January 30, 2004

sunspot.net - maryland news
: "One thing was clear: There are many ways to fool with Diebold's machines, some of which could lead to an Election Day disaster. At the same time, some scenarios were far-fetched and too difficult to pull off undetected, team members acknowledged."

This is scary. I have been rather stunned that the Republicans don't seem to mind about potential problems with voting machines. Why not? I am not being conspiratorial here, just curious. If the machines can be hacked, that threatens their candidates as well.

January 28, 2004

President Bush Speaks with Nation's Mayors at Winter Meeting: "I said in the speech the other night that two-thirds of known leaders have been captured or killed. That's a significant number when you think about where we were prior to September the 11th. We're, slowly but surely, demolishing them. If you -- if al Qaeda was a corporation in America, you'd have the board of directors somewhat intact, but the operators, the middle management, retired, no longer useful, no longer a part of the problem."

Interesting analogy. If al Qaeda was a corporation, President Bush would be watering down laws that hurt his rich friends. President Bush would talk tough and look the other way while his administration did nothing.

January 26, 2004

Yahoo! News - CBO Says '04 Deficit Will Rise to $477 Billion
: "The federal deficit will reach $477 billion this year, up sharply from last year's $375 billion level, and the government is on track to accumulate nearly $2.4 trillion in additional debt over the next decade, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (news - web sites) said yesterday."

According to Paul O'Neill, Dick Cheney says that deficits don't matter. Lovely.
STAR-TELEGRAM.COM - Opponents ready to rally if liquor petition succeeds: "'This city has 15,000 people, and we don't have one grocery store because they can't sell beer or wine,' said Ron White, a member of the Citizens for Progress committee that is running a petition campaign. 'We're shooting for the May 15 election. We've got 800 signatures, and we need 880.'

Down the road in this mostly working-class town, Faith Baptist Fellowship pastor David Dye said, 'You can find 800 drunks anywhere. I'm not saying everyone who signed the petition is a drunk. I'm sure some of them think they're doing good for the city.'

And if the petition drive succeeds? 'We'll get an ongoing opposition,' Dye said. 'We'll do ads and fliers. We'll not just use the Bible; we'll attack economically, logically. [The committee] wants to profit off people's bad habits.'"

Love this kind of theology. Not just use the Bible, but attack them logically. Wonderful. How about Proverbs 31:6? Jesus better not turn water into wine in this town.

January 20, 2004

Ten Commandments monument installed at City Hall: "Winston-Salem, North Carolina-AP -- A North Carolina politician who said he was inspired by Roy Moore has followed the ousted Alabama chief justice's example.
City Councilman Vernon Robinson -- a Republican candidate for Congress -- has placed a one-ton granite monument to the Ten Commandments in front of Winston-Salem's City Hall"

Ok. Hope it solves all our problems.
Salon.com Technology | Environmentalists condemn disposable DVDs: "Jan. 20, 2004  |  AUSTIN (AP) -- Promoters of a new disposable-DVD technology tout the product's convenience, but environmentalists condemn the self-destructing movie disks as a step backward in developing reusable products.

Buena Vista Home Entertainment, a branch of The Walt Disney Co., introduced the 'EZ-D' in September and now offers 35 movies in the format.

Consumers have 48 hours after opening the box to watch movies on the $7 disks before an oxidation process changes their color, rendering them unusable.

The disks were tested in four markets around the country, including Austin, where they are available at stores such as 7-Eleven, Walgreens and HEB supermarkets."

No wonder that I hate Disney. This is a recipe for disaster. Why have we just forgotten any attempts at recycling or environmental concern? Drive SUV's regardless of pollution, or fuel usage. Now, just watch and dispose. Landfills? Who cares.

January 19, 2004

Yahoo! News - President Polishes State of Union Speech

Perhaps the scariest words known to mankind. Do you think he actually polishes? In the photo, he shows glasses and looks like an intellecutal. What does he need the glasses for? He doesn't drive anymore. He told us he didn't read the papers. You telling me he reads the classics?

As for the speech, we might hear about "spacial entrepreneurs" (NASA people), or such quotes as these: (all from slate.com)

"So thank you for reminding me about the importance of being a good mom and a great volunteer as well."—St. Louis, Jan. 5, 2004

"I want to remind you all that in order to fight and win the war, it requires an expenditure of money that is commiserate with keeping a promise to our troops to make sure that they're well-paid, well-trained, well-equipped."

"See, without the tax relief package, there would have been a deficit, but there wouldn't have been the commiserate—not 'commiserate'—the kick to our economy that occurred as a result of the tax relief."

