July 31, 2006


Drove over 2200 miles, saw friends and relatives, and had a nice time with all. But we are tired and glad to be home.

I will get back into the news slowly. Unfortunately, the Israel/Lebanon fight seems intractable and our administration appears more incompetent. I hope I am wrong, but don't see much to hope from Bush and Cheney.

What else is going on?

This story is on all the blogs and is something I want to talk about soon, but I haven't taken the time.

Mel Gibson on the other hand, damn near wrote the blog post himself. I have great compassion for Mel's battle with addiction and wish him well, but his anti-semetic rant during his arrest suggests that those of us who saw anti-semitism in his Passion film were not completely off the beam (as some of Streak's friends and relatives suggested).

Ok, back to your regularly scheduled programming.

July 28, 2006

still on the road

But a few good reads:

slacktivist: YNATKC (cont'd.) is a great post.

And Lebanon: A Jewish Moderate's Lament.

But I think Jon Swift wins the prize for most creative in this treatise on what it means to be a Chickenhawk.
Favorite quote:
"We conservatives are morally opposed to ad hominem attacks and use them only as a last resort. The fact that these left-wing Moonbats (as we conservative bloggers endearingly refer to liberals) feel they have to resort to name calling just shows that they have no argument."

July 24, 2006

More on colorado

Nathan responded to my tired post from last night:
Having just driven from Denver to Cheyenne last month... it was a disappointment leaving the beautiful front range only to arrive... nowhere.

Yeah, I understand. Cheyenne is not the prettiest part of Wyoming. My comments are really more about the traffic and kind of blatant consumerism of the front range. SUV's pulling speed boats kept cutting me off all through Fort Collins. What I am complaining about is at least partially not unique to Colorado (hence the Texas reference), but it just struck me as more so this last time through.

Part of this is that I remember that sense of superiority that many in Colorado have. I used to have it. I used to believe that mountains were inherently superior to non-mountainous areas. I looked at those who lived in Oklahoma with a certain sense of pity. Poor people, can't live around mountains. What an inferior existence.

Studying environmental history, one is struck by how cultural assumptions feed our understanding of nature. Americans inherited some of the European preference for alpine vistas and only recently have come to appreciate deserts and swamps (sorry, wetlands). We also impose certain spiritual assumptions on nature and assume that somehow out in "nature" (nature not being in cities for some reason) we achieve some spiritual connection that is impossible in town.

Living in the great plains has been a good experience for me. I have learned to appreciate the beauty of the plains and understand that there is no inherent superiority in those mountains. They are beautiful, but so are the grasslands. Nothing wrong with enjoying them, but I no longer assume that people who live in mountains have a better life than those who don't.

All of this just came to a head yesterday driving the Front Range, even though, as I noted, all of this is more than just Colorado. And Colorado will always be a special place for me. I spent most of my youth and part of my adulthood there. I met SOF there, and many of my family still live there.

But there is more to the world than Fort Collins. And I guess that is my point. FWIW. :)

Now I am going to go connect to nature on a golf course....

On the road

Light blogging for a bit.

Just an observation, however. I have often wondered if Wyoming was Colorado's version of Canada, but now I am wondering if Wyoming is to Colorado what Oklahoma is to Texas. One state takes the other for granted, and has a certain air about it.

Just a tired thought. Probably more to do with the Denver front range than the entire state of Colorado. Anyway, more later.

July 20, 2006

Well, Israel continues to pound Lebanon

As I have noted, Israel certainly has cause to defend itself, and the terrorism of Hezbollah and Hamas are dangerous and clearly wrong. But the question of the endgame here for Israel seems less clear.

As Ezra Klein notes, justification for attacking these two groups might be one thing, but displacing some 500,000 civilians is making it harder to issue Israel some kind of blank check for attacking terrorism. Sojourners notes in their special mailing, that Western media tends to distort the numbers and we often forget the one-sided nature of the violence and death toll:
The violence of Hezbollah and Hamas should be unequivocally condemned and opposed. It cannot be ignored or underestimated that the two terrorist organizations have as their goal the eradication of Israel. However, much U.S. media coverage of this new Middle East war paints a misleading picture of a tit-for-tat equivalency between the two sides: Hezbollah explodes a bomb in Israel, Israel responds in kind. While their intentions are indeed malevolent, the two terrorist groups have nowhere near the military capability of Israel, which wields one of the most powerful military forces in the world (with the aid, of course, of more than $3 billion per year from the United States). The death toll in Lebanon in the first six days of the war has been tenfold that in Israel - according to The New York Times, 310 people, most of them civilians, have died in Lebanon while Israel has suffered 27 casualties, 15 of them civilians, since Israel began its attacks. (Similarly, 4,064 Palestinians and 1,084 Israelis have been killed since Sept. 29, 2000, according to the Palestine Red Crescent Society and the Israel Defense Forces, respectively.)

