A Liberal Argument FOR Drone Attacks

During the second presidential debate, the one focusing on foreign policy (remember that snoozer?), the big take-away was the fact that President Obama and perennial presidential hopeful Mitt Romney were in such lock-step on foreign policy that they hardly had anything to argue about. It seems the center-right and center-left essentially agree when it comes to how to prosecute the War on Terror, or at least they’ve both learned a lesson from one of Bush II’s mistakes; Don’t stand in front of a Mission Accomplished banner and pretend that an unconventional war will lead to a conventional parades-in-the-streets victory celebration. This one is going to be ugly, and it’s best if we have tamped-down, realistic expectations about that ugliness.

This has not stopped the far-right and far-left from criticizing the use of unmanned drones to prosecute this war. Some of these concerns are more legitimate than others. Among the least legitimate are concerns that unmanned drones are a step across some great divide toward artificially intelligent robots bringing war against humanity (sorry, but they are no more or less human than the cruise missiles we sent after Saddam Hussein back in Gulf War 1), that drones were fine when a real American was ordering their use but not when our current president is doing it (quit choking on your sour grapes, guys), or that drones are somehow undignified or cowardly (as though we are obligated to show up and slap people with white gloves when they would gladly blow up civilian targets with truck bombs). These arguments are patently ridiculous.

Unfortunately, most of the other arguments against the use of drones fall into a category in between the absurd and the worthy-of-debate. Some argue that the President does not have the right to use drones in countries where Congress has not made an official declaration of war.  They use this as an example of President Obama’s executive overreach. This is blatantly hypocritical coming from people who turned a blind eye to previous presidents who authorized military actions in countries where we were not officially at war. Here are some countries where we’ve had military actions without actual congressional declarations of war. In chronological order, we’ve had military incursions in the Dominican Republic, Cambodia, French Polynesia, the West Indies, Argentina, Peru, Indonesia, Fiji, Samoa, Mexico, China, The Ivory Coast, Turkey, Nicaragua, Japan, Uruguay, Panama, Angola, Colombia, Taiwan, Colombia, Egypt, Korea, Haiti, Samoa, Chile, Brazil, The Philippines, Honduras, Syria, Morocco, Cuba, Guatemala, Newfoundland, Bermuda, St. Lucia, the Bahamas, Jamaica, Antigua, Trinidad, British Guiana, Greenland, Iceland, Greece, Vietnam, Lebanon, Thailand, Laos, Congo (Zaire), Iran, El Salvador, Libya, Chad, Italy, Bolivia, Liberia, Sierra Leon, Iraq, Somalia, Bosnia, Macedonia, the Central African Republic, Albania, Gabon, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Tanzania, Afghanistan, Sudan, East Timor, Serbia, Nigeria, and Yemen. Oh, and there are some that don’t even exist anymore, like the Kingdom of Tripoli, Spanish Florida, French Louisiana, the Ottoman Empire, the Kingdom of Hawaii, the Soviet Union, and Dalmatia. These are all pre-9/11, by the way. So if the argument is that President Obama has overstretched executive authority by taking military action without the formal authorization of Congress, that doesn’t make him exceptionally tyrannical; it just makes him a normal president. 

Another argument is that these are targeted killings of accused criminals who deserve the right to a fair trial. This would be an entirely legitimate argument if it came from people who had consistently held that the declaration of war on Al Qaeda was illegitimate because the group isn’t a country, so all actions against Al Qaeda should have been undertaken by law enforcement. Conservatives who gave George W. Bush a blank check to fight Al Qaeda all over the world can make this argument, but first they have to admit they were wrong and slap “We Should Have elected John Kerry in ’04” stickers on their cars. Liberals who want to make this argument would have to own it completely, and would have to forgo the electoral benefits that came from the killing of Osama Bin Laden, meaning they very well might have to accept that this position is important enough for them that it would justify a Mitt Romney presidency. I don’t hear that from either camp. 

