James McPherson's Media & Politics Blog

Observations of a patriotic progressive historian, media critic & former journalist


  • By the author of The Conservative Resurgence and the Press: The Media’s Role in the Rise of the Right and of Journalism at the End of the American Century, 1965-Present. A former journalist with a Ph.D. in journalism, history and political science, McPherson is a past president of the American Journalism Historians Association and a board member for the Northwest Alliance for Responsible Media.

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Posts Tagged ‘birthers’

Obama and Osama both make good career move

Posted by James McPherson on May 2, 2011

 In what virtually everyone other than Hamas and the Pakistani Talaban considers to be good news, Osama bin Laden is dead. Maybe even bin Laden would consider his death to be good news–or at least, according to a former CIA official, “a good career move.”

Barack Obama made the right call (and apparently a decisive one, for a change, drawing praise even from Rush Limbaugh), and now Obama and bin Laden will be connected forever. And not only in the too-hasty reaction of MSNBC’s Norah O’Donnell, who apparently tweeted, “Obama shot and killed.” Oops. That’s another good reason for journalists to use last names, Norah.

Not that O’Donnell was the only journalist foiled by haste Sunday night. As I was scanning news websites after the first mentions on cable news that Obama was going to make an announcement relevant to bin Laden, the first source I saw to report bin Laden’s killing was Fox News. Unfortunately, Fox got the details of the story wrong–and stuck to the faulty story even an hour after CNN had it right.

This, from Fox News: “Usama bin Laden is dead, putting an end to the worldwide manhunt that began nearly a decade ago on Sept. 11, 2001. The architect of the deadliest terror attack on U.S. soil was killed a week ago inside Pakistan by a U.S. bomb.” Fox later corrected the story, though without an editor’s note saying that it had been changed.

Despite apparent DNA evidence, of course, conspiracy theorists are already claiming that either bin Laden wasn’t killed or that he died at another time and Obama just released the bin Laden information Sunday night for political reasons. Let’s look for a moment at the stupidity of such a claim, shall we?

If it were a political stunt, why would Obama make the announcement late on a Sunday, when reporters had to be called back in and when the story then wouldn’t be on the front pages of some West Coast versions of the New York Times or USA Today (including here in Spokane; I picked up both this morning)? Why wouldn’t he release it midday Monday or Tuesday, which any politician or political PR person knows are the best days for maximum news coverage?

And why would Obama chose to announced it on May 1 of an odd-numbered year (unless he wanted to commemorate the 66th anniversary of the announcement of Adolph Hitler’s death), rather than in the weeks just before an election? After all, bin Laden wasn’t going anywhere, and in late in campaigns is when we usually heard about bin Laden from the Bush administration.

No, the Obama administration chose to make the announcement when it had confirmed the information. Unless the decision to announce it when they did is merely reverse psychology, or a means of blunting wacky birther claims. Or maybe it’s just proof that the administration is politically inept, and therefore doesn’t deserve to be in power. Sigh.

We’re too far out from the next election for bin Laden’s death to guarantee victory for Obama. The state of the economy will matter far more. And, assuming they don’t get their act together, the continuing ineptitude of Republicans in identifying either a credible candidate or a coherent message likely will help Obama most of all.

Posted in History, Journalism, Politics | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Corsi & WND find new ways to fleece flock

Posted by James McPherson on March 29, 2011

Jerome Corsi and WorldNetDaily publisher Joseph Farah obviously make a perfect ethical match. Both use wacky conspiracy theories to make a living off of the gullible.

Their latest effort will probably further demonstrate the old adage about the 60-second birthrate of suckers, though it’s tough to believe that either Corsi or Farah–let alone the two in tandam–has much credibility left.

But Corsi, who actually sued his former publisher for distorting the New York Times bestseller list to pimp his previous book is now working with the “Christian” publisher in an effort to raise money from “readers” to do exactly the same thing.

The most telling lines of the WND piece (which actually promotes commercials for the book rather than the book itself): “WND needs to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars to air these commercials on television networks and stations throughout the country. …  Farah also urges everyone concerned about the cover-up to make a donation in any amount – from $5 to $5,000. (Bigger donations can be accepted by special arrangement by emailing Farah personally jfarah@wnd.com.)”