Back to Ezra, the issue of where Israel is going needs addressing, but by all in this war on terror.
"There's been some talk about how the sustained deployment is radicalizing once-sympathetic Lebanese. Less covered, but true in my experience, is that the ferocity and seeming indiscriminate nature of the counterattack is discomfiting and disappointing their Western supporters as well. At a point, 'Israel, right or wrong' is really just a fig leaf for 'Israel, wrong.'"

I have always struggled with the Bush administration's approach to the war on terror, which seems to be the model chosen by Israel as well. I understand the need to stand up to terrorists, and don't mind strong responses to terrorists themselves, but have always thought that the real issue here are the non-terrorist Muslims. They want to like us, and don't like their religion being hijacked for murderers, but they need some assistance in standing up to Al Qaeda and Hamas. In the long term, it seems to me that the more terrorists we kill, and certainly the more civilian deaths, the more terrorists we create. It doesn't appear to be a winning solution by any stretch of the imagination. In this scenario, Israel may succeed in displacing Hezbollah, but if they radicalize the moderate Lebanese, what have they really gained?

July 19, 2006

More idol worship

I like to read Shakespeare's Sister, but will warn those of you with the tender ears, that she (and they) like to swear a bit. But then again, so do I. So, today, with the great title of Get Back to Work, You Goddamned Idiots! (AGAIN), I find this nonsense:
"House debate on a bill to protect the Pledge of Allegiance from legal challenges because of the 'under God' phrase erupted in heated rhetoric Wednesday with lawmakers from both parties using religious references to support their side.

"'This is a joke,' said Rep. Patrick Kennedy, D-R.I., 'that this majority would talk about God and yet not even work to raise the wages of the very people that are taking care of the children of God.

'The bill's sponsor, Rep. Todd Akin, R-Mo., said America was a nation of God-given inalienable rights and that's why the country is in a war against 'radical Islamists.' Democrats wouldn't want to 'cut and run' in Iraq, he said, 'if they understood the importance of those basic principles and that inalienable rights are impossible without a recognition of God and that's why the pledge bill is important and not irrelevant or trivial.'"

I am so tired of this crap. Clearly, conservatives missed the entire idol worship part of the OT, but hey, if you want to say the Pledge, knock yourself out. I beginning to think that we should change courses and start adding to the Pledge AND suggesting it be protected by a constitutional amendment. You know, not only should it say, "Under God" but also should add something about the non-believers lacking rights under the law.

I especially like how the Missouri Repub connected the Pledge to a strained defense of the war in Iraq. What a dweeb.

And of course, I object to infusing our political system with religious rhetoric. Nothing wrong with faith, but why are we passing laws based on some particular fundamentalist view of the bible? Witness this dialogue in the house about the failed gay marriage ban the other day:
"'It's part of God's plan for the future of mankind,' explained Rep. John Carter (R-Tex.).

Rep. Bob Beauprez (R- Colo.) also found 'the very hand of God' at work. 'We best not be messing with His plan.'

Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) agreed that 'it wasn't our idea, it was God's.

''I think God has spoken very clearly on this issue,' said Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.), a mustachioed gynecologist who served as one of the floor leaders yesterday. When somebody quarreled with this notion, Gingrey replied: 'I refer the gentleman to the Holy Scriptures.'"


July 18, 2006

More on Bush's faux pas

Some will undoubtedly see this as an over-reaction on the left's part, but Bush demonstrated a tremendous lack of respect when he walked up behind German Chancelor Merkel and gave her a patronizing little massage--she clearly didn't want or like.

This post looks at the German culture where such public touching is frowned upon, even among intimates.

From the comments, another German adds:
"Being a German I'd say that today it's a bit more relaxed. I see 'casual touches' between close friends everyday. Even in public.Likewise boyfriend-girlfriends are a lot more 'affectionate' in public today.:)

But nobody would dream of acting that way during official events. Just isn't done. Even her husband wouldn't have touched her that way. It would show total disrespect for her official role and her job as chancellor. Her being 'someone with stature'. :)"

And that strikes me as true here too. It would not be right if Merkel was an administrative assistant, but she is the leader of the German people. Bush continues to show the world that he lacks even a basic understanding of diplomacy or respect for other cultures. I am embarrassed.

What some people are calling a conservative civil war

Check out Gregory Djjerejian's take on the right wing. I might have to apologize to Gordon for suggesting that conservatives haven't spoken up against the wingnuts in their party, but here Djjerejian is taking on Jonah Goldberg and the NRO. (Also see his link to George Will's lambasting of the neo-cons).

