March 31, 2006

Jon Swift is worried about the war on Christians

Jon Swift: Everyone Hates the Christians: "So I was very surprised to discover that in fact everyone hates the Christians! It turns out that there is a War on Christians being waged right now that no one told me about. So in addition to the War in Iraq, the War on Terror and the War on Christmas, I now have yet another war to worry about.

This week a conference was held in Washington to discuss this distressing development, called 'War on Christians and the Values Voters in 2006,' which was sponsored by Rick Scarborough, the author of Liberalism Kills Kids Dead. Apparently, persecution of Christians is going on right under our noses and the incidents recounted at the conference were truly chilling. For example, Ted Turner, who used to be the head of CNN but is now unemployed, I think, once criticized Christians a number of years ago. A Christian painter almost had one of his paintings thrown out of an art show, but didn't. And Tom Delay has been denied a gun permit because he is a Christian."


Pretty funny. Would be even funnier if these people weren't serious and in power.

March 30, 2006

returning to the divided life discussion

Back in February, I wrote about Parker Palmer and his concept of the divided life. I noted that different aspects of my life had been divided in different ways. In grad school in Houston, I found the division between the Church Streak and Grad School Streak untenable and finally worked to remove that divide.

But a conversation with Bucky reminded me of other divides, namely that pressure between being a professional academic and regular, functional, human being. It isn't a universal divide, but those around academics might know what I mean. For me, as Bucky and I talked, was the divide between those who had achieved professional success and those who had more unified personal lives. I really don't know what the divorce rate is for grad school, but I can count five couples who divorced either during grad school or immediately after.

In fact, grad school challenges in several ways--at least in my experience. I went in fully expecting to be challenged intellectually, and was not disappointed. My writing improved dramatically (not that the blog displays that, heh) and I think my ability to make broader connections and understand complex ideas improved. But the bigger challenge--and one I didn't anticipate--was the emotional side. I found the process of getting my PhD overwhelming at times, and mostly from an emotional and existential point of view. What did it mean, and more importantly sometimes, what didn't it mean?

The divide seemed to occur when I looked at people who seemed to be good at only one thing--writing and researching history. Their personal lives were, in many cases, complicated, and in several cases, research and writing served as the escape hatch from difficult personal issues. I remember envying them at some level--that they could channel anxiety or personal fears into research and writing. I utterly fail at that. When my personal world is in shambles, the last thing I care about is history.

So, the divide often appeared in funny ways. Someone who always badmouthed my scholarship, but who could have learned from me regarding personal relationships. Or, one of my fellow grad students who immediately found a tenure-track job after school, yet who seems incapable of forging a meaningful personal relationship, and who still seems to look down on me. Or at least, that is how I feel.

This week saw the rebirth of that divide. I applied for a job (rather tepidly, to be fair) for which I am qualified, but found out yesterday that I didn't even get a look. Last night, I spiralled into the familiar feeling of "not measuring up" and hopelessness that comes with these rejections. I look with envy at those who found jobs immediately. Sometimes I am angry that they found their position so quickly. Those I respect the most are always understanding. Others tend to internalize that fortune as a sign that they really are a better scholar than I.

And maybe they are. Maybe they are. I was reminded this morning how fortunate I am to have certain people in my life. My wife couldn't be more supportive, I think, if she tried. My closest friends, CIL, Anglican, and the Buckster, are loyal to a fault. Turning it around, I am not terribly successful as a scholar. I haven't published as much as I would like, and my teaching has been rough of late. But I have been successful in my personal relationships. I have made connections to students well beyond the names and dates of history. Some of them remain friends to this day. Others tell me they have learned a lot from me, and never see history quite the same after my class.

Anyway. I am rambling a bit now. But I have to remind myself that sometimes I measure my worth and contribution by published journal articles and books that few read, and forget the human connections that I value more. If I accept that divide, I measure myself by people I don't even respect. And that is a non-starter.

FWIW.

March 29, 2006

Religious right nonsense

According to the Houston Chronicle Tom DeLay sees a war on Christianity in the U.S.
"The conference was convened by Vision America, a group founded by the Rev. Rick Scarborough to mobilize 'patriot pastors' of all denominations to promote Christian involvement in government.
Scarborough, the former pastor of the First Baptist Church in Pearland, is a long-time DeLay ally.
'This is a man, I believe, God has appointed ... to represent righteousness in government,' Scarborough told the audience, which included Eagle Forum Founder Phyllis Schlafly, former ambassador Alan Keyes, and Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan."

Yeah. A guy nicknamed the "Hammer" who has used the power of the federal government to pursue his own political agenda, funneled money through a fake organization called the US Family Network--consciously manipulating people's faith to fund political agendas--yeah, this guy is appointed by God. Only if God is an idiot and more like the Cosa Nostra than the Prince of Peace.

Seriously. If you defend Delay as a Christian, you put the faith in a horrible light.

heh. we need humor and cursing

Saw this and had to post. It makes me laugh. Mostly when people talk about the good old days when people didn't swear as much. They need to read about the 19th century. Why do people somehow get the idea that in historical times, people didn't swear? Hah. Hah, I say.

More women than men said they encounter people swearing more now than 20 years ago — 75%, compared to 60%. Also, more women said they were bothered by profanity — 74% at least some of the time — than men (60%.) And more men admitted to swearing: 54% at least a few times a week, compared to 39% of women.


Ok, I understand. I don't necessarily want to hear profanity everywhere. But I think the biggest thing is context. In anger or hatred or rage, or when it is abusive, profanity bothers me. When it is humorous or self-depracating, not so much. And let's not even talk about during a golf game.

Of course, as I have said here often, I am more offended by people who find swearing more offensive than poverty or abuse or war or torture.

Wondering specifically about the F-word? (For the record, we needed special dispensation from our bosses just to say 'F-word.') Thirty-two% of men said they used it at least a few times a week, compared to 23% of women.

"That word doesn't even mean what it means anymore," says Larry Riley of Warren, Mich. "It has just become part of the culture." Riley admits to using the F-word a few times a week. And his wife? "She never swears."

A striking common note among those interviewed, swearers or not: They don't like it when people swear for no good reason.

