June 30, 2006

My rant on Republicans

I am a little calmer now, but this week has been a bit rough. In consideration of my earlier post, I can certainly hear those few Repubs who stumble across this blog accusing me of sour grapes.

I don't think that is the case. I really do feel that our country is out of whack--that our political system doesn't seem to operate correctly. I am not naive. I know our system has always been deeply flawed, but I have some sense that it has functioned better in the past. In fact, one of the best examples, oddly enough, came from the Republican party when they stood up to Nixon.

Now, the system seems to be about holding power, period, and our national dialogue seems deeply flawed. Turning on the news, I either hear a talk show host suggesting we allow the Bush administration to censor the media, or hear another one suggesting that the NY Times editor be executed. The only other alternative seems to be obsession with Britney Spear's pregnancy or Tom Cruise' insanity.

Perhaps I am obsessed with torture, but it seems to me that the issue reveals much about our sick political culture. We seem to have no concensus on basic human rights. We have numerous individuals across the country arguing that torture is reasonable when we fight a foe who beheads or blows up children.

I take out much of my anger on the conservative church, but that is because it is so very close to me. Knowing all of those people, I am simply stunned that good Christian people could now use an "ends justifies the means" defense of torturing suspected terrorists, or even threatening to torture their children (NPR story on torture).

But beyond the church, if we no longer value actual political discussion, I fear we are slinking toward fascism. Not that Bush is Hitler or even close. He isn't. And for all my fears, I really don't think that any of these people are really bad people. That is the danger of our system. When our political dialogue degrades--when we can't even oppose torture without being accused of being unAmerican--when people advocate executing journalists, or fragging politicians, or censoring the media--then we are in trouble. And while Bush may be well-intentioned (something I truly want to believe), not everyone is.

Republicans suck

yeah, and I know that the Democrats are not much better. When Harry Reid votes for the flag hag amendment, things aren't good. Same with Feinstein. But the Repubs want to kill Social Security and Grover "Drown government in a bathtub" admitted that the President made a mistake working with Dems on this (still trying to remember when Bush has worked with anyone). Norquist says once the Repubs get 60 senators, Social Security, the pride of Roosevelt and recognition that in America, people who work their entire life shouldn't have to eat dog food in their retirement, will be dead. I hope that means that my republican friends can admit that they really do hate poor people and think they deserve their poverty.

A friend asked me about the midterm election. I am looking at the world through a glass darkly this week, so I said that it won't go well. I told him that Rove will trot out Gays Aborting Flags and the Christian Right will trample each other getting to the polls to reelect people who think that the first amendment is going way too far and the second doesn't go far enough. I will hear more about the radicals in the democratic party and be treated to more actual radicalism courtesy of the GOP.

Think about it. Bush tortures people, defends it, and tries to change the laws to legitimize it. He outs a CIA officer and then (as Wasp Jerky noted in teh comments) allows a monumental waste of time when they all knew who leaked what to whom. Gutting the environment, putting women and children at risk, making sure the wealthy get more money--all of those are nearly stated goals of the Bush administration and the idiot congressman that populate the GOP.

But what do I hear from my conservative friends? Oh, the liberals might do something bad. Really? You reelect pro-torture people and you are worried that John Kerry might dare to raise your taxes? Or battled global warming? Or dared to suggest that maybe the poor need some assistance and a social safety net?

Ok, enough. I am going to listen to some good music, eat something nice, and have a good beer or two.

Fox host wants an "Office of Censorship" to stop unamerican activities

Brian Kilmeade over at Fox is a real asshat. This is just idiotic of course, and appears to be a concerted effort by the right to further demonize the press. Remember that the NY Times, now called traitorous and unamerican (and one right winger wanting the editor executed), was also the main press outlet that helped sell the war to the American people (thanks Judith Miller).

The facts are pretty clear. The far right in this country (those in charge, unfortunately) don't really want democracy and they hate a free and open press.

June 27, 2006

Just have to humor me

I feel a Tuesday rant and just have to get this off my chest.

I think I feel really stupid. As much as I have disagreed with the conservative church, I really thought that they were sincere. I believed that conservative Christians really cared about morality and values. I believed that their disgust with Clinton was partially political, but mostly about his character. And I understood that.

So when they flocked to Bush in 2000, I understood. There was a lot to like there. I was certainly fooled by him. Not enough to vote for him, but he fooled me too. I thought that when he said that his faith was central to his life, that would mean something. I certainly thought that the whole "compassionate conservatism" might be something other than a slogan. When he appointed a white supremacist (or certainly sympathizer) in John Ashcroft and filled the rest of his cabinet with business partners, I knew we were f*cked.

But I understood why conservatives stayed with him. I understood why they made allowances for Cheney's energy "policy" and refusal to talk about it (especially when we know that Ken Lay was part of it). I understood why they rallied around him after 9-11 because we were all scared. I understood that while I thought his call to "go back to shopping" instead of asking us to sacrifice and cooperate and work together was ridiculous, people rallied around him because they needed to believe in something. .

But I was pretty sure his whole Christian thing was paper thin. And when certain things happened, I assumed that conservative Christians would start to see the holes too. I thought that, for example, despite their conservative leanings, they were all pro-military and respected military service. so when the repubs savaged a handicapped veteran senator in Georgia, that might make christian conservatives wince. It didn't. So, when they savaged Kerry, I wasn't too surprised. And no surprise, conservative Christians allowed a spoiled drunk rich kid to become a war hero and a decorated veteran savaged in the media as some kind of pacifist weenie.

But I thought national security was a big issue, so i assumed that when the White House leaked the name of a CIA agent who worked for us, that they might get angry. After all, national defense is a conservative issue, right? You don't jeopardize national security for politics. That was somethign they accused Clinton of doing.

As it turns out, they didn't care. They allowed Bush to retain Karl Rove and move along as if nothing happened. Hmm. Christian conservatives don't really care about national defense?

Then the torture thing came along. I thought, and said to SOF, this will be their undoing. Because what ever Christian conservatives are, they will find that completely incompatible with their faith. They will have to criticize Bush and what is more, he will be exposed as someone who just talks about his faith. Christians around the country will be turned off and might not reelect him because they would find torture completely unChristian.

Guess what? You guys don't care. Not a bit. Not only did Bush allow torture, he and his administration have sought ways to legitimize it and have even changed the Army training rules to take out parts that told soldiers to not do it to captured enemies. Torture doesn't even change people's mind.

It is very hard for me to even see conservative Christian values still alive. If torture isn't a problem, then what is? Today, it seems to me that as long as Bush doesn't actually challenge any of conservative Christian's lives--ask them to sacrifice; or as long as he continues to oppose homosexuality and make nice noises about abortion, he can do what ever he wants. He can torture. He can screw up our national defense. He can undermine the constitution. And conservative Christians won't care. Not one bit.

Sorry about the rant, but that is how I feel today. I can't believe that conservative Christians I know, people who have often challenged moral failings in our society and stood up for basic freedoms aren't a little sick over this administration. I can't believe those who lectured me on civil liberties and how Clinton was ruining our country haven't erupted in outrage over wiretaps and secret prisons. And I can't believe that so many people who tell me how important Christ is in their lives have absolutely nothing to say about torture.


Good question: where HAVE the Baptists gone?

Returning to Balmer's book, and enjoying his chapter on Baptist history. A brief, but compelling flyover of this particular denomination (and the one of my birth). He reminds me of the Baptist legacy of "soul liberty" and the complete historical incongruity that people like Rick Scarborough and Roy Moore consider themselves Baptist. It really is stunning that people coming out of that faith now want to force kids to pray in school and use the state to protect and elevate the Christian faith. As George Truett said, "God wants free worshipers and no other kind. Christ's religion needs no prop of any kind from any worldly source and to the degree that it is thus supported is a millstone hanged about its neck."

Balmer has a lot of criticism for Roy Moore and includes a really scary reflection of the type of God so many of his followers seem to worship. When the court forced Roy's little idol out of the public room in the courthouse, one of the people shouted, "keep your hands off my God." Interesting.

Ultimately, the arguments over what the founders thought or didn't think is less important than this one truth. Separation of Church and state has undoubtedly helped religion. We are the most religious nation on the planet and that is because the state has, for the most part, decided to leave religion to private conscience. Why in the world would religious people, serious about their faith, want to change that?

I too would like to know where the Baptists have gone, because the modern version of Al Mohler and Roy Moore have almost no historical connection to the Roger William's of the past.

June 26, 2006

Abortion Myth

Balmer has a chapter subtitled "the abortion myth." The argument is that the Political Church (or Religious Right) coalesced around Roe v. Wade and their horror of abortion. And as he mentioned that, I realized that I believed it too.

As it turns out, Balmer argues that the Religious Right was not that horrified by the court decision when it happened. Many of them praised the decision. Seriously.

So what pulled them all together in a committed effort to grassroots politics and altering the political landscape? According to Paul Weyrich's own admission, it was the IRS's attempt to take away Bob Jones University's tax-exempt status because of their policy of racial discrimination.

That's right. The movement that now connects itself to abolition for legitimacy got its start defending racial discrimination. Isn't that sweet? Defending racists brought the right wingers together.


June 25, 2006

Maybe a late start on summer reads

Many thanks to the wonderful anniversary wishes. I am thrilled to be married to my best friend and enjoy every day with her.

