor should it be allowed in US schools.

In 2003, Samaritan’s Purse released a report, which seems to boast of their manipulative efforts to bribe children. This is the case of a 13 year old boy who’s enticed into the stranger’s ‘house’ with gifts:

“Every day, Ramakrishna’s work route took him in front of a Christian church. As he picked up trash from the gutter, a woman invited him into the church. He always refused. Then one day the woman asked him inside to receive a gift. He was still wary of Christians and their strange beliefs, but the offer of a gift was too tempting. He accepted.”

The report then goes on to give us the real reason they use shoebox drives. To get around anti-conversion laws:

“India can be a difficult mission field. Many states have anti-conversion laws that make it hard for Christians to work. But Operation Christmas Child breaks down barriers and provides a way to reach the children. More than 325,000 shoe box gifts were distributed in 2003, and 265,000 children were enrolled in follow-up Bible study programs.”

– The imperialist cult of Franklin Graham.

Operation Christmas Child sends its propaganda to places that are mainly Muslim; they sent 30,000 Arabic Bibles out to Iraq after the first gulf war. They also aim their propaganda at poorer Hindu communities. This, after Franklin Graham once said of Hinduism:

“… hundreds of millions of people locked in the darkness of Hinduism… bound by Satan’s power”.

“… no elephant with 100 arms can do anything for me. None of their 9,000 gods is going to lead me to salvation”

– This isn’t about giving gifts to vulnerable children, this is about spreading a Biblical cult through any immoral means necessary; including the spread of bribery and bigotry. Visiting struggling countries, and offering food and aid, along with a Bible, is not something I am at all comfortable with, and it is not something that should be allowed to infect secular schools.

As a private organisation – regardless of how dubious and politically motivated their aims are – we cannot stop them. But it is entirely irresponsible and wrong to be manipulating state school children, in a secular society, to give up their belongings to a cause they believe is innocent whilst at the same time using that innocence to help spread the message of a fundamentalist cult, and the power of a very unlikeable evangelist.

For the cult of Franklin Graham, poverty and war are very profitable. Viewing poverty and destitution as a way to spread a religious agenda by preying on the most vulnerable, is so horribly wrong, it’s difficult to know where to begin.

It is not giving that is objectionable to non-believers. It is the use of propaganda in order to convert the most vulnerable, alongside the giving. I would encourage anyone who is worried that their good will and generosity may be the victim of a group like Samaritan’s Purse, to give to far more reputable sources. Oxfam Unwrapped for example, or Link To Hope’s shoebox appeal. Neither of these will include any form of political or religious propaganda, nor the spread of the message of a cult. Your gifts will be safe.

This hideous group should not be allowed anywhere near children.

It’d be nice for the news media to tell the full story.

“Before The Big Bang”: A Divine Neverland.

November 17, 2013


People often ask each other what our favourite Disney film is. Peter Pan is always my answer. I was always fascinated by the idea of Peter Pan and Neverland, growing up. It seemed, to the naive mind of a child, that J.M Barrie had managed to capture the essence of wonder of childhood, and anchored that essence forever, full of mythical creatures and beautiful islands and lagoons (I adore that word) and pirates and lost boys and I remember being five or six years old and closing my eyes, thinking happy thoughts, and wondering if I’d start to fly. It seemed like a heavenly place to me as a child. Incidentally my happy thought was the idea of being able to fly. I’m not sure if the paradox there was the reason I never achieved human flight, either way, I didn’t, and I slowly realised that Neverland may just be fictional and may not actually exist anywhere in reality.

In Neverland, time comes to a halt. You stop aging. It obviously isn’t supposed to be a scientific explanation for anything – merely a children’s tale – but the idea that aging stops divorces the aging process from time itself. Events still take place in Neverland. Events that have consequences, in other words, causation, which requires time, still exists. Neverland has a complete revamping of the characteristics of time. In reality, without time, nothing exists, not even causation. The two are entwined.

I briefly touched on this subject in my article on the Cosmological Argument, but I thought I’d expand on my thoughts below. I am quite certain that the existence of time is evidence against the existence of a divine creator.

Hamza Tzortzis on his blog says:

“Science cannot explain the past or the origins of things. For instance questions such as, what was before the Big Bang?…. are technically outside the realm of the scientific method.”

– Apart from being an entirely false premise, the sentence presumes that there ever was a “before the Big Bang”. This is a false presumption, and not only is it a false presumption because it lacks any kind of evidence relying instead on flimsy guess work, but it also ignores evidence to the contrary. The phrase “before the Big Bang” gives one the sense that time itself preceded the Big Bang, and whilst that’s up for debate on the level of science, this isn’t what Hamza was getting at. He’s suggesting and arguing for divine creation.