Darla Ramirez, for example, says she hates hearing the F-word "when people are just having a plain old conversation." The 40-year-old housewife from Arlington, Texas, will hear "people talking about their F-ing car, or their F-ing job. I'll hear it walking down the street, or at the shopping mall, or at Wal-Mart.


Note: don't go to Wal-Mart. That will solve part of your f-ing problem.

"What they do it their own home is their business, but when I'm out I don't need to hear people talking trashy," Ramirez says. She admits to swearing about once a month — but not the F-word.


Hah.

Here is the poll number on the f-word. My favorite part is the 1% answer.

5. Thinking specifically about the F-word, how often do you personally use that word in conversations?

* Several times a day, 8 percent
* Once a day, 7 percent
* A few times a week, 12 percent
* A few times a month, 13 percent
* About once a month, 9 percent
* A few times a year, 15 percent
* Never, 35 percent
* Not sure, 1 percent

TOTAL A FEW TIMES A WEEK OR MORE -- 27 percent
TOTAL A FEW TIMES A WEEK OR LESS -- 37 percent"


"Not sure?" Not sure? I think there are a lot of liars in this poll. F-ing liars. Damn ass hell f-ing liars. :)

Now I feel better.

March 28, 2006

Something more positive

I know Bucky will like these Ted Leo tracks from the Drunkard.

I understand denial

My attempts to manage my cynicism and pessimism are severaly hampered by information. News sucks. I kind of understand why people just avoid. Anyway, I will try to post something less cynical and angry later today. For my own sanity.

First item:
Moussaoui Says He Was to Fly 5th Plane.

Let me say that I don't believe this testimony at all. It sounds incredibly convenient for someone who obviously wants to die. And we want to kill him, so everyone will be happy.

I am sure that our policy of killing terrorists who are not only suicidal but looking for martyrdom will help us convince other would-be terrorists not to do this. Right? Whatever.

*****

Andy Card resigns. I don't have the link. But he resigned and was replaced this morning by Josh Bolton. On NPR, we heard him quote Ecclesiastes. I love how this administration continues to wrap itself in the flag and bible. Too bad they act like mobsters.

But Card's resignation, I suspect, will do nothing. Rove is the guy who has to go. Oh, and Bush and Cheney. It was amazing to hear the Prez talk about Card being so good through all these issues--including Katrina. Of course, there is no evidence that anyone in the White House performed even adequately during Katrina. But then again, Bush gave the Presidential Medal of Freedom to George Tenet and Paul Bremer.

But this is more sham from a sham administration. Bush will (mark my words) use this to prove he is shaking things up, when in fact, he has just replaced one inside crony with another. But just as Dick Cheney only listens to Fox News, Bush has no need for outside blood. He already knows the answers. Why get new information?

Sigh. Someday maybe we will return to something approaching democracy.

March 27, 2006

I called my reps this morning

I just placed calls to the offices of Tom Cole, James Inhofe, and Tom Coburn to ask them if they were going to respond to the President's apparent claim that he can sign legislation into law and then add an addendum that says essentially, "I really don't have to obey this."

For the record, I was nice and polite. Informed the people that I was a constituent and that I had a comment/question. Cole's office here in Norman was essentially clueless. I might call the Washington office. Inhofe's office (in Washington) just took the message. Coburn's office guy was funny. I did my whole spiel and then asked if the Senator had a statement. He said, "uh, on immigration?" I said, firmly (but politely) "no, on signing statements essentially undoing what he had just signed into law." I asked all of them to consider if they would allow this if the President's last name were Clinton instead of Bush.

Like calling those three will do anything. Sigh.

Early for such cynicism, I know--updated with more idiocy

First, this from the NY Times showing that our President had no intent of actually being honest about the war.
"But behind closed doors, the president was certain that war was inevitable. During a private two-hour meeting in the Oval Office on Jan. 31, 2003, he made clear to Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain that he was determined to invade Iraq without the second resolution, or even if international arms inspectors failed to find unconventional weapons, said a confidential memo about the meeting written by Mr. Blair's top foreign policy adviser and reviewed by The New York Times."

snip
The memo also shows that the president and the prime minister acknowledged that no unconventional weapons had been found inside Iraq. Faced with the possibility of not finding any before the planned invasion, Mr. Bush talked about several ways to provoke a confrontation, including a proposal to paint a United States surveillance plane in the colors of the United Nations in hopes of drawing fire, or assassinating Mr. Hussein.


Yeppers. What would President Jesus do? He would trot out someone to lie for him. And did. Very nice.

****

Joyce Appleby and Gary Hart suggest that The Founders Never Imagined a Bush Administration:
"Bush has insisted that there can be no limits to the power of the commander-in-chief in time of war. More recently the president has claimed that laws relating to domestic spying and the torture of detainees do not apply to him. His interpretation has produced a devilish conundrum.

President Bush has given Commander-in-Chief Bush unlimited wartime authority. But the 'war on terror' is more a metaphor than a fact. Terrorism is a method, not an ideology; terrorists are criminals, not warriors. No peace treaty can possibly bring an end to the fight against far-flung terrorists. The emergency powers of the president during this 'war' can now extend indefinitely, at the pleasure of the president and at great threat to the liberties and rights guaranteed us under the Constitution."

The only point they don't make is that Karl Rove created a huge Bible-waving facade to distract the people from growing tyranny. Nothing to see here--just a Godly man praying. Move along. No concentration of power--just a man reading Oswald Chambers.

****

Speaking of giant Bible-waving facades, the Wash post has more on Tom Delay and Jack Abramoff. My favorite part is how they created something called the US Family Network--ostensibly to promote family oriented legislation. And, let's not forget how the Dobson crowd has been milking this idea that conservatives like family, while the godless liberals don't--so creating a lobby like this is a natural. And that is exactly how Delay and others used it. In mailings to their marks constituents, DeLay would talk about the huge inflence the USFN had in Washington and encourage contributions to it. The organization actually had a tiny staff and did very little lobbying. Instead, it funneled money to other issues and people. Kind of like money laundering. Hmm.

