May 31, 2006

The Sopranoization of American Conservatism

We have watched this happen with Bush. As wrote early this month, Bush seems to prefer people who scoff at the law. The comparisons to the mob seem to show up throughout this presidency, when critics suddenly find themselves without employment or forced to completely recant. I know I certainly thought that John Dilullio saw a horses head in his bed after he called the White House a bunch of "Mayberry Machiavellians." Dilullio recanted immediately.

Well, it turns out that it isn't just the Rove Republicans who operate with intimidation. Christian evangelicals do to. That's right, the people who like to pray publicly like to also intimidate those who step out of line. In April, Amy Sullivan wrote about a Christian activist named Brinson who after helping get out the vote for Bush in 04 became disenchanted with the RepubChristian merger.


Those who believe they are hearing from God don't like dissent.
"'They've been calling my house, threatening my wife,' said Dr Brinson. 'The first time was on a day when I was going up to Washington to speak to Republicans in Congress. Only they knew I'd be away from home. The Republicans were advised not to turn up to listen to me, so only three did so.'"

It doesn't stop with him. Rich Cizik, the vice president of the national Association of Evangelicals dared suggest that Christians have an obligation to their environment.
Mr Cizik, an ordained minister of the Evangelical Presbyterian church and otherwise impeccably conservative on social issues such as abortion, stem-cell research and homosexuality, believes concern for the environment arises from Biblical injunctions about the stewardship of the Earth. The movement's political leadership, however, sees the issue as a distraction from its main tactical priorities: getting more conservatives on the supreme court, banning gay marriages and overturning Roe v Wade, the 1973 abortion ruling.

"It is supposed to be counterproductive even to consider this. I guess they do not want to part company with the president. This is nothing more than political assassination. I may lose my job. Twenty-five church leaders asked me not to take a political position on this issue but I am a fighter," he said.
Nice, isn't it? Oh, and btw, James Dobson is one of those people putting pressure on Cizik. These aren't Christians. They are thugs.

But my favorite line:
Another Washington lobbyist on the religious right told the Guardian: "Rich is just being stupid on this issue. There may be a debate to be had but ... people can only sustain so many moral movements in their lifetime. Is God really going to let the Earth burn up?"

For some reason God can stop global warming, but has no control over abortion and people's sexual actions? What kind of idiotic theology is this?

Update It isn't just the wealthy and the powerful Dobsons who act this way:
Daily Kos: Taken out of my church by the religious right: "This all came to a head one afternoon when my wife had enough and called the pastor to express her frustration and ask to talk things out. She had been a member of the church for 25 years and had dedicated much of her life to serving the congregation there. The pastor's response to my wife's issues? He told her that he hoped the two of us found a good church home. I was immediately removed from my position as a Sunday School teacher, through an intermediary, and told that if my wife would not 'submit to my authority' and return to church that I was not welcome there any longer. During this time nobody from the church -- not the pastor, the youth pastor, or any of the deacons, would return my phone calls or e-mails. Sadly, my wife and I gave up and left. "

More thugs.

May 30, 2006

Republican mantra: blame the messenger

I believe this is from March, but Crooks and Liars has a great clip of Lara Logan addressing the ridiculous "blame the media" meme that the Republicans are running with. See, according to them, everything is going well in Iraq--it is just the media who is misreporting it.

Watch Lara Logan address those charges in this clip--and keep watching for the last part when she takes on Laura Ingram's "reporting from hotel balconies" comment. Logan points out that security dominates the daily lives of everyone in Iraq, so why wouldn't it dominate the media. They can't report on anything unless the military takes them to it. They are not allowed to report on positive improvements for fear that that will invite sabotage and reprisal.

Just yesterday, two CBS employees were killed--veterans who put their lives on the line everyday. Why is it that Republicans can blame everyone except the guy who ordered the invasion and then supported the failed policies of Rumsfeld?

More Christian sadism?

When I wrote this post over the weekend, I wondered if Katha Pollitt's statement: "Ah, Christian compassion! Christian sadism, more likely" was too harsh. But the evidence continues to mount that the same people who elected Bush and are the vocal representatives of conservative Christianity in this country--Dobson, D. James Kennedy, and Falwell--really prefer their own sense of self-righteousness to even basic common sense.

See, I was brought up Baptist. I remember watching Dobson video tapes in our church on adolescent sexuality. But I was also taught a bit of common sense. I understood that blind faith was not really faith. See, faith is for those things that we can't readily explain in our own limited way--or that was my understanding. Science was part of using our brains to explain those things within our grasp. Science couldn't explain our soul and couldn't explain prayer and couldn't explain heaven--and it didn't have to. Faith, on the other hand, didn't explain molecular process or thermodynamic bonds.

But now, faith is simply a substitute for ignoring inconvenient facts. Don't like evolution (what little you understand)? No problem, just invoke your faith. And that is fine at a personal level. Everyone has a right to ignore things they don't like. We can choose our own ignorance--and sometimes it may be a defense mechanism to address anxiety. But now it is public policy. I am still shaking my head that christians would prefer that women die of cancer than have sex. What in the world could ever lead someone to that conclusion?

Yet it is only one example of many. Take this story on abstience only policy.
"Crushing news out of Uganda last week. The Bush administration's $1 billion experiment in using abstinence messages as the basis of HIV prevention has born its first fruit: In a public speech on May 18, Uganda's AIDS Commissioner Kihumuro Apuuli announced that HIV infections have almost doubled in Uganda over the past two years, from 70,000 in 2003 to 130,000 in 2005. And despite this chilling wake-up call, Bush has empowered Christian right activists to continue to push their abstinence-only agenda at a UN Special Session on HIV/AIDS, to begin next week. According to a State Department email I obtained, the official U.S. delegation is stacked with some of the very people who contributed to the debacle in Uganda."

You can see where this makes my head spin and makes me want to call myself anything other than Christian to distance myself from policy like this, can't you? Christians prefer that more people die of AIDS than admit that EVERY STUDY OF THE PROBLEM firmly suggests a complex response. Abstience can certainly be part of that, as can monogamy. But addressing a public health problem like this requires more than quoting verses. But no, the people who lecture the rest of us on when life begins will ignore every bit of evidence that suggests that their policies endanger people. Or they treat us to pictures of Bush in prayer with Abraham Lincolnd and George Washington "laying on hands." The most rabid among them admit that they don't care if these policies work or not. They don't care if people die. They only care that their view of the Bible is the accepted one.

This really makes my head spin. I will be ok. I also understand that this doesn't represent so many of the Christian community. I also firmly believe that many conservatives don't share this viewpoint. But in the meantime, I think I will be just a little sick.

This isn't your father's church

My Yoga friend sent me this story about a mega church from hell. Locals refer to it as "Six Flags over Jesus" and as one commenter remarked, the building resembles a Fortune 500 company. Religion is big business. I am also reminded of the King of the Hill Episode where the Hill family attends their local mega. In the episode, the pastor is actually a pretty nice guy who wants to help people, but the church is scary big. With a tram.

This Kos story is about some people who visit this particular mega.
"Watching all of this was rather depressing. The church is so organized, proficient, and well funded that it seems hopeless for the rest of us to even try to resist them. They're kind of like The Borg from the Star Trek stories (You will be assimilated. Resistance is futile!). I don't mind that they think and act differently than me but I am extremely bothered by their repeated attempts to legislate their brand of morality in my community. As we left the sanctuary my partner intoned 'Our country is doomed'."

I agree. I think our country is doomed when church has become Six Flags. I think we are doomed especially when churches like this have become agents for the GOP. As one of the commentators notes, everyone should check out religious tv only to find out who the American fascists are--people like Rod Parsley, who is an open Christian Dominionist and major league asshole (hah, tribute to our President, eh?).

The description of this church makes me a little ill. It isn't church. It isn't good. I attended a wedding at a similar church and felt a little sick when I saw the money put into this complex. Anyway, in the bookstore, they see a
framed picture.

Not sure how anyone can look at that and tell me with a straight face that American Christians have fused their worship of God into some horrible worship of country. And that is one of the elements of fascism.

May 27, 2006

God's country prefers what?

Last week or so, James Dobson expressed anger at conservatives. Not, of course, for their tax cuts for the wealthy, or opposition to meaningful healthcare reform that might provide care to the poorest Americans. Nor, was it a threat to withdraw support if conservatives didn't do something to raise America from second to last in infant mortality--something that we can clearly do with better healthcare. Of course, it wasn't to threaten conservatives to tend to God's creation.