It is interesting that conservative writers who bash the New York Times in their books then apparently think readers should trust the Times’ bestseller list above all others when they’re marketing those books. 

We’re left to wonder when Donald Trump will produce a book published by WND–assuming he’s not already in negotiations to buy the whole operation.

Posted in History, Journalism, Politics, Religion, Written elsewhere | Tagged: , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Hey birthers: Obama impeachment not an option

Posted by James McPherson on September 19, 2010

OK, so we have to accept the fact that nutty conspiracy theorists, like the Biblical poor, will always be with us. But do the wacky purveyors of those theories  have to keep suggesting to their poor deluded followers that if those followers get fired up enough, somehow Barack Obama will magically be impeached?

“Naturally Floyd Brown is the ringleader,” writes The New Republic about the whimsical impeachment effort. Yes, that Floyd Brown, of Willie Horton fame. The article is actually posted on one of Brown’s websites, as if writer Jonathan Chait weren’t making fun of the movement. At least three of Brown’s readers didn’t get it either, judging from the comments.

Brown’s site seems to offer some variation on the “impeach Obama” theme every week, without offering either a clear rationale for the impeachment (“’cause he may be a secret Muslim and won’t show us a ‘real’ birth certificate that we can accept—waaaah!”), or, perhaps even more importantly, the recognition that impeaching a president and removing him from office is nearly impossible.

How near impossible? Well, it’s never been done. Two presidents have been impeached by the House of Representatives, an action that takes a simple majority (which the GOP–but not birther loons–will likely have after the 2010 election).

But booting Obama from his seat would then require a vote by two-thirds of the Senate. And Floyd, you know–even if you keep pretending otherwise to stir up your fans and further line your own pockets–that just ain’t gonna happen.

Republicans may gain a majority in the Senate (though let me go on record today as predicting that Dems will maintain at least the 50 seats they need–with Joe Biden as the tie-breaker–to hold the Senate). But for the sake of my GOP friends, lets assume a Democratic apocalypse. Let’s even go so far as to assume they win every single one of the 37 seats up for election this year (they won’t come close, but play along for a moment).

Guess what: Democrats now hold only 17 of the open seats, while Republicans have 20. So the worst that could happen–and again, nothing close to that will–for Democrats is that they go from a 59-41 majority to a 42-58 minority. In other words, under the worst possible scenario, Democrats will end up almost as bad off as the Republicans in the Senate ARE RIGHT NOW.

Thanks to distorted filibuster rules, those minority Republicans have stopped the Democrats from achieving much of their agenda during the past two years. You think the Dems will suddenly be jumping up and down to help Republicans oust a Democratic president–even if every Republican suddenly turned into a birther?

Even Floyd Brown can’t believe that. For a look at a more realistic view of how the Senate will look, check out Real Clear Politics. And then if you’re an Obama hater maybe you should start thinking about something remotely plausible, like the defeat of Obama in a real, legal election–just like the one he won in 2008.

Posted in History, Legal issues, Politics, Written elsewhere | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments »

WorldNetDaily mad at Coulter because she shares founder’s values

Posted by James McPherson on August 18, 2010

You’d think hatemongers would hang on to any allies they could. But wnd.com founder/editor Joseph Farah, in today’s lead story, announces, “WND dumps Ann Coulter from Miami due to Homoconflict.”

Despite the interesting headline, Coulter isn’t fighting with a girlfriend, or going after Farah’s boyfriend. (And what is a Homoconflict, anyway? A fight between homo sapiens? A one-person fight involving someone with multiple personalities?)

Coulter is apparently being “dumped” (though probably not from all of Miami–I don’t think even Farah is delusional enough to think wnd has that much power) from her gig as a conference speaker because she agreed to speak for the “Republican group GOProud that promotes same-sex marriage and military service for open homosexuals.”

I did find the headline and lead surprising, at first, finding it difficult to believe that Coulter would be so enlightened as to speak for gay rights. But then I remembered: For enough money and attention, she’ll talk anywhere and say pretty much anything; getting her to shut up is the hard part.

Reading further confirmed the thought:

Asked by Farah why she was speaking to GOProud, Coulter said: “They hired me to give a speech, so I’m giving a speech. I do it all the time.”