The word “before” denotes the context of time. Time is woven into the fabric of the universe. Therefore “before”, is an absurd term to use for the question posed. For, causation itself can only exist within the context of of time. There cannot be a time before time and so the context of the word “before” begins at the point that time itself began. To suggest otherwise not only represents a manipulation of language, but also commits the fallacy of composition. A new concept of causation based not on time is required from creationists to come anywhere close to saving their Neverland. Causation of the universe, they must separate from causation in the universe. Good luck with that.

Stephen Hawking, in a lecture on the beginning of time says:

“Since events before the Big Bang have no observational consequences, one may as well cut them out of the theory, and say that time began at the Big Bang.”

Discounting the theory of chaotic inflation, or the big bounce concept, or the idea that endless black holes create endless infinite universes (an intriguing idea, well worth reading up on, and perpetuated by Vahe Gurzadyan among others) for one second – because all of those theories will still lead believers to ask “what came before? Who started it all? Infinity is impossible!!”, they aren’t looking for scientific theories, they’re automatically suggesting a creator – and so I’ll be focusing on the premise that the Big Bang was the beginning of everything.

As we know it, time & space began at the moment of the Big Bang. Therefore, time and space are precluded from “before” the Big Bang, in fact, the word “before” is precluded from before the Big Bang… or to be a little more in keeping with the point of this article… There is no “before” time. Indeed, this is not a faith based guess. It falls therefore on the believer to provide any sort of verifiable evidence that a being can exist outside of time and space, that there existed a separate realm in which a creator had the ability to kick start the universe as we know it, and what the characteristics of that realm are. All of which can only ever be taken on guesswork, fantasy, and are entirely self defeating. This should not be progressed as a serious inquiry into origins. It is creationism and nothing more.

Indeed, if a creator existed in a realm of time and space prior to the beginning of the universe, then that time and space must have different properties to what we understand of time and space, it must also have preceded the existence of the creator within it, therefore, it is a higher realm than the creator, and the creator cannot be called a creator at all. Certainly not the God of the omni’s.

The existence of time and its beginning renders the idea of a creator either obsolete, or creates a sort of Neverland realm, in which the creator dwells – which again, suggests the realm preceded the existence of the creator – a realm in which time doesn’t exist, but events are still able to occur, which in turn suggests a version of time does actually exist in this divine realm; at that point, believers tend not to give any evidence nor characteristics of this magical land.

And so if this divine realm exists before “time” (again, impossible, because existence requires time), did the creator create it also? If the creator created this divine realm also….. how did it do so? In what realm of time and space was it able to exist in order to create this new fantasy realm required before the universe was created?

In other words, if there was a “before” the beginning of time, this would have required another realm for causation to exist – which as I pointed out earlier is a product of time – which then leads to a “before” that realm, which in turn needs a “before” that realm and so on… The chain is endless. And so if you’re suggesting a “before time” – as a synonym for “before everything” – and placing your particular God in that new realm that you’ve just created – out of nothing, ironically – you’ve opened up a whole bag of new questions that you must answer before the question “What came before the Big Bang?” is taken seriously.

Is this Neverland completely timeless? If so, how do events occur?
If it is timeless, do you have any such verifiable evidence that something can exist outside of time and space?
If your creator exists, you must therefore believe existence, and cause and effect do not require time or space? What then, do they require?
Or does this realm have another version of time? Do you have evidence for the existence of more than one version of time?

Or does this realm include our understanding of time, that was simply extended to the universe at the Big Bang? In which case, where did your creator exist in order to create it? How did your creator exist before existence was possible?

If you conceive of a “before time”, you have created Neverland. A place where time doesn’t exist, but causation exists. You have divorced causation from time, you have divorced time from the universe. I see no reason to accept this as a reasonable proposition, rather than a completely absurd and illogical proposition. Especially when you provide no evidence for such an extraordinary revision of all known physical laws.

To summarise:
If a creator created everything – which encompasses itself – including the time and space required to ‘create’ the universe, it must have done so in another realm of time and space. Suddenly “everything” doesn’t encompass itself any more, and the creator is no longer the creator, because this new realm preceded it. Arguing the existence of a creator of the universe does nothing but lead to complete absurdity and eventually defeats itself. He created time, whilst in time. Or he created time, without time existing, despite creation requiring time in order to happen. Absurd. The believer essentially creates an endless stream of divine Neverlands, whilst both changing the nature of existence and time and through it all, offering no evidence whatsoever for the existence or characteristics of any of those wonderful Neverlands, or even the ability for any to actually exist. It is fantasy dressed up as viable, and credible inquiry.

The evidence is clear; if there is no time and space, there is no existence. Existence requires time. Causation requires time. All characteristics of the universe. Therefore, not only does God not exist…. He isn’t required to exist, and actually cannot possibly exist. It is logical impossible.

That the universe – time, space, matter, energy – came into existence doesn’t suggest a creator. Quite the opposite. It negates the need for a creator, and entirely precludes His existence.