No, Dr. Dobson is threatening to withhold support unless "Congress does more to oppose same-sex marriage, obscenity and abortion."

That's right. No poverty. No environment.

And if that doesn't make you feel a vomit coming on, there is this story from the Nation about the religious right's opposition to a vaccine that could cut cervical cancer by 70%. They oppose it because they think it will make young girls promiscuous. As Katha Pollitt puts it: "Just as it's better for gays to get AIDS than use condoms, it's better for a woman to get cancer than have sex before marriage."

Unbelievable. This mindless adherence should not be called "faith."

But if you think this is an aberation, check out Michelle Goldberg's discussion of an abstinence only activist who speaks regularly for the religious right. she was asked if abstinence only programs "worked." In other words, is it effective? Does it stop kids from having sex and protect them from disease and unplanned pregnancy. Answer? She doesn't care.
"Later in the same talk, she explained further why what "works" isn't what's important--and gave some insight into what she means by "truth." "Let me tell you something, people of God, that is radical, and I can only say it here," she said. "AIDS is not the enemy. HPV and a hysterectomy at twenty is not the enemy. An unplanned pregnancy is not the enemy. My child believing that they can shake their fist in the face of a holy God and sin without consequence, and my child spending eternity separated from God, is the enemy. I will not teach my child that they can sin safely.""

You get that? She doesn't care that kids in abstinence only programs don't actually abstain and are simply less likely to use protection or practice sex safely--thereby making themselves more vulnerable to STDs and pregnancy. She doesn't care. Let them die if they refuse to follow her interpretation of God.

So we should not be surprised that people like her would be willing to allow women to get cancer. Pollitt again:
"What is it with these right-wing Christians? Faced with a choice between sex and death, they choose death every time. No sex ed or contraception for teens, no sex for the unwed, no condoms for gays, no abortion for anyone--even for that poor 13-year-old pregnant girl in a group home in Florida. I would really like to hear the persuasive argument that this middle-schooler with no home and no family would have been better off giving birth against her will, and that the State of Florida, which totally failed to keep her safe, should have been allowed, against its own laws, to compel this child to bear a child. She was too young to have sex, too young to know her own mind about abortion--but not too young to be forced onto the delivery table for one of the most painful experiences human beings endure, in which the risk of death for her was three times as great as in abortion.
Ah, Christian compassion! Christian sadism, more likely. It was the courts that showed humanity when they let the girl terminate her pregnancy."


May 26, 2006

Wow, Bush admits error--and his cult following not happy

Sort of. Or as Shaun calls it: "A sociopathic sort of contrition." The lessons learned, as Shaun points out, were along the lines of "other people" not understanding him. He did mention Abu Ghraib, but almost put it in the past tense, as if we had stopped all those kinds of things, and he didn't take personal responsibility for anything except the tough talk. If you watch the video, it seems very rehearsed--as if he is reading his approved mistakes off a cue card.

This morning, while surfing the tv hoping that Keith Olbermann addressed Pat Robertson's unbelievable claim that he could leg press 2,000 pounds, and came across Bill Bennett on CNN. Gambler Bill, evidently, has a radio show (poor conservatives, rarely represented in the media) and he told Soledad O'Brien how his listeners responded to Bush's press conference last night. He (and they) fawned over his remarks on the war. Loved it, loved it, loved it. Strong, blah blah blah.

The apology? Well, not so much. They didn't like him apologizing for a lack of sophistication, because, after all, sophistication is for the liberal elite--not the plain talking people like George and the idiots who listen to Bill Bennett! In fact, said the Billster, they would have preferred a response like, "my biggest mistake was assuming the media could accurately report on the war."

Wow. I just stared. Evidently there are still people who really love Bush and like that he acts stupid and governs even worse. They like the war, because they like war--evidently. Good Godly Presidents invade and shoot people. Apologizing for torture or speaking like an idiot is for liberal pansies.

To be fair, I certainly know how education often doesn't result in "good people" and understand very well that there are a great many "unsophisticated" and "uneducated" Americans who are amazing people and who make great contributions to our country. Many of them could be a much better President than Bush, in fact. And the problem with Bush is that he is a part of the elite. He got out of VN and into Harvard Business School because of his elite status. When first running for office, he raised money by simply mailing his mother's fucking Christmas Card list!!!

He should not be rewarded for dumbing down. And he certainly should not be rewarded for some of the worst policy this country has ever seen.

May 25, 2006

Is Jane Fonda a Dixie Chick?

Picked up the Dixie Chicks cd the other day. It is pretty good. Well written songs, well crafted and produced, it has grabbed my attention. For how long, we shall see.

But I am still mulling over the whole controversy. Think what you will of the Chicks musically, the fuss over their words "Just so you know, we're ashamed the president of the United States is from Texas" seems pretty tame by any political standard. I don't care if those words were uttered on "foreign soil," they are still tame--especially compared to many things that Republicans like Tom DeLay uttered about Clinton.

We had a friend over for dinner last weekend and she was reading the Jane Fonda bio. Fonda contends that the whole trip to Hanoi was an attempt to stop Americans from bombing farmers and was in no way intended to turn out like it did. She completely understands why people hated her visit and resented her posing with NVA and asserts that was completely manipulated by the NVA and certainly not intentional on her part.

I have relatives who still say her name with hatred. I remember a student who's father would turn around all Fonda's video boxes in the rental store.

I understand that--to a point. But remember that in the decades after the Civil War, former soldiers on both sides memorialized battle together. That is, people who shot at each other, who presumably killed friends and comrades in arms--all gathered together to recreate Pickett's charge.

Yet, hatred of someone like Jane Fonda persists some 40 years after the fact. Given the over-reaction by some country fans to the Dixie Chicks, one starts to wonder--is there a gender issue here? Did the Chicks cross some imaginary line? Had they been men, would anyone still care? Sure, some don't like Steve Earle, but I am not aware of any boycotts against him, and he is far more radical than the Chicks.

The New York Times has the best explanation so far, but it is not very convincing, nor does it make more sympathetic to country music fans.
"'Just so you know, we're ashamed the president of the United States is from Texas.' --snip--
This is a fight about the identity of country music. There's a contract that binds country singers to their fans, and the Dixie Chicks have broken it.
By the time Ms. Maines made her statement in 2003, many were already questioning the trio's commitment: would they leave their old supporters behind?For mistrustful listeners in search of an answer, Ms. Maines's comments provided one.
Forget about President Bush: she had used the words 'ashamed' and 'Texas' in the same sentence, and she had done it on foreign soil. She meant to insult the president, but some former fans thought they heard her insulting Texans, and therefore Southerners, and therefore nonmetropolitan listeners everywhere.
It seems to me that this kind of response just furthers the anti-South response of many.

Anyway, it is a good cd. FWIW

May 24, 2006

Talk To Action | They Prayed for the United States to "Come Back to God"

Hat tip to Nathan at Moral Contradictions for this great post from Talk to Action. As I have been saying, I really understand Karl Rove and Bush (to a degree) and even Tom DeLay. They are politicians who have figured out how to use people and our system to benefit them. They certainly have figured out how to use people of faith. So, it amazes me when good people continue to support someone like DeLay even when we learn about the unbelievable shell game he was running--preaching to churches on one hand, using his position to solicit huge donations from Russian interests (can you imagine that scandal--even post cold war--if it had been Clinton?) or as you will read here--people who run sweatshops and force women to have abortions.

"One man was perhaps the most powerful Congressmen in U.S. history, the other was his Chief of Staff. But Ed Buckham was more than just Tom DeLay's powerful Chief of Staff. He was also Tom DeLay's spiritual advisor. They were devoted to bringing the United States 'back to God.'
Time Magazine reported last March that Ed Buckham, 'a licensed nondenominational minister, was also DeLay's pastor... the two of them frequently prayed together privately, joining hands in DeLay's office.'

The unsuspecting couple served on the Board of the U.S. Family Network, a shell organization that raised millions of dollars for former Congressman Tom DeLay's Political Action Committee. Geeslin became suspicious when they received a gift of a million dollars from a Russian oil magnate.
Perhaps the most ironic gift was the half million dollars from the textile mills of the Mariana Islands, now in the limelight for their sweatshop-like working conditions for women. The gift was used to fight Clinton administration efforts to regulate the islands.
Pastor Geeslin was particularly upset by the fact that the textile mills sponsored forced abortion and forced prostitution - a hard pill for anyone to swallow let alone an evangelical pastor who believed he was helping bring the United States to God.
He said in a pained voice, 'I feel like we were used in a grand way.'