Farah then asked: “Do you not understand you are legitimizing a group that is fighting for same-sex marriage and open homosexuality in the military – not to mention the idea that sodomy is just an alternate lifestyle?”

Coulter responded: “That’s silly, I speak to a lot of groups and do not endorse them. I speak at Harvard and I certainly don’t endorse their views. I’ve spoken to Democratic groups and liberal Republican groups that loooove abortion. The main thing I do is speak on college campuses, which is about the equivalent of speaking at an al-Qaida conference. I’m sure I agree with GOProud more than I do with at least half of my college audiences. But in any event, giving a speech is not an endorsement of every position held by the people I’m speaking to. I was going to speak for you guys, I think you’re nuts on the birther thing (though I like you otherwise!).”

Get that, birthers? Ann thinks you’re nuts. But at least the rubes who pay to attend Farah’s latest self-enrichment scam won’t have to hear her talk at his latest gimmick conference.

Of course you’ll get to keep reading her garbage at wnd.com. After all, she isn’t the only one whose “values” take a back seat to profit.

Funny next-day follow-up: Today wnd.com has a story whining that Ann Coulter “launched a verbal assault on WND Editor Joseph Farah today, calling the veteran journalist ‘swine’ and a publicity whore after she was dismissed as a keynote speaker for the news site’s upcoming “Taking America Back National Conference” here.”

Takes one to know one, I guess.

Coulter also took more shots at Farah’s ethics and at birthers:

Coulter took issue with WND’s publication of her e-mail discussion with Farah concerning her appearance.

“[T]his was an email exchange [between] friends and even though I didn’t expressly say ‘OFF THE RECORD’ and I believe everything I said, he’s a swine for using my private emails politely answering him,” Coulter wrote to the Daily Caller. “[W]hy would he do such a despicable thing? … for PUBLICITY.”

She continued: “I will say that [Farah] could give less than two sh–s about the conservative movement – as demonstrated by his promotion of the birther nonsense (long ago disproved by my newspaper, human events, also sweetness & light, american spectator and national review etc, etc etc). He’s the only allegedly serious conservative pushing the birther thing. for ONE reason: to get hits on his website.”

One good thing about wnd.com in dealing with Coulter: In the photos used to illustrate those stories, Coulter looks less like a hooker than usual.

Saturday update: The fun continues, with Coulter calling the wnd.com folks “fake Christians.” As I said early in this post, I suppose it takes one to know one.

But hey, at least she and fellow “gay-lover” Glenn Beck can be redeemed.

Posted in Journalism, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

WorldNetDaily ‘journalism’ and ‘Christian’ racism

Posted by James McPherson on August 12, 2010

I have to admit that when I see the url for WorldNetDaily, wnd.com, I automatically start coming up with appropriate alternative meanings for the abbreviation: Phrases such as WackjobNewsDelivery, or WhyNotDeceive, or WildNewDistortions, or WhiteNutjobDelusions, or WhoNeedsDetails, or WeNeedDrugs.

But I read something the other day referring to WorldNetDaily as a leading “Christian website.” If that’s true (and despite the supposed Christian faith of its founder/editor and its promoting of some Christian books, I’m not sure I’d agree), it’s no wonder that Christianity has such a bad reputation with so many people.

WND claims to be a news site, but makes no effort to hide its clearly biased perspective (or its sales pitches to the gullible). For example, the third “story” right now is about a conference to “take America back” (back from whom, as usual, is unclear). The story quotes WND founder and editor Joseph Farah, while promising:

Speakers at the conference, which is followed by a weeklong Royal Caribbean cruise called “The Tea Party at Sea,” includes such stalwarts as Rep. Michele Bachmann, Ann Coulter, Alan Keyes, Tom Tancredo, Jerome Corsi, Aaron Klein and David Kupelian. Farah – who’s also speaking – is now offering a peek at the conference’s still-developing program. With “this slate of speakers, topics and discussions,” he ensures, “the event will more than live up to its name.”

Not surprisingly, the conference will generate cash for Farah’s organization while also promoting his own book, which has the same title as the conference he is organizing.