Second favorite part:
"'If an individual called DeLay's appointments secretary saying they wanted to talk to DeLay about overregulation, the appointment secretary would say go speak to Buckham,' one former aide said. Buckham, an evangelical minister, also continued to serve as DeLay's spiritual adviser and prayed frequently with him, the former aides said."

See? His spiritual advisor prayed with him frequently. Of course, his "spiritual advisor" also collected over a third of all the money supposedly going to help families.

Sigh. I don't know quite what to say.

****

Shaun at Upper Left has this running post with changing headlines:
"It has been 988 days since Karl Rove violated his obligations under Standard Form 312 without the White House taking "corrective action."

Rove. Treason. Betrayal."


I am thinking of starting one about Bush's signing statements. Maybe:
"George Bush still thinks that he doesn't have to obey laws passed by congress.

Bush: torture, war, and tyranny."


****update

Sigh. Even more idiocy. Evidently No Child Left behind has actually meant that schools are forced to narrow their focus to just math and reading. History, art, music, and even science are being ignored or cut in the effort to keep the funding. I am still waiting for a real teacher to defend this act. I have heard that conservative Bush teachers hate it too--they just blame it on liberals.

****

And finally (maybe) this. Turns out that (hat tip to Think Progress for both these last two links, btw) the Ohio anti-gay constitutional amendment is causing exactly what critics feared. It is making it hard, if not impossible, to prosecute Domestic violence law for unmarried couples.

March 26, 2006

This annoys me too

U.S. Christians Outraged Over Afghan Trial: "'That there should even be such a trial is an outrage. How can we congratulate ourselves for liberating Afghanistan from the rule of jihadists only to be ruled by radical Islamists who kill Christians?' Family Research Council president Tony Perkins said in a statement.

Such sentiments are spreading through Christian radio stations, Web sites and blogs, stoked by traditional conservative institutions as National Review magazine. 'I have supported the Bush administration's foreign policy because I came to believe that the best way to stop Islamo-fascism was by promoting democracy,' Colson said. 'But if we can't guarantee fundamental religious freedoms in the countries where we establish democratic reforms, then the whole credibility of our foreign policy is thrown into serious question.'"


Not that they protest the trial of this Christian man (and it appears the man will be freed, btw). I salute the christian community for speaking out on this outrage.

But why do I get the feeling that they only do this when Christians are persecuted? When muslim inmates are tortured to death, we hear silence from these same people. When muslim inmates are taunted by Christian guards and told to renounce their faith, we hear only silence from AmeriChristians.

We should stand up for Christians who are persecuted around the world. We should also stand up for non-Christians. We should stand up for people. Jesus did.

speaking of kings

I am watching to see if American will tolerate Bush's (or probably more accurately, Cheney's) attempt to subvert our democracy. (Remember, Bush's signing statement essentially said that he might not inform Congress about the Patriot Act uses even though the law requires him to.) After all, if the President can ignore laws passed by congress, what is the point of congress?

Well, this isn't the first time. When Bush signed the anti-torture legislation he had threatened to veto, he did so with his fingers crossed:
"In the signing statement tacked onto the McCain amendment, the White House indicated the executive branch would construe McCain's amendment 'in a manner consistent with the constitutional authority of the President to supervise the unitary executive branch and as Commander in Chief . . . which will assist in achieving the shared objective of the Congress and the President . . . of protecting the American people from further terrorist attacks.' This proviso, inserted without discussion after Congress passed the bill, could amount to a reinterpretation of the new law. It essentially inserts yet another loophole to allow torture if the president thinks it's necessary."


Bush more and more resembles Nixon. Once again, I ask you Bush supporters, would you support this from Bill Clinton? Or Hillary?

Yeah, I didn't think so. I guess we know how serious you all are about democracy and principle.

If I were King

I would:

  • Make Dick Cheney fight with the soldiers he has sent to Iraq. After all, he seems fond of shooting.
  • Make George Bush work for a living--just for a little while. And clearing brush doesn't count. Nor can his family help him.
  • Speaking of his family, Barbara will have King-enforced humility lessons. And be barred from doing stuff like this.
  • Make it illegal for Bush to smirk. Hey, I am king, remember. I might also make him read something beyond Oswald Chambers.
  • Be tempted to make Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, and James Dobson listen to their own bullshit in an unending loop. Or make them watch Brokeback over and over until they realize gay people are human.
  • Make all the Fox people live in Gitmo and do their reports from there.
  • Enforce the barrier between church and state to try and save both from each other.
  • Put Barry Bonds in jail before he does more damage to himself and to the game of Baseball.
  • Outlaw the Dallas Cowboys (heh, that is mainly for CIL), astro turf, the designated hitter, hockey in the south, and all of Fox Sports. And Fox News.
  • Break up the media moguls, outlaw computer programmed radio, and make it a capital offense to play the following "artists:" Bad Company, ZZTop, Britney Spears, Jessica Simpson, and Elton John.
  • Ban CCM. Forever.
  • Make it a capital offense for a professional athlete to complain about salary.

    Ok. Now you.
  • March 24, 2006

    The Religious right and torture?

    Miguel De La Torre suggests that the Religious Right has some explaining to do regarding our torture policy.

    I am really, really confused. Christians looking the other way while other human beings are tortured and abused. I don't understand it. If the church (even the conservative church) cannot condemn torture, then isn't their moral voice useless?

    Street Prophets suggest that the religious right is deeply embedded in this administration's horrific policies, and justify it on their Christian beliefs.

    "The responsibility of the Religious Right for Abu Ghraib goes up the chain of command from there. According to Christianity Today, they 'were significantly involved in drafting policy memos that created the permissive climate in which the abuse of prisoners occurred'. Billmon writes that the team of lawyers who wrote the Pentagon's treatise on presidential torture powers was led by Mary L. Walker, a 'devout Christian' and co-founder of Professional Women's Fellowship, an offshoot of Campus Crusade for Christ. Walker also worked to 'shield Air Force headquarters from public criticism' for failing to control an epidemic of sexual assaults at the Air Force Academy.

    Note that some of the torture at Abu Ghraib qualifies as sexual assault. This is the same military institution that faced complaints about preferential treatment for conservative evangelical Christians, where cadets faced 'a heavy and sometimes offensive emphasis on evangelical Christianity'. The Air Force is currently being sued over a recruiter in New Mexico being instructed to use Jesus Christ as a recruiting tool."