"[T]he best way to find these terrorists who hide in holes is to get people coming forth to describe the location of the hole, is to give clues and data."

"Justice was being delivered to a man who defied that gift from the Almighty to the people of Iraq."—Washington, D.C., Dec. 15, 2003

"[A]s you know, these are open forums, you're able to come and listen to what I have to say."—Washington, D.C., Oct. 28, 2003

And, perhaps, the best argument for reading, watching cable, knitting, brewing beer, recaulking windows, resodding lawns, painting the house, going to the dentist, regrouting the tub.....

January 13, 2004

Boston.com / News / Nation / Backing Limbaugh, ACLU goes to court: "WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Rush Limbaugh and the American Civil Liberties Union do not agree about much, but they are in accord that the conservative radio commentator's medical records should be off-limits to prosecutors."

As Fark said, ironic doesn't even come close to describing this. Wonder if blubbo will now stop denigrating the ACLU? Any bets?

January 11, 2004

Yahoo! News - Iowa Voter Blasts Dean for Knocking Bush

More Republican crap that dissent is unamerican. Why aren't republicans pointing to every dissentor as proof of our cultural superiority? They seem to find that on every corner, but it is our ability to dissent that truly separates us from bad regimes around the world.

: "Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry criticized the Labor Department on Tuesday for publishing tips for businesses to avoid paying overtime. Kerry said the tips characterize the Bush administration's attitude toward workers.'We don't have a broken budget in the United States of America,' the Massachusetts senator said. 'We've got a broken set of values at the head of our government, and we need to stand up and undo it.'"

Why aren't more people talking about this? How does the Bush admin continue to have this facade of moral superiority, and continue to fool people who should know better?
Dodge Commercial

As if my anger wasn't riled enough at a Bush administration that seems intent on spending our government into bankruptcy while enriching their friends, I have become almost apoplectic about the new Dodge Durango advertisement. Have you seen it? There are two, with this moronic husband, nice looking wife and toddler boy. In one, the wife is chastized for pointing out that the suv has a comfortable ride, while the moronic husband likes to tell his poor kid, "you only need to know one thing. Hemi. Can you say Hemi?"

Little poor kid destined to bad relationships with women: "Hemi."

Moronic male with hands dangling very close to ankles: "That's my boy!"

CNN.com - Cabinet members defend Bush from O'Neill - Jan. 11, 2004

I watched part of the interview, btw, and found the content to be consistent with what we have heard elsewhere. The new thing? Bush actually questioning the legitimacy of increasing tax cuts that benefit the rich. Wow, that is big. The bad guys in the white house? Continue to be Karl Rove and Dick Cheney. Cheney continues to be the right wing Darth Vader, and little of what I see dissuades me from this.

BBC NEWS | UK | Lust declared virtue, not vice

Here is the deal; I agree with this. I think that lust has been unfairly demonized. I certainly understand that there have been negative aspects to it--teenage pregnancy, stds, suvs, etc.--but lust is not inherently negative.

Why is Greed still even listed? Greed has been so eliminated from the modern consciousness that only the late Howard Hughes qualifes.

January 10, 2004

Yahoo! News - Report: Bush Planned Iraqi Invasion Pre-Sept. 11
: "NEW YORK (Reuters) - Former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill charges in a new book that President Bush (news - web sites) entered office in January 2001 intent on invading Iraq (news - web sites) and was in search of a way to go about it.

O'Neill, fired in December 2002 as part of a shake-up of Bush's economic team, has become the first major insider of the Bush administration to launch an attack on the president.

He likened Bush at Cabinet meetings to 'a blind man in a room full of deaf people,' according to excerpts from a CBS interview to promote a book by former Wall Street Journal reporter Ron Suskind, 'The Price of Loyalty.'"

Interesting. The director of the faith based initiative (Dilulio) also made some harsh claims about how the Bush administration made decisions. Dilulio immediately retracted his comments (though not convincingly), but now we see similar remarks from the former Treasury Sec. To get this from a former cabinet official is significant, albeit from a disgruntled former employee. The main point, however, is that it confirms other information--that Bush had decided long before the Iraq war to attack Iraq and was looking for a reason. That strikes me as a terrible precedent, and will ultimately undermine American foreign policy in the future.

January 6, 2004

Beliefs cont.

Beliefs cont.

Thinking more about why I left the church. My wife read a book by Richard Foster on the various traditions in Christianity--one of which is social justice. That tradition resonated pretty strongly with me, and I found it clear that my Baptist church had not been as connected to that tradition as I thought they should. My experience was with a church that saw proselytizing as their equivalent of making people's lives better. I was around churches that would feed the poor, but only after making them listen to a sermon or something. I personally found that questionable, to say the least.