Thanks also to those who left some suggestions for future readings. I will be purchasing many of these and the call for great books of history or theology remains.

Today, SOF and I went to Borders and I was surprised to find Randall Balmer's book Thy Kingdom Come for sale. It is unrealeased on Amazon and I was fully planning on waiting.

Anyway, brought it home and started reading tonight. I am mindful of Anglican's comment on my post on the minimum wage (and torture). He suggests, as he normally does, that my denigration of "the church" misses that so many Christians are fighting against war, poverty, torture (amazing I have to list that one) and even fighting to protect the environment. He is right. I know that. My anger is primarly at what might be construed as the Political Church. Luckily, Randall Balmer is equally pissed about this.

I will write more about this as I read it, but a few things from the first few pages. One is a great quote from Billy Graham (1981) where he denounces religious bigotry of any kind.
"It would disturb me if there was a wedding between the religious fundamentalists and the political right. The hard right has no interest in religion except to manipulate it."
Wow. Too bad his son never understood that. But also how prescient? And where was Billy when the Political Church took over?

Second, and enough for tonight, Balmer has a great discussion of the problems of abortion and homosexuality as political wedge issues. One of the winger pastors leads the charge against gays visiting Israel (It is the Holy Land, not Homo Land--gag) and then takes to his church to preach the word. His text? Matthew 5 and the oft-cited but usually ignored passage "Blessed are the Peacemakers." This pastor chides his sheep, telling them that people "believe that Jesus is a pacifist!" Instead, he suggests that "there is a battle going on. It is raging." Nevermind the problems between the metaphorical battle of spiritual warfare and actual warfare, the purposeful rejection of Christ's words sheds more than a little doubt on the idea of Biblical literalism. Balmer suggests instead that they use a little conceit called "selective literalism" which allows them to focus on sins they like and ignore the inconvenience of anti-divorce sentiments or suggestions that Christians actually should love their enemy.
"Selective literalism continues to serve an important function for the Religious Right. It allows them to locate sin outside of the evangelical subculture (or so they think) by designating as especially egregious those dispositions and behaviors, homosexuality and abortion, that they believe characteristic of others, not themselves.
Maybe I liked it, because I said something like it here. And no, it is not a problem to plug your own blog ON your own blog.

Old enough to vote

Today, SOF and I celebrate 18 years of marriage.

Left Behind leaves behind spyware

h/t to Anglican for alerting me to this.
" Left Behind Games (a publicly traded company, even) have added money-changers to their particular temple. The game comes fully loaded with what some would term built-in spyware, in the form of in-game advertising that tracks the amount of time ads are seen, how often the game is played, and the player's geographical and personal information. It then sends this data back to the advertiser's servers.


The issue of advertising in games has been a hot topic lately, bolstered by widespread always-on access to the Internet. While surveys of gamers show that advertising in games is effective and generally unobtrusive if done properly, most people would feel differently if they knew their in-game activity and user information was being tracked. Most games that currently feature in-game advertising simply display built-in ads, or at worst download new ads from a server, without sending the user's personal information back over the wires. Left Behind Games plans to distribute up to a million sample CDs of the game through major churches and pastoral organizations. Will these people be informed that their personal information will be tracked, not by a higher power, but by an advertising agency?"

Just too funny, in my opinion, but also very revealing. As much as some of my conservative christian friends protest, they are, in fact, turning churches into consumer entities and marketing targets. Moneychangers, indeed.

June 24, 2006

First, do no harm....

Just another thing to fall by the wayside under Bush/Cheney. This is the danger of absolute certainty or fundamentalism. If you really think you are the only right one, then you can justify doing just about anything to accomplish your goals. Including torture. Torture. Moral values, indeed.

Well, anyway, read this review. I am not sure I can read the entire book.
TIME.com: How Doctors Got Into the Torture Business -- Page 1: "Some of the medical involvement in torture defies belief. In one of the few actual logs we have of a high-level interrogation, that of Mohammed al-Qhatani (first reported in TIME), doctors were present during the long process of constant sleep deprivation over 55 days, and they induced hypothermia and the use of threatening dogs, among other techniques. According to Miles, Medics had to administer three bags of medical saline to Qhatani -- while he was strapped to a chair -- and aggressively treat him for hypothermia in the hospital. They then returned him to his interrogators. Elsewhere in Guantanamo, one prisoner had a gunshot wound that was left to fester during three days of interrogation before treatment, and two others were denied antibiotics for wounds. In Iraq, according to the Army surgeon general as reported by Miles, 'an anesthesiologist repeatedly dropped a 2-lb. bag of intravenous fluid on a patient; a nurse deliberately delayed giving pain medication, and medical staff fed pork to Muslim patients.' Doctors were also tasked at Abu Ghraib with 'Dietary Manip (monitored by med),' in other words, using someone's food intake to weaken or manipulate them."

Where is the church on this?

Nathan points to a quote from Barbara Ehrenreich on the whole minimum wage issue. Remember, the Senate not only refused to raise it, but gave themselves a raise at the same time. Add to this the efforts to gut the Voting Rights Act because some Republicans say that we have solved these pesky problems of race, and I feel a little ill.
Moral Contradictions: Minimum Wage: "From a Congress that has consistently cut taxes for the wealthy, themselves included, while cutting programs that serve the poor and the middle class, the minimum wage vote is not entirely surprising. What merits special notice in this instance is the unctuous rhetoric that arose from the sties as Republicans rushed to explain that by holding down the minimum wage they were actually helping the poor. If we don't keep wages down, they said, grease dripping from the corners of their mouths, the Predators might find their prey less tasty, and unemployment will rise!

Never mind that there is no empirical evidence for this prediction. Employment didn't plunge the last time the minimum wage was increased, in 1997, nor has this happened in any of the states -- Massachusetts for example -- that have raised their own minimum wages in the last few years. I grant you that there might be trouble if the minimum wage were to rise at the same rate as CEO pay. As the Institute for Policy Studies reported in 2005, "If the minimum wage had risen as fast as CEO pay since 1990, the lowest paid workers in the US would be earning $23.03 an hour today, not $5.15 an hour."

Nor is it true, incidentally, that the minimum wage is paid mostly to teenagers working to support their Abercrombie and Fitch habits. According to economist Heather Boushey at the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, fewer than one in five minimum wage workers is under the age of 20. In my experience, many of those youthful minimum wage workers are in fact making important contributions, however tiny, to their families' inadequate incomes."

Where is the church? Oh right, the conservatives are following people who think that torture is merely a public relations dilemma:
Where does the religious right stand in all this? Following the revelations that the U.S. government exported prisoners to nations that have no scruples about the use of torture, I wrote to several prominent religious-right organizations. Please send me, I asked, a copy of your organization's position on the administration's use of torture. Surely, I thought, this is one issue that would allow the religious right to demonstrate its independence from the administration, for surely no one who calls himself a child of God or who professes to hear "fetal screams" could possibly countenance the use of torture. Although I didn't really expect that the religious right would climb out of the Republican Party's cozy bed over the torture of human beings, I thought perhaps they might poke out a foot and maybe wiggle a toe or two.

I was wrong. Of the eight religious-right organizations I contacted, only two, the Family Research Council and the Institute on Religion and Democracy, answered my query. Both were eager to defend administration policies. "It is our understanding, from statements released by the Bush administration," the reply from the Family Research Council read, "that torture is already prohibited as a means of collecting intelligence data." The Institute on Religion and Democracy stated that "torture is a violation of human dignity, contrary to biblical teachings," but conceded that it had "not yet produced a more comprehensive statement on the subject," even months after the revelations. Its president worried that the "anti-torture campaign seems to be aimed exclusively at the Bush administration," thereby creating a public-relations challenge.

I'm sorry, but the use of torture under any circumstances is a moral issue, not a public-relations dilemma.

June 23, 2006

Still jarring

Given how the Republicans like to dismiss Dems as soft on defense. (I have not served in the military, for what that is worth.)

Upper Left: "Service in the Armed Forces
John Murtha: Colonel, USMC (ret), Bronze Star, 2 Purple Hearts
Richard Gephardt: Air National Guard, 1965-71.
David Bonior: Staff Sgt., Air Force 1968-72.
Tom Daschle: 1st Lt., Air Force SAC 1969-72.
Al Gore: Army, Vietnam.
Bob Kerrey: Lt. j.g. Navy 1966-69; Medal of Honor, Vietnam.
Daniel Inouye: Army 1943-47; Medal of Honor, WWII.
John Kerry: Lt., Navy 1966-70; Silver Star, Bronze Star with Combat V,Purple Hearts.
Charles Rangel: Staff Sgt., Army 1948-52; Bronze Star, Korea.
Max Cleland: Captain, Army 1965-68; Silver Star & Bronze Star, Vietnam.
Ted Kennedy: Army, 1951-53.
Tom Harkin: Lt., Navy, 1962-67; Naval Reserve, 1968-74.
Jack Reed: Army Ranger, 1971-1979; Captain, Army Reserve 1979-91.
Fritz Hollings: Army officer in WWII; Bronze Star and seven campaign ribbons.
Leonard Boswell: Lt. Col., Army 1956-76; Vietnam, DFCs, Bronze Stars,and Soldier's Medal
Pete Peterson: Air Force Captain, POW. Purple Heart, Silver Star and Legion of Merit.
Mike Thompson: Staff sergeant, 173rd Airborne, Purple Heart.
Bill McBride: Candidate for Fla. Governor. Marine in Vietnam; Bronze Star with Combat V.
Gray Davis: Army Captain in Vietnam, Bronze Star.
Pete Stark: Air Force 1955-57
Chuck Robb: Vietnam
Howell Heflin: Silver Star
George McGovern: Silver Star & DFC during WWII.
Bill Clinton: Did not serve. Student deferments. Entered draft but received #311.
Jimmy Carter: Seven years in the Navy.
Walter Mondale: Army 1951-1953
John Glenn: WWII and Korea; six DFCs and AirMedal with 18 Clusters.
Tom Lantos: Served in Hungarian underground in WWII. Saved by Raoul Wallenberg.