Just like a child slowly coming to the realisation that J.M Barrie’s Neverland does not exist anywhere in reality, what we understand of the universe, of time, and of space necessarily leads us to a point in which we do not abandon the search for truth, but we recognise there is not – and cannot possibly be – a God… Except of course, within the absurd and contradictory, self defeating realm of a hopeless divine Neverland.

Accommodation Expenses of Tory MPs who voted for the Bedroom Tax.

November 15, 2013

The Party of duck-houses and moat cleaning expenses voted this week to ensure that the most vulnerable families in the UK struggle to live, with the perpetuation of the hideous Bedroom Tax. So, it’s worth noting exactly how much those same Tory MPs have claimed in their own accommodation expenses.

(For reference, ‘accommodation’ according to IPSA covers
Accommodation, Rent, Home Contents Insurance, Telephone Installation, Approved Security Measures, Internet, Telephone, Usage, Buildings Insurance, Mortgage Interest, Telephone Usage/Rental, Council Tax, Other Fuel, Television Installation/Rental, Electricity, Residential Deposit Loan, Television Licence, Gas, Routine Security Measures, Water, Ground Rent, Service Charges).

Karen Bradley Conservative MP for Staffordshire Moorlands, voted against Labour’s motion to repeal the Bedroom Tax, thus voting to cut £16 a week from the budgets of the hardest pressed families. Presumably to help plug the Treasury hole arising from her own accommodation expenses, seen here:

conservatives expenses, karen bradley expenses, mps expenses, bedroom tax mps

Richard Bacon, Conservative MP for South Norfolk voted No on repealing the Bedroom Tax. He also once blamed civil servants for the failure of certain government projects, and is particularly interested in investigating the causes of government overspending. Here, he claimed £22,000+ in accommodation expenses for a very short space of time, whilst voting to take away accommodation expenses from the most vulnerable:

richard bacon mp, mps expenses, bedroom tax tories, tories expenses, conservative party expenses

Economic Secretary to the Treasury, Nicky Morgan, MP for Loughborough voted No on repealing the Bedroom Tax. Morgan once told a room full of students at a debate I was at, that business owners make the best MPs. She got a huge boo from the audience. But I agree with her…. in a Parliament that is dedicated to the very wealthy, those sympathetic to the very wealthy to the detriment of the everyone else make the best Corporate-MPs. That’s true. For the rest of us, they are a nightmare. The Bedroom Tax is testament to that hideous Corporate-MP mentality. Anyway, Morgan, whilst ‘Economic Secretary to the Treasury’ and voting to uphold the misery that has lead to so many tragic incidents like that of Stephanie Bottrill, claimed the following in her accommodation:

nicky morgan mp expenses, nicky morgan mp bedroom tax, bedroom tax mps expenses, mps expenses, conservative party mps expenses

Alistair Burt, MP for North East Bedfordshire and former Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office voted No on repealing the Bedroom Tax. Here are his accommodation expenses:

alistairburtMP, alistair burt mp expenses, mps expenses, mps accommodation expenses, bedroom tax debate

Ian Liddell-Grainger MP for Bridgwater and West Somerset and great-great-great Grandson of Queen Victoria (as well as the great grandson of Princess Alice, Countess of Athlone) claimed £166,109 in 2007/08. After the rule change in 2010/11, Liddell-Grainger claimed £147,004, making him the 6th most expensive MP in Parliament for that year. His wife and two eldest children are registered as his staff. He also voted No on repealing the Bedroom Tax. Here are his accommodation expenses:

liddell-grainger expenses, mps expenses, bedroom tax, bedroom tax tories, ian liddell-grainger vote

John Hayes, MP for South Holland and The Deepings, was chairman of the All Party group on Disability. Apparently it did nothing to soften what seems to be an inherent desire to strip those with disabilities of much needed help, whilst himself claiming a small fortune in accommodation expenses:

john hayes mp, john hayes mps expenses, mps expenses, bedroom tax, bedroom tax vote

Together, the expenses of these six alone could pay to lessen the horrific burden that austerity – caused by the most affluent – has placed on those who cannot afford it. We have become a country that grotesquely judges its success by how protected those with everything are, rather than those with nothing. The accommodation expenses of almost every Tory and Lib Dem MP who voted against the repeal of Bedroom Tax comes in at hundreds of thousands of pounds, if not millions. Here is the full list posted on If your MP voted against the repeal of the Bedroom Tax, thus voting to uphold such a cruel attack on the nation’s most vulnerable, get in contact and ask why they believe themselves justified in claiming thousands upon thousands in accommodation expenses, whilst their constituents struggle to afford to live.

The Cosmological Argument: “Eternal sky man used magic”.