Slightly more legitimate is the concern that Americans have been targeted. I recoil at this because it smacks of a kind of American exceptionalism I find repugnant, the same kind that says foreigners can be imprisoned without trial but Americans cannot, but I admit that our laws do make different allowances for the treatment of American citizens than for the citizens of other countries. However, if the President has the authority to send troops to attack American nationals fighting against us in foreign lands, then that authority necessarily extends to all the means at the military’s disposal, and the military should be able to choose the means that is most effective, threatens the safety of the fewest civilians, and puts the fewest American soldiers at risk. Hence, drones.

Among the most legitimate concerns are those regarding the transparency of the means by which the targets are chosen. “[The] review process occurs entirely within the executive branch, violating the principle of the separation of powers. The executive is the judge, jury and executioner,” Juan Cole argues. “The drone program in the United States is hugely anti-democratic because the whole thing is classified. Therefore, it cannot be publicly discussed or debated with the officials behind it, who can neither confirm nor deny its very existence.” This concern is real, but the same could be said about any military planning. Decisions regarding household raids in Iraq and Afghanistan were made under the same conditions, with the targets receiving no trials unless they were captured. The drone strike program is striking because it is employed when the President invokes his right to kill or capture suspected Al Qaeda operatives, despite the fact that the drones have no means to capture anyone. That shocks the conscience, but only because we were willing to take it on faith that ground forces always make every effort to capture enemies. Not only is this assumption naïve, but it must be counterbalanced by the recognition that our forces put themselves in incredible danger when seeking to capture suspected terrorists. As much as it seems monstrous that President Obama personally authorizes the killing of suspected terrorists, we should remember that the alternative is to personally authorize missions to capture them and to take responsibility for the inevitable loss of American lives that would accompany those decisions. I completely understand that some are concerned that this President or the next might abuse his/her authority to send in the drones, but without some evidence that the 227 strikes he’s authorized as of January 23rd of this year have been so capricious that the loss of American soldiers lives would be preferable because it would focus American attention on the abuse, this argument is simply premature.

There’s also the legitimate concern about civilian casualties. Any moral person should share this concern. Also, in a conflict with an asymmetrical group like Al Qaeda, where winning the hearts and minds of the locals is paramount to “victory” (whatever that means in this kind of war), we have to acknowledge that every civilian casualty is not only a moral tragedy but also a strategic failure. But in this context, criticizing drone strikes is also a philosophical failure. According to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, there have been between 472 and 885 civilians killed in U.S. drone strikes as of October of 2012. That’s in 350 strikes going back as far as 2009. That’s certainly a lot of civilian deaths, but, for the sake of an honest comparison, consider five years of boots-on-the-ground combat in Iraq: According to our own government’s judgment (leaked through Wikileaks’ Iraq War Logs) 66,081 Iraqi civilians died in the period between January 2004 and December 2009. No one can make a claim that President Bush or President Obama lacked the legal authority to put our soldiers in harms’ way in Iraq during the period between 2004 and 2009. But putting soldiers on the ground produced 140 times as many civilian casualties as drone strikes in a similar amount of time. So if civilian casualties are the concern, criticizing drone strikes simply doesn’t cut the mustard.

Ultimately, the most philosophically consistent criticism of our drone strike policy comes from complete pacifists; if you don’t like that people are killed in wars, drone strikes are certainly a part of that equation. Wars between nations do not produce winners; they produce countries that lose more and countries that lose less. Even in a post 9/11 world, we should acknowledge that the people who actually attacked us are all dead, and that we exchanged the threat of potentially devastating future attacks for the very real and quantifiable loses we’ve suffered as a consequence of our reaction to the attacks on 9/11. The War on Terror may have prevented X, but X is unknowable, and the more than 4,000 U.S. military deaths in Iraq, the more than 3,000 U.S. military deaths in Afghanistan, the more than 3,000 U.S. contractor deaths in both, the $4 trillion dollars worth of projected costs (about $13,000 per American), and the estimated tens of thousands of Afghanistani civilian deaths and the estimated 120 thousand Iraqi civilian deaths are knowable, and should weigh heavily against any abstract threat. I used to be an absolute pacifist on religious grounds, and though I’ve always thought of the men and women who commit themselves to our Armed Forces as exemplars of duty and self-sacrifice, I’m still highly skeptical of the efficacy of any war to produce anything but human misery and opportunities for profiteering for corporations. With that being said, I would encourage my fellow liberals to lay off the drone strike arguments. Questioning the need for war of any kind should be a part of our political debate, but holding hands with hawks to criticize drone strikes threatens to sound like an argument that we should exchange the lives of more soldiers and more civilians because we’re uncomfortable with a new technology or with opaque military strategizing that isn’t actually new at all.