Dick Cheney: did not serve.
Dennis Hastert: did not serve.
Tom Delay: did not serve.
Roy Blunt: did not serve.
Bill Frist: did not serve.
Mitch McConnell: did not serve.
Rick Santorum: did not serve.
Trent Lott: did not serve.
John Ashcroft: did not serve.
Jeb Bush: did not serve.
Karl Rove: did not serve.
Saxby Chambliss: did not serve.
Paul Wolfowitz: did not serve.
Vin Weber: did not serve.
Richard Perle: did not serve.
Douglas Feith: did not serve.
Eliot Abrams: did not serve.
Richard Shelby: did not serve.
Jon! Kyl: did not serve.
Tim Hutchison: did not serve.
Christopher Cox: did not serve.
Newt Gingrich: did not serve.
Don Rumsfeld: served in Navy (1954-57) as flight instructor.
George W. Bush: failed to complete his six-year National Guard
B-1 Bob Dornan: enlisted after fighting was over in Korea.
Phil Gramm: did not serve.
Dana Rohrabacher: did not serve.
John M. McHugh: did not serve.
Jack Kemp: did not serve. 'Knee problem, ' although continued in NFL for 8 years as quarterback.
Dan Quayle: Journalism unit of the Indiana National Guard.
Rudy Giuliani: did not serve.
George Pataki: did not serve.
Spencer Abraham: did not serve.
John Engler: did not serve.
Lindsey Graham: National Guard lawyer.
Arnold Schwarzenegger: AWOL from Austrian army base."

To be fair, I think Al Gore's could also include the term "journalist," right? But the list is still pretty amazing. All of the guys who like to disparage opponents of war have never been there.

glad it is friday

I have meant to blog on music again, and continue my journey of music, but just haven't had the energy. Teaching, summer heat, and allergies have sapped me.

I do have some money to spend on books, though, and am wondering if there are some suggestions out there for historical or public policy books? What is the best (non fiction) book you have read recently and why?

June 22, 2006

Well said

I didn't write this but I could have.
"I went to Sunday school nearly every week of my childhood. But I must have been absent the day they told us that the followers of Jesus were obliged to secure even greater economic advantages for the affluent, to deprive those Jesus called 'the least of these' of a living wage, and to despoil the environment by sacrificing it on the altar of free enterprise. I missed the lesson telling me that I should turn a blind eye to the suffering of others, even those designated as my enemies."

One more on Flag Burning--kind of funny

Whatever: Cracking the Flag-Burning Amendment: "And of course, that's the point: by not burning the Flag of the United States but rather something excruciatingly close to it, you're not violating a Constitutional Amendment, but engaging in free speech, which is of course covered by the First Amendment. You're getting all the impact of burning the US flag, with none of the Constitutional risk (although you may still get your ass kicked by angry veterans). You've cracked the flag-burning Amendment.

Alternately, one could simply dispose of a worn and soiled American Flag in the acknowledged respectful and non-desecrating manner of burning it (see U.S. Flag Code, Section 8, subsection (k)), and, while respectfully burning that worn and soiled flag, in a public place, simultaneously and independently engage in political speech.

'Protecting' the flag with a Constitutional Amendment won't solve the not-at-all pressing problem of people burning flags for political protest. They'll still do it. They'll simply do it in ways that will now additionally mock the stupidity of those who love the symbol of American freedoms more than they love actual American freedoms. And no matter how expansively Congress defines 'the American Flag' there will always be something that is not the flag, but is close enough in its shape and structure to feel just like the flag. And there will be the people who will use that not-quite-flag-like object to protest.

And you know what? Good for them. They're being better Americans than those who would pass a flag-burning Amendment. Real Americans don't take away the freedoms of other Americans."

June 20, 2006

great quote

"The country is run by extremists because moderates have shit to do."

Jon Stewart

Hey, I lied

wasp jerky has a great blog if you aren't reading him. So, this additional post is his fault (not the first time).

Anyway, he has a nice post on Tony Campolo and his stance on homosexuality. Something very compelling about the need for compassion, and the shocking lack of it in the modern church. When Christians can speak in hushed tones about how much they love Jesus but not care that gay couples are not allowed to see each other in an ICU situation. Or where Christians seem to prefer kids in foster care or orphanages rather than be adopted by gay parents.

Read Tony's story about a kid he knew in high school. A kid who was tormented by other people because he was gay.

Reminds me of another Tony, this one from Patty Griffin:
Does anyone remember Tony
A quiet boy, little over weight
He had breasts like a girl
When I wasn't too busy feeling lonely
I'd stare over his shoulder
At a map of the world
He always finished all his homework
Raised his hand in homerooom
He called the morning attendance
With the pledge alligence to the gloom

Hey Tony, what's so good about dying
He said I think I might do a little dying today
He looked in the mirror and saw
A little faggot starin back at him
Pulled out a gun and blew himself away


I know. Too dark tonight. Republicans making excuses for torture AND Ann Coulter does that to me.

I will work on getting back to music. Those posts tend to calm me down. Thanks alot Wasp Jerky! :)

One more for tonight

And this is my point too:

Andrew Sullivan | The Daily Dish: Hey, Wait A Minute:

"Professor Bainbridge writes:Andrew Sullivan seems to think that the Bush Administration's position on torture is at least a - if not the - root cause of the death by torture apparently suffered by two US service personnel."

No I don't. In fact, I explicitly argued against such an idea here. My point is that we can no longer unequivocally condemn the torture of these two soldiers because we have endorsed and practised torture ourselves. What was once a difference in kind between us and our enemy is now a difference in degree. That fact profoundly weakens our moral standing in the world, the power of our cause, and impedes the long-run success in the war of ideas that the war on terror involves. That this change was made secretly by an executive violating the express laws he is constitutionally bound to enforce makes the betrayal all the more enraging."

Both sides are equally bad--right

Just read this really good recitation of the right wing comments from Coulter to Hannity to Limbaugh to Imus. The left wing comments are from peripheralized obscure personalities. No comparison.

Face it. Conservatives have embraced some of the meanest, horrible people in the country--all while claiming moral superiority. Nice trick, if you can pull it off. It helps that a good 30 percent of the country are lulled by a few Bible verses.

Oh, and more bad theology

I am now watching the NBA finals and heard Jason Terry, when asked what they had to do to run around a three game losing streak say "well, my faith is in God."

Sigh. And how many AmeriChristians hear that and turn to each other and say, "isn't it nice when these young boys express their faith in God?"

Dude. Everyone knows that if God is an NBA fan she wouldn't cheer for either of these teams. Personally, I think God is WAY too busy helping Mike Shanahan revamp the Bronco defense to be concerned about the Dallas Mavericks.

See how silly that sounds?

Isn't this nice

Pentagon memo: Homosexuality a defect - U.S. Life - MSNBC.com: "A Pentagon document classifies homosexuality as a mental disorder, decades after mental health experts abandoned that position."


In other news, horribly tragic event where these terrorists tortured and killed American soldiers in response to the killing of Zarqawi. I am horrified by their brutality, but also just saddened by the continuing escalation of violence. According to some conservatives, we have to respond. Which, of course, is exactly what Al Qaeda did. Ghandi was pretty accurate. "Eye for an Eye and soon the entire world is blind."

What really bothered me was hearing the blurb from the Joe Scarborough guest host--"where the liberals who were complaining about American torture." Hmm. Talk about not getting it. Of course we are horrified, but we don't control them, dumbass. We do control us.

I really don't understand that. I guess just add that to the list.

Oh help me Jebus

Dr. Rex Curry (I believe) dropped by and "argues that the entire Pledge of Allegiance is unconstitutional and should end. http://rexcurry.net/pledge-of-allegiance-newdow-rio-linda.html"

Dr. Curry, you are going to have to pardon me. I don't mean this as a personal attack in anyway, but I want absolutely nothing to do with this case. Are you right? Is the Pledge probably unconstitutional? Probably. You certainly know more about the constitutional law than I. Is it borderline fascist and ridiculous? Probably.

All of that doesn't matter. This is one of those fights that you can't possibly win. Oh sure, you might prevail in some courts. But wouldn't it be easier to simply write a check to Karl Rove's candidates in the sum of about 100 million dollars? Or break off a 10 or 20 million dollar donation each to James Dobson, Pat Roberson, Jerry Falwell and D. James Kennedy? Because that is what this case actually does. It writes the ad copy and direct mailings for the rightwingnuts. "Radical leftists hates America so much they want the Pledge of Allegiance ruled unconstitutional!"

And for what? Would we actually be a better society without the Pledge of Allegiance? Would it make one tinker's damn about poverty? About true religious freedom? No. It would not.