November 14, 2013

The old cosmological argument as a classical ‘proof’ for the existence of God is apparently alive and well. It is used in practically every debate for the existence of God that I’ve come across. They sometimes rewrite it a little, believing to have strengthened its points, but the argument remains the same. The argument seems to require both supposition, and circular reasoning, whilst attempting to seem logical. William Lane Craig is always itching to use it before he even steps up to the podium. Hamza Tzortzis is under the unique impression that it still has merit especially if he uses pretentious language that is ultimately meaningless. The argument is as follows:

1. Everything that begins to exist has a cause.
2. The universe began to exist.
3. Therefore, the universe has a cause.

– In essence… you cannot get something from nothing.

I have several criticisms of this classical ‘proof’ for the existence of God that I’ll set out below, point by point.

1. Everything that begins to exist has a cause.
You may have noted several problems with the argument immediately, starting not with its first point, but with its overall premise that an infinite cannot possibly exist. The premise that an infinite cannot exist, in this case is negated by the idea that a creator was uncaused, and thus, infinite. On top of an infinite God, the argument presupposes that the first cause ‘created’ everything…. out of nothing. They attempt to argue that something from nothing is impossible, whilst arguing that something from nothing is possible, as long as an eternal overlord did it. They don’t in any way provide evidence for the presupposition that something – anything – is able to exist prior to time and space, or outside of time and space. And that’s a crucial point. They therefore have no logically sound base for their argument. We try to rationalise with them, debate respectfully, use grandiose philosophical terms on a level that they believe helps their cause, but I think perhaps we give the cosmological argument too much credit, when in fact its very fundamental premise is just a more eloquent rewording of: “Eternal sky man used magic“.

Secondly, the phrase “…that begins to exist” is vital to the flaw. It used to be simply “Everything has a cause”. Well, then, if everything includes itself, then we must say that a creator must also have a cause. This presented problems for the believer, and so the phrase “…that begins to exist” was added. But this addition isn’t free from flaws, in fact it multiplies them. It is clearly intense circular reasoning. It presumes two states of being. Things that begin to exist, suggests there are also things that don’t begin to exist, which suggests they’ve always existed, which exempts them from the entire argument. In turn, this means by splitting existence into two categories a) Things that begin to exist and by extension b) Things that don’t begin to exist, but exist anyway, those who use the cosmological argument defeat their own premise; that nothing can be infinite.

They are also trying to prove God, by exempting God from the argument. To put it a little more simply, it is like saying “Everything…. that is blue“. Everything encompasses itself, there is nothing excluded. But the addition of “..that is blue” suddenly changes the meaning of “everything” by exempting everything that isn’t blue. And so “…that begins to exist” exempts that which is presumed not to have a beginning, by which believers call “God”. The argument already presumes a God, whilst trying to prove a God. To put it simply, Point 1 can thus be rewritten as:
1. Everything, except God, has a cause.
Which means point 2. can be rewritten as:
2. The Universe (but not God) began to exist.
– If an exemption for “everything” exists – and the exemption is that which you’re trying to prove – then your argument is incomplete, and so it is flawed.

Also flawed, is the premise that everything has a cause. Hume argued that we can infer from our experience of houses, that an architect and builders are required for a house to exist. We know this from experience of how houses come to exist. But we have no experience of how universes – the chain itself, rather than the constituent parts – come to exist, and so it is not possible to draw the same inference as we would do for houses. In essence, causation applies to the constituent parts of the universe, but need not apply to the universe (and so, time) itself.

2. The universe began to exist.
This is a flippant attempt to link the beginning of the universe itself, to the beginning of everything within the universe, when in fact the two are separate. Causation requires time to exist. Therefore causation is a product of the universe, the universe need not itself be a product of the laws of causation observed within the universe. The argument “the universe began to exist” places the universe (the entire set, rather than the parts of the set) within itself, subject to the law of the parts of the set that it gave birth to.

There was no “before time“, there was no prior state of being in which the universe hadn’t “begun” to exist yet, and so there was never a possibility for something to exist in order to be the cause of the universe – and therefore time – itself. The word “begun” requires time. The word “before” requires time. The word “cause” requires time. If a cause existed, then time existed, which means the universe had already begun to exist.
To argue “you cannot get something from nothing” is meaningless when discussing the universe itself, because there has never been “nothing“, there has always been “something”.

Causality is linked necessarily to time. So the Kalam Cosmological argument, by including the phrase “…that begins to exist” suggests that something can exist outside of time and so has no cause, without actually providing evidence for that subtly made assertion. This is not a respectable argument for the existence of God, it is not a rational argument for the existence of God, and yet some of the key Theistic public speakers use it constantly. It isn’t in the slightest bit convincing.

3. Therefore, the universe has a cause.
As noted above, this does not follow from the first two points, and therefore fails. It is a meaningless statement. Before making a case for the cosmological argument’s credibility, it seems to me that one must first produce the slightest piece of evidence that it is possible for something to exist outside of the all-encompassing confines of time and space. Which is of course both irrational, and self defeating. Existence requires time. And on that basis alone, the third point is irrational.