Ya think?

Maybe it is time for the grownups to stop nodding in appreciation whenever some idiot preacher says something like "praying for the United States to 'come back to God.'" Maybe it is time for the grownups to recognize that inserting faith into our political process has harmed both. It has created a situation where an amoral person like Tom DeLay can compare himself to Christ. It is a no-win situation. Good people can't really determine if a politician is a "true-believer" or just an idiot pandering to those who say they "vote by the book."

this is pretty funny

Tom Delay's legal fund's website features none other than Stephen Colbert as if, evidently, Delay thinks Colbert is a conservative? Or as Think Progress suggested--that DeLay is so desperate for supporters that he will turn to a fake conservative.

May 22, 2006

RLP has some words on the Da Vinci code

Real Live Preacher suggests the obvious--that the religious right is almost operating as an unpaid publicist for this film and book. And he also suggests that the church should be about doing church business, not obsessing about this film. If I were them, I would worry more about the consumer crap that fills the mega bible bookstores.

Oh wait, I already blogged about this.

May 21, 2006

this is funny--conservatives think bush might be lying, and they are shocked. Shocked, I say!

Jonathan Chait: The right discovers Bush's 'honesty' - Los Angeles Times

Dixie Chicks up or down? - Dixie Chicks in the line of fire - May 21, 2006: "Few other stations are playing Not Ready to Make Nice, and while it has done well on iTunes, it's quite possible that in singing about their anger at people who were already livid with them and were once their target audience, the Chicks have written their own ticket to the pop-culture glue factory.
Programmers say that even now a heartfelt apology could help set things right with listeners, but it's not happening."

Our local tv ran a promo suggesting that the Dixie Chicks were in some kind of public relations trouble again. So I googled them and found this CNN/Time story.

But looking around, I started wondering about this portrayal. For one thing, Itunes has their new song--the one that CNN said was tanking as a "4 minute f___-you to country music" ranked in the top 100 downloaded songs. Ok, that is Itunes. But then I found this in Rolling Stone that suggests the complete opposite. According to RS, the Chicks don't really care because this album is really more rock with country influences. In fact, the story suggests that it is country music that is scared--not the Chicks. They need the Dixie Chicks more than the Dixie Chicks need country.
"Hints like that have unnerved some in the country industry,
where sales were recently reported to be down about ten percent
from 2004. From an economic perspective, it's tough to argue with
an act that has sold more than 22 million copies of its first three
major-label studio albums, according to SoundScan.

'We need them,' says Clay Hunnicutt, Clear Channel's vice
president of country programming nationwide. 'Radio is always
looking for great artists with great music, great hits.'"

It kind of makes me wonder. The CNN/Time story seems highly annecdotal and seems to have already concluded that the Chicks album will bomb. I don't really care. I will buy it anyway. But it kind of reminds me of the mainstream media's response to Stephen Colbert's bit on the president. It's as if there are certain acceptable ways and people who can criticize Bush.

I don't know. It just seemed odd.

What free press?

These people are unbelievable.
"WASHINGTON - Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said Sunday he believes journalists can be prosecuted for publishing classified information, citing an obligation to national security.
The nation's top law enforcer also said the government will not hesitate to track telephone calls made by reporters as part of a criminal leak investigation, but officials would not do so routinely and randomly.
'There are some statutes on the book which, if you read the language carefully, would seem to indicate that that is a possibility,' Gonzales said, referring to prosecutions. 'We have an obligation to enforce those laws. We have an obligation to ensure that our national security is protected.'"

Translation--congress makes us do this. It isn't that we are incompetent and immoral, just that congress is forcing our hand. And of course it is reasonable to intimidate the press into playing by our rules.

I knew that Bush/Cheney disliked the media, but this is really unbelievable even for them. Question for conservatives out there? What happens when the press doesn't function? (I mean, besides an administration ramrodding a war?) Do you really think that conservatives are incorruptable?

The more I watch of this administration, the more I am convinced that conservatives lack even a basic understanding of our system.

A brave person

Perhaps not as brave as Colbert--in that she spoke to a largely sympathetic crowd. But it took some guts to rightly go after McCain. I have never completely trusted McCain, but have admired him at times for at least showing common sense and some ethics when he chastised the Repubs for their "swiftboating" tactics. Speaking to Falwell's university was horrible. Falwell consistently undermines our very republic and stands for everything that is wrong with Christianity today.
The Blog | Jean Rohe: Why I Spoke Up | The Huffington Post: "More importantly, I feel obligated to respond to one thing that McCain told the New York Times. 'I feel sorry for people living in a dull world where they can't listen to the views of others,' he said. This is just preposterous. Yes, McCain was undoubtedly shouted-out and heckled by people who were not politely absorbing his words so as to consider them fully from every angle. But what did he expect? We could've all printed out his speech and chanted it with him in chorus. Did he think that no one knew exactly what he was about to say? And it was precisely because we listen to the views of others, and because, as I said in my speech, we don't fear them, that we as a school were able to mount such a thorough and intelligent opposition to his presence. Ignorant, closed-minded people would not have been able to do what we did. We chose to be in New York for our years of higher education for the very reason that we would be challenged to listen to opposing viewpoints each and every day and to deal with that challenge in a nonviolent manner. We've gotten very good at listening to the views of others and learning how to also make our views heard, even when we don't have the power of national political office and the media on our side."

May 20, 2006

Wealth and Camels, oh my

From Sojo is this story that I forgot--about a Catholic principal who decided to cancel prom, mostly because he thought that the decadence was a poor symbol of Christian stewardship. Here, Sojo notes the wonderful way that Stephen Colbert took on this issue:
'Yeah, I know that this is a Catholic school and Jesus said it's easier for a camel to pass through an eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. But may I remind Brother Hoagland, our nation is rich enough to buy some really huge needles, with eyes you could drive a limo full of drunk prom kids through. ... So, remember kids, they may take away your prom ... but never let them take away your champagne dreams and your caviar wishes.'

Hoagland wrote in his letter, 'When Jesus said that it was very hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven, it shocked his hearers and it still shocks us.' "

Genius. Pure genius.

Even our best non-stick pans wear off eventually

Americans don't like President Bush personally much anymore, either:
"WASHINGTON - It's not just the way he's doing his job. Americans apparently don't like President Bush personally much anymore, either.

A drop in his personal popularity, as measured by several public polls, has shadowed the decline in Bush's job-approval ratings and weakened his political armor when he and his party need it most.

Losing that political protection - dubbed 'Teflon' when Ronald Reagan had it - is costing Bush what the late political scientist Richard Neustadt called the 'leeway' to survive hard times and maintain his grip on the nation's agenda. Without it, Bush is a more tempting target for political enemies. And members of his party in Congress are less inclined to stand with him.

'When he loses likeability, the president loses the benefit of the doubt,' said Dennis Goldford, a political scientist at Drake University in Iowa. 'That makes it much harder for him to steer.'"

Of course, his aides, such as the criminal Karl Rove maintains that Bush is still well-liked--they are just unhappy about the war. Wishful thinking on his criminal part. I think the squinting smirking dumbass act is starting to wear thin.

Of course, it never worked on me.

May 19, 2006

How did this guy get elected twice?

Crooks and Liars: "GREGORY: But they're just not unsettled, sir. They disapprove of the job you're doing.
BUSH: That's unsettled."


Had a good conversation over lunch yesterday with Anglican about the Senator from New York. Most Democrats that I know either don't like her or simply oppose her because they think she is unelectable. And I understand both arguments. I am not sure I like her either.

But I am starting to question this conventional wisdom about her as a Presidential candidate. A) she is scary smart, and after this President, I would love to have a bitchy smart President. B) we seem to forget that despite all the Clinton hatred that dominated the msm and talk radio, the man was at 70% after impeachment. Certainly, Hillary is not Bill, but you get my point. And C) the right has been pretty good at demonizing who ever we throw out there.