If we are to go to court, why not take on the "abstinence only" programs that endanger our kids and will result in thousands, if not millions of deaths around the world? Or torture? For Christ's literal sake, if we as a culture allow torture, then who in the hell are we?

Fighting the constitutionality of the pledge, no offense, is just as meaningless as conservatives (and some damn, weak, spineless democrats) glorifying flag burning and worshipping the flag. Let's fight the real battles for church/state separation. Let's address the real moral issues we face. Let's not raise money for the opposition and allow true extremists to paint all liberals as outside the mainstream.

This looks promising

dumbest law ever

A.L. over at Glenn Greenwald's blog thinks that the flag burning amendment is pretty stupid. He points out that not only is it our first amendment to curtail the Bill of Rights (thanks Republicans) but also is our first effort to ban a symbolic act. It also puts us in the same league with Nazi Germany, Cuba, China, Iran, and Saddam's Iraq--isnt' that peachy?

But the most interesting thing is that flag burning has been incredibly rare in the United States. But it has gone up since conservatives made it a political issue. In other words, conservatives and false patriots are more responsible for flag burning than anything. And that is likely to continue. People who have no desire to burn a flag are starting to consider it. Or some of us will simply stop responding to it as a meaningful symbol of liberty and freedom.

June 19, 2006

Andrew Sullivan asks a very relevant question

with the help of Rude Pundit about those captured US soldiers:
Andrew Sullivan | The Daily Dish: The Captured Soldiers: "All we can do apart from searching for them is pray for them. But Rude Pundit has some thoughts about what we'll say if we discover that they have been tortured. Money quote:

"What will our government do? What could it do? Could it condemn the actions as not abiding by the Geneva Conventions? Could it call the actions 'torture'? Could it demand accountability? Could it demand that the soldiers be treated as POWs? Could it simply say, 'Well, we don't do that shit ... anymore'?"

No it couldn't. Pray for the safe rescue of the soldiers - and for the president who abandoned Geneva."


As everyone knows, I am not much of a fan of the Southern Baptist Convention. The fundy takeover of the convention left a bad taste in my mouth--and resolutions emphasizing female subservience didn't help.

Thanks to Carlos over at Jesus Politics for this Baptist Blogger post. While this person is certainly more conservative than I am theologically, Baptist Blogger clearly articulates the problems of politicizing theology and has also noticed that Baptists, now having rid themselves of us pesky liberals, now turn their attention on fellow conservatives.

The rest of the post deals with that and the prohibition measure that passed. But this, I thought, was a particularly eloquent discourse on the melding of American nationalism and Christian faith:

"The incredulity I was experiencing at that moment was compounded within the next hour. I stood at the back of the convention floor listening to Condoleeza Rice, a woman who drinks alcohol and approves of abortion and was praised and prayed for as a true Christian sister by the SBC President. Every time Condi struck a note of political liberty or patriotic freedom, the crowd thundered in applause and rose to their feet in ovation upon ovations.

The Southern Baptist Convention has relegated Christian liberty in Christ to confessional oblivion and those who are willing to engage seriously in a discussion of its meaning and limit are characterized as an ungodly, immoral, unholy, and impure bunch of bootleggers peddling liquid licentiousness. Yet when the stars and stripes are waved, or 'God Bless America' is sung, tears roll down cheeks and hands are lifted high.

We are, it seems, no different that the German Church at the close of the Weimar Republic. Nationalism is our religion. The Gospel is now emptied of its power to set the captives free. This disturbs me more than the resolution itself. In fact, I could have stomached two years of the runner-up much easier than to stand in the convention hall and watch my fellow messengers rise to their feet when the death of Al-Zarquawi is announced. A soul is sent to hell, and we do not grieve. We cheer."

June 18, 2006


Aren't they interesting?

This weekend we have the NBA finals, the NHL finals, World Cup and the US Open.

Speaking of the US Open, those of you who haven't seen the film Tin Cup can just watch the Open highlights. No Renee Russo or "exotic dancers," or Cheech Marin, but plenty of Johnny Miller scolding bad shots. Just switch a fictional driving range pro from Salome, Texas with the second best player in golf, and switch trying to hit a 3 wood over water on 18 with a seasoned veteran who continues to hit driver even though HE HASN'T HIT A FAIRWAY IN THREE HOLES!

I really don't have much to say about the NBA or NHL, because I really don't care that much about either one. The World Cup still continues to both repulse and attract me. Some of the game is intoxicating and then you have those idiot refs doling out red cards like the Bush administration hands out contracts to Haliburton.

I am a bit annoyed with how Americans approch the game. No offense to CIL, but those who dismiss the game bug me, but not as much as those who have become World Cup nuts. Especially those who like to mock people like me when I obsess (just a little) over a football game (only the Big 12 championship) but then Tivo every World Cup game. You can't have it both ways. Either enjoying sports is ok, or it isn't. You can't assume some arbitrary elitism that suggests that soccer is somehow superior. CiL is right about this--in America, it is a bourgeoisie sport. Around the world, it isn't, but here, it is the lawyers and doctors who sniff about the superiority of soccer.

Just cheer for your team. But don't look down on me when I am loving the NFL playoffs or the bowl season.

Hmm. Football.

June 16, 2006

Hey Repubs, this is your party!

This is what a Republican from Texas had to say about Jack Murtha:
"I say thank god for his compassion. Thank god for his visits to the wounded. Thank god for his ministering to grieving families. But thank god he was not here and prevailed after the bloodbaths at Normandy and in the Pacific or we would be here speaking Japanese or German. Thank you."

See. Democrats, even those who serve in the military are nice enough. But they would turn us over to any enemy that approaches. Watch the video and see how Murtha stands up to this coward.

I am not sure I agree with Murtha's stance on Iraq. But I like him very much. I might send his campaign some money. And I can't quite express the disgust I have for the Republican party that produces such ad hominem attacks and allows people like the blonde idiot to suggest that the best response to Murtha is not reason or argument, but rather tolerates when Blitzkrieg Barbie suggests that Murtha be fragged. Those of you who were educated with Lynn Westmoreland's education department ("The Ten Commandments is good to learn") can look up fragging here. Hint, it isn't anything that would be tolerated from anyone on the left. And double hint: it is disgusing for anyone who claims to be a Christian.

Shame. I wonder if Republicans who have followed Rove for this long even remember shame.

the lame "both sides do it" accusation

Shakespeare's Sister lists the right wing nutjobs and asks for the left wing equivalent. I would like to see those too.

the problem really IS the media

This is a great essay on the problem of the media and Coulter. And he is right. Despite the constant refrain that Coulter is no worse than some on the left (I would like one example of anyone on the left who a) says that kind of stuff and b) is on the news constantly), putting her on the news legitimizes her.
"The issue here is not the damage done to America's public discourse - we already know that liberals have become the equivalent of terrorists in the minds of millions of Americans. Nor is the issue the media's hunger for ratings (

what's next, snuff films?) The issue is the establishment media's symbiotic relationship with these rightwing blatherers:
'I've argued that the propagation of anti-left and pro-right narratives by the establishment media is more insidious - and thus more dangerous - than the cowardly bleating of people like Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter, Bill Bennett, Bill O'Reilly, and Rush Limbaugh. When Coulter is invited to spout her putrescence on Larry King Live, the legitimacy granted to her is CNN's fault, not Coulter's. After all, there's no shortage of desperate attention seekers willing to say and do outlandish things to get noticed. The question is, why does CNN grant an open forum to this particular whack-job and not others?The symbiotic relationship between far right screamers and the establishment media dresses up extremist rhetoric in a veneer of decorum. When Tim Russert, David Broder, Chris Matthews, and the New York Times peek into the Clinton bedroom, they are using their supposed 'neutrality' to disseminate rightwing talking points, thereby magnifying the rightwing echo chamber.'


One thing is for sure: responding to Coulter's assertions is pointless. When she speaks the unspeakable about the 9/11 widows ("I have never seen people enjoying their husbands’ death so much") and when Glenn Beck does the same (calling hurricane survivors in New Orleans "scumbags" and saying he "hates" 9-11 families), reasoned discussion is not on the table.""

And I would think that conservatives would decry that as much as liberals. I keep saying this, but I will respect Republicans when the grownups come back.

June 15, 2006

Aha. Humor was hiding in reality and depression

Yes, it is depressing that some of our congresspeople are this stupid, but this is too damn funny to pass on. Trust me. Watch Colbert (thanks to Crooks and Liars) as he interviews a Republican congressman from Georgia who has co-sponsored a bill requiring the Ten Commandments be displayed in the House and Supreme Court. There are two priceless moments here: one when he explains the importance of the Ten C's to our culture: "if we are totally without them, we may lose our sense of direction." And the second is when he hears this question: "Colbert: What are the Ten Commandments? Westmoreland: You mean all of them?--Um... Don't murder. Don't lie. Don't steal Um... I can't name them all." Rough transcript, but watch it.

Damn funny. Damn funny that a guy co-sponsoring a bill requiring the Ten Commandments in public buildings because we need to know them doesn't actuall know them. Also funny, he says at one point that he would like to cut the department of Education. Funny because it seems like he already cut it--for himself.


I watched Larry King tonight. Really SOF's fault, but since she was cooking, who am I to complain?