We non-believers simply say we do not know. Scientists are working on it. We just don’t know yet. In time, evidence will be gathered, theories formed, and conclusions drawn. It is simply not acceptable practice to notice a gap in our understanding, and place “God” without a significant amount of evidence for such an extraordinary claim, relying instead of horribly flawed philosophical talking points. The cosmological argument is one of those flawed talking points. It is nothing more than an eloquently formed synonym for “Eternal sky man used magic“.

The Liberal Democrats who voted to uphold cruelty.

November 13, 2013

Upon appointment as Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg was given this 3,500-acre, 115 roomed estate at Chevening, to live in for free. Source: Wikimedia Commons. Author: By Dhowes9.

Upon appointment as Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg was given this 3,500-acre, 115 roomed estate at Chevening, to live in for free.
Source: Wikimedia Commons.
Author: Dhowes9.

The growing litany of horror stories from those suffering horrendously as a result of the Bedroom Tax did not concern Liberal Democrat MPs in Parliament today. The suicides, the misery felt by those with disabled family members, and caused by the Bedroom Tax did not concern Liberal Democrat MPs in Parliament today. The charities that are fighting an uphill battle to protect the most vulnerable from the cruelty of the Bedroom Tax….

“This policy will have a hugely detrimental impact on disabled people and their families. For example, family carers who care full-time, or who juggle work and care, may need to sleep in another room just to get a few hours of uninterrupted sleep.”
– Mencap.

“In the six months since the bedroom tax and other welfare cuts became a reality, life has become tougher for thousands of households in Scotland. For those people affected, the bedroom tax lurks like a monster in their home and we need to do something about it.”
– Shelter.

… did not concern Liberal Democrat MPs in Parliament today. The grassroots Lib Dem membership that opposes the Bedroom Tax, did not concern Liberal Democrat MPs in Parliament today. Through it all, thirty-one Liberal Democrat MPs completely disregarded the most vulnerable, charities up and down the country, and their own Party members, just to side with Conservatives to perpetuate the Bedroom Tax.

It is difficult to view the Bedroom Tax as anything but the nastiest, right winged law in a very long time. A law that was only kept possible today, by thirty-one Liberal Democrat MPs. Here is the list of those Lib Dems who voted against repeal. If you’re in one of their constituencies – or even if you’re not – and you’re suffering tremendously because of the law these people have just forced upon you, their Twitter or Contact pages are included below. Liberal Democrat wall of shame:

David Heath (Somerton & Frome) – Twitter.
Norman Baker (Lewes) – Contact.
Lorely Burt (Solihull) – Twitter.
Sir Alan Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed) – Contact.
Tom Brake (Carshalton & Wallington) – Twitter.
Jeremy Browne (Taunton Deane) – Contact.
Norman Lamb (Norfolk North) – Twitter.
Malcolm Bruce (Gordon) – Twitter.
John Pugh (Southport) – Twitter.
Jo Swinson (Dunbartonshire East) – Twitter.
Paul Burstow (Sutton & Cheam) – Twitter.
Sir Menzies Campbell (Fife North East) – Contact.
Alistair Carmichael (Orkney & Shetland) – Contact.
Edward Davey (Kingston & Surbiton) – Twitter.
Don Foster (Bath) – Contact.
Stephen Gilbert (St Austell & Newquay) – Twitter.
Duncan Hames (Chippenham) – Twitter.
Sir Nick Harvey (Devon North) – Contact.
John Hemming (Birmingham Yardley) – Contact.
Martin Horwood (Cheltenham) – Twitter.
Simon Hughes (Bermondsey & Old Southwark) – Contact.
Michael Moore (Berwickshire, Roxburgh & Selkirk) – Twitter.
Tessa Munt (Wells) – Twitter.
Dan Rogerson (Cornwall North) – Contact.
Bob Russell (Colchester) – Contact.
Sir Robert Smith (Aberdeenshire West & Kincardine) – Contact.
Andrew Stunell (Hazel Grove) – Contact.
John Thurso (Caithness, Sutherland & Easter Ross) – Contact.
Steve Webb (Thornbury & Yate) – Twitter.
Mark Hunter (Cheadle) – Contact.
Stephen Williams (Bristol West) – Twitter

On a side note, Liberal Democrat MP Stephen Williams had a lovely day today. Not only did he get to vote to perpetuate a system that lead directly to the suicide of Stephanie Bottrill, and immiserates thousands more…. he got to eat Mulled Wine flavoured chocolate! Hurrah!