Righties, you hate Obama. You can’t articulate a good reason why you hate him so much (despite my requests, hell, my begging for a good explanation), so you’re grasping at straws.

My fellow Lefties, you don’t like war. Good. Stick with that. Unlike the Righties, you have literally trillions of good reasons.

But both sides, lay off the drones.

Stupid, Faulty Reasoning on Gun Registration Infects my Facebook Page

I'm back, your friendly neighborhood liberal gun owner.

Over the last few days, my Facebook page has been overrun by comments and memes devoted to protecting my second amendment rights. As a gun owner and someone who's generally a fan of rights, that's fine, but I'm really struggling not to post rude comments on the pages of my friends. Note: My friends are not stupid people. In general, they post silly, light-hearted pictures or clever memes that make me laugh. But in the last few days I've seen multiple variations on this theme:

"Criminals don't register their guns." Ergo, we should not strengthen our registration system.

In some versions of this, President Obama is pictured and called various names. In one he is writing the phrase on a chalkboard while wearing a dunce cap.

My friends, before you put the dunce cap on someone else's head, please pull the pointy end out of your own eye. Because this is simply the dumbest argument I can think of against any kind of regulation. You are hurting your own cause. Check yourself before you wreck yourself. Please.

Murderers do not obey the laws that criminalize killing people. Should we, therefore, make murder legal? Rapist do not follow the law. Should we take that crime off the books? Most people (myself included) drive over the speed limit from time to time. Do you think we should take down all the speed limit signs and let people zip through school zones at a hundred miles per hour?

Laws do not prevent all crime. Laws reduce crime and allow the justice system to punish violators of those laws. Reducing gun crimes and punishing people who use guns in crimes should both be positions responsible gun owners should support, both as a matter of morality and as good strategy to maintain their own right to bear arms. 

Look, there are legitimate arguments that could be made regarding registration schemes. You could argue that regulations are only as strong as their enforcement, and you don't think they'll be enforced. You could argue that registration won't completely end gun crime (except that no reasonable person is claiming that it will).  You could argue that the right to bear arms is so universal and unassailable that it should not be limited even if a prospective owner is a felon or has been diagnosed as dangerously, violently mentally ill. That's a loser of an argument, I think, but at least it's philosophically defensible. You could even argue that you're afraid of a giant conspiracy to confiscate all guns which hasn't materialized or even been proposed, but which makes you reluctant to give an inch. I understand that's where some gun owners are coming from, though it does beg the question: Why are the most heavily armed people the most frightened? Whatever your argument, and no matter how loosely it connects to reality, it should at least follow logically from your premises. So don't argue that we shouldn't have rules because some people will break them. That's... well, not to be indelicate, but that's just dumb.