Anyway, Larry interviewed people on homosexuality in the church. One of the reasons I hate his show is that there are people are all over the map and it is hard to follow. Anyway, there was a conservative Catholic, Andrew Sullivan, Al Mohler [asshole], lesbian Episcopal priest, gay Episcopal priest, angry conservative Episcopal priest, and the gay Bishop.

The normal back and forth ensued. What bothered me was this exchange (from memory). Andrew Sullivan said that he had left the church for a while (catholic) and couldn't stay away. He loved the church, he loved the mass, and he couldn't lie about it. (In an earlier exchange he said that the Ten Commandments didn't have a line about "can't be gay," but did say that you shouldn't bear false witness, and he wouldn't lie about who he was). I don't always agree with Sully, but this was clearly heartfelt and he made a great point.

But, agree with him or not, the telling part was when Larry (who I normally think is useless) asked the conservative angry Episcopal if he could "have compassion" for Sullivan's story. He said only that conservatives felt excluded and that he hoped at some point the Anglican church would strip the Americans of the church body. He didn't even recognize the compassion question. That was sad.

Mohler was an idiot. That didn't surprise me at all.

It is often not about you

I know I am behind on my music posts, but this has been an interesting week. Monday started out a bit rough. Mostly misunderstandings and miscommunications. I am often reminded of how common it is that what feels like a personal attack is often a reflection of someone else's anxiety. That was certainly the case on Monday. The oddest damn things said. Had I responded to them as if they were about me, it would have been horrible.

I know more to not take those things personally. Today, something similar happened. A grandmother in yoga started talking about those poor people who "don't have kids." I kept quiet--understanding it was about her. She certainly meant no insult. I know that as well as I know anything. I still felt it.

Tonight, I went to my neighbors to say hi. Their 100 pound lab--a dog almost as close to me as my own--barrelled into me, knocking me around like a rag doll. A few bruises and scrapes are all. But what a perfect example. That dog wouldn't hurt me if it meant survival. This dog is as sweet as they come. He couldn't possibly intend to cause me harm. I know that as well as I know anything.

It feels like that is a lot of my struggle. Hurts inflicted that are no more intended that my dog friend. The bruises and scrapes are real--no doubt. But the intent is a big issue.

I constantly strive to not take offense in situations like this morning. Sometimes it is hard. Maybe it takes a 100 pound dog to remind me.

Now, where is that Ibuprofen?

June 14, 2006

Just a reminder

Watched Olbermann tonight and was reminded that Rove will be back (now that he has been not indicted) and we can expect more like this:
Streak's Blog: "Rove 'chided Democrats for floating the idea of troop reductions in Iraq.He specifically targeted Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry and Pennsylvania Rep. John Murtha.'Like too many Democrats it strikes me they are ready to give the green light to go to war, but when it gets tough, they fall back of that party's old platform of cutting and running. They may be with you for the first few bullets but they won't be there for the last tough battles,' he said.'"

Shame on the Republicans if you allow this to continue. What Rove just said describes Chicken Hawks like him, Tony Snow, George Bush, Rush Limbaugh, Dick "I had better things to do" Cheney.

Isn't it interesting that we don't have any real conservatives with real military experience saying shit like this?

Shame on the Republicans and anyone who enables this behavior. Especially if you call the Bible your moral guide. No way to incorporate Rove with the Bible. Just now way.


Back to music

As this morning's other post suggests, the news of the country have depressed me this Wednesday. I am trying to reclaim that and music is a good place to start.

In tracing my favorite albums, I have already discussed Bustin Out and Joshua Tree. My third, as I hinted yesterday, is a backtrack--kind of.

Perhaps it is an occupational hazzard, but I find it interesting how we remember the past. When I was going through my musical evolution (sorry, Kansas), I remembered Joshua Tree much earlier in the 80s decade. I had forgotten it came out in 87. And while I liked U2's earlier stuff, songs like "New Years Day" and "Sunday Bloody Sunday" were great, but didn't make me listen to the album over and over.

In 1984, Bruce Springsteen really hit it big. He released Born in the USA and I really should have remembered that because as I recall, the Reagan campaign wanted to use that song, even though it was not the jingoistic song they thought it was, nor did it really represent Republican values. I liked some of the songs off that album at first, but was still in the mode of thinking that I was really not a rocker. My brother again made an impact. During a visit to his house, I discovered this album and found out that my older brother loved this album. When Springsteen came through town in those stadium concerts, he went.

Somehow that gave me permission. I started listening to Springsteen more. And discovered Born to Run. I like songs on his other albums, but Born to Run is the most consistent and thematic. Starting with Thunder Road and ending with Jungle Land and only 8 songs long, the album really doesn't strike a bad note. They are all strong and all worth listening to.

We had an interim youth minister about that time who was cool. He had the album on vinyl and lent it to me so I could tape it. His vinyl was scratched from constant playing, and it wasn't until I finally replaced it on cd that I heard the album without the scratches. In some ways, that was even better.

A really great album. I still remember SOF and I driving one late night from Houston to Dallas listening to it from beginning to end, turned up as loud as we could stand.

Wednesday, feh

I worry that today will be a long day. I dreamt about the damn flag amendment! I cannot believe intelligent Americans support this crap. Well, like I said, if they pass it, they get to keep the flag. I will head to the bathroom during the anthem or pledge. They are all yours.

The country on the other hand, is not. Nor is the democracy. Even when people like Karl Rove go free. And say stuff like this:
Rove "chided Democrats for floating the idea of troop reductions in Iraq.
He specifically targeted Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry and Pennsylvania Rep. John Murtha.
'Like too many Democrats it strikes me they are ready to give the green light to go to war, but when it gets tough, they fall back of that party's old platform of cutting and running. They may be with you for the first few bullets but they won't be there for the last tough battles,' he said."

Hmm. Well, as it turns out, Rove has never been in uniform and found away to stay out of the draft even though he didn't attend college full time. But see, that is the part where the Republican party has lost its soul. When you can wave the flag, AND chastize veterans as weak on defense, that may be the definition of soul-less.

Hell, the fact that republicans tolerate Rove at all tells me a tremendous amount. I have heard more than one say he is a bad person for Bush and a bad person for the country. Yet, they continue to support the Rove style of governing and campaigning. You know, where leaking a CIA agent for political purposes isn't treason. Shaun grabbed a key quote about the man Bush calls Turd Blossom: "'--since this scandal broke nearly three years ago, Rove's critics have labeled him a leaker, a liar, and a lawbreaker. As of today, two out of three are still accurate.'"

Fafblog is back, though this morning it reminds us of the country we have become. The one that tortures and creates gulags. I feel a little like Homer Simpson banging on his TV. "Stupid TV, be more funny!"
Fafblog! the whole worlds only source for Fafblog.: "'Oh but Giblets there are dozens of innocent prisoners in Guantanamo' you say because you are a namby-pamby appeasenik who suckles at the teat of terror. Well if these Guantanamo prisoners are so innocent then what are they doing in Guantanamo? Sneaking into our secret military prisons as part of an elaborate plot to make it look like we're holding them in our secret military prisons, that's what! And once they get there they can chain themselves to the floor, break their bones on helpless guards' fists, and waterboard themselves to their heart's content to further their sinister Salafi scheme to sully the reputation of secret American torture facilities everywhere!

And that's just the tip of the iceberg! Even as we speak the forces of Islamanazism are infiltrating our network of classified CIA prison camps, rendering themselves to third world dictatorships, and launching unprovoked assaults on innocent American bullets! There's only one thing to do with all these malicious prisoners, torture victims, and massacred civilians - and that's to imprison, torture and massacre them before they can mount another attack! Yes it will be difficult, but these people want to destroy our very way of life - our obliviously violent, guilt-free way of life. Let's roll!"


June 13, 2006

This is disgusting

And shame on Harry Reid and the other Democrats who support this nonsense.
Flag amendment needs one more vote to pass Senate: "The Senate is one vote away from passing a constitutional amendment that would ban desecration of the U.S. flag, the closest that amendment supporters have been to passage.
The American Legion, which supports the amendment, and the American Civil Liberties Union, which opposes it, both say there are 66 votes to pass it.Whether advocates can find the 67th vote to send the flag amendment to the states for ratification remains unclear. A Senate vote is set for the week of June 26.Elections, post-Sept. 11 patriotism and the Iraq war have improved the measure's prospects since the Senate last voted in 2000, says Patrick Brady of the Citizens Flag Alliance. 'We're very hopeful we'll get it,' he says."

I am really close to saying "fuck it" on this one. If this is how conservatives (and some liberals) see our system, then fine. Let's prove to the world our true liberties and freedoms by passing a law against something that doesn't even happen. Unless that includes pandering by idiots draped in the flag. Of course, that won't be illegal.

If they pass this amendment, then I am never waving or wearing the American flag again. It won't stand for the same thing. I will always be an American, but you can have the flag. Keep it. Make sure you protect it rather than addressing poverty, the environment or political corruption.

"Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel." Samuel Johnson Or in this case, "worthless jingoistic waste of space scoundrels."

Torture is about us--not them

From an email sent to Andrew Sullivan:
"I keep telling people that it's not about them, that it's about us. That it doesn't matter if the guy at Guantanamo is a monster - that if we torture him, we become monsters too. People who argue for torture always talk as if we aren't really there - as if the criminal is there, the monster, and torture is there, a fate that isn't underserved, and which might bring forth some useful information.

The problem, of course, is that we are there, and the practice of torture changes us. Approving of it changes us, carrying it out changes us, to become the sort of people who approve of torture means, in a sense, that the country we love so much has passed from the scene."