In 2000, they managed (with the help of the so-called liberal media) to completely distort Al Gore into a lying jerk. No doubt, Gore didn't fight back well, but as Bob Sommersby over at the Daily Howler demonstrated, the msm's willingness to spread GOP talking points that completely distorted Gore's points or statements.

In 2004, they pulled off what I thought was impossible. They turned John Kerry--decorated war veteran--into a anti-war hippie, while somehow managing to transform the lying, war dodging, drink-his-way-through-the-60s Bush into a freaking war hero! Again, Kerry didn't manage the campaign well, but we sometimes forget how close that election was. Depending on your faith in Diebold and the Ohio election. . . Well, we will just leave that.

My point is that we can nominate Jesus Christ for President as a Democrat and the Rove/Bush/Dobson machine will go after him. "Did you know he hangs out with lepers?" "I heard he would take away your extra bread and distribute it to the poor." "President Christ will embrace those migrants who are taking away our jobs." And, of course, "once we start turning the other cheek, the appeasement to evil will surrender our country to Al Qaeda."

We have to stop allowing the Repubs to dictate our choices. We have to assert our own ideas.

Bush world

Kevin Drum points to this story and wonders if anyone cares.
....As has been the case with other people deemed to be insufficiently loyal, the White House went fishing for dirt on the two station chiefs, including information on their political affiliations. "I spent 30 years at the CIA," said one former official, "and no one was ever interested in knowing whether I was a Republican or a Democrat. That changed with this administration. Now you have loyalty tests."

This administration has politicized areas that should not be politicized. Imagine what religious righters would have said about Clinton had his administration demanded absolute loyalty to work in the CIA. As someone said the other night on Colbert, Bush has prized loyalty over results. And yet, his "base" doesn't care.

What a fog this administration has placed across our political landscape. Helped in a great part by people like James Dobson, who most recently showed what his brand of Christianity really values. No, it isn't fighting poverty, or extending grace. No, it isn't saving God's creation. Nope. Got to stop the gays. And the preverts.

May 18, 2006

Secular government

Coming home today, I heard this on NPR about the killing of a judge in Turkey. As I understand it, the judges ruled against the Islamists and one of them decided to strike back.

The good news? Thousands of people protested in defense of their secular government. I suspect most Americans saw that protest as positive.

Yet, when we had our own judges killed here, people like Senator Cornyn (Texas) suggested that judges deserved this kind of violence if they were intent on ruling on the wrong side of the Schiavo case. In other words, when our religious extremists threaten judges, it is ok. When Islamic extremists threaten judges, it is a bad thing.

I am simply stunned that anyone watching the world would want to have more religious fundamentalism in our politics. Where in the world has that worked out? Where in history?

`Da Vinci Obsession'

Driving around town yesterday (yeah, on my birthday) I caught several Christian radio people just obsessing over Dan Brown's book. I thought Richard Land might pop a vein on his show. "Poppycock" he uttered at one point.

Ok, then. On Hank Hannigraf's show, Lee Strobel was equally apoplectic (even as he shilled for donations for Hank's show). Evidently, he was referring to some polling data that suggests that people are actually losing faith after reading the book.
`Da Vinci Code` protesters organize online: "These religious leaders are engaging in the media because they say they feel Dan Brown`s novel, 'The Da Vinci Code,' has already taken its toll on the faith of many individuals. Movieguide founder Ted Baehr, a panelist at the conference, cited statistics that linked a 4-percent loss of faith and a 10-percent change in beliefs toward Jesus Christ after reading the novel in France."

Imagine the chaos if more see the movie. "Historical accuracy" shout the angry Christians--seemingly welcoming this film because it serves to reinforce what they already tell themselves--that Christianity is under attack and they are being persecuted just as Jesus said they would.

Nevermind that passage has become a Biblical license to be an asshole, but this entire exchange reminded me of several things. Like the student who comes up to me and says if I don't get a "C" in your class, I flunk out. It always makes me feel bad, but then I remember that my class is just the last straw. Had they performed better in other classes, they could afford to flunk my class and still remain enrolled.

First, I doubt very much that the faith is in trouble because of this book. As Kevin Powell suggested, this film will come and go, and the faith will persist just fine, thank you very much. (Reminds me of Anglican's prescience that the Passion controversy would fade too (though we still have to see if Mel's recent broadside on Bush might cause some of his defenders to question their favorite bloody Christ film--afterall, criticism of Bush is a criticism of the God who elected him, eh?) . And for the most part, it has. I suspect that the Passion will still make the rounds in Church theaters (literally) every Easter, but that is probably it.)

Ok, so the Da Vinci Code isn't really making people lose their faith. If anything, perhaps, like my student, the film could be the last straw for some. Why?

Maybe it is the conservative church's insistence on:
  • ignoring science and choosing Intelligent Design or Creation over evolution.
  • like Dobson and so many others, deciding that environmentalist concerns--even global warming--are just the most recent cases of prioritizing animals and trees over people (evidently Dobson's science is so bad, he assumes that a warming globe won't harm people).
  • raising holy hell over homosexuals and the Ten Commandments, but strangely silent about poverty.
  • worse than that, tacit approval of torture.
  • the continued commercialization of the faith and the open embrace of greed and capitalism.
  • with that, the marketing bonanza of intellectually thin religiously themed books and the paucity of serious theology either in church bookstores, or the megabookstores. Perhaps it is no wonder that the "churched" don't really know anything about their faith.
  • And, along with Roy Moore's idol and the last point, a wonderfully ironic preference for pseudo American history that relies on a hack from Oral Roberts and ignores volume after volume of scholarly work on American religion. "Oh, but you say, we are concerned about historical accuracy." Yeah, except when the Passion characters speak latin or rely on mystic visions, or when David Barton (aka, the ORU Hack) produce poorly researched semi-GOP authored "histories" of American Christianity.


    PS, and one more thing. It is just a movie based on a novel!
  • Birthdays--indeed

    I remember my senior year in high school that it snowed on my birthday in Colorado. The one snow day that annoyed me since I had little school work to do and many friends to see.

    Birthdays are just weird. Yesterday's was fine. I played golf with a friend which was both enjoyable and annoying (kind of the definition of golf). I played well at times, but on 17 ended up in the sand trap for more than a few strokes. It must have seemed amusing for my playing partner who most likely just saw sand and heard the swearing. I wasn't amused.

    My parents called. My sister-in-law called with their family ritual of the entire family singing "Happy Birthday" to you on the phone. That was pretty funny this time.

    The comments from my last post made me appreciate my friends (blog and other--you know who you are). The contrast between Nicole's and Greek Shadow's comments made me feel like I was on a roller coaster (you're not as old as my parents :) -- you are too young to talk about age). Reminded me of a funny example this semester. One student was shocked (shocked, I say) to find out I listened to Arcade Fire AND Ryan Adams. Undoubtedly, she was expecting a lot less hip music to be playing on my Ipod. Feeling a little "hip" I ran into another student from another class. He asked what I was listening to, and I said "The New Pornographers" expecting a similar response. He said, and I quote, "I think MY FATHER LISTENS TO THEM." Sigh.

    SOF took me out to dinner to round off a pretty good day. Thanks for all your nice wishes.

    May 16, 2006

    Oh, and...

    Tomorrow I will be 41.

    Be nice.

    Huh? Bush reverses on spy oversight?

    Bush reverses stand on spy program oversight - Yahoo! News: "WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The White House, in an abrupt
    reversal, has agreed to let the full Senate and House of Representatives intelligence committees review President George W. Bush's domestic spying program, lawmakers said on Tuesday."

    Evidently God changed her mind.

    dammit, first newt, now crazy mel

    I have been on a long personal boycott of Mel Gibson since his callous manipulation surrounding the Passion film. I can't even watch "Chicken Run" which is delightful. He didn't help when he weighed in on the Terri Schiavo case last year.

    Now he criticizes Bush?
    Gibson inspired by 'fear-mongering' Bush - Yahoo! News UK: "Film star and director Mel Gibson has launched a scathing attack on US President George W Bush, comparing his leadership to the barbaric rulers of the Mayan civilisation in his new film Apocalypto.

    The epic, due for release later this year, captures the decline of the Maya kingdom and the slaughter of thousands of inhabitants as human sacrifices in a bid to save the nation from collapsing.
    Gibson reveals he used present day American politics as an inspiration, claiming the government callously plays on the nation's insecurities to maintain power.
    He tells British film magazine Hotdog, 'The fear-mongering we depict in the film reminds me of President Bush and his guys'."