Guess what, fellow gun owners and second amendment supporters? We can't afford to be dumb. Maybe the NRA can afford it. Sure, there are lots of true believers in the NRA, but the decisions of the NRA leadership lately show that the organization is more concerned about selling memberships, getting press, and frothing up their base than they are in protecting gun rights in the long term. The NRA could have been reaching out to urban, liberal America, trying to show that they are reasonable. They were wise to push back by pointing to mental health rather than letting the debate be about types of guns, but between their vitriol about the U.N. Small Arms Ban, their commercial calling the President names and bring up his kids, and their absolutist position against expanded registration, it seems like they are making the same mistake the Republican Party has been making over the last few decades; they're doubling down on the far-right wing, rural, white men. This is about as smart a strategy as trying to conquer Russia in the winter or marching your empire's army in Afghanistan. If gun rights groups can only hold on to conservative, rural whites, they will simply be outvoted. Responsible gun owners who want to stay responsible gun owners need to go out of their way to show urban-dwelling liberals that they are, in fact, responsible. People who live in cities think of guns predominantly as the weapons of criminals and not the tools of hunters or people who want to defend themselves because they live more than five minutes from a police station. I know this from personal experience. When I lived in San Diego, my only experience related to guns was seeing a body surrounded by police tape in front of my junior high. Is it any wonder I grew up thinking guns were evil? It wasn't until I moved to a small town and got to know a lot of responsible gun owners that my feelings about guns changed.

Now, gun rights advocates will say I am advocating caving in to the anti-gun folks. Yep. Pick your battles, guys. Second amendment absolutism isn't even supported by the second amendment itself. We've had decades of fights about whether the amendment extended to individuals, we finally get a president who is a democrat and says he believes it does extend to individuals, and instead of calling that a victory, some people want to paint him as the Confiscator-in-Chief. You got a win, but even if Obama is willing to be generous (liberal, some might say) with his interpretation of some confusing language in a way that we gun owners appreciate, we can't deny the fact that the amendment explicitly says "well regulated." You can't expect him (or any sensible person) to interpret "well regulated" to mean "completely unregulated." (And I know about the argument that the militia is supposed to be well regulated but the individual right that's never mentioned is somehow exempt. That's a bridge too far, guys.) Look, if you're worried Obama might sign an assault weapons ban (you know, the kind Mitt Romney signed when he was the governor of Massachusetts), then make that your fight, but when the majority of NRA members agree that the gun show and private party sales loophole should be closed, take advantage of that and show people who are leery about guns that gun owners are reasonable. Fight to make it possible and even easy to transfer the ownership of a gun to someone else who can pass a background check. Fight to make sure guns don't have to be turned over to the government when the original owner dies, but can be willed to the next of kin who can pass the background check. Fight to make sure the definition of mental illness isn't so broad that people with no propensity for violence or self-harm are prevented from getting guns. But don't fight to put guns in the hands of criminals or the violent mentally ill based on obviously, painfully inept lack of reasoning. You will just push the growing urban, liberal majority to think you're dangerous kooks until they have the numbers to repeal the second amendment.

And you know whose fault that will be, responsible gun owners? Ours. If our arguments are dumb.

Why Does the Right Hate Obama So Much?: Part 3

I'm still waiting for someone to give a satisfactory explanation for why the Right seems to hate Obama so much. So far, the answers seem to be: A) He's black or in some other way different and that's scary, B) He's not an ultra-nationalist who preaches that America is and has always been perfect, or C) He's a harbinger of a demographic shift that will leave the Republican Party in permanent minority status, and they are pooping their pants with fear and obstructing everything he tries to do in order to stave off the inevitable. Without anyone making a particularly persuasive argument for any of these, I tend to think it's C. Mostly, this is because I'm a sucker and I like to think the best of people. C allows me to think that Republicans are not racists, nor are they so blinded by ideology that they are willfully ignorant of our country's history. Instead, they are smart people who can accurately read the political tea leaves. Maybe I'm wrong to give them the benefit of the doubt in this way.  But seriously, you should read the explanations some people have tried to give me (here and here). One would think, in almost four years in office, Obama would have done some far more substantive things to pick on, but the arguments are just pathetic.