Sometimes the Onion is just brilliant

NSA Wiretap Reveals Subject May Be Paying Too Much For Long-Distance | The Onion - America's Finest News Source: "FORT MEADE, MD--The director of the National Security Agency announced at a press conference Tuesday that the ongoing phone surveillance of Cincinnati resident Greg Wyckham has yielded 'overwhelming and incontrovertible' evidence that the 37-year-old high-school teacher and married father of three is wasting money on a long-distance plan that does not suit his calling needs."

Streak's music history cont.

In the middle of my ninth grade year, we moved to a bigger town in Colorado. In the small town, I was in high school, but in the bigger town, ninth grade was junior high. I went from open campus to needing a pass for the bathroom. I still remember shivering out on the parking lot during lunch break--the snow keeping us off the grass, and teachers spaced strategically along the periphery. Not allowed to even go back inside to my locker, I felt like a prisoner in "the yard" with the "bull in the tower" and waiting for someone in the crowd to "shank me."

Ok, it wasn't that bad. But it was a bit of an adjustment. The next year, I reentered high school and found my stride. My brothers were all in college and my new classmates knew nothing of them or my parents. When you live in a real small town, the youngest is never really him or herself, but a collection of how the family is perceived. To be fair, most of that was positive in the small town, but it was also confusing. I enjoyed my new found anonymity and took up new sports and hobbies.

Musically, however, I must say that I floundered. My brother played guitar primarily with a finger-picking style, which is great for folk music. And that is what I thought I liked. I was a little afraid of rock music, and somewhere in this period, I think I falsely assumed that music evolved in a rather odd way--from folk and nice music to loud and rock. That said, I did listen to the music that my classmates did. The aforementioned April Wine and Def Leppard weren't bad--all things considered. Van Halen was ok, I guess. And there were some notables mixed in with the Little River Band and others. The Pretenders were cool, and I still remember listening to the Cars "moving in stereo" in my headphones and loving how the sound moved from one side to the other. I discovered Rush Moving Pictures and considered that a great album at the time. It really was pretty decent an I still give it a listen.

But high school, for me, really didn't provide much in the long-term musical experience. It was more me looking for a sound. It was after high school, that my next album came to my attention.

My oldest brother lived close by and I used to go visit on the weekends. He had really good beer, great music, he and my sister-in-law would usually have a great time together. One weekend (and it must have been in 87) he went to the video store to get our movie and came home with "The Three Amigos" on VHS and U2's Joshua Tree on vinyl. Joshua Tree went on the turntable and Steve Martin, Martin Short, and Chevy Chase all went back to the video store unwatched. No way to watch that film after listening to that music.

Over the years, this may be the album I have listened to the most. I am still amazed by the sound and the emotions it evokes. While my bro and I disagreed about "Bullet the blue sky" (he thought it didn't fit, I knew he was wrong), we all loved the rest of the album. The hits are one thing, but the other songs--"One Tree Hill," "Red Hill Mining Town," "Running to stand still" and "Mothers of the Dissappeared." It is still great. Some U2 fans disagreed and said that it wasn't as good as their early stuff. I don't know. This album holds together and over time about as well as any album can.

Tomorrow I cheat and go backwards--kind of.

June 12, 2006


I was thinking about asking anyone who reads to post their favorite albums. Not favorite artists or songs, but favorite entire albums. Those albums that hold together thematically and musically and need to be heard as one. Those albums that stand the test of time and still deserve to be played and heard.

As I was imaginging this in my head, I started thinking about my own musical progression. I thought I would start there.

I grew up in a small town in western Colorado. I have two older brothers who were very influential on much of my development. My middle brother is very musical and taught me a lot about the guitar, but my older brother has great appreciation for music and really values good songwriting. And he also values albums as works of art. I still remember him putting two different albums on the turntable: Emmylou Harris' Pieces of the Sky and Dan Fogelberg's Souvenirs. (Say what you will about Fogelberg, his early stuff is good. It isn't until later that his music turned maudlin and annoying--"Leader of the Band" and stuff like that).

Having an older brother can be handy. It was convenient musically for me. While my friends were listening to Abba (and I did too--we were all young and stupid at one point), my brother had me listening to Pure Prairie League, Emmylou, Fleetwood Mac and even some Dylan.

So, for my first favorite album, I will name Pure Prairie League's Bustin Out. Famous for their one big hit--"Amie"--this album has a lot of well-written songs; "Boulder Skies," "Early Morning Riser" and others. It was a big hit in Colorado.


Those are the rules: has to be a good album that you like to listen to as an album (doesn't mean you like every song, but overall has more good songs than bad); has to have some kind of thematic sense to it (completely subjective, I know); has to stand some test of time (we all know how albums can fade); and can't be a live album (we will do those next).

For my next album, I hope to take my musical evolution out of the 70s. It was a bumpy ride--April Wine, Triumph, Def Lepard, and Van Halen, to just name a few.

Ever have one of those days?

I think they are called "mondays" and they kind of suck. Today has been one of those days. Everything just feels a little out of sync. I can handle that, but hate that when I am off, I respond in ways I don't like. I take offense easily. I have a short fuse.

Oh well.

Well, this is interesting

Thanks to Nathan at Moral Contradictions for alerting me to something I had completely missed. The Ten Commandments Judge and wingnut Roy Moore lost his Republican primary.

I have to admit. I had written Alabama off. After they rejected Governor Riley's tax reform package largely led by the Christian Coalition, and then bussed in groups of fundamentalists to worship Moore's Ten Commandment idols, I thought this was a done deal. I really thought that Moore's "Christian nation" view would appeal widely to the South.

It makes me feel better that someone like Moore loses in Alabama. Maybe suggests that America hasn't lost its mind completely.

June 11, 2006

conservative friends

Yeah, I have them. And relatives.

SOF and I had dinner with two of them last night. Well, one of them used to be a pretty hard core democrat. She has moved to the right. He is a pretty conservative guy, but can clearly articulate why.

Anyway, last night's dinner was instructive. I learned a little about how people outside Fox News defend (and don't) this administration.

For example:

on the gay marriage amendment, my conservative friend agrees that this is pure poltical pandering and he clearly resents the Bush attempt to curry favor with the Religious Right. He also blames that on Karl Rove.

on the Iraq invasion, he believes firmly that it was the right thing to do because, again in his view, the sanctions were not only not working, but breaking down and what control we had over Saddam would be going away. He did acknowledge that Bush sold the war differently to the American people.

he thinks that the Rummy bashing is misguided and agenda driven. As he put it, Rumsfeld and Franks did their job--they won the invasion. The problems that followed are political in his mind, and not military. I disagree and think that it is very hard to separate those two. The political problems have been sharply exacerbated by the lack of security. Security is a military problem in the aftermath of an invasion.

on the nsa wiretapping and torture, he also disagreed with me. On the NSA, he said that the volume of calls that these people were filtering precluded warrants and those should and are (according to him) after a suitable suspect is identified. On torture, he disagreed with my assertion that Bush sanctioned torture, but said that he tried to clearly define where Geneva conventions would not apply--ie, those things that specifically addressed a state, and would not apply to terrorists with no national or state allegiance. He also seemed, in my opinion, to hedge on the actual torture issue, and I believe followed the conservative party line in dismissing those actual torture events to rogue soldiers and CIA agents who "would be punished."

on John McCain, he (and his wife) see McCain as a political operative with no center. While I agree with that, they also think that Gore is a waste of a suit and that he whined after Florida. I don't see that. I decided not to bring up Kerry or the evidence of some tampering in Ohio. I am one of those who didn't really question the legitimacy of Bush after each election--even though I resented their actions during, so I understand the charge of whining. But if the GOP is actually stealing elections, that is a problem for all of us. And the GOP should be upset too. If they can steal an election, that means it can be stolen from them too. In the recent special election in San Diego, there are allegations that the elctronic voting machines were sent home with volunteer poll workers before the election. That isn't good.

Neither likes Hillary Clinton, nor Tom Delay, nor Bill Frist. But neither did they like anyone in the House or Senate. Both seem oddly interested in Mitt Romney, and he likes Newt. Sigh. Both are convinced that liberals are weak on terror. Sigh again.

All in all, it was a great evening and great discussion. On one hand, I hope like hell their assessment of Bush is correct--that he is mostly competent though often pulled in the wrong direction by people like Rove. On the other hand, I think they are largely way too trusting of people like Cheney and have completely bought the RNC talking point that the DNC is in complete disarray and "soft on terror."

June 10, 2006

Sweet. Holy. Crap.

This is really not the preferred way to begin a Saturday. This is the "Onward Christian Soldiers" on the roids, and endorsed by our President.
"It turned dark and frightening on Saturday afternoon. After Franklin 'Islam is a Wicked Religion' Graham came out to thunder against the evils of homosexuality and the Iraqi people (whom he considers to be exactly the same people as the ancient Babylonians who enslaved the tribes of Israel and deserving, one would assume, the exact same fate) we heard an explosion. Flames shot out on stage and a team of Navy Seals was shown on the big TV monitors in full camouflage creeping forward down the hallway from the locker room with their M16s. They were hunting us, the future Christian leaders of America. Two teenage girls next to me burst into tears and even I, a jaded middle-aged male, almost jumped out of my skin."