And there can’t be a serious debate that directly affects people’s ability to actually afford to live, without a Tory MP laughing gleefully after hearing horror stories and being told he’s voting to cut the safety net for the most vulnerable. Today, that particular Tory whimsy was brought to us by Stephen Mosley MP (City of Chester):


History will judge this cruel policy for exactly what it is. A very right winged ideological and senseless attack on the most vulnerable people in Britain, at a time of economic struggle, and disproportionately affecting those with disabilities. We know this is what Conservatives do. They have never and will never register concern for the vulnerable. But for Liberal Democrats to continue to support it, represents what must be the final nail in the coffin of progressivism in the Lib Dem morgue. They no longer get the privilege of referring to themselves as progressives. They no longer get the privilege of moving the “keeping government anchored to the centre” goalposts every time they vote for incredibly right winged market fundamentalist policies that do nothing but harm the poorest. The Liberal Democrats are the Conservative Party, and vice versa. This must be remembered in 2015.

For my article on the human cost of the Bedroom tax, see here.

A list of things Obamacare leads to…

November 11, 2013

A few months ago I wrote on the absurdities that conservatives tend to invoke when they’re losing an argument that they’ve staked their reputations on. Back then, it was gay marriage. The list of terrible, World ending catastrophes that same-sex marriage was going to inevitably lead to, according to conservatives, was extensive and staggering. But now they’ve moved on to a new subject. And so I thought I’d present a comprehensive list of the most outlandish and absurd suggestions that US conservatives have decided are the product of the implementation of the Affordable Care Act:

  • A Communist takeover of government and the end of the Catholic Church in the US. Here.
  • Following the path of Hitler (you know, the guy who killed 6,000,000 Jewish people in gas chambers, and tried to establish a “racially pure” empire) and Stalin. here.
  • Worse than Watergate. Here.
  • Worse thing since slavery. Here.
  • Armageddon. Here.
  • President Obama killing a variety of old people. Here.
  • Kids having secret abortions at school ‘sex clinic’. Here.
  • The most dangerous piece of legislation EVER passed. Here.
  • President Obama starting a race war. Here.
  • The death of all prosperity. Here.
  • Mandatory microchips implanted into all Americans. Here.
  • The destruction of the institution of marriage. Here.
  • The work of Satan seeking to destroy freedom. Here.
  • Obamacare causes cancer. Here.
  • The reintroduction of Feudalism. Here
  • The Government murdering people based on how productive they are, and children with Down Syndrome being judged by a panel on whether he or she can live or die. Here.
  • Conservatives sent to concentration camps. Here.
  • The US becoming a leading outpost of an Islamic Caliphate. Here.
  • Health insurance companies going along with the Affordable Care Act, are no different to Jews boarding the trains to concentration camps. Here.
  • Systematic genocide. Here.
  • As destructive to personal liberty as runaway slaves being forced to go back to their masters. here.
  • A racist tax against white people. Here.
  • Worse than the Boston bombing. Here.
  • A gay man going to prison because he has no money, and is forced to play roulette, because of Obamacare. Here.
  • Schools preparing children to accept Death Panels. Here.

    Naturally none of them mention the exact part of the bill that lead to their outlandish claim.

    When I began this, I didn’t expect the list to be as long as it eventually turned out to be. We are apparently a generation that is gifted with access to information and fact on a level no previous generation has enjoyed. And yet, it seems that facts and reasoned debate are often drowned out by a deafening constant screech of absurdity that creates an atmosphere in which Michelle Bachmann and Ted Cruz are trusted with political power. They represent nothing more than a comprehensive failure of education and access to accurate information in order to form rational and well rounded democratic decisions. What a waste of a wonderful gift.

  • The Heroes of the Poppy Fields.

    November 10, 2013

    Source: Wikimedia Commons. Author: Tijl Vercaemer from Gent, Flanders #Belgium) (In Flanders Fields the poppies blow (3/3#)

    Source: Wikimedia Commons.
    Author: Tijl Vercaemer from Gent, Flanders #Belgium) (In Flanders Fields the poppies blow (3/3#)

    “In Flanders fields the poppies blow
    Between the crosses, row on row,
    That mark our place; and in the sky
    The larks, still bravely singing, fly
    Scarce heard amid the guns below.

    We are the Dead. Short days ago
    We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
    Loved and were loved, and now we lie
    In Flanders fields.

    Take up our quarrel with the foe:
    To you from failing hands we throw
    The torch; be yours to hold it high.
    If ye break faith with us who die
    We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
    In Flanders fields.”
    – John McCrae 1915.

    They are human beings. They are not immune to horrendous fear and to physical and psychological harm. It is the measure of intense bravery to not only overcome those fears, but throw oneself into the middle of them. They are human beings. Through it all, through what most of us cannot imagine, they fought and died so that people like me have the luxury to write, speak, criticise, assemble, live and love happily and freely and without fear. This is heroism, and it is unforgettable.

    The Muslim Hero of World War II

    November 8, 2013

    Source: Wikimedia Commons. Author: By Henk van der Wal.