    I don't even recognize this Christianity. It makes me sick.

    This boggles the mind

    This leaves me almost speechless. This president is asserting that even though the Congress added some oversight requirements in the Patriot Act reaughtorization which he signed he doensn't actually have to abide by the law.

    Question: If the President is above the law, then this isn't a constitutional republic, is it?

    It just boggles the mind. Just add this to the list of things that would have provoked virtual unrest among the very same conservatives who now support Bush. Unbelievable.

    Hat tip to TPM. Here is the complete text. Read it and tell me that this is even close to reasonable.

    WASHINGTON -- When President Bush signed the reauthorization of the USA Patriot Act this month, he included an addendum saying that he did not feel obliged to obey requirements that he inform Congress about how the FBI was using the act's expanded police powers.

    The bill contained several oversight provisions intended to make sure the FBI did not abuse the special terrorism-related powers to search homes and secretly seize papers. The provisions require Justice Department officials to keep closer track of how often the FBI uses the new powers and in what type of situations. Under the law, the administration would have to provide the information to Congress by certain dates.

    Bush signed the bill with fanfare at a White House ceremony March 9, calling it ''a piece of legislation that's vital to win the war on terror and to protect the American people." But after the reporters and guests had left, the White House quietly issued a ''signing statement," an official document in which a president lays out his interpretation of a new law.

    In the statement, Bush said that he did not consider himself bound to tell Congress how the Patriot Act powers were being used and that, despite the law's requirements, he could withhold the information if he decided that disclosure would ''impair foreign relations, national security, the deliberative process of the executive, or the performance of the executive's constitutional duties."

    Bush wrote: ''The executive branch shall construe the provisions . . . that call for furnishing information to entities outside the executive branch . . . in a manner consistent with the president's constitutional authority to supervise the unitary executive branch and to withhold information . . . "

    The statement represented the latest in a string of high-profile instances in which Bush has cited his constitutional authority to bypass a law.

    After The New York Times disclosed in December that Bush had authorized the military to conduct electronic surveillance of Americans' international phone calls and e-mails without obtaining warrants, as required by law, Bush said his wartime powers gave him the right to ignore the warrant law.

    And when Congress passed a law forbidding the torture of any detainee in US custody, Bush signed the bill but issued a signing statement declaring that he could bypass the law if he believed using harsh interrogation techniques was necessary to protect national security.

    Past presidents occasionally used such signing statements to describe their interpretations of laws, but Bush has expanded the practice. He has also been more assertive in claiming the authority to override provisions he thinks intrude on his power, legal scholars said.

    Bush's expansive claims of the power to bypass laws have provoked increased grumbling in Congress. Members of both parties have pointed out that the Constitution gives the legislative branch the power to write the laws and the executive branch the duty to ''faithfully execute" them.

    Several senators have proposed bills to bring the warrantless surveillance program under the law. One Democrat, Senator Russell Feingold of Wisconsin, has gone so far as to propose censuring Bush, saying he has broken the wiretapping law.

    Bush's signing statement on the USA Patriot Act nearly went unnoticed.

    Senator Patrick J. Leahy, Democrat of Vermont, inserted a statement into the record of the Senate Judiciary Committee objecting to Bush's interpretation of the Patriot Act, but neither the signing statement nor Leahy's objection received coverage from in the mainstream news media, Leahy's office said.

    Yesterday, Leahy said Bush's assertion that he could ignore the new provisions of the Patriot Act -- provisions that were the subject of intense negotiations in Congress -- represented ''nothing short of a radical effort to manipulate the constitutional separation of powers and evade accountability and responsibility for following the law."

    ''The president's signing statements are not the law, and Congress should not allow them to be the last word," Leahy said in a prepared statement. ''The president's constitutional duty is to faithfully execute the laws as written by the Congress, not cherry-pick the laws he decides he wants to follow. It is our duty to ensure, by means of congressional oversight, that he does so."

    The White House dismissed Leahy's concerns, saying Bush's signing statement was simply ''very standard language" that is ''used consistently with provisions like these where legislation is requiring reports from the executive branch or where disclosure of information is going to be required."

    ''The signing statement makes clear that the president will faithfully execute the law in a manner that is consistent with the Constitution," said White House spokeswoman Dana Perino. ''The president has welcomed at least seven Inspector General reports on the Patriot Act since it was first passed, and there has not been one verified abuse of civil liberties using the Patriot Act."

    David Golove, a New York University law professor who specializes in executive power issues, said the statement may simply be ''bluster" and does not necessarily mean that the administration will conceal information about its use of the Patriot Act.

    But, he said, the statement illustrates the administration's ''mind-bogglingly expansive conception" of executive power, and its low regard for legislative power.

    ''On the one hand, they deny that Congress even has the authority to pass laws on these subjects like torture and eavesdropping, and in addition to that, they say that Congress is not even entitled to get information about anything to do with the war on terrorism," Golove said.

    Friday blogging

    Friday again. Whew. I think.

    My bracket took a beating last night. When Duke and Gonzaga both lost, there went half my final four. Feh.

    *****

    My texas friend has kidded me recently about Bush and Dobson, or more accurately, tried to kid with me about them. Neither strikes me as funny. I know he is being funny, but I don't laugh. Instead, I get kind of mad all over again at my conservative friends who voted for this guy.

    Politics used to be more fun. Or at least, that is how I remember it. Nostalgia being what it is, here is what I remember. I remember that during the 90s, it was the right wing who used invective and hatred. I remember hearing on Christian radio that Hilary a) wasn't really a woman (they didn't mean sex change) b) was a marxist, and c) most likely a lesbian. Bill, of course, was running drugs out of Mena Arkansas and having people like Vince Foster killed.

    All ridiculous, and for the most part, on the periphery. As successful as the right wing conspiracy was in getting the Whitewater and Monica nonsense pushed to the forefront, the American people were relatively unimpressed (remember that the Dems picked up seats in the 98 off year election).