Here's a great example I came across today. I'm a liberal and an Obama supporter, and I'm also a gun owner (as I've explained here). Even though I'm not a member of the NRA, nor do I support half of what they do, I somehow got on their email list. The NRA has been going all-out against Obama. The level of vitriol is nuts. But, just as I've requested it here, I've been examining their posts to try to figure out why they hate him so much. They seem to have three big pieces of evidence against him. One is an offhand comment he made during the his election campaign about clinging to God and guns. It was a stupid way of putting it, but it's actually not an anti-gun or anti-God comment. He was talking about people who vote against their economic self interest, trying to explain why they would do that, and said that they have lost hope of any true political change and thus hold on to what is important to them. Saying that guns are important to people shouldn't be interpreted as anti-gun rights, but that's how it was spun and that's what the NRA heard.

Second, they're freaked out about the U.N. International Small Arms Treaty. I don't buy this critique, either. Is it a bureaucratic boondoggle? Probably. Will it be as toothless as most international agreements? Probably. Will it effectively keep guns out of the hands of warlords? Probably not. But is it part of some global plot to limit the rights of American gun owners, some nefarious first step in a worldwide gun registration and confiscation scheme? Absolutely not. At its best it will keep a few guns out of the hands of warlords who kill children and terrorists who shoot at our soldiers, but it probably won't do anything at all. If this is the case against Obama, it says more about NRA paranoia than it does about him.

Then there's the third piece of evidence, the mess that was Operation Fast and Furious. And guess who just reported to all its members that the blame for the mess lies with some ATF agents and the Pheonix District Attorney's Office? The NRA! Check it out if you don't believe me: "Draft Report Blames Many for Fast and Furious" Guess who the draft report does NOT blame: President Obama. Now, someone who really wants to believe that Obama is responsible could say this is part of a massive conspiracy to cover up his close, personal involvement with a local ATF operation, but I am not willing to live in that ideologically-driven fantasy land. To me, the NRA has just made a persuasive argument that one reason they hate Obama has no merit.

Here's Obama's track record on guns (well summarized by Steve Chapman for reason.com):

"[H]e has proposed nothing in the way of new federal restrictions on firearms. Even the "assault weapons" ban signed by President Clinton—and allowed to expire in 2004—has no visible place on his agenda.

"Not only that, he's approved changes that should gladden the hearts of gun-rights supporters, a group that includes me. He signed a law permitting guns to be taken into national parks. He signed another allowing guns as checked baggage on Amtrak. He acted to preserve an existing law limiting the use of government information on firearms it has traced."

As Chapman also points out, the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence flunked President Obama on all seven of the items on its priority list.

Oh yeah, and Obama made his position on gun rights crystal clear. He said, "I believe in the Second Amendment. I believe in people's lawful right to bear arms. I will not take your shotgun away. I will not take your rifle away. I won't take your handgun away. … There are some common-sense gun safety laws that I believe in. But I am not going to take your guns away."

I think the NRA's antipathy towards the President is symbolic of the Right's feelings as well. They hate Obama. They can even give you reasons why they hate him. They just can't come up with any good ones. That leaves everyone else in America wondering where that deep well of hatred comes from, and it opens the Right up to some pretty damning speculation.

Flash of Insight

I just had a flash of insight. Certain critics of public school teachers (read: Republican politicians) complain that teachers get long vacations in the summers. They also say President Obama shouldn't be re-elected because the unemployment rate is over 8%. During the summer, most teachers want to work but can't, and aren't paid. So, either teachers are not the evil, greedy freeloaders Republicans like to make us out to be, or President Obama has presided over an economy in which more than 8% of the population is spoiled by long vacations.

Which is it, Republicans?

Abraham Lincoln Occupied Wall Street

I'd never seen this before, but this is an excerpt of a speech President Lincoln gave 150 years ago today to a joint session of Congress. Want to know what the Occupy Movement is all about? Abraham Lincoln knew 150 years ago.

"It is not needed, nor fitting here [in discussing the Civil War] that a general argument should be made in favor of popular institutions; but there is one point, with its connections, not so hackneyed as most others, to which I ask a brief attention. It is the effect to place capital on an equal footing with, if not above, labor, in the structure of government. It is assumed that labor is available only in connection with capital; that nobody labors unless somebody else, owning capital, somehow by the use of it induces him to labor. This assumed, it is next considered whether it is best that capital shall hire laborers, and thus induce them to work by their own consent, or buy them, and drive them to it without their consent. Having proceeded thus far, it is naturally concluded that all laborers are either hired laborers or what we call slaves. And further, it is assumed that whoever is once a hired laborer is fixed in that condition for life.