    The definition of "legal"

    H/t to UBUB. As this column argues, the argument that immigration is just about following the law is rather hollow under this administration.

    Gonzales/Rodriguez: "Anti-immigrants like to bandy about the phrase: What is it about illegal you don't understand? And they go ballistic at the thought of "amnesty" -- at the thought of treating all human beings equally and humanely.Here's a question that should help clarify the meaning of illegal:
    In U.S. history, which of the following were not simply common practice, but legal?
    a) forced removal of native peoples and the theft of their lands.
    b) slavery, segregation & racial discrimination and the denial of voting rights to women.
    c) mass internment of U.S. citizens of Japanese descent and the mass repatriation of U.S. citizens of Mexican descent.

    If you answered yes to all of them, you would be correct. But let's fast forward to 2006. Which country asserts the right to:
    a) wage preemptive and permanent worldwide war against nations that do not pose an imminent threat?
    b) secretly and indefinitely detain suspects incommunicado, without charges at home and also outside of its legal system, while exempting its military from the international war crimes tribunal and claiming that the Geneva Conventions on war do not apply to this nation?
    c) spy on its own citizens outside of the law, and also asserts the right to use the military for domestic purposes?

    If you guessed the United States -- right again. The U.S. formulation of what is legal/illegal emanates from its military arsenal. (Since the 1950s, the United States has overthrown dozens of legitimate governments and propped up brutal military dictatorships). President Bush is but carrying on a tradition that says that whatever he says is legal, is legal, or else."

    Bush's America

    For the record, I watched his little speech last night. It was better than I expected, though I laughed aloud when he said that he was "asking congress to fund" something. Yeah, he can fund immigration pandering when his polls drop, but can't find funding for foster care or environmental regulation.

    One of the things that concerns me about Bush is how well he and Rove and Cheney have been able to constantly redefine what truth is. And they are so very effective at calling on American exceptionalism to shore up their troops, so they reaffirm the notion that America is unique and special and right. So, any fundamental alterations in how our system works go largely unnoticed by those who still believe Bush consults God for every major decision.

    For example, this ABC report suggesting that the administration is using phone numbers to root out leaks.
    "A senior federal law enforcement official tells ABC News the government is tracking the phone numbers we (Brian Ross and Richard Esposito) call in an effort to root out confidential sources.

    'It's time for you to get some new cell phones, quick,' the source told us in an in-person conversation."

    Remember, this same administration found it conveninent to out a CIA agent who was working to stop nuclear proliferation to fucking Iran. That's right, they used a leak to send a political version of a horses head to a critic of the war. But when their own inhumanity is exposed--when we find out about torture, or gulags, or wiretapping--those leaks must be exposed, And along the way, why not wipe out the free press? Make sure that those few who actually do reporting are so intimidated or imprisoned that the media becomes exactly what Colbert suggested--people who write down what the President says and prints it.

    My experience with Americans on this suggests that they will look at this and A) assume that Clinton must have done just as bad, and B) decide that the news media is so biased against conservatives and Christians that it needs to be intimidated, or C) just not care because America is still the greatest country where you can be free....

    One more note in this rant. I am a big fan of the Law & Order, so have picked up a few of the legalese phrases. One of my favorites is the "fruit of the poisonous tree," which means evidence that may have been gathered legally, but was found because of some illegal search or other violation. In other words, it is finding the bloody glove with OJ's DNA, but having to throw it out because they tortured a guy to find out where the glove was.

    From a conservative standpoint--and I mean a truly conservative standpoint where you actually believe the Constitution--all of these actions are very dangerous because they ultimately undermine the very judicial system that makes us unique. If this administration was not so arrogant, it might recognize that dotting a few i's and crossing a few t's to ensure oversight and legitimacy could go a long way for them politically and for us systemically. The Data mining of phone records might be a great idea, but it should not be a unilateral decision by King George. Evesdropping on terrorists calling from Yemen is a great idea, but not without some oversight. How do we know, given what we know, that Bush and Rove haven't already used this technology to spy on political opponents?

    Democracy is a fragile thing. It is worth nurturing and protecting. Bush isn't doing that. In fact, he has written over 750 times that he doesn't have to protect and nurture that--he is above the law. He is bigger than democracy. He answers only to God.

    May 15, 2006

    Our President's military

    It has always amazed me that military people continue to support Bush. I have nothing against the military and have a great respect for people who serve, but their willingness to ignore Bush's anti-military stance bothers me. Here are just a few examples of how this President and Rummy have completely undermined the very military they use for political power.
    The Washington Monthly points to a Wall Street Journal article where a retired General points out how ridiculous the President's lie of "if the Generals want more troops, we will give them more troops."
    "Today Gen. Batiste says the encounter left him furious with Mr. Rumsfeld. 'We had fought and argued about these issues internally ad nauseam and a decision had been made ... . You get what you get and do the best you can. I am not going to air our dirty laundry in public. That is our culture,' he says. 'It was an outrageous question and he knew I couldn't give him an honest answer in a public forum. I felt as though I had been used politically.'"

    Or as we await our President's obvious political ploy to use national guard troops to guard the border, this story that the Army is so strapped that they are sending out troops who are either suicidal or completely emotionally and mentally unstable. That isn't right.

    This morning, I listened to Diane Rheme on my way home from Yoga. A guy from the national guard was talking about our President's military policy. He really hates (as do I) the way that this President and Cheney sold this war as an easy venture. He was critical of those who want to withdraw, but also noted that there should be alternatives. I really understand that. As horrified as I have been with the implementation of this war, I am afraid that complete withdrawal will have far more negative consequences than staying. But staying should be with a serious plan. He said something about locking 10 of the brightest minds in a room until they come up with some ideas. As he said, "America should have more choices than George W. Bush or Cindy Sheehan."

    May 14, 2006

    OU and OSU agree

    The Simpsons episode tonight addressed the teaching of creation "science." Unfortunately, the public dialogue on this subject has been lacking and I am very glad that the Zoology departments from OU and OSU have spoken out about evolution being a fact. Our society likes to create false opposites under the guise of fairness (as Norman's own state representative illustrates in this story) where any alternative explanation is an equally valid explanation.
    The Norman Transcript - 'Where we stand': "Ola Fincke, zoology professor who drew up the original draft of the statement, said calling evolution a "fact" probably surprises many in the public. However, she said it is the sole explanation for organism creation that can be tested, but has not been proven wrong.

    "There is no valid alternative to evolution," Fincke said."

    Presenting Intelligent Design or Creation as science is intellectually dishonest and misleading. Intelligent Design is about faith. Evolution is about science. I don't see what is so difficult about that.

    May 13, 2006

    Finally, a sane word on the ACLU

    Stephen Carter takes on the conservative christian mantra of demonizing the ACLU. Along the way, there are a few challenging words for liberals like myself. Good reminders.

    The ACLU Is Not Evil - Christianity Today Magazine: "I spend most of my driving time nowadays listening to Christian radio. Most of what I hear is edifying and uplifting. But now and then a genuine clunker comes along, often in the form of a politically active Christian who derides anyone who disagrees with his version of biblical wisdom. One of the nastiest words, at least for many radio preachers, seems to be liberal.

    Now, I have often been described as a liberal myself--although rarely by liberals. Once, after I gave a talk at a small Christian college in the Bible Belt, a concerned student carrying one of my books approached me. He had enjoyed the lecture, he assured me, but something in my book troubled him. He flipped to a page on which I had complimented something President Bill Clinton had said. The student then turned to me, the look of worry still on his face, and told me I must have written this because I was, really, a liberal. This student believed it was impossible for the good guys--the way he said liberal told me that liberals were not among them--to say anything positive about President Clinton.

    The host of a popular syndicated Christian radio program once told me that he had received death threats--not just a few, but a lot--during the Clinton administration. His sin? Reminding listeners of their obligation to pray for those God had placed in positions of authority, whether or not they happened to agree with their policies."

    May 12, 2006

    Dammit. When I agree with these guys, what does that mean?

    Joe Scarborough on the NSA data mining (even though the Prez assured it wasn't data mining--it is most definately data mining) : "But no less so the conservatives who have fought national ID cards and gun registration for years out of fear of big government."

    And Newt? Are you kidding me?