    2000. I was clearly for Gore (though tepidly) and anti-Bush (though tepidly). I remember being disappointed Election night, but not terribly. There was a part of me that recognized that this was inevitable--that the Republicans would eventually win back the White House. I remember watching the recount with interest--though not obsessively. I remember that what made me angriest was catching Pat Robertson's guest saying that the Devil (liberals) was trying to "steal" the election. Reminded me of the Neil Young line, "I don't feel like Satan, but I am to them," and it made me mad.

    (I remember clearly, however, telling liberal friends that we were going to be ok. That the narrow nature of the election would force Bush to rule from the middle. Wrong. Of course, I was wrong. In retrospect, once Cheney was on board, the middle was toast, but I didn't know that then.)

    Flash forward to now and we have a poisoned dialogue. Not our first, but it isn't good. Strikes me that the right wing never stopped badmouthing people like me. Even when they are in power, they demonize liberals. I think they have to. What has changed in the interim is that liberals are angrier and so have sometimes employed the same level of invective. Add to that the fact that thanks to Faux News and Karl Rove, the right wingers that used to be peripheralized (to some degree) are now the mainstream conservative voice.

    I will never forgive Rove for this. Fatty Limbaugh and the idiots on Fox are performers. They have a schtick. Karl Rove has decided that winning elections is more important than any sense of American unity. He has decided, not that he can win with division, but that he prefers it. That is unforgivable.

    ****

    Speaking of nostalgia, I am always leery of it. I tell students to distrust it. It isn't always wrong, but it must always be challenged. Likewise when I see a cleaner or nicer political dialogue in the past.

    But I digress. We have grown to love the Colbert Report almost as much as Jon Stewart. Brilliant. Even when he interviews a light-weight like Connie Chung or has right wing nut-jobs on. :)

    Anyway, last night, he interviewed Miss Manners (I forget her real name), and I braced myself for someone who would play well in George Bush's church world--you know, the kind who are more offended at the f-word, but shrug at torture or poverty. Instead, she was wonderfully cynical. Colbert asked her when we became so rude, and she refused to bite. We have always been rude, she said, and she merely said that manners were a way to negotiate and live together in community. In other settings, social niceties are not that useful. After all, as she asked, if you can't ask questions forcefully in a press conference, what is the point?

    I liked her, and fully expected not to.

    *****

    Friday music. I downloaded Josh Rouse's new album, Subtitulo from Emusic. Unlike so much of their other stuff, this one was available to subscribers in advance of the regular release. I liked that. The album is good. Rouse lives in Spain now, and the album reflects that.

    I also downloaded Buddy Miller's recent album, Universal United House of Prayer. A really different sound for me--at least for now, but I had heard so much good about it, I decided to get it. Gospel sounds, mixed with great guitar riffs and harmonies--I am glad I did.

    How about some free stuff? As usual, Aquarium Drunkard has some good stuff. I know Bucky will like this one--he has in his lost album series the Dylan/Cash sessions and they really do sound great. I want to like Johnny Cash more than I really do, and at times Dylan's singing can get on my nerves even though his writing is amazing. They both sound great here and I am really enjoying this album.

    If you are interested, the Drunkard also has a lost album of the Black Crowes that I have yet to sample. I haven't been a huge fan, but will give this album a listen.

    And last, staying on the Drunkard, he posted three songs from Track a Tiger that I am enjoying very much.

    Have a good friday.

    March 23, 2006

    Republicans on national security

    Russ Feingold's move to censure Bush has struck me just as a political stunt. I agree he needs to be censured. Actually he should be impeached, but given the political realities, neither is going to happen.

    So, it kind of impressed me that a week later, we are still talking about it. Feingold was on the Daily Show last night and simply made the point that we have all been making, that the President doesn't get to just make up the law.

    How did the Republicans respond? Rep Boehner (Tom Delay's replacement) suggested that Feingold was more concerned about the safety of the terrorists than the American people.

    How the hell do they get away with this?

    March 22, 2006

    March 19, 2006

    What the hell is this stuff?

    I think the dogs are a little scared. Maybe someone out there can help us out. There is a wet substance falling from the sky. It isn't solid and appears clear and harmless....

    abortion and torture

    Fred has a provacative post on abortion and torture. He suggests that many pro-life Christians look at liberals like me as if we are morally bankrupt for our support of abortion. That is the same way, Fred notes, that we liberals look at Christians who support torture.

    But torture is different, I keep saying. And saying and working with and arguing with myself. Read this and tell me that you aren't sickened that, as Sully puts it, American soldiers have been transformed into thugs that would have prospered under Milosovic. And Christians around the country tacitly support this.

    Are these two issues comparable? Most liberals I know don't like abortion, but they like imposing the state's will on the woman less.

    I don't know.

    Rumsfeld must go

    And this from someone who trained Iraqi military after the invasion. "Mr. Rumsfeld has put the Pentagon at the mercy of his ego, his cold warrior's view of the world and his unrealistic confidence in technology to replace manpower. "

    In fact, Bush's retention of Rumsfeld shows how little competence and ethics play in this administration.

    March 18, 2006

    Chairlift confessions

    Real life conversations on the chair lifts or around the lifts.

    "Utah is a sportsman's paradise and an alcoholic's nightmare."

    "I don't know why any thriving city would ever want the Olympics."

    Or when we would exchange pleasantries. The most common went like this:

    "Where are you from?"

    "Oklahoma."

    "Oh."

    Or the annoying. Two stoners (do they call them stoners anymore?) with us, never say a word to us, one is on his cell phone on the lift. "I will meet you at the bottom of the sunshine lift. The sunshine lift. [hangs up idiot to his right asks] "where are we meeting them." Conversation continues almost to the top. Sigh.

    Worst. At the bottom, overheard two white guys telling a racist joke. I hurried out of earshot, giving myself the option to hope that this ended with, "and that is the most racist joke I have ever heard." Sigh.

    New singer saturday

    Discovered Brandi Carlile (Heather's music blog is also very cool) the other day and have been listening to her a lot lately. She reminds me a little of Maria Mckee (from lone justice) and her voice is just amazing.

    You can listen to Follow.mp3

    I bought her accoustic album and full album from Itunes. Good stuff.