The WND “daily poll” from yesterday asked the question, “What part of the Obama-eligibility saga has made you most doubt his legitimacy?” That’s about as unbiased as me asking, “Which WND conspiracy theory do you find to be the craziest?” The difference is, I don’t pretend to be “an independent news company dedicated to uncompromising journalism, seeking truth and justice.”

Besides Farah’s writings, WND regularly features the writing of such “journalists” as Coulter, Corsi and Michael Savage (and Pat Buchanan, but he apparently works for every media organization, including msnbc). But as with most websites, even scarier that the identifiable writers (well, maybe except for Savage) are the anonymous lunatics who post comments.

Here are a few examples, taken from almost 3,000 “questions” the commenters think the media should ask Barack Obama ((I’ve copied and pasted, so the goofy misspellings, random capitalization, and grammar and punctuation issues were in the original; all comments are from different people):

Wouldn’t you won’t you oh pretty please stop asking the Schutzstaffel SS (aka Secret Service) funnel you the white magic dust powder and charging it to me? This cracker works two jobs to just get by and can’t afford to pay for your drug habit. Are you leaving a disgusting white film all over the White House that will have to be ServiceMastered the day you are impeached and executed for treason or imprisoned for life for all of your felonies? Also, on that day, could you and Michelle refrain from stealing any of the objet d’art left over from the great Clinton burglary in the White House as they were packing up? Thank YOU Soetoro.

Yes, you have fooled the people, but you will be found out. God help you, because, Mr. Obama, I can assure your Muslim religion will not.

Hussein Obama is the biggest, most constant LIAR of all the Liars in D.C., and THAT is saying something. He took us decent folks by surprise, as we have never seen, or expected, a usurper for Pres, let alone such a LIAR and low-down Red Communist filth pig, make it into the Oval Office. … I am pleased at your miserable predicament – LIAR, spiller of innocent blood, Communist, the Holy One has a perfect count of how many babies you have conspired to murder. They cry for justice to th Holy One of Israel. You can believe this – He listens and soon justice, the thing you hate and fear, will be served to you because of your rebellion and evil. Do you think you can LIE your way out of God’s justice?

Dear usurping, racebaiting, America hating, teleprompting, mongrel in chief…

If you look nto obama’s back ground He has never been around anyone but comunist ,his white tras mother was a communist both his father and step father were America hating communist ,his grand parents were communist…

I hear Hillary Clinton may challenge you for the 2012 Democratic nomination.[?] Maybe you should prepare for “CRONE WARS”. :o)

Why do you direspect our flag, our rights to our official days of prayer, and brainwash our children into singing praises to you in official school class rooms where they’re not allowed to speak the name of Jesus Christ but they can worship Obama? Please explain why these things are happening in our country that was founded on the moral structure of the Word of Almgihty God, not Alah or Mohammed.

You bowing down to those countries who are against America,and telling them we aren’t a Christian nation, where did you get that? Do you really think we Christian Americans are that dumb to fall for your crap?

Your consistent twisting of the US Constitution’s wording of “Freedom of Religion” with your own devious “freedom of worship” makes me wonder if this is not Taqiyya under the guise of progressive ideology.  If “Religion” is used, an argument could be made that Islam is an “Ideology”, not a “Religion”. In substituting “Worship”, blanket protection is given to those who idolize Mohammed through the “Theocracy” that is Islam. This is an obvious chess board move.

WND editor Farah has become one of the leading proponents of the “birther” movement. Birther conspiracy also is the primary focus of the organization he founded–devoting much of its early effort to the wacky Vince Foster suicide conspiracy theory–before moving on to WND.

That organization, the Western Journalism Center, now is led by Floyd Brown, who also has his own website but is perhaps most noteworthy as the producer of perhaps the most infamous racist political ad in history, the “Willie Horton” ad used against Michael Dukakis in 1988.

The website of the Western Journalism Center (“journalism” apparently being used ironically in this case) also draws a smaller but perhaps even nuttier and scarier following of racist conspiracy loons, who keep asking questions along the lines of “When can we get this Muslim usurper out of the White House?” Samples from one post alone (about Michelle Obama’s trip to Spain) include comments such as the following (again, all from different commenters):

[Michelle Obama] cared less about the annoited ones birthday(maybe) and when she gets home she going on another vacation with her half black half and both piglets.