“Now, there is no such relation between capital and labor as assumed, nor is there any such thing as a free man being fixed for life in the condition of a hired laborer. Both these assumptions are false, and all inferences from them are groundless.

“Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration."

Can someone, anyone, who is more concerned with the plight of labor and with promoting the general welfare of We the People please run for President? (And I'm sorry, President Obama, but just because you're more concerned about working people than the Republican train-wreck-of-a-field does not mean you give higher consideration to labor than capital. Not after 7 trillion to the banks.)

Or will I need a time machine so I can vote for someone as progressive as a guy who's been dead for 146 years?

Help me, Doc Brown!


Petty political attacks aren't a big deal in-and-of themselves. They go both ways, and sometimes they're funny. But this week alone I've come across a couple that just knock my socks off. First, there was the "Obama doesn't mention God on Thanksgiving" hullabaloo on Fox. (*Check out Jon Stewart's reaction to that below.) And then, a conservative friend of mine named Derek called my attention to this one: "Another Gaffe? Obama Calls British Embassy ‘English’ Embassy" Derek actually called me out for not posting it to my status on Facebook, as though I was too ashamed to share it. Quite the opposite. As I told Derek, this is a great illustration of just how petty the Right has become. Now, like I said, the pettiness goes both ways at times, but the context is important here. This is the kind of ridiculous criticism of the President that's coming out of the Right at the exact same time that congressional Republicans are shooting down legislation to create thousands of good jobs for Americans. Moreover, the proposed jobs bills are actually paid for, something the modern Republican party likes to preach but hasn't practiced in my lifetime. So what's their beef? The bills would raise taxes by a couple percentage points on people who earn more than a million dollars a year. Note, this is on their income. It cannot make rich people poor, because it is only calculated on the next MILLION dollars they make. (Oops. I got that wrong. It's actually even less than that. Millionaires would not pay an added two percent on their income, only on their income after the first million dollars. In other words, 1st million at current, historically low rates, 2nd and 3rd million at rates still lower than they were under Reagan, Bush, and Clinton. Oh, and since the jobs bill was broken up, this portion is the part that provides a payroll tax holiday for working people. Historically, Republicans have treated any vote against cutting taxes as a tax hike. If that's the case, then they are refusing to hike taxes on millionaires but, by their logic, are hiking taxes on everybody else. Where does Grover Norquist stand on that?)

Ah, the Republicans tell us, but that will prevent these wealthy people from giving the rest of us jobs. Well, they haven't been doing that when they are making a million dollars. Why is it assumed they would stop doing what they aren't doing because they're miffed about a small tax increase? Isn't it possible that, if the rest of us do better, then buy products from the companies owned by the rich, making them a heck of a lot richer, they'll create more jobs than if they dodge a tiny tax increase?

Republicans love to toss around the word "entitlement" to criticize people who expect to receive benefits like Medicare and Social Security which they have paid for through through their taxes during a lifetime of work. They also like to vilify any attempt by the government to "pick winners and losers." Well guess what, folks: tax breaks for the rich are government handouts just as much as welfare checks, and they cost the rest of us a lot more than keeping a family from starving to death. Choosing to line the pockets of millionaires rather than creating more positions for firefighters and police officers is "picking winners and losers." Anybody who gives this even a few seconds thought can see that.

So the Republicans are trying to make sure you don't give it a couple seconds thought. They'd much rather you count the number of times the President mentions God, or laugh at him for mixing up "British" and "English."