    March 16, 2006

    Searching for the High Rustler

    I have been skiing since I was 3. My family used to ski every weekend when I was young. My parents were part owners of a little ski area in Southwest Colorado. My first skis had cable bindings and safety straps. My second pair of boots were lace-up.

    Anyway. I skied during high school and squandered much of my first couple of college years on the slopes. Well, not squandered, really, but it did distract me from my studies. I have a lot of pleasant memories skiing with friends and family. I remember skiing with girls I wanted to date, and trying to show off. As I recall, my good skiing never got me a date. Sometimes when I ski now, I get the weirdest melancholy moments riding chair lifts--recalling those times.

    Back to the present. My one complaint about Alta is not really worthy of a complaint. Their runs are not very well marked. But the snow is just unbelievable. Growing up in Colorado I heard about Utah powder. I hate to say it, but Colorado has no snow like Alta. No long steep slopes without moguls that just take your breath away.

    Where was I? I decided to ski Alta's signature run--High Rustler, but couldn't find it. I had the funniest moment on the chair lift when I asked this guy about Rustler. He looked at me and then sounded suspiciously like Obi Wan. "You won't find High Rustler. You don't want to find High Rustler."

    The next day, I realized that the run was right in front of my face--kind of. As you looked at the mountain from the bottom, this scary-ass moguled run catches your eye. High Rustler.

    On our third day, I vowed to ski it. Had to. Getting there was a trick, and I kept thinking of the book I was reading at night (Into the Wild) as I made my way along this ridge. At several points, I rehearsed how I would tell my story: "It was actually harder getting there than skiing the actual run."

    Wrong. I worked my way around a cliff (seriously) and shot out of a narrow traverse between trees to the run. Holy shit. Steep.

    Steep. Steep enough that each turn scares me a little. I know I can make the turn, but my heart jumps a bit anyway. Then I look down the rest of the run and know that I have to make a lot more turns to make it. By the end, exhausted and grinning ear-to-ear, I get on the lift for the next run. According to the locals, the next one needs to be one called the Bone Crusher.

    Utah is kind of like Texas

    But not, of course. It would be more like Texas if it had no mountains and was hotter than hell. But it does share a kind of religious culture. During our trip to Utah, I found myself looking at families and individuals wondering, "are they Mormon?" It isn't as silly as it sounds. Salt Lake is the least Mormon controlled part of the state.

    And we saw all parts of it. Saturday night after dinner, the Starbucks was closed. At 7! But there was a Starbucks. Our Bed and Breakfast served coffee, but was well stocked with the Book of Mormon. The Pizza place was closed on Sunday and stocked with waitresses who all looked the same and all smiled the same. (Good pizza, though.) On the way to pizza, I cautiously waited in a left turn lane (no left turn light) only to have some jackass in a sportscar honk and then drive around me. I heard people talking about Mormonism around me, but our last dinner in town was at a combination cafe and bookstore that included vegan meals (I had chicken), anti-Mormon books, and a woman giving Tarot readings.

    More later.

    Did you know they have Mormons in Utah?

    SOF and I just returned from a ski trip to Utah (sorry, Bootlegger). We had a great time and needed to get out of town for a little while.

    So I am back and ready to blog a little. Be warned, however. My next few posts will either be about skiing or Mormons. And we might see the f-word.

    March 7, 2006

    Sigh

    Bill allowing judges to carry guns in courthouses passes

    Avoiding work

    Since I rebuilt my computer last fall, I have slowly rebuilt my blog list. I don't know how I stopped reading slacktivist but I did. Today he has a great bit on the whole "eye of a needle" passage in the Bible and how American Christians have been taught that it doesn't actually mean a needle, but a narrow door that a camel really could get through if necessary. See, being wealthy is fine. The Bible shouldn't be taken so literally anyway, right? :)

    *****

    I watched part of the Oscars the other night. Jon Stewart did fine, and I was mildly interested in the best picture race. As Pandagon noted, the right wing hated all of these films. Promoting gays, talking about race, and as evidently Gary Bauer put it, the media watchdog. Talking about race is bad? Evidently. When Gary Bauer and the other right wingers speak out against something, it makes me want to go see all of these films.

    Anyway, back to Jon Stewart. I think he is a genuinely funny man. Here he talks with Larry King about Bush:

    "KING: ...Bush 34 percent, lowest rating he's ever had and Cheney 18 percent.

    STEWART: The 18 percent thing is you really have to think of this in -- let's look at this just purely statistically. Four out of five dentists surveyed recommend sugarless gum for their patients who chew gum. So, there is one out of five dentists who say 'You chew gum? Ah, why not put sugar in it?' These are not the best dentists, OK that's 20 percent. He's not even getting all the dentists who recommend sugared gum. That's low. I think Dracula has a higher Q rating right now than the vice president."


    Funny. And, for the record, I can't stand Larry King. You will see why. Anyway, Jon's political humor is better because he really, genuinely cares about these issues. He is a smart guy who really wants to see better government.

    From the same transcript:

    "KING: So, in a sense you're happy over this.

    STEWART: No.

    KING: This gives you fodder.

    STEWART: Yes, I prefer not the fodder. I'm not -- we're not the guys at the craps table betting against the line. I would -- we'd make fun of something else. If public life, if government suddenly became inspiring and moved towards people's better nature and began to solve problems in a rational way rather than just a way that involved political dividends, we would be the happiest people in the world to turn our attention to idiots like, you know, media people, no offense.

    KING: So, you don't want it to be bad?

    STEWART: Did you really just ask me if I want it to be bad?

    KING: Yes because you...

    STEWART: What are you -- I have kids what do you think? Yes, I don't want them to have any kind of a -- I want things to corrode to the point where we're all living in huts.

    KING: Not all living in huts but generally comics political comics like things to go a little wrong, don't have to be the end of the world.



    KING: You don't want Medicare to fail?

    STEWART: Are you insane?

    KING: No.

    STEWART: You're literally asking me if I would prefer -- yes, Larry, what I'm saying to you as a comedian I want old people to suffer, old and poor people to suffer.


    I particularly like how Stewart really called King an idiot and then insane all in the same exchange. Liberals like Jon because he is passionate about this. He is truly horrified by what this administration has done to our country, and unlike the rest of us, is able to make fun of it. Or he would weep uncontrollably, I suspect.