I really hate the militaristic imagery. Growing up, the image of Christ that was the most compelling was that of the shepherd. Perhaps it was because we raised sheep and had an appreciation for both the sheep and the people who took care of them. I don't know. But that image has been one that has endured through all the frustration.

So when I see people taking violent imagery and transposing it onto Christ, I feel more than a little ill.

BTW, what the hell happened to Franklin Graham? Or has he always been this nuts?

June 9, 2006

Josh Ritter on Amazon video

Yeah, this is all cross marketing. But it is clever. Bill Maher skewers the Bush administration and interviews people and musical artists. Last week had some really good songs by the Dixie Chicks. This week, you can hear two songs by Josh Ritter. Check out Wolves and "Girl in the War."

Damn, both are good, but holy jeebus "Girl in the War" is an amazing song. Listen.

June 8, 2006

I was with him for a few minutes...

I watched Michael Berg's interview on CNN. His son was allegedly killed by al-Zarqawi and CNN's Soledad O'Brien was shocked that Berg wasn't happy the terrorist was dead. I was with him there. He pointed out the obvious, that the continued killing and celebration of killing gets us nowhere. That celebrating the death of another human being isn't good for us. That killing other people doesn't replace lost loved ones.

I liked that part.

But then he went off the bridge. Started calling Bush the real terrorist, and even said that Saddam, while not a nice guy, was better than Bush.

That is not good for anyone. Well, I stand corrected. The right loves it when leftists say stuff like this. It allows them to ignore us all.

I understand Berg's point. Bush has rather carelessly caused the lives of thousands. But in no way is he the same as someone who kidnaps innocents and beheads them on television. As morally problematic as the invasion is--as is the secret prison system or torture of Iraqis, it is not the same thing as terrorists who execute innocents or walk into a pizzeria with a bomb strapped to their backs. It's stupid, and irresponsible and wrong. And it undermines everyone who has incredibly legitimate complaints about this President and this war.

But even with this stupidity, it pales in response to what the right spews out on a daily basis. Consider the blonde dingbat. You know who I am talking about. Not only has she
"stated: 'My only regret with [Oklahoma City bomber] Timothy McVeigh is he did not go to the New York Times Building.' [New York Observer, 8/26/02]


stated that the debate over former President Bill Clinton should have been 'about whether to impeach or assassinate.' [High Crimes and Misdemeanors: The Case Against Bill Clinton (Regnery, 1998)]"

but she also supported freaking apartheid. How unhinged do you have to be to support apartheid?

And yet, as I meant to say yesterday, her immoral and horrible statements will get her more press, more sales, and more appearances on cable news. Everyone wrings their hands and says, "I can't believe she said that" and then has her on to say it again.

I am telling you. We have lost the ancient punishment of shunning. People like her should be shunned. They should be ignored. Allowed to say whatever she wants to, but not recognized, not asked to be interviewed.

We should turn our backs on people like her and move on. It is actually what we should to do terrorists too. The correct punishment for McVeigh would have been obscurity in prison for life. Lambasting al-Zarqawi's dead face on world tv does little more than cement him as a martyr.

Bring back the shunning.

This isn't good for Oklahoma--or the country

If you follow the link here and you will understand what I am talking about.

Our President

This quote is originally from the Woodward book on Bush as war president, so it is not new. But it is revealing.
"'I do not need to explain why I say things. That's the interesting thing about being the president. Maybe somebody needs to explain to me why they say something, but I don't feel I owe anybody an explanation.'"

Maybe someone needs to remind him that the President may be the most powerful man in the world, but in our system, he is just another citizen. Not only that, but he works for us, and is certainly not above the law. Unfortunately, his own words suggest that he sees his position almost exactly opposite of that.

The rest of the piece is good too--includes this little surprise from good old "Drown government in the Bathtub" Norquist:
Grover Norquist, a principal organizer of the conservative movement who is close to the Bush White House and usually supports its policies, says, "If you interpret the Constitution's saying that the president is commander in chief to mean that the president can do anything he wants and can ignore the laws you don't have a constitution: you have a king." He adds, "They're not trying to change the law; they're saying that they're above the law and in the case of the NSA wiretaps they break it."

Thursday morning roundup

Arlen Specter has hints of being a "grownup Republican" but has, up till now, usuall retreated when pushed. Now, he is evidently mad at Cheney for working a deal behind the Chairman's back to stop an investigation into the NSA deal. I am not surprised at this. Cheney is about being right. People who get in his way get trampled--Republican or Democrat. We will have to see if Specter actually follows through on his assertion (in his open letter to the Dickster) that he might actually use the subpoena power to force the Administration to cooperate.

It's interesting, btw. Bush seems, at times, concerned by the low poll numbers. I don't think anyone outside James Dobson's headquarters really thinks he is serious about the gay marriage amendment. But everyone agrees he is floundering, trying to rally his numbers. That seems motivated by the fear that if the Dems take over either house, the investigation flood would begin--hell, even impeachment is a possibility.

What is interesting to me is that Cheney seems equally vulnerable to such a threat. There is even a hint that Patrick Fitzgerald could include Cheney in his prosecution. Yet, Cheney seems to have only contempt for the polls and the people. He seems to truly despise anyone who disagrees with him.


Speaking of despicable people, Ann Coulter is finally getting criticism (even from some on Fox!) for her unbelievable statements about the 9-11 widows. Some appear shocked (Shocked!) that Ann would say something so hateful.

I say, where the hell have you been? Keith Olbermann pointed out how interesting it was that Coulter criticized the 9-11 widows for "politicizing 9-11" since Coulter's own career has largely boomed because of the very same tragedy.

I think it is interesting that she castigates people who lost spouses for somehow getting away with political statements. As I recall, her suggestion that we invade all Muslim countries, kill their leaders, and convert them all to Christianity was largely explained away as her responding to the grief of losing her good friend Barbara Olsen.

This same week, Rush Limbaugh said the left was going to pull a "gang rape" over the Haditha episode.


June 7, 2006

Thinking of Keillor's post

The Washington Monthly: "Safavian conceded to Justice prosecutor Peter Zeidenberg that he most likely didn't believe he had the qualifications to be chief of staff at the Government Services Administration, the position he held when he had the dealings with Jack Abramoff he is accused of covering up.

'Did you think you were qualified for the job?' Zeidenberg asked.

'Probably not, actually,' Safavian said.

What a helpful admission. In fact, I can think of dozens of top administration officials who might have similar responses to the same question.

--snip--with list of other similar examples [Streak]--snip--

This list just never seems to end. Safavian's admission was helpful, but we'd probably get the same response out of most of the administration's political appointees. There might as well be a 'No Policy Experts Need Apply' sign hanging in the West Wing."

Good list here of people appointed by Bush to positions for which they had no experience. As Garrison said, we used to think that Republicans might be jerks and preferred the rich to the poor, but we assumed they had a basic level of competence.


Man, I am sighing a lot lately!

San Franciscophobia | Salon.com

h/t Anglican for this Garrison Keillor column noting how Republicans are now trying to run ads suggesting that if Democrats take over the House, a woman from San Francisco will be Speaker. "San Francisco" being code for "gay." Yet, Republicans, as he notes, are losing their credibility for, well, competence.
"Meanwhile, the Current Occupant goes on impersonating a president. Somewhere in the quiet leafy recesses of the Bush family, somebody is thinking, 'Wrong son. Should've tried the smart one.' This one's eyes don't quite focus. Five years in office and he doesn't have a grip on it yet. You stand him up next to Tony Blair at a press conference and the comparison is not kind to Our Guy. Historians are starting to place him at or near the bottom of the list. And one of the basic assumptions of American culture is falling apart: the competence of Republicans.

You might not have always liked Republicans, but you could count on them to manage the bank. They might be lousy tippers, act snooty, talk through their noses, wear spats and splash mud on you as they race their Pierce-Arrows through the village, but you knew they could do the math. To see them produce a ninny and then follow him loyally into the swamp for five years is disconcerting, like seeing the Rolling Stones take up lite jazz. So here we are at an uneasy point in our history, mired in a costly war and getting nowhere, a supine Congress granting absolute power to a president who seems to get smaller and dimmer, and the best the Republicans can offer is San Franciscophobia? This is beyond pitiful. This is violently stupid.

It is painful to look at your father and realize the old man should not be allowed to manage his own money anymore. This is the discovery the country has made about the party in power. They are inept. The checkbook needs to be taken away. They will rant, they will screech, they will wave their canes at you and call you all sorts of names, but you have to do what you have to do."

June 6, 2006

Some funny, some not

Bill Bennett is on the Daily Show right now defending the gay marriage amendment. Sigh. Oh, the pandering. I think Jon is giving him the smack-down. He reversed the slippery slope on the gambling virtue dude. Brilliant.

There is some good news on that. Here is a Baptist minister from freaking Alabama disagrees.
"We have some serious issues before us here in Alabama, but gay marriage is not one of them. It is a wedge issue, a whip designed not to inspire voters to vote for better government, but to frighten voters into electing a savior.

And the last time I checked, that job was already taken."

Well said.


Speaking of Jon Stewart, he had a rather biting criticism for our administration.
The Washington Monthly: "Stewart also quipped: 'Thomas Jefferson once said: 'Of course the people don't want war. But the people can be brought to the bidding of their leader. All you have to do is tell them they're being attacked and denounce the pacifists for somehow a lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.' I think that was Jefferson. Oh wait. That was Hermann Goering. Shoot.'"