I have some reservations about converting people's souls, but I am more concerned about a religious faith that seems disconnected from the very essence of human experience. I mean, here on earth. If you send missionaries, but don't attempt to change the way these people eat, what have you done? Someone said something about feeding the poor, the widows and orphans, that how we treated them was how we treated God. That seems pretty clear to me. So, on that note, I can remember my churches mentioning poverty, and some did better than that, but can never remember a Baptist church getting angry, or activated, or animated over poverty. Nudity on television, or perhaps the
Last Temptation of Christ film, and most recently Judge Roy Moore's idol of stone, but not poverty. I have heard James Dobson rally the troops over gay marriage, but never over the plight of the poor.

I think it is the perspective that bothers me the most. It is as if Disney's policy toward same-sex partners is more important than the poverty that tears families apart across the country. It was the same lack of perspective that somehow equates Clinton's dalliance with Monica with Reagan's Iran Contra or Dubya's monumental lies to get us into war. I expect the church to be more aware than the rabble who truly think that Michael Jackson's case is a nationally important one. I expect some discernment. And humility. But more on that later.
USATODAY.com - Robertson: God says it's Bush in a 'blowout' in November: "NORFOLK, Va. (AP) Religious broadcaster Pat Robertson said Friday he believes God has told him President Bush will be re-elected in a 'blowout' in November.

'I think George Bush is going to win in a walk,' Robertson said on his 700 Club program on the Virginia Beach-based Christian Broadcasting Network, which he founded. 'I really believe I'm hearing from the Lord it's going to be like a blowout election in 2004. It's shaping up that way.'

Robertson told viewers he spent several days in prayer at the end of 2003.

'The Lord has just blessed him,' Robertson said of Bush. 'I mean, he could make terrible mistakes and comes out of it. It doesn't make any difference what he does, good or bad, God picks him up because he's a man of prayer and God's blessing him.' "

wow, what cool theology. You can be a total screwup and actually do bad things, but if you are "a man of prayer" God will pick you up and make you more successful than the people doing good things. I have said this before, but Pat Robertson is more than a loon (or a goober as one of my friends says). He is a dangerous man who has millions of morons watching him for guidance on everthing from diet to stock tips.
AP Kills Limbaugh Painkillers Story (washingtonpost.com)

Herald.com - Your Miami Everything Guide: "WASHINGTON - The Labor Department is giving employers tips on how to avoid paying overtime to some of the 1.3 million low-income workers who would become eligible under new rules expected to be finalized early this year.

The department's advice comes even as it touts the $895 million in increased wages that it says those workers would be guaranteed from the reforms.

Among the options for employers: cut workers' hourly wages and add the overtime to equal the original salary, or raise salaries to the new $22,100 annual threshold, making them ineligible.

The department says it is merely listing well-known choices available to employers, even under current law.

''We're not saying anybody should do any of this,'' said Labor Department spokesman Ed Frank."

This is unbelievable. Maybe this is how Bush told his daughters about drinking. "Don't do it, but here are some ways to drink and not get caught."

No, that analogy sucks. Here is a closer one. "Racism is wrong, and redlining is wrong, but here are some ways to exclude blacks from your subdivision and keep them out of your work place. We aren't telling you to do this, mind you, but here it is." Or, "we sure value the environment, but here are some ways to dump waste and not get fined." One way? Elect Bush.

Yahoo! News - Exiled Star Rose Admits Gambling on Baseball Games
: "In his upcoming autobiography, 'My Prison without Bars,' which will also hit book stores on Thursday, Rose admitted his love of gambling got out of hand but showed little remorse.

'I'm sure that I'm supposed to act all sorry or sad or guilty now that I've accepted that I've done something wrong,' wrote Rose in a book excerpt to appear in Sports Illustrated on Wednesday. 'But you see, I'm just not built that way.

'So let's leave it like this: I'm sorry it happened, and I'm sorry for all the people, fans and family that it hurt. Let's move one.' "

I assume he actually said, "move on" but this exemplifies Rose and why I think he should never be let back into baseball. The man has no soul and never did. His lack of self-reflection reminds me a great deal of Bobby Knight. Both are creeps.

January 4, 2004

Why, cont.

So, how did my religious beliefs morph?

I began to question the basic assumptions of how the underdog--the powerless accessed the system. Along this road I pursued a few degrees in American history and many of the cultural myths of upward mobility and equal playing field disappeared. How had America addressed issues of race, environment, class and gender? Not well. Not well, indeed.