    Ok, ok. Back to work.

    March 6, 2006

    Yet again, my occasional rant

    May have to swear off Keith Olbermann. Actually, it isn't his fault. He was just reporting the news, and some of it I had already noted. The Bush administration hoping to prosecute reporters for espionage. No, Karl Rove won't be prosecuted, nor Scooter, but reporters who unveiled an illegal wiretapping might.

    Oh, and remember, that this same White House claimed that Katrina stuff was off-limits, then leaked it themselves. Then I hear about the UNC situation where an American muslim tried to run down people as a political act. He said it was to avenge those muslims killed around the world. He is an idiot and a moron wrapped in stupidity. And yet, I wanted so badly to say to this guy--"Hey, i understand your rage, but our government is not an enemy to Islam." I just wish I could do that with a straight face.

    For the 100th time, let me say to those who voted for Bush. Don't ever lecture me on morality, or politics, or morality, or values ever, ever, ever, ever, ever again. Never. Never suggest that I am not patriotic enough. Never suggest that I am disloyal.

    Ok, I am done.

    For now.

    GOP attempt to make the military partisan under attack?

    Josh is reporting that the Laramer County GOP has taken down pictures of Marilyn Musgrave with servicemen in uniform. As I said the other day, this is really amazing. I have just been talking to kids about the brilliance of the American system. That's right. Lefty Streak thinks that the American system is brilliant. Separation of powers, civilian leadership of the military, peaceful exchange of power, checks and balances--all of it brilliant. That is where I am intensely patriotic.

    So, I am utterly amazed when flag waving conservatives look at stuff like this and remain mum. I have been saying for a long time. Bush and his people don't share your values. They just pander to you. (If interested, here is an example of one evangelical who sees that).

    Anyway. Just a couple of other examples of things that conservative evangelicals would have hated under Clinton.

    March 5, 2006

    Oh man

    Thanks to Bucky for the tip (Bucky, i had heard about the O'Reilly side, but not the Olbermann bit in response) for this wonderful bit of conservative craziness. As far as I can tell, at one point, Keith Olbermann (who I watch when I watch cable news) made fun of O'Reilly's Talking Points. O'Reilly got mad. He doesn't like to be made fun of, which is funny, because he has been such a tabloid idiot for so long, you would think he would be used to it. And, this is the same guy who yelled at a guy who lost his dad in the World Trade Center, calls people "pinheads" on a regular basis, and cuts their microphone if he doesn't like their argument.

    So anyway, Billy got mad and started feuding with Olbermann, calling for his show being canceled and stuff like that. Olbermann loves all this, btw, and shows it whenever O'Reilly snaps. Well, the other day, evidently someone called in and said Olbermann on O'Reilly's show. Bill used the delay and got rid of the guy (fine, whatever) but then told the guy over the air that "we have your phone number and you might be hearing from Fox Security." Or words to that effect. He then said that Faux Security might call the locals.

    Watch the video. Funny stuff. Turns out that if anyone is in legal trouble, it is O'Reilly. If he really is sending out "hired goons" to talk to people who call in and say Olbermann, the dude might be in for a huge lawsuit.

    Couple of seriously bad things

    Sorry to spend Sunday on this stuff, but the Bush people really take the cake. I am not sure how much Bush himself is invested in this, but his administration has certainly taken a "no holds barred" approach to politics, well always, but certainly recently. Some might call it a "scorched earth" tactic. Some might even call it fascism. I know, I know, I have been very uncomfortable with labels. And I still am. But under fascism, we saw a couple of things. One was a a highly corporate economic policy, where the government and business interests are fused. We also saw the government "regulating officially-incoporated social, religious, economic, or popular organizations, effectively coopt[ing] their leadership or curcumscrib[ing] their ability to challenge state authority (Wikipedia)." Hmm. Remind anyone of anything?

    Well, this morning's news readings raised a couple of very disturbing trends. I am hopeful, really, that these represent the desperation of an administration that is even losing support in the south east (TPM reports that even in the SE, Bush is at 43%). But it disturbs me very much.

    But to the issues. Talking Points Memo has been watching an interesting trend where the Republicans have been planning to trot out active service men and women (in uniform) at partisan events. As Josh points out (and I would love to hear from people with experience in this area) this is a violation of military regulations and actually a very big deal. Our military, while it may have a large number of voting Republicans, is not the instrument of either party. To try and make it such is more reminiscent of South American dictatorships than American history.

    Issue two is perhaps worse. In this Washington Post story we learn that the Administration has taken an extra aggressive stance on the media and leaks. Sounds fine, you say?
    "There's a tone of gleeful relish in the way they talk about dragging reporters before grand juries, their appetite for withholding information, and the hints that reporters who look too hard into the public's business risk being branded traitors," said New York Times Executive Editor Bill Keller, in a statement responding to questions from The Washington Post. "I don't know how far action will follow rhetoric, but some days it sounds like the administration is declaring war at home on the values it professes to be promoting abroad."


    And remember, this is the same crowd who excused outing a CIA agent for political purposes. It is clear the only leak they really fear is one that undermines their facade of either morality or competence.

    Those who love to wave the flag need to remember what our system is about. That flag stands for something, and it isn't just the Star Spangled Banner or some vague notion of freedom. It represents a pretty unique form of government that has served us well for over 200 years. Flag wavers seem to forget that our free press and civilian leadership has separated us from the petty dictators of our neighbors as well as the truly viscious tyrants that we have fought against.

    On Bill Maher's show Friday night, someone from Vanity Fair said that if an American had left in 1999 or 2000 and came back today, they would be shocked to see what had happened to America. The country they left was now torturing poeple and defending it; prosecuting leaks that embarrass the administration, but using leaks to further their agenda; the administration had essentially allowed a major US city to disappear; almost entirely squandered American good will around the world, and on and on.

    My own disillusionment has been deep. People around me have defended torture and incompetence while telling me that Bush listens to God and so must be followed. Maher, who is notoriously hard on faith and religion, made a very good point about that, btw. He said that previous Presidents acknowledged God as a divine force who they believed in and hoped would like their actions. But they did what they could in this plane of existence. Bush, noted Maher, seemed to think that God had chosen him for president and told him to spread democracy. (DJ Hughley, btw, said that if he heard one more person tell him that Bush was a man of faith, he was going to "lose his mother-f***ing mind. Exactly).