Does the word LYNCH ring a bell? We need to get the BIGGEST LYNCH PARTY together,and head for Washington, D. C.

I SAY US KICK THE MAKE BELIEVE MARIE ANTOINETTE AMAZONIAN BITCH OUT OF THE WHITE HOUSE ALONG WITH HER HALF BREED OF A HUSBAND WHO PREFERS MEN.

Michelle is nothing more than a monkey bitch spending Americans tax money and she doesn’t give a rats a$$ about the rest of the Americans who are struggling financially. After all the monkey bitch and her magic negro husband were elected by the masses of liberals kool-aid drinkers and the whites who thought they could erase their collective guilt by electing Osama Obama the magic negro and his monkey bitch wife!!!

The idiots that voted for this muslim communist deserve him but We Americans that did not vote for that sleezy slime bag that came for the sewer have to be punished.

I was born in 1944, back before the blacks were allowed to set at the front of the bus, not in the back, and when they had to have their own fountains to drink from and their own public rest rooms. I will not use the N word, but what the Obamas are doing is what was called N_ _ _ _ r Rich back in those days. If they got a dollar for picking cotton, hey would go out and spend ten dollars. Looks like their intelligence level has remained the same over al these years. Guess you can take them out of the innercity, but you can’t take the innercity out of them.

Tea Party folks keep claiming they’re not racists. Maybe most of them aren’t. But a fair number of the “Christians” who hang out at wnd.com and the Western Journalism Center obviously are racists, along with being stupid in many other ways.

And though it may be impossible to keep up with the garbage spewing forth, it would be nice if more of those Christian readers and Tea Party fans of the two sites who aren’t racist jackasses would call out the ones who are.

Posted in Journalism, Politics, Religion | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments »

Little trust in government–does it matter?

Posted by James McPherson on April 19, 2010

So apparently record numbers of Americans distrust their government. As someone who still has a “Question Authority” pin in in his office (albeit pinned to a stuffed moose), I don’t think that distrust is necessarily a bad thing, and today NPR offers an excellent historical look (with a timeline that starts in 1775) at the issue.

Of course it is unfortunate and perhaps crippling if our distrust is so deep that it keeps us from even considering that government officials (whom, after all, we elected) and especially folks on the “other side” may have good ideas, and that they generally choose to serve because they want to do what’s best for the country or their community.

It’s even more dangerous for our democracy and our safety–as Pulitzer Prize-winning conservative writer Kathleen Parker and others point out–if at the same time that we seriously distrust government and mainstream media, we also decide to put inordinate trust in inflammatory whackjobs such as Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and various conspiracy theorists such as the “birthers” and “truthers.”

Domestic terrorism is nothing new in this country. There is little reason to think there isn’t more such terrorism on the horizon, fueled by incendiary rhetoric (often the ranting of anonymous cowards) on the airwaves and the Internet, and by and fearful, intellectually lazy Americans who place their trust in “authorities” even more questionable than those we elect.

Posted in History, Journalism, Media literacy, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

God Bless America: Land of the Great American Conspiracy Loon

Posted by James McPherson on September 27, 2009

Moammar Gadhafi got some attention (his apparent primary goal in life) this week with a rambling United Nations speech in which he alleged a number of weird conspiracies. It’s good to remember, however, that most of the nutball conspiracies that Americans deal with are hatched right here at home, by the likes of “birthers,” “deathers” and “truthers,” among others.

One of the latest came to me via email today. It starts out: “Did you know that the ACLU has filed a suit to have all military cross-shaped headstones removed and another suit to end prayer from the military completely.  They’re making great progress.” After a few other distortions and some nice photos of soldiers praying, it urged each recipient to pray for the troops and then pass on the message.

As a member of the American Civil Liberties Union and a thinking person, I was relatively certain that claims had to be false. Less than a minute of research–which could have been done by any of the dozens of people whose email addresses showed up in the oft-forwarded message–showed four quick references discounting the fable. Though I probably had much more important things to do, I then took the time to send a message to each of the 30 or addresses on the list. It read:

I find it ironic that [name deleted] includes the words, “Think, Act, Survive” after his name. If he and others would do more of the former, we’d have fewer of these sorts of inflammatory lies whirling around the web, and we might actually pay more attention to the many real problems we face. Automatically forwarding myths that happen to support one’s preconceived biases do nothing but harm one’s credibility.