One of the problems, however, is that when people like Andrew Sullivan or other conservatives actually criticize Bush and the neo-cons, they are often labeled liberals. Which is actually pushing some of these conservatives rather hesitantly into the Democratic camp--simply because the Repubs have been captured by the wingnut convention. Take a little read through here and see how many of the neo-cons--having learned NOTHING from Iraq--now want more war. Invade! Invade! Invade!

Sure, nation building isn't working in Iraq where sectarian violence is erupting daily (hundreds killed on a daily basis) but we can do it in Syria and Iran. And then on to North Korea. And while we are at it, we can topple Venezuela, and even Massachusetts. Neo-cons, it appears, certainly don't lack for confidence. Little things like facts or evidence don't seem to faze them. Perhaps that is why they are so popular with the religious fundamentalists in our own country.


One more good one

Bush blocked probe into spying - U.S. Security - MSNBC.com: "WASHINGTON - Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said Tuesday that President Bush personally blocked Justice Department lawyers from pursuing an internal probe of the warrantless eavesdropping program that monitors Americans' international calls and e-mails when terrorism is suspected.

The department's Office of Professional Responsibility announced earlier this year it could not pursue an investigation into the role of Justice lawyers in crafting the program, under which the National Security Agency intercepts some telephone calls and e-mail without court approval.

At the time, the office said it could not obtain security clearance to examine the classified program."

I have said that this program might be necessary to protect us. If it is, then it should be done legally. Bush taking personal steps to stop investigations is in direct violation with the rule of law.

On a roll

The Carpetbagger Report has this interesting post on the youth of James Dobson, with a great name. Beat 'em for Jesus! The unhappy childhood of Dr. James Dobson. Money quote:
So Dobson got smacked around with shoes and belts — for the heinous crime of exclaiming "hot dog!" His parents were uptight fanatics who mistreated him, and his mom even threw intimate undergarments at him. He got abused at a new school and lost a fight to a smaller kid. On at least one occasion, he was mean to a dog.

This is all a shame, and now I think I better understand why Dobson constantly tries to use the raw power of the state to cram fundamentalist Christianity down our throats: He had a lousy childhood.

There is a better way, Jim. Admit that these childhood demons still haunt you. Get help. Find a counselor. Talk it out. You have issues, dude. There's no shame in that. Get the help you need and quit trying to gloss over your crummy upbringing by messing up the entire country.

Well, it looks like Bushco will actually veto something

Not to ensure treatment for the poor or even to limit the size of the deficit, but to restrict scientific testing on stem cells.

Stem cell bill heads for Senate passage - Yahoo! News: "Actress Mary Tyler Moore appeared with Frist during the day, saying she was very disappointed by Bush's stance.

'This is an intelligent human being with a heart, and I don't see how much longer he can deny those aspects of himself,' she said."

I hope she is right about Bush. I really do.

That's our government?

680News - ALL NEWS RADIO: "To get on the ship, Americans must sign a note pledging to reimburse the U.S. government. They will be charged the cost of a single commercial flight from Beirut to Cyprus, usually about $150 or $200 US, although officials refused to specify. If they have no way to fly onward, they also will be asked to reimburse the cost of an airline ticket from Cyprus to the United States.

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi objected to billing evacuees. "A nation that can provide more than $300 billion for a war in Iraq can provide the money to get its people out of Lebanon," Pelosi said.

Holy crap. Pelosi is right. This is our response to Americans in the line of fire? Pay up or we will leave you there?

Look guys, we can argue night and day about details of policy, levels of taxation, and the role of government, but can't we agree that we want good government? Isn't that a base where we can agree?

More Bush frat boy behavior, and the rest

What is it with this guy? Inappropriate is the best way to describe this. This guy embarasses America everytime he speaks, and now acts.


Lebanon civilian deaths morally not same as terror victims -- Bolton - Yahoo! News



This interesting post suggests that the increased revenue from taxes actually proves what progressives have been warning about. Trickle down economics doesn't work--and revenues have only gone up because the wealthiest Americans have become even more so.


Megachurches build a Republican base - Yahoo! News: "GOD AND POLITICS
Sexton believes every word in the Bible, rejects evolution
theory, and supports the Iraq war, the Republican Party and
Bush -- in part because he is a born-again Christian.

'I trust his opinion because of his beliefs,' she said."

Sigh. sigh. sigh. Everytime I hear someone support Bush because of some putative Christian faith, I want to cry. Given that those same followers refuse to actually expect Christian beliefs, I think we should elect people based on another equally worthless trait or claim: Blue eyes; Denver Bronco fans (regardless of if they are or not); or people who listen to the same music we do. No demonstrated evidence that anything like that leads to good decisions, but neither is a faked Christian faith.