    Source: Wikimedia Commons.
    Author: By Henk van der Wal.

    It is fast approaching the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in which hostilities ceased on the Western front. The date is now significant in our collective memory for the remembrance of those who have given up so much in defence of the country and the people that they love.

    It is typical of this time of year to hear the amplified voices of a select few occidentalist, far-right British Muslims who insist on making empty gestures of hostility to the significance of Remembrance Day. The breaking of the two minute silence by clad-in-black Islamist fanatics to shout “British soldiers burn in hell” offends us all. And whilst it is their right to hold and to speak such sentiments – after all, the secular democracy that was fought for, includes their right to oppose – their hostility should not drown out the voices of those Muslims over the years who have fought and died for this country. It is their memory also, that the fanatics offend. It is the memory of Muslim soldiers and intelligence officers, that Islamist fanatics set on fire when they throw a lit match at a Poppy doused in petrol. It is imperative that their memory be upheld and respected at every opportunity.

    One of my favourite places in the UK is Falmouth down in Cornwall. Life is less stressful on the south coast, and the further west you travel the more at ease life feels. The beautiful little picturesque British sea side town of Falmouth – whilst playing home to a fantastic little Fish and Chip shop – also played home, in the 1940s, to the Inayat Khan family. A Muslim family of Indian descent, the Khan family – lead by Hazrat Inayat Khan, a Western Sufi teacher – landed in Cornwall after the Nazis overran their home in France. Soon after arriving in Falmouth, Hazrat’s daughter – the peace loving, gentle mannered Noor Inayat Khan – had joined the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force, and worked her way quickly to a position in which she was working for British Intelligence. She soon became the first female radio operator to be flown into the middle of Nazi occupied France to relay messages back to Britain on the French resistance. She could speak fluent French, and was an expert in wire communication.

    In 1943, most of her unit in the French Resistance in Paris were arrested by the Sicherheitsdienst. London tried to persuade Noor to return, due to fear that she’d be arrested. But she stayed in Paris, despite the threat, and continued to work for the British. She refused to leave her unit behind without communications expertise, worrying that they’d be captured and killed. The Nazis had information on her, and considered her a threat. They spent an extraordinary amount of effort to find and detain Noor and referred to her as a “danger”.

    In October, Noor was arrested and held captive, but refused to give up any information to the Nazis. She was held on the fifth floor of Gestapo HQ and twice made attempts to escape. She was sent to Pforsheim Prison in November, and interrogated for weeks, still refusing to give up any information, remaining completely loyal to Britain and the resistance throughout. Throughout her imprisonment, she was kept in chains, and held in solitary confinement. There is also suggestion that she would have been repeatedly, and brutally tortured. But she still refused to talk.

    Less than a year later, Noor Inayat Khan was taken to Dachau Camp, and despite more torture, more confinement, and more horrific mistreatment, still refused to give up any information. Her ultimatum was now give up information, or be murdered. Her extraordinary moral conviction led her to make the decision none of us could ever conceive of being in a position to make. She chose the latter option. Noor was executed by a Nazi gunman on September 12th, 1944.

    Her bravery and moral conviction, her refusal to cave into Fascist thuggery, and her loyalty to the Britain that gave her family protection, and the French resistance, earned her the British George Cross and the French Croix de Guerre. She was the third of only three Princess Royal’s Volunteer Corps members to be awarded the George Cross.

    So when we see the images of the viciously anti-Western, bigoted far-right Islamist groups take to social media, and the streets of Britain to protest & injure the memory of fallen heroes, to burn and vandalise, to shout abuse and play the victim-card, it is important that those we remember include the sacrifices made by Noor Inayat Khan and countless Muslims who fought for and continue to fight for the sake of the universal right of freedom and liberal, secular democracy. Their memory should always be upheld.

    ENDA: Civil Rights in the 21st Century.

    November 6, 2013

    enda, employment nondiscrimination act, usa, speaker boehner enda, house republicans enda, senate enda, politics

    The importance of passing ENDA in one quote.

    Two days ago, 61 Senators – including seven Republicans – voted to begin debate on the vital role of passing the Employment Nondiscrimination Act (ENDA).

    ENDA; A bill that if passed in the coming days, would prevent workplace discrimination based on actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. In short, the Bill ensures that workers should not feel scared that they might lose their jobs if their employer finds out (yup, it’s still taboo to be gay or transgender in the land of the free) that they happen to be in love with someone of the same gender as themselves, or happen to be transgender. It is a civil rights bill, an equality bill, a bill that levels the playing field. Which is why Republicans in the House oppose it.