Now for the funny. Watched Last Comic Standing tonight. Was looking for NBA finals--even with Mark Cuban--only to find out it isn't until Thursday. Oh well.

Back to the lame comedy show. Watchable only because there are occasionally truly funny moments. Of course, most of those don't advance to the next lame round.

Funniest line tonight about stupid racists.
Supid Racists, either the Mexicans are too lazy or they are taking all your jobs. Can't have it both ways!

June 5, 2006

see, I thought this was a fair game

I remember well when our President took office. I remember someone close to me smugly told me that Bush would be a good President. He said something about no interns. I said, let's wait and see. He said, again smugly, no interns.

Damn, wouldn't we all wish that were the problem? Now we have a Jesus President who says to the troops with a big wink, "don't you go and torture now! wink, wink." Then, of course, removes the instructions to our troops to "not torture."

Hmm. I helped elect a President who diddled the intern. I was chastized.

He helps elect and reelect a President who not only guts the constitution, but turns America from a beacon of liberty into one that sanctions gulags and torture. I kind of expect an apology.

That is what I am waiting for. An apology. An admission. Something. Just acknowledge that when you assured me that Jesus Bush was a "Man of God" who looked to the almighty for guidance and would return moral virtues to the White House, that you were mistaken! Badly mistaken.

Instead of Churchy McChurch, you gave us a horrible combination of Rambo, Steven Seagal, and Pat Robertson.

Don't worry, I am absolutely sure that I won't hear anything from the Bushies. One close to me is now saying that Bush's faith was not that important in electing him. Really?

I am fully expecting to hear a conservative evangelical say, with a straight face, "why did you guys elect this guy?"

It isn't a straight game. When they elect him, it is about his faith. Now that he is a torturing incompetent, some of them are jumping ship and now saying, "hey, you can't expect me to now address his putative faith!"


Hard to keep the funny around

Reading through the blogs, I find this story.
"WASHINGTON -- The Pentagon has decided to omit from new detainee policies a key tenet of the Geneva Convention that explicitly bans 'humiliating and degrading treatment,' according to knowledgeable military officials, a step that would mark a further, potentially permanent, shift away from strict adherence to international human rights standards."

Who the hell are we as Americans? We are now a culture that tortures and says it is ok. That scares me badly. It isn't the America I was brought up with. Meanwhile, today, Bush stood up and supported the anti-gay marriage amendment that can't possibly pass to appeal to people who think that is a bigger issue than torture. Let's be clear. If Christian values don't oppose torture or mistreatment of our enemies, then there are no Christian values! Then it is just the old stand-by--hate your enemy, treat your enemy the way they treat others, not the way you would like them to treat you. Love only your friends. Despise your enemies.

Hell, I understand why that is the President's stance. Hell of a lot easier than actually following the words of Christ.

Andrew Sullivan is furious.
Can you believe what you're reading? This is not some tight exclusion for a handful of CIA officials to torture detainees. This is a carte blanche for the military as a whole. The argument is the same that we have always had:

"But top administration officials contend that after the Sept. 11 attacks, old customs do not apply, especially to a fight against terrorists or insurgents who never play by the rules. "The overall thinking," said the participant familiar with the defense debate, "is that they need the flexibility to apply cruel techniques if military necessity requires it."

The United States is a rogue nation that practices torture and detainee abuse and does not follow the most basic principles of the Geneva Conventions. It is inviolation of human rights agreements and the U.N. Convention against torture. It is legitimizing torture by every disgusting regime on the planet. This is a policy mandated by the president and his closest advisers. This is the signal being sent from the commander-in-chief to his troops: your enemy can be treated beyond the boundaries of what the U.S. has always abided by. When you next read of an atrocity of war-crime or victim of torture by the U.S., just keep in mind who made this possible.

I made a serious mistake the other day and flipped past Fox when John Gibson was on. This idiot makes Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity appear smart and reasonable. His big point about Haditha? That the media would not also react to the insurgents killing school children. These people at Fox and evidently in our administration want to drag us down to the level of terrorists--because that is now our standard. Every horrible thing done in Abu Ghraib or Gitmo is justifiable because terrorists do worse.

It makes me sad. America has always tried to model itself after higher ideals. We are supposed to be better, goddamnit. We are supposed to be better than terrorists--way better. We sure as hell aren't supposed to torture.

This isn't even close to right.

June 4, 2006

Ah, finallly, some funny

Thanks to Wasp Jerky for this Stephen Colbert commencement address. Holy shit, this is funny. Maybe I have been missing the funny because the Wasp Jerky was out of town. Dammit. What about me?

Anyway, Colbert is brilliant.
"Unfortunately for you job seekers, corporations searching for a better bottom line have moved many of their operations overseas, whether it's a customer service operator, a power factory foreman, or an American flag manufacturer. They're just as likely to be found in Shanghai as Omaha. In fact, outsourcing is so easy that I had this speech today written by a young man named Panjeeb from Bangalore.

If you don't like the jokes, I assure you they were much funnier in Urdu...

And when you enter the workforce, you will find competition from those crossing our all-too-poorest borders. Now I know you’re all going to say, “Stephen, Stephen, immigrants built America.” Yes, and here’s the thing—it’s built now. I think it was finished in the 70s sometime. From this point it’s only a touch-up and repair job. Essentially if Congress enacts it, soon English will be the official language of America. Because if we surrender the national anthem, the next thing you know, they’ll be translating the Bible. God wrote it in English for a reason! So it could be taught in our public schools.

So we must build walls. A wall across the entire southern border. That’s the answer. Obviously that may not be enough, maybe a moat in front of it, or a fire-pit. Maybe a flaming moat, filled with fire-proof crocodiles. And another across our northern border as well. Keep those Canadians with their socialized medicine and their skunky beer out. And because immigrants can swim, we’ll probably want to wall off the coasts as well. And while we’re at it, we need to put up a dome, in case they have catapults. And we’ll punch some holes in it so we can breathe. Breathe free. Time for illegal immigrants to go—right after they finish building those walls.

Then this particularly funny bit complaining about how pampered this generation is with their air bags and arsenic-free Happy Meals.

There are so many challenges facing this next generation, and as they said earlier, you are up for these challenges. And I agree, except that I don’t think you are. I don’t know if you’re tough enough to handle this. You are the most cuddled generation in history. I belong to the last generation that did not have to be in a car seat. You had to be in car seats. I did not have to wear a helmet when I rode my bike. You do. You have to wear helmets when you go swimming, right? In case you bump your head against the side of the pool. Oh, by the way, I should have said, my speech today may contain some peanut products.


I mean even these ceremonies are too safe. I mean this mortarboard...look, it’s padded. It’s padded everywhere. When I graduated from college, we had the edges sharpened. When we threw ours up in the air, we knew some of us weren’t coming home.

Ah funny! Nice to see it again.

Sorry, this stuff still isn't funny

I am still amazed that the GOP has identified Gay marriage and flag burning as the major threats to America. Most Americans probably see this as pure politics.
"Though Bush himself has publicly embraced the amendment, he never seemed to care enough to press the matter. One of his old friends told NEWSWEEK that same-sex marriage barely registers on the president's moral radar. "I think it was purely political. I don't think he gives a s--t about it. He never talks about this stuff," said the friend."

Hah. Exactly what most people on the left think and more than a few on the right. After all, as I think even Jonah Goldberg noted, if this is such a pressing issue, it should be a pressing issue away from an election year. Howard Fineman, as I noted the other day, thought this was all condescending to evangelicals, but I am not convinced.
"Evangelical leaders insist they know how gay marriage affects their voters--they'll stay home if politicians don't push for the FMA. 'It's the one issue I have seen that eclipses even the abortion issue among Southern Baptists,' says Richard Land, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention."
See? Despite all the concerns about "life" conservative evangelicals are more homophobic than pro-life.


Haditha makes us all sad and sick. How do Americans do this? Andrew Sullivan puts the blame where I think (at least some) belongs:
Andrew Sullivan | The Daily Dish: Bush, Military Ethics, Haditha: "From the moment George W. Bush exempted U.S. military forces from the Geneva Conventions if 'military necessity' demanded it, he sent a message. From the moment George W. Bush refused to accept Donald Rumsfeld's repeated offers to resign after Abu Ghraib, he sent a message. From the moment, George W. Bush appended a signing statement to the McCain Amendment, arguing that as commander-in-chief, he was not subject to the ban on torture and abuse of military prisoners, the president sent a message."


I told you all that I called my congressman after the recent NSA story broke. Both senators didn't really want my name, but at least my rep wrote back. Unfortunately, his letter displayed republican logic and rhetoric. The entire letter is a defense of gathering intelligence in war. My congressman gives me a paragraph on how such efforts have proved important in history.

See what he did? He turned my concern about oversight and warrants into some irrational leftist who doesn't even want our President to protect Americans. The question then is a choice between gathering intelligence or not. Republicans and Bush, according to this, want to protect Americans, and liberals like me don't.

That really annoys me. When I disagree with most Conservatives, I don't assume they are unAmerican. I don't understand why wanting Bush to get a goddamn warrant makes me soft on national security issues? If I was assured that my Republican representative would have treated either Al Gore or John Kerry with the same trust, I might actually respect that. But I don't believe that for an instant.

Oh well. Back to looking for funny.