July 17, 2006

That's right, folks, he is our President--the most powerful man in the world

You can see it on CNN or probably on Olbermann tonight.

Reporters perked up their ears when Bush said "shit" in an unscripted moment with Tony Blair. Ow my freaking ears!

I couldn't care less about that, but this little shot of our President--the most powerful man in the world--eating with his mouth open like a poorly mannered slob and just casually talking about a major crisis in the middle east, makes me a little ill.

I could almost deal with him being corrupt and simply a front for oil interests. I could deal with him being an immoral liar who has sold this entire facade of Christian faith to get elected twice. I could deal with all of that if I honestly felt that he was even close to competent.

My conservative friends misunderstand my anti-Bush sentiment. I really want to believe he is competent and compassionate. I just can't.

July 16, 2006

Church and community

Oh, and music. Of course.

Tonight, I saw Don Conoscenti at a really cool venue in Norman. A local couple have a church converted into a home, and they occasionally host concerts there.

Tonight was my first time, and it was great. I have blogged here about live music and how magical it is. Tonight was another great experience. Conoscenti is a fabulous guitar player with a great voice (nice combo, eh?). His guitar playing is creative and damn near percussive.

The fact that it was in a converted church kind of caught me off guard. At one point, Conoscenti broke from one of his songs into Woody Guthrie's "This Land is your land." I damn near burst into tears. Much of his music included religious imagery, including a pretty good song called "Paradox of Grace."

Church at its best is about community. This may be the oddest damn church I have ever attended, but it was church at its best. Great music, a little sacramental wine, good friends and great music.

A good night. And a needed one.

July 15, 2006

Neil Young: Heart of Gold

We watched the dvd tonight and didn't expect it to be such an emotional experience. Most of it was his new stuff from Prairie Wind, but he also played a few old standards, including the title track.

There was a lot about this movie that we liked. I think we both loved the song "This old Guitar" which sounds much like some of the songs off Harvest Moon, and frankly, started out with little appeal. It sounded nice, but just sounded like a nice song about a guitar once owned by Hank Williams.

Then, out of the shadows, Emmylou stepped up to the mic with her guitar (I think it is a Gibson jumbo) and joined the song. One of those hair-on-the-back-of-the-neck moments.
This old guitar ain't mine to keep: "
It's mine to play for a while
This old guitar ain't mine to keep
It's only mine for a while"
Pretty good stuff.

July 14, 2006

Enough apocalypse, let's cook some food

Streak the dog likes to cook with us. If flour is involved, he looks a little like this.

Why I dislike John Hagee

My previous post might have seemed a bit strong. I have watched John Hagee for years on TBN.

Yeah, that's right, I used to watch TBN all the time. I was in grad school, and it was a sometimes entertaining way to spend time avoiding the dissertation or course work. Where else could you see such odd characters. Paul and Jan Crouch? I am afraid to say it, but Jan has had a lot of work done, and not just above the neck. The set looks (or used to) like a Victorian whore house without the charm. And you never knew who would be on. Chuck Norris, Deion Sanders, and Whatshisname Holyfield. I think Gary Busey was on for a bit. That was kind of funny.

Besides the kitsch factor, I kind of liked watching the televangelists speak. They all have their little bits: some bounce on their toes, some bob and cry, some shout and some scream. One guy, Dwight Someone had this move where he would cock his head as if he were adjusting his collar. Then he would sometimes place his cordless mike in his big shirt pocket. It was great theater. I saw Rod Parsely there before he was one of Ohio's Patriot Pastors. Rod likes to wipe the sweat off his face and glare at his congregation. I found it fascinating to observe how these people manipulate a crowd. Some of them were quite impressive. Impressive in a scary as shit way, but impressive.

It was here that I ran across John Hagee's little shit storm. And it really is. Sorry to anyone who likes the man, but he is really unbelievable. He has this annoying habit of forcing his congregation to repeat after him--seems like a bit of a control freak. I still remember staring at the tv as the fat freak described the role that sex plays in marriage. As I recall, he said that for a wife, sex is like rent--that is the price she has to pay to staying the marriage. I also remember him saying that wives couldn't withhold from their husbands, you know, because of the rent. I actually wrote Promise Keepers asking them if they knew they had invited a speaker who defended marital rape. I would have really loved to see the face on the other end, but in retrospect, they probably got a lot of complaint letters when the Stadiums were filled with Men.