Those questions became the impetus to leave the Baptist church. For like conservative America, the Baptist church, in my estimation, had been dead wrong on the central issues of class (including poverty and labor), race, gender and the environment.

Don't get me wrong, it isn't that the left has been dead right on these issues, but they haven't dismissed them as unimportant. That is something.

So, why am I not a conservative?

Alternative title: Why I am a Liberal.

I assume that not everyone reading this knows that I was raised a Southern Baptist Republican in a family that preferred Reagan to Roosevelt. So, what happened to me? Here is the short version:

I am a short male, but I bought into the male superiority. As I matured, I realized my limitations in that paradigm. Some of the women I admired could out-do me physically (though not many) and all of them were easily my mental and intellectual equal if not superior. As that contradiction became clear to me, I began to question those assumptions that would prefer a male over a female.

In the church, that sexism was reflected in male superiority, especially in the Baptist church. Women were not to be ministers, deacons, or even to lead men in Sunday School classes. What a crock. I remember asking someone I respected why women were unfit for ministry, and he responded with a shrug. He didn't know either. The slippery slope was engaged. I was not questioning the assumptions I had been raised with.

Once that sexism was rejected, much of the rest of the assumptions I had been raised with were open to question. Literal Bible. Equal playing field for all. The superiority of certain Christian beliefs.

This does relate to politics, just bear with me. As I began to question those religious assumptions, the political ones followed.
Flummery: "Sean Hannity Replaced by Tape Saying 'Liberals Suck' Over and Over, No One Notices"

New satire blog. Thought this was funny.
Religion Journal: Helping Farmers, a Cup of Coffee at a Time: "CANTON, Mass. A poster on a wall at Equal Exchange, a food cooperative here, asks a question that literally hangs over the heads of its employees: What would Jesus drink?"

Discussing a growing movement to encourage Christians to be concerned about coffee labor. What a concept! Encourage Christians to think beyond our shores.
Oklahoma | The Bush Tax

Interesting. I have been arguing for sometime that cutting federal taxes has unintended consequences such that many in the working class and middle class actually lose ground even if they got the tax cut check in the mail. Property taxes go up, tuition rises, fees go up--most of those regressive in nature.

I keep wondering if many Repubs will discover that this president doesn't share their values. If you are a fiscal conservative, this isn't your president. If you think that morality is more than just quoting scripture, this isn't your president. If you think that protecting life includes children overseas and those in poverty here at home, this isn't your president. Certainly if you think that government, while limited, can be used to better people's lives, this isn't your president.

January 3, 2004

Salon.com News | God is not a right-wing zealot: "The media finds itself attracted to two things, controversy and brief, neat answers. I recall speaking at a meeting several years ago in Seattle about the political influence of the religious right. Six hundred people were inside and three people (from the religious right) were outside, and the media, in this instance television, gave equal time to both sides. "

This is an interesting interview with one of the leaders from the Clergy Leadership Network, and I really liked this example about the media. I think it describes our media situation pretty well without deciding an ideological bias.

I also like how he describes his beliefs. They are closer to my own.

"I'm not part of the evangelical right. I believe that God's spirit is inclusive, not exclusive. I believe that the public marketplace -- the place where ideas are exchanged and decisions are made -- is not to be monopolized by one religious point of view.

I believe that we are an open country with religious and even non-religious diversity, and that's a good thing, a democratic thing and very American.

And then I believe part of the appeal of the evangelical religion is for offering certainty, not faith. Certainty about what's doctrinally correct. I think one of the dangers of religion is to believe we've got God all buttoned down. And I believe just the opposite. I believe in the freedom and mystery of God that doesn't allow us to be certain but allows us to be loving."

I would add that I believe that Jesus is not a capitalist, and that Christianity is not synonymous with either market capitalism (in fact contradictory at points) or American patriotism.
Happy New Year

So, here we are in 2004. New Years always depress the hell out of me and this one has been no different. Went to a great party the night before and had fun talking to interesting people. But now the celebrations are behind us (especially for a former Baptist.) and the new year stretches ahead. Scarily so, in fact. With Orange warnings and cryptic statements about terrorism. Oh well.

I think I am particularly sensitive to apocalyptic events and statements. Not sure why. I know that belief in the end of the world gives some people comfort to know that God is in control. For me, it does the opposite. I don't believe he is in control, and I suspect that people who do believe that way are too quick to turn their futures (and mine) over to people like GWB in some misguided belief that he is a Godly man who is following the will of God. Perhaps some of those can tell me what GWB has done that reminds them of his favorite philosopher.

Anyway. I will be in a better mood later, I hope. After all, it isn't my first New Year, nor my first one that was scary. I hope you are all well.