    Newt Gingrich: "I'm not going to defend the indefensible. The Bush administration has an obligation to level with the American people. And I'm prepared to defend a very aggressive anti-terrorist campaign, and I'm prepared to defend the idea that the government ought to know who's making the calls, as long as that information is only used against terrorists, and as long as the Congress knows that it's underway.
    But I don't think the way they've handled this can be defended by reasonable people. It is sloppy. It is contradictory, and frankly for normal Americans, it makes no sense to listen to these three totally different explanations."

    Protest music

    A friend gave me Neil Young's album yesterday. It isn't too bad. Some good songs. The one that everyone has been talking about is the one calling for the impeachment of the president. Musically it is ok. The lyrics are better.

    Neil Young Let's Impeach the President

    Let's impeach the president for lyin'
    Misleading our country into war
    Abusing all the power that we gave him
    And shipping all our money out the door

    Who's the man who hired all the criminals
    The white house shadows who hide behind closed doors
    And bend the facts to fit with their new story
    Of why we have to send out men to war

    Let's impeach the president for spyin'
    On citizens inside their own homes
    Breaking every law in the country
    By tapping our computers and telephones

    What is Al Queda blew up the levees
    Would New Orleans have been safer that way?
    Sheltered by our government's protection
    Or was someone just not home that day?


    Let's impeach the president for hijacking
    Our religion and using it to get elected
    Dividing our country into colors
    And still leaving black people neglected

    Thank God he's crackin' down on steroids
    Since he sold his old baseball team
    There's lots of people lookin' at big trouble
    But of course the president is clean

    Thank God
    Thank God
    Thank God
    Thank God...

    Christian Nationalism's own Michelle Goldberg has written a book on Christian reconstructionism. You can read an excerpt at Salon after you watch an ad. What bothers me is that I know many, many conservative Christians who don't believe this stuff. But they defend Tim Lahaye, Delay and even Falwell and seem to be unaware of the kinds of programs these people promote. They speak highly of Roy Moore, but don't understand what kind of racist he is.

    Anyway. Read on, if you dare:
    "Those who don't have a year to spare can attend one of more than a dozen Worldview Weekend conferences held every year in churches nationwide. Popular speakers include the revisionist Christian nationalist historian David Barton, David Limbaugh (Rush's born-again brother), and evangelical former sitcom star Kirk Cameron. In 2003, Tom DeLay was a featured speaker at a Worldview Weekend at Rick Scarborough's former church in Pearland, Texas. He told the crowd, 'Only Christianity offers a comprehensive worldview that covers all areas of life and thought, every aspect of creation. Only Christianity offers a way to live in response to the realities that we find in this world. Only Christianity.'

    Speaking to outsiders, most Christian nationalists say they're simply responding to anti-Christian persecution. They say that secularism is itself a religion, one unfairly imposed on them. They say they're the victims in the culture wars. But Christian nationalist ideologues don't want equality, they want dominance. In his book 'The Changing of the Guard: Biblical Principles for Political Action,' George Grant, former executive director of D. James Kennedy's Coral Ridge Ministries, wrote:

    'Christians have an obligation, a mandate, a commission, a holy responsibility to reclaim the land for Jesus Christ -- to have dominion in civil structures, just as in every other aspect of life and godliness.
    "But it is dominion we are after.
    Not just a voice.
    It is dominion we are after. Not just influence.
    It is dominion we are after. Not just equal time.
    It is dominion we are after.
    World conquest. That's what Christ has commissioned us to accomplish. We must win the world with the power of the Gospel. And we must never settle for anything less...
    Thus, Christian politics has as its primary intent the conquest of the land -- of men, families, institutions, bureaucracies, courts, and governments for the Kingdom of Christ.'"

    May 11, 2006

    Josh Marshall says Bush down to 29%

    by comparison, during impeachment much demonized Clinton was

    "1/1998 Approve 58%
    Disapprove 29%"

    This needs to stop

    I hope I am over-reacting to this NSA database issue. I hope that the Bush supporters are right. But since we have no hearings or investigations by our congress, we really don't know, do we? The same people who assured us that they knew where the wmd were and that we would be greeted as liberators want us to just trust them.

    [BTW, I just realized one very personal area where I have seen this shit before. My church split after I left college. It split because they had called a real dirt bag as a pastor. A real idiot. Not only was he one of the worst preachers I ever heard, he was, by all accounts a wife abuser. Many people in that church recognized they had made a huge error in calling him. But a good half of the church felt that since God had "led" them to call him, who were they to question God? It feels like a good many Americans feel the same way about Bush. Perhaps this is just one of the reasons I am skeptical when someone assures me they know what God believes on any given subject. But as bad as it was for a church, it is horrible for a country.]

    Ok, I know I have a relatively small audience here. But some of you also blog and know other people. I am asking that we all take a few minutes and call our representatives. I just did. Better yet, since both senators didn't even want to know my name, take 5-10 minutes and write a hand-written note asking for some investigation into this President. I don't care if you are Republican or Democrat, we all live under a system of laws, and we all know that we elect a president not a king.

    With all respect, ask that we simply exercise checks and balances.

    Bush prefers criminals

    Watched Olbermann last night and listened to constitutional law professor Jonathan Turley discussing our system. He suggests that our checks and balances have deteriorated under this presidency and this congress--especially this congress because they refuse to even investigate this president.
    "Turley: Well, first of all this President's theory of his power I think is now so extreme that it's unprecedented. He believes that he has the inherent authority to violate federal law. He has said that. Not just the signing statements and the infamous torture memo-that Alberto Gonzales signed. It was stated that he could in some circumstances order federal officials to violate federal law and this is consistent across the board with this President. Frankly, I'm not too sure what he thought he was swearing to when he took the oath of office to uphold the Constitution and our laws. I've never seen a President who is so uncomfortable in his constitutional skin."

    So we have a president who seems to scoff at the law. Turley compares Bush to the mob in that he seems to reward law breakers.
    "Despite the vocal surprise, Hayden's nomination is actually all too predictable. While alleged violations of federal laws have long been viewed as a negative resume item, it doesn't appear to be a problem for Bush's inner circle. From his very first appointments, Bush appeared inclined toward officials who appear willing to treat the law as a mere technicality."

    And for those who continue to say this is nothing, take a look at this story: NSA has massive database of Americans' phone calls
    "The National Security Agency has been secretly collecting the phone call records of tens of millions of Americans, using data provided by AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth, people with direct knowledge of the arrangement told USA TODAY.
    The NSA program reaches into homes and businesses across the nation by amassing information about the calls of ordinary Americans %u2014 most of whom aren't suspected of any crime. This program does not involve the NSA listening to or recording conversations. But the spy agency is using the data to analyze calling patterns in an effort to detect terrorist activity, sources said in separate interviews."

    May 10, 2006

    Motherhood in America; and other items of the day.

    I think this is an important issue--and one that receives political attention but not political action. I posted a link to the Manifesto story the other day, but here Ruth Rosen addresses it with even more context. First, she clearly reaffirms what we need to not forget--that despite all the language of family values and our adoration of motherhood, we as a country do not adequately help either mothers or children--especially if they are in the poor category.

    But Rosen also does a nice little recap of the history of Mother's day:
    "Let me take you on a brief tour of this holiday's history. Mother’s Day began as a day to commemorate women’s public activism, not as the celebration of one individual mother’s devotion to her own family. In 1858, Anna Reeve Jarvis organized Mother’s Work Days in West Virginia. Her immediate goal was to improve sanitation in Appalachian communities."


    Speaking of a divide between our rhetoric and reality, evidently America is second to last in infant mortality among industrial nations: "CHICAGO - America may be the world's superpower, but its survival rate for newborn babies ranks near the bottom among modern nations, better only than Latvia."


    Much ink and cyberprint has been devoted to the problems of the Religious right--some of that here at Streak's blog. (Just a little). But Andrew Sullivan presents a very thoughtful critique of the problem here
    "What to do about it? The worst response, I think, would be to construct something called the religious left. Many of us who are Christians and not supportive of the religious right are not on the left either. In fact, we are opposed to any politicization of the Gospels by any party, Democratic or Republican, by partisan black churches or partisan white ones. 'My kingdom is not of this world,' Jesus insisted. What part of that do we not understand?"


    So, we find out that our HUD secretary refused a contract to someone who was not a Bush supporter. And this isn't speculation. The man admitted it.