Having never been a fan of the marital rape, I have never been to interested in "theology" like Hagee's. Of course, this theology includes berating the poor for being poor and telling his followers that if they aren't "prospering, they aren't giving." Giving, of course, to Fatty himself.
"Taken together, his payment package, $842,005 in compensation and $414,485 in benefits, was one of the highest, if not the highest, pay package for a nonprofit director in the San Antonio area in 2001."

I guess not bad work if you can get it.

I shouldn't make fun of his girth, though it is massive, and might explain his need for a million dollar wage. Not sure you can buy those suits off the rack. But something just clicked the other day when I heard that people see him as some kind of "end times" guru. His version of Christianity leaves me cold and shivering in a fetal position.

And that, by the way, is why I no longer watch TBN. Even boob jobs can't save that station.

The world is a scary place

Made all the scarier by people like this. Evangelical fundamentalists, like John Hagee, are actually cheering this bloodfest in Israel and the entire Middle East, because in their warped thinking, this will hasten the second coming.

I freely admit that apocalyptic talk scares the shit out of me. It gets me at a pretty basic level. Listening to people like Hagee can make me consider huffing model airplane glue. Seriously, the brain damage would be worth it.

Watching the news is incredibly tough these days. And the Israeli/Palestinian problem--never really far from our consciousness--is front and center. Make no mistake about it, I understand that Hamas and Hezbollah are bad people. I understand that, as our unbelievably inarticulate and hopeless President put it: "Israel has a right to defend herself."

No doubt. Israel faces a lot of people who profess the desire to push them into the sea. But Israel has not always acted in good faith. How many civilians can you kill for a few kidnapped soldiers?

And our evangelical president, instead of pushing for peace, is more worried about the pig roast he was going to later that day. Sigh. Please, let's try to work for peace. And please, let's not listen to fat idiots like John Hagee.


Swimsuits for women--fundy style?

This is just too damn funny.

WholesomeWear is going into its fifth year and, according to Ferguson, has sold thousands of swimsuits in three styles: culotte, skirted and “slimming,” which looks like a loose-fitting housedress. There is an option with the slimming suit to extend the sleeves below the elbows and to lower the hem so it ends just above the ankles. A woman would be swimming in something akin to a choir robe. “These are designed to highlight the face and not the body,” Ferguson says. That may be true, but a woman is more than just a disembodied head. Why be fearful of the rest of her?

July 13, 2006

Conservatism, part 3

This conversation with Gordon has been fun, and hopefully will continue. I appreciate him taking time to dialogue with us and hope that some of my other readers might join in.

This has spurred me to think about the ideological underpinnings, or perhaps, lack of, to our political dialogue. This isn't a shot at conservatives or Gordon, merely a reflection of American history. We have never been an ideological people. As many European observers noted, we have a penchant for pragmatism. Turner explained that as a product of the frontier.

I suspect that I could quiz many liberals and find them struggling to define what liberals believe. Most of our current beliefs are in the "any thing but W" camp. But I am not convinced that Gordon is presenting (no offense intended, of course) a clear apology for conservatism as a principled ideology.

If I were a conservative.... well, I used to be.

But if I were to defend conservatism, I would start with the fear of an encroaching centralized state. I would suggest that governments have historically been the dominant actors that locked people up without due process, or loaded them onto cattle cars. I would stress that if individual liberties meant anything, they had to exist in a system that cautiously guarded those precious liberties. If I were to continue, I might then try to defend the market economy as the "invisible hand" that offered the best opportunity for ulitimate fairness and predictability, in an essentially darwinian sense, and that those who were left behind or run over by that market system became the responsibilities of the moral framework outside government.

I can argue the first point with some conviction. It seems to me that governments are a threat to personal liberty--ours included. In my study of the past, I understand the fear that government grows almost like a living beast. I have studied the inner workings of Bureaus that began with small intentions and then grew into behemoths that required constant feeding well beyond their intention. I would, and could argue that government has to always fear that explosion.

I could also argue, since I am really unclear on this even as a liberal, that government action can encourage a kind of dependency. I am not talking the mythic welfare queen of Reagan fame, but in many walks of life. In fact, I would argue that many self-identified conservatives bash government and welfare dependency without recognizing how much they benefit from some kind of government action--government action that if withdrawn, would dramatically alter their lifestyle. Perhaps not as much as the welfare mother who relies on government to feed her kids, but still dramatic.

I would argue rather convincingly that as a person of faith, I hate war and any forms of violence, but also recognize that this is a violent world. I would, and have, supported a strong military.

I could do much of that with conviction...