Petty political pot-shots are fun, especially when they are funny. But in this case, they're not only lame, but obvious distractions meant to focus our attention away from what the Republicans are actually trying to do to those of us who don't make a million dollars a-

*Jon Stewart on the "Much Ado About Stuffing" scandal:

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My List

After another frustrating online conversation wherein I allowed myself to roped into a debate with a person who turned out to be a complete wacko, I've come up with an invention that I think might save me a lot of time and trouble in the future. This is just my first crack at it, but I'd like to post a list of specific lies which, if believed by the person with whom I'm conversing, officially shut down the conversation. Now I can simply say, "Wha? Nope, sorry, that one's on my list." Then I'll add a link to this post and be done with them. Nut-jobs can then find their misinformation on the list, and read the rules about how they should respond below.

So, here's the list as it currently stands, in no particular order:

1. The moon landing was a hoax.

2. Global warming is not a man-made phenomenon.

3. President Obama is not a natural born citizen.

4. President Obama is a socialist/ ultra-leftist.

5. President Obama is a terrorist/ terrorist sympathizer.

6. Saddam Hussein was involved with the attacks of September 11th.

7. The Earth is six thousand years old.

8. The Bible is entirely consistent and inerrant, requiring no interpretation whatsoever.

9. God favors America over other countries and Americans over foreigners.

10. Fox News is a legitimate source of objective journalism.

11. The holocaust didn't happen.

12. Human beings are not the product of any evolutionary process.

13. The Republican Party is consistently the party of fiscal responsibility.

14. The Republican Party is consistently the party of moral/ family values.

15. People from rural areas are inherently more moral than people from cities.

16. Cities are inherently dangerous/ more crime ridden than small towns/ rural areas.

17. People who are pro-choice want abortions to be more common/ numerous.

18. Gay marriage would diminish the value of heterosexual marriage.

19. Homosexuality is a choice of a perverse/ hedonistic lifestyle.

20. There is no more racism in America.

21. White people suffer regularly from reverse-racism.

22. Feminists all believe women are superior to men and should be in power over them.

23. All Muslims are radical extremists/ terrorists who wish only for death to America. (added 8/02/09)

24. The Quran says "death to the infidels" which means Americans in code language. (added 8/02/09)

25. People can be "turned" gay or straight. (added 8/02/09)

26. Illegal immigrants come to the U.S. to collect welfare. (added 8/02/09)

27. The American health care system is the best in the world. (added 8/02/09)

28. The Confederate States were the victims of Northern aggression and had a right to have an economy based on slavery. (added 8/02/09)

29. The Founding Fathers were Christians and the U.S. is officially a Christian country. (added 8/02/09)

30. The official language of the United States is English. (added 8/02/09)

I expect that I will have to add to this list, perhaps frequently, as I come across more of these lies and expressions of ignorance. As I do so, I'll date them. I'm also accepting recommendations for more items to add to the list.

Now, there are certainly beliefs which I disagree with, which bother me, and which may even offend me deeply, but which would not be included. I'm limiting this list to the kinds of beliefs which are simply not grounded in any evidence, which are demonstrably untrue, and/or which shut down any possibility of further civil debate.

Because the fact is, even when someone voices one of these beliefs, I try to be civil and explain why I disagree. I find evidence to disprove these ridiculous claims. And people who hold these beliefs, in every case, simply deny the evidence or refuse to acknowledge the sources I provide.

Now, so that we're clear, here's what I want from someone who violates the prohibition against stating claims on the above list to me or around me:

1. The First Amendment grants you the right to free speech. I don't. Stop talking to me, writing to me, irritating me, and generally wasting my time.

2. If you cannot abide by rule #1, the onus is on you to support your claim with, if not proof, at least enough evidence that the item on the list is called into legitimate question, at which point I will remove it and a genuine, rational debate can begin.

3. If you are incapable of providing the evidence mentioned in rule #2, but continue to espouse these beliefs, or even hold them privately, you will forgive me for thinking you are, at best, a naive, overly-credulous, ignorant person, and at worst a dangerous idiot. Furthermore, you heretofore acknowledge that rational people, who believe that truth claims should be supported by evidence, are intellectually consistent and correct to think of you as such.