    Talking Points Memo: by Joshua Micah Marshall May 9, 2006 03:39 PM: "Just as interesting was Jackson's follow-on statement in which shows his understanding of how government contracting works: political supporters get contracts so they can pump a percentage of the profits back into the political party. Standard machine politics, at best. Organized bribery, at worst. And whatever you want to call it, the guiding principle of all contracting and government spending in the second Bush administration.

    Said Jackson: 'He didn't get the contract. Why should I reward someone who doesn't like the president, so they can use funds to try to campaign against the president? Logic says they don't get the contract. That's the way I believe.'"

    Update: The HUD office now says that he wasn't being serious--that he was speaking hypothetical. Josh Marshall has a post suggesting that the scenario Jackson described suggests that the contract offer broke down when possibly Jackson asked the recipient for a campaign contribution. Otherwise, how would this subject even come up?


    Saw a streaming video of the Dixie Chicks at Amazon with some of one of their other songs. They sound good, and I am looking forward to this cd. Last week I picked up Alejandro Escovedo's first studio album in some 6 years and like it very much.

    Question: has anyone here purchased the Neil Young protest album? I know, I know, I can hear it streaming at his site, but that is inconvenient for me. I just want to know if it is worth buying beyond the voting with my feet/dollars.


    I will return to a couple of subjects as I finish up some grading. The mock-interview with Dobson came out of some thinking about how conservatives might view the sovereignty of God. I am also working on a followup to the Springsteen post and my Oklahoma roots.

    May 9, 2006

    My interview with Dobson

    Streak sits down with James Dobson.

    S: Greetings, Mr. Dobson.

    D: That's "Doctor" Dobson. And greetings, liberal blogging dog.

    S: Why did you decide to sit down with me, Doc?

    D: I have to get something off my chest. It is time for me to come out of the closet.

    S: Do you mean--?

    D: That's right, I am rich and powerful.

    S: But we knew that sir.

    D: You may have assumed, but I am tired of hiding my economic orientation. I was born to be rich and powerful and I am not going to pretend that I wasn't.

    S: So, are you saying that wealth is biologically determined?

    D: I am saying that God determines (in his wisdom) who is rich and who is poor. I came here to speak with you because it is the liberal blogging dogs who attack me so vociferously for my wealth and power. It is a perverted form of bigotry and I am fighting back. I am tired of being accused of sinning just because I live with more money than you will ever see and can call the President on the phone.

    S: Some do think that the Bible is hard on wealth. What do you say to that?

    D: All of those passages must be seen in a certain context. The Bible was written in a time where the richest were evil and anti-Christian. Of course, Jesus gave them a hard time. But we know more about wealth now. We know more about people.

    S: Hmm

    D: We have learned from creation scientists that God "creates" things--they don't just happen. Therefore, God decided that some can be wealth and others can't. Kind of like deciding skin color. God just chose that on his own.

    S: Or like being Gay?

    D: No, liberal blogging dog. Of course people choose to be gay. Creation scientists have shown that too. And the Bible is clear that is wrong.

    S: So, you see yourself as a leader of this persecuted group and you have an agenda to speak out?

    D: Exactly. There have even been people within churches who used to criticize wealth as if people chose their economic orientation. Fortunately, not only have most conservative churches started embracing wealth, but they are wealthy themselves. Which really proves us right.

    S: So, wealthy people have had a tough time? And need their own civil rights movement, if you will?

    D: Of course. It has been very tough for my people throughout history. The French Revolution. [Winces in pain] They killed some of us then. Took away our property. Even here in America there have been those who like to demonize us. Every election cycle, we become easy targets for candidates trying to scare liberals to the polls.

    S: But we shouldn't be afraid?

    D: Of course not. Rich people are just like you and me. Kind of. They are your neighbors and friends. Well. Not really. Unless you are already wealthy. But we are normal people, trying to buy second and third houses and drive in the largest cars we can afford.

    S: What about fears that you are trying to recruit children?

    D: That is just ridiculous. Of course, we try to encourage those who have been annointed by God to enjoy their wealth. But if you are born poor, you will stay there. No recruiting will change that. [chuckles]

    People just need to accept us for who we are. [fights back tears] But we shall overcome. Someday. [Raises fist above his head] But for now we need to be bold: We're Rich and we're here. Get used to it!

    May 6, 2006

    More music

    Today, we picked up Bruce Springsteen's We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions: Music: Bruce Springsteen and have spent a few hours listening and watching the dvd portion.

    At times, with the "Erie Canal," or the old spiritual, "O Mary Don't you Weep" it is as good as it gets. When he plays "Shenandoah" it is hard not to weep openly.

    On a personal note, I had a family connection listening to Bruce's version of "My Oklahoma Home." The Streak's came through Arkansas and Oklahoma over a hundred years ago. They settled in the strip area and spread out to cause problems throughout Oklahoma. Returning here has a familiar sense. Listening to the music of Oklahoma's past also has a familiar sense.

    These are my people. This is my history. This is my past. Good and bad.

    Anyway. Music has that ability to connect us all to the past, present and the spiritual.
    O Mary, Don't You Weep

    O Mary, don't you weep, don't you mourn
    O Mary, don't you weep, don't you mourn
    Pharaoh's army get drownded
    O Mary, don't you weep

    Well Mary wore 3 links of chain
    on every link was a Jesus' name
    Pharaoh's army got drownded
    O Mary don't you weep

    Well Moses stood on the Red Sea shore
    And smote' the water with a two by four
    Pharaoh's army got drownded
    O Mary don't you weep

    We shall overcome. Indeed.

    Family values

    As our friend MS noted, being a mother in America is not necessarily an easy venture. For all the pandering about family values and obsession with children, the reality is that if you aren't middle class or above, a pregnancy is a huge challenge to your economic world.

    Help America's Mothers and Families Now! | Moms Rising

    May 5, 2006

    Friday music

    A few songs on my walk into school:

    1) Gemma Hayes "Work to a Calm"
    2) Cowboy Junkies, "Misguided Angel (live)"
    3) Jayhawks, "In my wildest Dreams"
    4) Nickel Creek, "Best of Luck"
    5) New Pornographers, "Use It"
    6) Alejandro Escovedo, "Pissed off 2 AM"
    7) Ted Leo and the Pharmacists, "The Angel's Share"

    Friday morning roundup

    As everyone knows, I am sure, Zacarias Moussaoui received a life sentence instead of the death penalty. I was shocked at this verdict, since I assumed that the jury would jump at the chance to execute someone who wanted to take credit for part of 9-11. America, at times, seems to have a real bloodlust, and seems to enjoy capital punishment. But at least three jurors proved me wrong, and I think this verdict is a victory for our American way of life. As this columnist suggested:

    The U.S. won the more important victory. Jurors showed that,
    in a civilized nation where law reigns over savagery, the
    government must prove to 12 people that, beyond a reasonable
    doubt, the accused should die.
    They demonstrated that citizens will spend days sifting
    through evidence and examining their consciences to reach the
    right decision. They showed that the urge for vengeance doesn't
    always trump a rational assessment of the evidence.

    That is a good thing. I always thought that our response to Bin Laden and his thugs had to be that we valued our system and our laws and our moral values more than we hated them. Let's hope this is the start of a good conversation on what we stand for.


    Later in that same piece, Woolner suggests that the government went after Moussaoui, not because they had the best case against him, but because the other suspects had been tortured and that would come out in a public trial.

    When you think of the damage this administration has done to America, it boggles the mind. I am sure this isn't the first time that Americans tortured people and couldn't use it at trial. But it does appear to be the first time that an administration has tried to justify and allow torture.


    One more thing on the death penalty. I am sure there are some lamenting that Moussaoui will live out his life in prison, and they probably think I am some kind of bleeding heart liberal who cares more for this idiot's life than I do for those who died in 9-11. They couldn't be more wrong. I just know that killing this idiot won't help. Not only that, but I also understand that America has forgotten a pretty ancient punishment, that in its own way, is far more powerful--shunning.

    In this case, we had the choice between what Bush wanted which would have made Moussaoui a martyr and well-known throughout the terrorist world in a way that he probably never was or could have been as a terrorist, or we can have him languish in jail and push him out of our minds. We have the option and the choice to forget about him and not talk about him. And he will be aware of that. That is pretty strong punishment, if you ask me.