But then my defense crumbles, especially since the modern (read recent) conservative movement, the one who lambasted Clinton for Ruby Ridge and Waco has become rather shockingly complicit in the erosion of civil liberties. I would further argue that the free market economy, so loved by many conservatives, is largely a construct--more mythic than real. When the late Ken Lay had access to either the Clinton administration or the Bush/Cheney "energy" panel, the free market is not free. Certainly not for those smaller energy producers who lack the resources of Kenny Boy.

Further reading suggests that the agricultural market is also incredibly unfree. My small farmer relatives believe they raise cattle in a free market, but don't seem to realize that ADM artificially manipulates the price of cattle to maximize their own profits and market share.

I would then recall the warnings of Eisenhower against the military industrical complex and wonder how dangerous our current military situation is made more dangerous by the tremendous profits of war. I would look at the role that Haliburton plays in public policy and suspect that old Republican General was on target.

Ok, enough for tonight.

July 12, 2006

Conservatism revisited

Gordon nicely responded to my questions in the comments of the previous post. I am still not completely convinced, but he suggested some things to think about.

First, he points out that Coulter does receive quite a bit of criticism from conservatives--and I will concede that. And he reminded me that the National Review fired Coulter for her extreme statements. I think that was when she suggested that we invade Muslim countries and kill their leaders and convert the rest to Christianity.

He seems a bit too forgiving of someone like O'Reilly, especially given how much of a mouthpiece the man has become for the Bush administration, and he didn't address Malkin at all--who may be the more odious for defending internment in a rather transparent attempt to justify similar treatment for Muslims. (Last week, I read that film critic Michael Medved said that Indians hadn't been THAT mistreated--after all, look how many there are around now! I keep waiting for some conservative to say that slavery was both beneficial and moral.)

But we agree that what he calls the "Jerry Springer effect" allows freaks like Coulter to thrive. Couldn't agree more. In fact, the entire Fox News staff qualifies for that. Just about.

The second part of his post is devoted to defending conservatism. I left some comments over at his blog. I am not convinced. Especially since he describes conservatism as essentially agreeing with the basic liberal assumptions, just wanting less government and less welfare. I am most interested in these two statements:
Conservatives believe in multilateralism, but are more willing to adopt unilateralisism when appropriate. Conservatives believe in separation of church and state, but they do not necessarily believe that America should be a godless state or that religion is something to fear.

For the first, I would like to know when that view of unilateralism arose outside this administration. Does Gordon believe that Iraq is an "appropriate" use of unilateralism?

Second, the second sentence strikes me as a classic logical fallacy, perhaps the strawman or something like that (I always forget those). But it is definately a stretch to assume that liberals either want a "godless state" or that "religion is something to fear."

To be fair, most of us want a secular state, but that doesn't mean it is Godless (thanks Ann for that little addition to the anti-liberal mantra). Don't get me wrong, the religion of Pat Robertson and James Dobson scares the shit out of me, but that doesn't mean that I or other liberals--especially those of us who actually are Christians--see religion as something to be feared.

Gordon ends with this little gem:
Conservatives who say liberals are evil are wrong. Liberals are just misguided. Very misguided.

Absolutely. Conservatives who say that liberals are evil are wrong, and so are liberals who say that conservatives are evil.

But then to say that we are misguided? I asked him in the comments to provide a little more substance to that.

Feel free to jump into the mix. And Gordon, thanks for coming by. It is actually nice to argue a little about history and politics. Or at least, i would like to argue a little more about history (I left some other questions regarding American history in my comments as well.)

July 11, 2006

Conservatives, you have some work to do

Glenn Greenwald has become on of my regular reads. This post is just more about how horrible the right wing has become. As he notes, lefty's have their own idiots, but you don't have to look for obscure professors to find them among the right. Michelle Malkin, Ann Coulter, and others are prominently displayed in prime-time and talk radio.

Well, take a look at what passes for discourse. One right winger fippantly suggests that the five justices who voted against Bush in the Hamdan case be strung up. And that seems to be a common refrain among the right. Others say that we should hang the NYT's reporters. Others joke about nuking the middle east. The least violent seems to be the Malkins and Horowitz's who merely want to publish the home addresses of people they don't like.

This is way off the beam. Nothing resembling the America I grew up with. And I hold the conservatives largely responsible. It is you who have allowed the Fox discourse and talk radio to dominate our political landscape. It isn't that it is new to have wingnuts spouting hatred. It is new to have these asshats commonly excused by the so-called conservatives.

Hmm, impeachy

Impeachment Tea

July 10, 2006

What the hell?

Just arrived home to retrieve my mail, and was surprised to find something from the American Bible Society. It was addressed to me and included a "free gift inside."

Any guesses on what the gift was?


An American flag. From the American Bible Society. Asking for money to help them give bibles to service men and women.