    Predictably, a Republican House that didn’t wish to reauthorise the Violence Against Women Act if it happened to cover LGBT couples and fought hard (though, ultimately failed) to prevent it passing appear to see ENDA as an opportunity to reiterate how much they dislike anyone who happens to be LGBT. The same heterosexual, male, anti-equality NO votes appear on every Senate roll call; Cruz, Paul, Lee, Rubio. A filibuster proof majority ensured the far-right in the Senate could not hold the country to ransom again.

    That being said, despite the fact that ENDA will almost certainly pass the Senate, and has widespread support from the public (60% support ENDA), Speaker Boehner refuses to bring a vote to the House floor. Insisting:

    “The Speaker believes this legislation will increase frivolous litigation and cost American jobs, especially small business jobs.”

    – Just analyse that quote for a second. Really take in what Boehner is saying here. The Speaker of the House has just referred to lawsuits against employers that threaten your livelihood, your income, your ability to pay your mortgage, or feed your family, or pay your bills, the heartache and bullying it perpetuates, based solely on your sexual orientation – which is absolutely none of their business, and does not affect your work – as “frivolous”. The act of firing someone based solely on their sexual orientation, the Republicans do not apparently see as “frivolous”, and in fact consider perfectly reasonable and legitimate. To take this logic to its ultimate conclusion, they must – if they are to be consistent – also support workplace discrimination when it is aimed at race, gender, and religion.

    Ironically, this is the same House Speaker that has brought 48 frivolous anti-Affordable Care Act votes to the House Floor, and forced a frivolous government shutdown costing $24bn. I’m not entirely sure the Speaker of the House is in any position to be telling us what is and isn’t “frivolous”.

    Not only that, but it isn’t true that litigation would increase. There is no evidence for that at all. In fact, according to the Government Accountability Office there are currently 22 States that have their own anti-discrimination policies. The GAO report concludes that between 2007-2012, of those 22 States:

    “…there were relatively few employment discrimination complaints based on sexual orientation and gender identity filed in these states during this time period.”

    – In other words, anti-discrimination policies work. Whether they are designed to level the playing field by working to end white supremacy, male supremacy, or heterosexual supremacy; they are not only morally right, they work.
    But that is just 22 States. Texas, New Hampshire, West Virginia and 25 more States currently do not allow for protection against discrimination in the workplace, if you happen to be gay. So, not only can same-sex couples not get marriage in Texas…. they also can’t mention their partner incase their employer finds out and fires them. This is why ENDA is vital.

    That being said, ENDA is not completely equality-oriented. Under ENDA, a religious organisation, or institution; including educational, can still proscribe LGBT people from holding office. A watered down ENDA Bill enshrines institutionalised bigotry, by suggesting that that bigotry is acceptable, if it is based on religious conviction; an exemption ensured by the voice of the Christian-right minority. ENDA doesn’t go far enough, but it’s a good start.

    Secondly, Boehner’s statement says unequivocally that the ENDA would cost American jobs. How so? Surely having the option to fire someone based on their sexuality orientation rather than the quality of their work, is a jobs killer. Is Boehner willing to tell the majority of Fortune 500 companies that have non-discrimination policies, that they’re killing jobs? Boehner’s comment implies that discriminating against gay people actually has a positive effect on the economy. For Boehner, the measure of your success through the quality of your work, is less important than who you fall in love with. Hard work pays, but only if you’re straight. For some odd reason, Boehner seems to saying that being able to prevent qualified and talented people from being employed simply for being gay, grows an economy. It quickly becomes easy to see past the “economy! jobs” veil that the Republicans tend to place over their faces to mask their inherent religiously motivated dislike for anyone who isn’t exactly like them. And don’t be fooled, this is just another attempt to allow religion to dictate policy and the concept of rights.

    Even if the Speaker’s claims were correct – that jobs were lost, and litigation increased due to ending workplace discrimination – it would not be a legitimate argument to perpetuate oppression and workplace bullying. Speaker Boehner has no credible argument for refusing to allow a debate and vote on the Employment Nondiscrimination Act.

    When recently re-elected Republican Governor of New Jersey – and potential Republican Candidate for President in 2016 – Chris Christie was asked how he would respond to the news that one of his children was gay, Christie said:

    “[If] my children came to me and said that they were gay, I would grab them and hug them and tell them I loved them, just like I would do with any of my children who came to me with news that they wanted to give to me that they thought were important enough to open themselves up in that way. But what I would also tell them is that Dad believes that marriage is between one man and one woman. And that’s my position… And I know what [my child] would understand is that their father loves them, and that’s the most important thing.”

    – What he essentially saying is: “I love you and everything, but I will continue to vote to uphold a system that made it difficult for you to come to me in the first place, and that will inevitably lead to discrimination and bullying against you in the future.” Whilst Christie isn’t willing to protect his children against bullying, fear and discrimination, The Employment Non-Discrimination Act currently passing through the Senate works to address those problems. It is of vital importance to the cause of civil rights and equality that a secular and democratic nation like the United States has fought since its conception to ensure.