    Evidently, even conservatives are starting to dislike Bush. Well, at least 45 percent of them. But that is certainly not good news for the man.
    Just 33 percent of the public approves of Bush's job performance, the lowest of his presidency. That compares with 36 percent approval in early April. Forty-five percent of self-described conservatives now disapprove of the president.

    May 4, 2006

    National Day of Funk

    Admittedly, Thursday's have been down days for me this year. Down in multiple ways--a day of rest and sometimes a day of brooding introspection. Today was both. I drove around for some errands and flipped through the stations. Happened across Dobson and heard him interviewing Henry Blackaby, who you might recall from one of my earlier rants on this. I have to run to a reception, so will keep this brief.

    But through this interview and all the other crap on religious radio ran the theme that God really prefers Americans and has through our history. This day of prayer is not about others, but about us. Replete were references to God Bless America and calls to pray for the President "no matter what your political beliefs are." Not once in this admittedly small sample did I ever hear a voice of concern for our putative enemies or even the less fortunate around the world. Not once. Oh, they love the passages from the OT where God does some smiting, but when some radical starts talking about peace and enemies, the Bible "needs to be read in context."
    From Matthew: "'You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' 44But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?"

    God Bless America? No. May God bless us all.

    Sin: cont.

    Thanks to Anglican for this, but here is a great little example of how the ten commandments have become more weapon than shared confession.

    Short version: Stigler, Oklahoma erects ten commandments monument on their courthouse at the behest of a local pastor. Monument not only seems like an idol, but misspells adultery for number 7.

    The Friar (blog owner) extends a lot of grace to the pastor for his belief that God called him to do this and that his motives were essentially good. I will leave that up to him. But this does expose a clear problem with the current ten commandment controversy.

    The Christians in Stigler don't seem to have noticed the error, because the ten commandments statue/monument/idol is not for them. Much like the school prayer debate, nothing is stopping the concerned Christians from reading the commandments, or praying, or studying the Bible. It seems clear that their intent is to make others do these things.

    And that is the problem.

    May 2, 2006

    America worship?

    Perhaps I am alone on this, but I find the entire hubbub over the National Anthem in Spanish a trivial and unimportant event. Not only that, but it reminds me of the flag worship waving that occurs during elections, flag burning debates, and periods of zenophobia.

    People act as if our flag, pledge and anthem are the foundations of our culture. They aren't. Not even close. They are simple (and sometimes powerful) symbols of our country. But the foundation is our Constitution that supports free speech, assembly, religious practice, and the rule of law (last part not applicable in Bush America). Our constitution is the envy of many, and clearly a brilliant document. The flag? Manufactured in China and other places by exploited labor. The anthem? A former drinking song and musically marginal piece (imho). Not trivial, but not the point either. Our system is what separates us, not our damn anthem. Hell, if we have to compete there, the French anthem beats ours hands-down.

    This symbol worship always scares me as it has fascist overtones. After all, it certainly doesn't require a democratic system to produce flag-waving, nation-chanting crowds of people.

    Let's keep our eye on the ball. Our governmental system is worth protecting. Get mad about Bush ignoring 750 laws that he signed. Get mad that the NSA is wiretapping people without warrants. Someone singing the National Anthem in Spanish shouldn't even make the news.

    Update. Check the comments. Mary and I both added links to show that a) this is far from the first time that the National Anthem has been sung in Spanish. The government (ours) commissioned just such a thing in 1919, and Bush himself had the anthem sung at his first inaugural and sang it himself one time--yes, in Spanish. Seriously, I am starting to wonder if these guys can tell the truth at all.

    Bush angry, says Colbert is a doody head

    Ok, not really. But Shakespeare's Sister links to a US News story that says the President was angered by a comedy routine that accurately reflects his presidency.
    "Comedy Central star Stephen Colbert's biting routine at the White House Correspondents Association dinner won a rare silent protest from Bush aides and supporters Saturday when several independently left before he finished.'Colbert crossed the line,' said one top Bush aide, who rushed out of the hotel as soon as Colbert finished. Another said that the president was visibly angered by the sharp lines that kept coming.'I've been there before, and I can see that he is [angry],' said a former top aide. 'He's got that look that he's ready to blow.'"

    Again, I would have some sympathy but I still remember just how arrogant this President and his people were when their support numbers were in the 70s. What goes around comes around. He who sows the wind, reaps the whirlwind.

    May 1, 2006

    More on Colbert's satire

    The mainstream media, long accused of a liberal bias, seems to have little to say about Colbert's sendup of Bill O'Reilly. If they were truly liberal, they might cover this. Even if you think he bombed, and by comedic standards he did considering that his audience wasn't amused, then it is still news. Yet, most chose to avoid it or dismiss it.

    What follows is the best explanation of this I have seen. And a reminder that in the middle of this non-event, we have the Boston Globe detailing 750 times where the President has asserted that he is above the law. That should be our main story.

    Chris Durang: Ignoring Colbert, Part Two - Yahoo! News: "The media's ignoring Colbert's effect at the White House Correspondents Dinner is a very clear example of what others have called the media's penchant for buying into the conservative/rightwing 'narrative.'

    In this instance, the 'narrative' is that President Bush, for all his missteps, has a darling sense of humor and is a real regular guy, able to poke delightful fun at himself and his penchant for mis-using and mispronouncing words.

    Who cares if he lied to start a war? (Or chose to ignore all contrary opinion, which as far as war-starting goes, is pretty crummy.) Who cares if he declares he's above the law, and according to the Boston Globe yesterday there are something like 750 laws he's decided don't apply to him as 'Commander-in-Chief'?

    The Globe article's first sentence: 'President Bush has quietly claimed the authority to disobey more than 750 laws enacted since he took office, asserting that he has the power to set aside any statute passed by Congress when it conflicts with his interpretation of the Constitution.'

    If the President doesn't obey the law, what the heck is he? He's a dictator in a coup, I think -- but no matter, according to the media, he's A-DOR-ABLE!"

    Update: A few more links:

    Thank You Stephen Colbert.
    Whiskey Bar: American Nightmarez
    Crooks and Liars
    SFGate: Culture Blog! : Stephen Colbert Has Brass Cojones


    I am not Catholic, but I have been mulling over this whole idea of "sin" for sometime. I argued that conservative Christians have thrown over the Catholic idea of the 7 Deadly Sins (you know, greed, envy, wrath, pride, gluttony, sloth, lust) in favor of the 10 Commandments (Thou shall not...). The reason seemed apparent to me. The more catholic idea of sin resonated with every last person. We all grapple with the above sins--hell our entire advertising industry is based on most of them. Wait,... all. You know--the ads that encourage you to covet your neighbor's wife, car, house, income if they aren't encouraging you to consume to be more leisurely or beautiful...

    But the 10 Commandments are relatively easy for the average Christian--at least how the society has internalized them. More about murder and adultery--more about what other people do. Less about those internal weaknesses that we all share and fight. Less about our desire to feed self.

    In conversations with my Texas friend, this has broken down on my basic argument that conservatives have redefined sin to focus on the sexual--leaving the average, boring, suburbanite church-goer almost sinless. Greed and wealth have been redefined so they don't qualify. He disagrees with me--and says that the Bible is clear on homosexuality and other sexual sins, while the other sins are harder to define.

    It finally dawned on me. It isn't that conservatives (or the mainstream church, for that matter) have decided that these other things aren't sins--but rather that they have repositioned how they are determined as "sin." Some of them are personal, and some are corporate. From the conservative perspective, sexual sins are corporately determined. But sins of wealth are personally defined--the deciding issue is "does it come between you and God," or does it "come between you and your personal relationship with Christ." See the difference? If you are gay or having an abortion, you are sinning and the ruling is clear. If you are greedy, then it is up to you. You alone get to decide if your pursuit of money interferes with your relationship with God. So, if you say it doesn't, that story is closed. It doesn't matter how wealthy you are, or how opulent your home is, or how big your SUV is--if you say that it is not a problem, then it isn't a sin--end of story. It is the suburban church-goer's dream--everything that makes the suburban lifestyle is completely up to you.

    But clearly, other sins are not given the same leeway. No one says to the gay person, "well, it is really between you and God. It is only a problem if your homosexuality comes between you and God." No one extends the personal decision to the young woman seeking an abortion. Their sin is determined by the group. You can be stinking rich and never be questioned.

    Sin becomes something that other people do. How convenient is that?