I have no problem with the Bible. Well, maybe some issues, but I have no problem with handing them out to whoever wants to read it.

But I have a big problem with conflating the Bible with the American Flag as if they are paired. Especially when it is so clear that American Christians can't seem to tell the difference between the two.

July 8, 2006


I really respect the conservative point of view--I just wonder where it has gone. I like debating the merits of policy, but the conservatives in this country seem to have left that behind. Not all, by any stretch, but as my previous post noted, the nature of acceptible dissent seems to have shifted.

Witness the discussion at Moral Contradictions where Nathan had this quote from Sinclair Lewis:
'When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross.'

The quote is a warning, not a conclusion and so was Nathan's post. The first comment, however, dismissed Nathan for demonizing conservatives and using strawmen, as if there is absolutely no reason for concern.

And I have no reason to doubt the commenter's motives or intelligence. Yet, the examples of reasoned and cordial debate seem lacking.

Witness a truly scary phenomenon occurring among the conservative right. As Glenn Greenwald chronicles, conservatives like Michelle Malkin and David Horowitz have published the home addresses of people they didn't like in a clear effort to intimidate. I am actually afraid to even visit their websites, because I don't want them to know about me, but what could possibly justify this? And how does this reflect on conservative values?

As I have said many times, we are not living in a fascist state, nor is George Bush a fascist. I think he is incompetent and arrogant, but a long way from fascist dictator.

But we are living in perilous times when dissent is easily confused with treason. That should bother conservatives as much as it should liberals. Just as we all have much to fear from a combination of religious fundamentalism with government control. I read somewhere the other day that James Dobson's political wing, led by white supremacist (or sympathizer) Tony Perkins is considering an alternative way to add their gay bashing amendment to the constitution. If their senate and house repubs won't do it, they are considering a state led call for a constitutional convention, where the entire document could be vulnerable to rewrite. By people like James Dobson and D. James Kennedy.

That should scare the shit out of all of us.

Still waiting for the grownup Repubs and Christians to speak out. Still waiting.

July 7, 2006

this is scary

Mike Ferner: Has This Country Gone Completely Insane?: "This afternoon, drinking a cup of coffee while sitting in the Jesse Brown V.A. Medical Center on Chicago's south side, a Veterans Administration cop walked up to me and said, 'OK, you've had your 15 minutes, it's time to go.'

'Huh?', I asked intelligently, not quite sure what he was talking about.

'You can't be in here protesting,' officer Adkins said, pointing to my Veterans For Peace shirt."

According to the blog, he was arrested and escorted off the premises and told that if he returned with that shirt, he would be booked and jailed.

July 6, 2006

More sighs

Many of us have thought that the administration has politicized 9-11 (or as Bush refers to it, September the Eleventh) now have more evidence. (wasp jerky has the links.) Bush wanted to invade Iraq before 9-11. We also learn that the NSA wanted to monitor US phone calls well before 9-11. As Olbermann's terrorism analyst noted, that is what spies do. They will push for access and new information. It is the grownup's job to stop them or at least provide some check. Unfortunately, we have an administration of incompetence and ruthlessness. Ruthless incompetence? Perhaps.

July 4, 2006

Gerrymandering's impact

The more I read about this, the more I think that gerrymandering is really undermining our republic. And from both sides. Here is a good take on it: "What Would Thomas Jefferson Do? As Juliet Eilperin noted, Rep. John Tanner, a thoughtful Democratic congressman from Tennessee, has proposed legislation to require every state to take the politics out of redistricting. Under Tanner's plan, each state would have to appoint an independent commission that couldn't take partisan outcomes into account."

Eilperin's book looks intriguing on this, though depressing. Obviously gerrymandering has a long history, but it appears to be worse in the last couple of decades. I was thinking about this the other day remembering the big "term limits" craze of the, what, early 90s. The argument was that absent limits, you ended up with professional politicians. Of course then, most of those were Republicans trying to overturn the Democratic control of the House. Once Repubs took over, they naturally dropped the call for limits. If they were serious about stopping professional politicians, they should look at the districts.

They won't however.

July 3, 2006

Unites States of Jesusistan

Holy. Crap. Hat tip to Nicole for this:
"A Memphis church on Tuesday will unveil a 72-foot-tall replica of the Statue of Liberty, except this Lady Liberty holds a cross instead of a torch.

World Overcomers Outreach Ministries Church is planning to unveil the statue that mixes Christian and American themes during a special ceremony at its 12,000-member church.

The Statue of Liberation also replaces the famous inscription with the lines 'Give me your tired, your poor ... ' with Roman numerals representing the Ten Commandments.

A tear falling from her right eye represents her concern for America, church pastor Apostle Alton R. Williams said."

This little monstrosity costs $260,000. No word on how much it costs to either your eyes, or your sense of irony. Hey, is that Jim Caviezel up there?

Fits in well with one of my earlier rants

Welcome to Ethics Daily.com!: "Anyway, between now and the November general election, I wonder what other faith concerns will be brought into the fray. Since political advisers have learned how to use faith as a way to mobilize and energize parts of the electorate, most candidates feel compelled to demonstrate their spiritual credentials.

In fact, one thing to watch for is a correlation between poll numbers and fervent faith. Low standings in the polls mean more public affirmations of Jesus. [emph mine]"

July 2, 2006

Interesting exchange on MTP

Saw this live this morning and it was actually stronger than the Venti Yukon I was drinking. The argument was over the NY Times publishing the story on the banking project. There seems to be a concerted talking points circulating among conservatives to blame the messenger. Bill Bennett has argued that Washington Post reporter Dana Priest should be in jail rather than receiving a Pulitzer, so that little dynamic was a bit tense (Priest jabbed at Bennett's gambling habit). But most interesting to me was Bill Safire completely disagreeing with Bennett on the role of the press.

From the comments

Zalm, thanks for the nice words and music suggestion. I need to be reminded that all is not lost.

dave left some great comments, including this observation on history and religion: "One thing that is sharply different is the intermingling of church and state. When de Tocqueville wrote he marvelled at the restraint of the clergy. They seemed to take pride in not mixing religion and politics. The rest of the nation seemed to feel the same way."

And UBUB is back and witty as ever. Don't miss his take on Rex Curry: "UBUB is intrigued, UBUB really is. UBUB would like to humbly share UBUB's opinions on ths matter and UBUB urges others to do so as well."


Good stuff.

The 4th, the Times, and patriotism

I approach this particular holiday better than I used to. I avoid the blatant jingosim by watching movies and eating good food. Then, depending on how tired we are, SOF and I take the dogs over to campus to watch the fireworks.

I think I turned off the 4th during the first Gulf War when the overt patriotism was a little more than I could take. Add to that car dealers using images of Pearl Harbor to capitalize on anti-Japanese sentiment (remember when the Japanese were taking over this country?), and I developed a pretty cynical view toward supposed patriotism.

That cynicism feels pretty well-founded now, especially with the Republicans in charge. Call them "latch-key" Republicans because their grownups have left them in Washington with no supervision. And, unfortunately, a few Democrats seem to have followed their idiocy.

Take the furor over the NY Times. Please. Frank Rich nails it:
"The assault on a free press during our own wartime should be recognized for what it is: another desperate ploy by officials trying to hide their own lethal mistakes in the shadows. It's the antithesis of everything we celebrate with the blazing lights of Independence Day"

Speaking of Independence and patriotism, Isaiah Poole's excellent essay on the flag is well worth the read. On multiple points.

On this Sunday, a good reminder about our supposed Christian heritage, and a reminder that our faith warns us about worshiping idols:

Back in Sunday school, we were regaled with Bible stories about idol worship. You see, one sure way to make the Creator of the Universe mad was to imbue something with powers that actually resided in the Creator alone. The Old Testament is filled with stories of wrath directed at people who substituted fealty to a transcendent God with worship of their own creations.

Symbols are, of course, another matter. We use symbols all the time to represent concepts, values, events, actions and things. Some symbols we are moved to treat with great respect, because we value what the symbol represents. But the symbol, no matter how much we respect it, remains just that—a symbol.

The Fourth of July is an excellent day to ponder the distinction between symbols and idols. Many residents will hang an American flag outside their home on this day to show their love and respect for America. But many of us who revere the symbol will recall our disgust that what the symbol represents is being debased at an accelerated pace. Meanwhile, many conservative lawmakers this summer and fall would have us idolizing what is, once the reality behind the symbol is lost, just a piece of fabric. [emphasis mine]

Well put. Symbols represent something. Once we elevate the symbol above what it represents, we lose the meaning.

And for those who like to bluster about the flag and patriotism, this:

Patriots honor the country’s core values. Idolaters worship symbols. Fortunately, during the flag debate in the Senate, a few senators showed they know the difference. Sen. Thomas R. Carper, a first-termer from Delaware, put it this way: “I believe we desecrate our flag and what it symbolizes when we send American troops off to war without the body armor that they and their Humvees are supposed to have."


The idols in the Bible were presented as objects of scorn because they were often used by immoral leaders to magnify their power at the expense of the people. I will honor the flag this week, but only because I honor this nation’s core principles of liberty and justice even more. Idols, on the other hand, are to be tossed in the fire.