    /rant

    March 3, 2006

    The Silence of Bush

    Hat tip to Anglican for this Slate discussion of the recently released video that shows our President receiving his briefing on Katrina. He doesn't ask questions--not a one. But Dickerson points out how Bush is portrayed by his supporters. We are supposed to overlook his inability to speak by understanding that he is not an intellectual, but a pragmatic Cowboy who cuts through the chase. We are supposed to not be troubled by the fact that he doesn't read the papers (though one suspects that had he read the papers, he would have learned about NO much, much earlier!) because, as Dickerson notes, he is supposed to be the master of delegating.

    The Silence of Bush - The president didn't ask a single question during the leaked Katrina briefing. Should that worry us? By John Dickerson: "We see the president all the time in public settings, giving speeches, shaking hands, looking concerned. But this footage is fascinating because it is the first video I can recall of the president at work in private. It's our chance to see how the image of the president painted by his allies compares with the actual man. And the result is somewhat alarming. Based on what I'd been told by White House aides over the years, I expected to see the president asking piercing questions that punctured the fog of the moment and inspired bold action. Bush's question-asking talents are a central tenet of the president's hagiography. He may not be much for details, say aides, but he can zero in on a weak spot in a briefing and ask out-of-the-box questions. I have been repeatedly told over the years that he once interrupted a briefing on national defense to pose a 30,000-foot stumper: What is the function of the Department of Defense?"


    And yet, not one question. Piercing or otherwise. Another interesting note coming out of this recent debacle. The White House immediately leaked transcripts of other briefings where Brownie says that the President is engaged. As Dickerson here notes, they don't have any of Bush actually being engaged, just Brown's second hand account. The same Brownie who defended the administration until he figured out that he was going to be sacrificed for the Bush legacy.

    Friday morning frustrations

    I see this week that the President's approval ratings have fallen to an all-time low of 34 percent. I am still a little amazed that 34 percent of the people would say he is doing a good job--though among the BushChristianRepubs, loyalty is absolute. Let's review:

    1) Videos released confirm what we knew last August--the President was disengaged and incompetent. He did know about the threat of flooding before hand. He is now saying that there was bad communication on the ground in NO, when clearly the communication problems were all inside the White House.

    2) Iraq is slowly descending into what critics warned of--what W's father wanted to avoid--in trying to talk our ignorant President out of this war. They said that the ethnic and religious rivalries would produce civil war. They said that our removal of a brutal, but effective regime, would destabalize the region. Forget all about WMD, or even the White House's claim that "no one anticipated outside insurgents." Just recognize that the very idea of forcing democracy on a people is ridiculous.

    3) Oh, and let's not forget that our Bible-waving president promised to act with both compassion and morality. Last I checked, he hasn't done either. Not only is he trying to pay for tax cuts on the backs of foster children and the disabled poor, but he has refused to act honorably or honestly. The Jack Abramoff scandal, Scooter Libby, and of course, the every day actions of Karl Rove effectively make this administration one of the more ruthless and corrupt in our history.

    ****

    Of course one of the main issues behind the President's support is the hope among conservatives that Bush would end abortion, and roll back any gains by gays and lesbians.

    Samuel Alito's nomination to the court certainly suggests they are getting what they want. Let me say that abortion is one of those trouble spots for me. I am not a supporter, but neither am I positive this is a role for the state.

    But this bothers me. James Dobson's arrogance is palpable, and the fact that a new Supreme Court justice plays to this man is not a good sign.

    ****

    As I end this rant, let me say that I am really not sure what to make of the entire Port deal. It is one of those issues that is causing the Pres problems among his own people, and certainly contributing to his poll slip. And I don't know that that is deserved. I am not reading that there is substantial threat to our security from this deal. I am concerned that the opposition to this deal is more racism on the American part. I think democrats have to be careful on this issue, but this is also really Bush's fault. When you frame things in black/white issues, there is very little room for gray. This is a gray area--as are most of our real issues--and Bush is ill equipped to explain a complex diplomatic issue. And his followers appear even less so.

    March 1, 2006

    Hey, Bush Supporters!!!!!

    Remember Katrina? Remember how the Prez told us a lie that no one could have anticipated the breach of the levees? Remember that? I remember many of you telling me to stop complaining until we dealt with the aftermath--then we would deal with the political.

    Well, the day is here. President Bush briefed before the storm hit and told that it would cause tremendous loss of life. He didn't ask a question (Kanye was right), and then later we find out that he didn't find out about the problems until 4 days later when Dan Bartlett made him a DVD of the coverage to watch on the plane.

    I would like an apology from Bush to the people affected for his incompetence. But since that is highly unlikely even from a 34% approval politician who doesn't admit mistakes, I would like an apology from the Bush supporters.

    Fascism

    Not Bush, though his administration scares me. The RIAA has already forced Aquarium Drunkard to take down the Ryan Adams links. Music that had never been released. No option to buy it legally. But the jack-booted thugs at RIAA have spoken.

    Whatever. And I don't know what happened to the autistic basketball player video. It wasn't there when we tried it yesterday.

    ******

    I received an email--one of those "pass-ons" that said that the flag-folding ceremony for military funerals was mostly religious/political symbolism. (Snopes debunks it here.)

    It has really depressed me in a way that surprised me. I am kind of used to it, but still.....

    The worst part was the fifth fold: "a tribute to our country, for in the words of Stephen Decatur, "Our Country, in dealing with other countries may she always be right; but it is still our country, right or wrong."

    Read the rest of it. I don't think I can any longer.

    Why does this stuff bother me?

    ******

    Music. My church.

    Before the fascists took it down, the Ryan Adams song "Cracks in a Photograph" captured my imagination. Flawed recording, but amazing guitar and vocals. Simple and just great. Couple of great lines:

    If I could tell you something, I would tell you it all
    But I don't know anything anymore


    and

    Ladies in the corner want to borrow your smokes
    As if returning 'em would do any good


    I know Adams is an ass, but he can certainly write.