I’m always in favor of more prayers for those who serve in the military, but the claim made in this viral email is a blatant lie, perpetuated by people who don’t know, don’t care about and/or don’t bother to check the truth. Considering how many people receiving this are in education (judging by the email addresses), it seems more critical thinking would be in order.

Four sources I used to check this, in far less time than it took someone to write the original: http://www.snopes.com/politics/religion/cemetery.asp, http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2009/jul/02/chain-email/no-aclu-lawsuit-over-cross-shaped-headstones/http://www.factcheck.org/askfactcheck/print_is_the_aclu_suing_to_have_cross-shaped.html and http://www.aclu.org/images/asset_upload_file399_26244.pdf. You might also check out http://www.snopes.com/politics/religion/marines.asp.

Now I trust that all you Christian people of integrity will pass on the truth as quickly and widely as you helped spread the falsehood.

I was kidding about the last part, of course. I assume that few if any of them will pass it on. I did get two responses back. One with a single word–“yea”–and a longer one, which tickled me enough that I’ll share it here (minus information that might identify the sender):

Mr. James McPherson thank you for kind rebuttal and quick checking of the facts. Also I commend you for noticing my many years of volunteer service to my community,  my Church and faith.

As to the forwarding of this important and patriotic email message. I can not speak for the many individuals cc’ed on this uplifting message, but I do speak for myself. This message is about supporting our troops not about the Anti-American Communist Liars Union (ACLU). It is about a love the awakened majority feels for our great nation.

It is understandable that persons of your ilk have no love for America, our Constitution, or our long history and way of life. Be forewarned, “We the People” are awake and we are coming for you, and your perversion of our country.

Lastly I do not give a Rat’s Rear End what these fine email messages of support for our American Patriots say, they will continue to be forwarded to all I know. Why because it is GOOD and RIGHT, something an educator like yourself knows little about. See, these people you sent your reply to are the backbone of our great nation. You Sir are an corrupter of young minds, and we the “backbone” count you with politicians, lawyers, used car salesmen, and journalist. Oh and I forgot pond scum.

As a Christian it is my obligation to call you to repentance, get with the program and forget your anal retentive fact checks.

Gee, how unChristian of me to check facts and to counter lies with truth (and grammar). And now that I know that the Backbone Brigade is “coming for me,” I’m not sure what to do in response. Flee in my black helicopter?

Of course I have to admit the fleeting unChristian notion that crossed my mind when the writer referred to himself as part of a “backbone”: I thought he was aiming a few inches high.

Same-day update: The guy mentioned above sent me a follow-up email, after I responded to his. Though it’s becoming increasingly tempting to do otherwise, I’ll still not include his identity, but will share part of his latest missive (I’ve simply copied and pasted, leaving spelling and grammar alone):

As to Whitworth University of Spokane Washington, a liberal arts institution, I’m sure they would be proud to know one of there own is picking fights with strangers, (who receives and forwards emails to their friends and family), over the web.

Your exhustive pursuit of this issue clearly puts you in the ranks of liberal zelot or those truly disturbed folks with and ax to grind…

Mr McPherson STOP your elitist little fingers right now. SEND no further emails. I’m sure this will be making a wide round on the web tomorrow. Either you will look foolish or I will. And like the content of the email that started this I don’t care what you think or find true. Have a pleasant day.

He also copied the message to my university’s human resources department, asking that they “forward this to your Deans to show what your faculty does with their free time.” But as I told him in response, the deans (and the university president) know about my various political activities. I suspect it may make them uncomfortable at times, but I don’t pretend to speak for them (you’ll notice the disclaimer at the top of this page), and they understand the role of political discussion in a free society.

Same-day update #2: I had emailed my new friend back, despite his request for me not to write again. I apologized for offending him, pointed out the relatively small number of people who had received my original message (with his name on the list), and noted that I had assumed his name had been passed on to me with his knowledge or permission. I also promised not to write him again, except at his own request. He promptly offered a most pleasant two-word reply: “Thank you.”

There are many lessons to be remembered regarding civility in this viral age, eh?

Posted in History, Journalism, Media literacy, Personal, Politics, Religion | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments »