March 31, 2007

Some funny cartoons

and one of my favorites:

Soldiers as Political props?

Some retired generals send a message to the President starting with Paul Eaton who said:
I'm convinced that he would honor them more if he would refrain from using soldiers as props in political theater
A retired Maj. General from the Army National Guard added:
"I think to use it as a means to discuss the Iraqi supplemental is an insult to the soldiers and what they did. Because it's political exploitation as far as I feel. I think he ought to address the issues concerning their treatment, Walter Reed, etc, etc, etc.

But to take this captive audience that has no choice and use them as I mentioned to exploit and push this, his disdain of the Iraqi supplemental vote in the House and the Senate is completely without foundation. And I think he should know that and that it really doesn't sit well with the rest of us in the military."

Religion roundtable

Or politics, I can't keep them straight.

First item is the fruit of Pat Robertson's labor, placing some 150 Regent-trained lawyers in this Bush administration.
"At Regent, Goodling was drilled in the importance of unflinching loyalty to the Republican program. Once in the Justice Department, she proved an able cog in the Bush administration's political machine, meeting with Republican activists in 2006 to help plot the firing of New Mexico's prestigious US Attorney David Iglesias, a fellow Republican who 'chafed' against administration initiatives.

But as scrutiny of her actions intensifies, the evangelical Goodling resorts to the 5th Amendment -- man's law -- to avoid breaking the biblical commandment against lying. Only the goodly and godly Pat Robertson could have prepared her to make such a decision."

Certainly proof that people like Robertson and Falwell can have an impact--but also more than a suggestion that their thumper-factories are bad for us all.


Andrew Sullivan points us to a couple of stories about public religion. This first is an issue I have thought about before. Why is it that while Jesus sharply rebukes public prayers that call attention to self, that religious conservatives love to pray as loud in public as they can? I remember someone interviewing Falwell and asking him that question. The Jabba seemed to have misunderstood the question because he both agreed with the sense that Jesus chastized self-righteous public prayer AND then said when he and his family ate out, he prayed "as loud as he could" to make sure the other patrons heard him.


The second one is rather intriguing and one I did not know about. I am curious what the theologically trained among us can add to this conversation. One of Sully's readers suggests that the "under God" in the Pledge violates another of Jesus' commandments against swearing oaths.
""Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.' But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let what you say be simply 'Yes' or 'No'; anything more than this comes from evil.""

I don't think I have heard that verse before. This reader clearly saw the Pledge as problematic.
Even if we make room for the necessary "civil" oaths used in courtrooms and other legal matters, it's plain Jesus was recommending that his followers dispense with any voluntary, self-initiated oath-taking. So why the constant agitation over the Pledge? Answer: It's not really Jesus that matters.

March 29, 2007

Don't make me defend THIS God

I debated about this post, but decided to go ahead. Please don't misunderstand me, I am not attacking God. I am suggesting that innerancy and literalism means that people end up having to go through intellectual and theological hoops. I am also having a wonderful conversation with Tony about this very issue.

On the side, btw, I think my friends would agree that religious conservatives would be wise to dump the tools they put on the television (Jabba Falwell, James Dobson, Pat Robertson, Richard Land, John Hagee) and have Tony represent them on the national stage. It might turn out badly for the GOP, but religious conservatives everywhere would be grateful.

But back to my topic... About this OT God. Don't get me wrong. I believe. I choose to believe, and it isn't always easy. And I can even make sense of some of the odder parts of the OT, including this story from 1 Samuel:
Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy [a] everything that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.' '"
If you don't know the story, the Israelites and Amalekites evidently hated each other tremendously, and there are numerous conflicts between the two of them. At this point in the story, God tells the Israelites to wipe them out. All of them. Out.

Growing up, I don't think I read this story or heard it from the pulpit. As an adult, I heard one sermon on the radio, but it focussed on the second part of the story--where the Israelites actually don't kill everyone and get in trouble. God told them to wipe them all out and they greedily saved some of the rich Amalekites and valuable cattle and sheep. The sermon's lesson was always obey God. I once wrote Hank Hannegraf (after all, he is the Bible Answer Man) and he explained it as the Amalekites "had it coming." God had given them numerous chances to repent, he noted, and when the UN refused to enforce the Amalekite no-fly zone, God had no choice but to invade....

Ok, maybe not, but it might as well have been. The "they had it coming" defense certainly makes sense, and when placed in a cultural sense of ancient tribal society, makes perfect sense. It certainly makes sense that in these battles between the two groups, a lot of atrocities were committed--mistakes were made, as it were. It also makes sense that the Israelites, who were recording this particular history, would place themselves in the best light possible. Suggesting that God told them to do this makes sense too.

But please don't ask me to believe that the God of peace, the God of justice, and the God of creation, committed genocide. Don't make me defend infanticide and say that "God's ways are higher than our ways." What is the lesson of killing the women (including, we must assume, pregnant women) and infants? The lesson I take away from that (if forced to read it as literal truth) is that God is a two-faced God--on one side the compassion and love for the humanity he created--on the other side a capricious and angry God who destroys entire peoples. How do people opposed to abortion based on the sanctity of life still believe that the God who created that life and instilled that sanctity was so willing to erase infants and unborn?

And if we look further at the story, we find more inconsistencies. God, we assume, could have done the killing himself, but in this story--amidst the same ancient texts that gives us the vaunted 10 commandments that conservatives tell us will save our sorry moral state if posted on schoolhouse and courthouse walls--God commands these flawed human beings to kill for him. "Thou shall not kill" unless God changes his mind?

I choose to believe. Please don't ask me to believe that God did this. I can accept this story as metaphor and even as an example of how we can and do kill each other. Don't ask me to believe that God so loved the Israelites that he was willing to slaughter their enemies.


Feministing: "Last night at Bates College, Phyllis Schlafly gave a lecture titled, 'Conservatism vs. Feminism: The Great Debate' where at one point she contended that a woman can't get raped by her husband: 'By getting married, the woman has consented to sex, and I don't think you can call it rape.'"

March 28, 2007

NPR loves the Ted Leo

And let me reiterate that I would not know about this guy without Ubub. Thanks, dude. You have turned me onto a lot of good music.

NPR : Musician Ted Leo, on Protests and Living on Tour

Just war part deux

Thinking more of the Just Intention qualification. Not only do we have the Abu Ghraib and torture, but we also have the intense fear campaign to justify everything from the Patriot Act to illegal wiretapping. Oh, and lets not forget the Walter Reed scandal, the attempt to cut veterans benefits, and the refusal to send enough troops when generals actually wanted them. I am finding little in the way of good or just intentions here.

Now for the last few:
Last Resort
1. How many times was Hussein given a chance to comply to the UN Resolutions without compliance? 17 - enough said. He was given chance after chance and then intelligence suggested he was upping the ante in seeking weapons of mass destruction. He refused to allow inspectors to confirm or deny this intelligence. And again all the while he was systematically killing his own people.
d.r. was pretty dismissive of some of us for not hewing to the facts, but I don't think there is evidence that Saddam was "systematically killing his own people"--or at least killing them beyond the normal Saddam ruling policies. I have conceded and everyone agrees--the guy was a total dictator and brutal to his own people. But that list is fairly long in the world and this alone is hardly the requirement. As for Last Resort, I find this one of the weakest of the Just War qualifications. Sanctions were working. The inspections were working--despite all the games that Saddam played at every level. Containment was working. This was not our last resort--and refusing to comply with UN resolutions--the very same UN that the Bush administration and conservatives everywhere don't actually respect, by the way--hardly seem like a "last resort."
Probability of Success
1. Did the Americans think that they could remove Hussein from power? Of course, and they did. And now he has been tried, convicted and executed in a great act of justice.
2. Was there evidence that Iraq would move toward a democratic state? Yes, and they have made huge strides in that arena, having held elections, with more to come.
No one doubted that Hussein could be removed from power. This is, and never was the total objective. I suspect that if you got George H.W. Bush to be honest, he would tell you that he would have warned his son that there was not a high probability of success. He certainly was concerned about that in the first Gulf War where his pragmatists and experts warned him that removing Saddam would create a vacuum. Many, many people said that this was a venture fraught with peril, but the President and his people ignored that instead suggested that we would be greeted as liberators. Just as Woodrow Wilson thought his troops landing at Vera Cruz would be greeted.

And to be fair, there is an argument to be made that had this President not sent in someone like Rumsfeld to do this, we might have had a chance. Had we restored power--AND SECURITY--there is a chance that we could have transfered the existing Iraq government into a working democracy--or democracy-ish. Instead, Bush deBathified the government and dismissed the military--sending thousands of people jobless, armed, and angry at the Americans. And lets not forget the Bush policy of filling the reconstruction posts with Bush loyalists--including asking them their stance on Roe v. Wade rather than their qualifications for service.
1. Did the possible good outweigh the bad? Of course they did. This might be the most controversial of the Just War requirements, but again, the Kurds are not extinct, Sadaam is no longer violating the UN resolutions in a hope to resurrect his weapons program and is no longer attacking nations or threatening to do so, and Iraq is now on its way to democracy, if they would just embrace it. Much better than persecuted people in a country that is seeking to persecute others.
d.r. is reaching the most here. While the Kurds were certainly persecuted and ethnically cleansed under Saddam, but they were in no immanent danger of extinction. I have addressed the UN and want to reiterate the irony of conservatives invoking the UN Resolutions--given that many of them would prefer we not even have a UN. And finally, I really detest the line "Iraq is now on its way to democracy, if they would just embrace it." I hate this "blame the Iraqi" approach. It is as if the police went into the wrong house, leveled it, and killed many of the family members. The family had been run by an abusive father, but was functioning. The police come in, kill the father, level the house, and expect the family to function. When they don't, the police chastize the remaining family members.

We broke this country. We don't get to blame them for that.

Just war theory

While I am waiting, I think the parameters for a just war claim are interesting. One of d.r.'s complaints was that I didn't address the issue in depth. Let me remedy that. Here are the first couple, along with d.r.'s response:
Just Cause
1. Did Hussein violate the terms of the cease-fire? YES! - In fact, he violated 17 UN Security Council Resolutions. That was enough justification to remove him, even without weapons of mass destruction (which by the way were discovered - they just were not of the amount the intelligence data said they were, nor were they as up-to-date as suggested).
2. Was Hussein a war criminal, having been convicted of killing hundreds of thousands of his own people? YES - the Kurds cowered in fear of this guy and begged for help. They were the first to embrace the Americans and have by far benefited the most from the invasion of Iraq. If Sadaam was still in power it is possible these guys wouldn't exist now.

Just cause is a biggee here, and one that we as a country are still discussing. And part of that is due to the haziness of the reasons we went in. When we invaded, Bush said it was because Saddam presented a direct and immanent threat to our very security. That was Condi's "mushroom cloud" argument. After we went in and found no wmd (sorry, old and decaying ones are hardly proof of an immanent threat) the justification from the White House switched to "promoting democracy" and because Saddam had "wmd capability." Just cause in this case seems fuzzy. Paul Wolfowitz (one of the war's architects) not only said that Iraq lacked ethnic rivalries, but admitted that the WMD was simply invoked to scare people into supporting the invasion. Sigh.

d.r.'s point two about Saddam's war criminal status is true, but not sure that elevates us to the Just Cause level. Was he a horrible murdering dictator? Absolutely. Had he killed many of his own people in the past? Yes. Was that ethnic cleansing ongoing? No. Not to say that Iraq was warm and fuzzy under Saddam, because we know quite well about his rape rooms and psychotic sons. But that can describe many regimes around the world. If we are about taking out war criminals, we have a long list and better start drafting people.
Just Intention
1. Does America want to rule Iraq? No - we are trying to establish a representative republic in that country.
2. Is American seeking to destroy the Iraqi civilization? No - American troops and commanders have gone out of their way (sometimes with harm to themselves and the mission) to keep civilians alive and away from harm.

Hmm. Just intention is just as fuzzy as just cause. I am sure that most Americans don't want to rule Iraq, but are we that clear about Bush and Cheney? Some neo-cons clearly want to use Iraq as a permanent base to exert American hegemony into the region. Some clearly want to control that source of oil. Are those just intentions? I don't think so.
Point two is where I think d.r. is off the beam. No doubt that many (in fact, most) American military professionals are that--professional--and want to fight this war correctly. But we have ample evidence that people from the top down have decided that we can throw out old rules and fight the "terrorists" on their own terms. Abu Ghraib was not an aberation. The administration itself fought to keep torture as an option and when they could not defeat a bill outlawing torture, Bush added a signing statement giving him the right to torture anyway. Add to that the suspension of habeas review, the attempt to name people as "enemy combatants" and several other tactics used by this administration and I think our intentions are far from clearly just.
Proper Authority and Public Declaration.
1. Did the President have the authority to go to war? YES - and Congress even voted for it in an overwhelming way.
2. Did the government make a proper declaration? YES - the people were told and Congress was informed more than 48 hours before military action, as well as having know the intention weeks before (and voting for it - see above).
Again, this is right to a point. Certainly congress voted to give Bush authorization. Was that based on good information? I don't think so. Everything we know about the intelligence process suggests that Cheney and others within the administration wanted to invade and cherry picked the intelligence to justify that invasion. d.r. accused me of calling Bush a liar, and I certainly have in the past. But I really wonder why Bush still has credibility. He has certainly lied about many things, from being briefed on the danger to New Orleans levys to Karl Rove's involvement in the Valerie Plame outing.

More later.

March 27, 2007

Just War? Or no?

I ran into a defender of this war over at Big Daddy Weave where, I will concede, I lost my cool. Today has been one of those down days where my mood seems to get darker as the clouds roll in. That, and as I told d.r., finding someone who so fully defends Bush in his implementation and decision to take us to war set off the beast.

But as I told him, I am opening the comments to this debate. Knowing what we know now, and even taking a look at what we knew then, can we call this a just war? d.r. says yes. I say no way. His initial comment lays out the terms for the "just war" defense. What say you?

March 26, 2007


Just saw this interview of Gonzales on MSNBC. Oh, my God, the man is either really, really stupid, or very, very unethical. Or both. And for all of my complaints about the mainstream media, Pete Williams actually asks some questions, and in one case asks the question twice--clearly hinting that the AG had not answered the question:
"Williams: Given that, then how can you be certain that none of these U.S. attorneys were put on that list for improper reasons?

Gonzales: What I can say is this: I know the reasons why I asked you — these United States attorneys to leave. And it — it was not for improper reasons. It was not to interfere with the public corruption case. It was not for partisan reasons.

I also — we also know that there's nothing in the documents that indicates that they were asked to leave for improper reasons. But all — but lastly, just to be sure, I have asked for an internal — review by the Office of Professional Responsibility, working with the Office of Inspector General. And, of course, the Congress is going to be doing its own review because I want to know as well if, in fact, there were improper reasons, we — we should know about it. And there will be accountability.

Williams: To put this question another way — if you didn't review their performance during this process, then how can you be certain that they were fired for performance reasons?

Gonzales: I — I've given — I've given the answer to the question, Pete. I know — I know the reasons why I made the decision. "
Amazing. Gonzales swears that he was not involved in the reasons for the firings, but he knows that the firings were not political.

Gonzales still says that performance is the issue--even though the job reviews suggest the opposite.

Worst President ever. Oh, and btw, Gonzales is trying to hang his deputy on this. And then there is this from freaking Bob Novak of all people
Republicans in Congress do not trust their president to protect them. That alone is sufficient reason to withhold statements of support for Gonzales, because such a gesture could be quickly followed by his resignation under pressure. Rep. Adam Putnam (Fla.), the highly regarded young chairman of the House Republican Conference, praised Donald Rumsfeld in November only to see him sacked shortly thereafter.

But not many Republican lawmakers would speak up for Gonzales even if they were sure Bush would stick with him. He is the least popular Cabinet member on Capitol Hill, even more disliked than Rumsfeld was. The word most often used by Republicans to describe the management of the Justice Department under Gonzales is "incompetent."


The I-word (incompetence) is also used by Republicans in describing the Bush administration generally. Several of them I talked to cited a trifecta of incompetence: the Walter Reed hospital scandal, the FBI's misuse of the USA Patriot Act and the U.S. attorneys firing fiasco. "We always have claimed that we were the party of better management," one House leader told me. "How can we claim that anymore?"
Is this where I say "I told you so?"

Sullivan states the obvious

That we have lost the moral high ground. We can no longer chide or berate countries for torture. What an amazing development. In 6 years we have fallen this far. To be fair, we could not stop others from torturing, but now we can't even castigate them with a straight face.
The Daily Dish: Captured Brits: "They are being "interrogated," apparently. The news reports put that word in quotation marks. I wonder if it emerges that they are being subject to George W. Bush's preferred euphemism "coercive interrogations." And if that turns out to be the case, and we have to pray it isn't, then what will the United States and its ally Great Britain say in complaint? After all, Iran is only doing to Western soldiers in captivity what the U.S. has been doing to "enemy combatants" since the war began. Then there's a question of what kind of trial they might face. One in which their defense gets a chance to see all the evidence against them? Oh, wait ... we don't do that either.

The first strategic crisis created by the Bush-Cheney torture regime is now occurring. It won't be the last. And if these British sailors are found to have been mistreated and their "trials" tainted, who in the international community is now going to come to Britain's and America's defense?"

March 25, 2007

More religion roundup

Or should that be "religion?" First item is that talking bobble head himself, Pat Robertson:
"On a recent CBN show, Robertson warned that if Americans keep electing Muslim Americans they will 'take over the government' and turn the country into a theocracy (surely nothing Mr. Robertson has ever contemplated). His solution? Churches should engage in civil disobedience--flagrantly violate IRS regulations and work to get Christians elected. Atrocities documented (including a transcript of his remarks) below."


Item two: Andrew Sullivan points to an odd point of comparison between Islamist and Christian Right policies--keeping the ladies under wraps.
"Ladies, this is where you can get confused. Many women would think guys are ‘all about’ women who flaunt their bodies. I am here to attempt to speak for us Christian men fighting the fight for purity. Women like this disgust and frustrate me. They take advantage of something that God intended to be beautiful. They lure men away from that which they truly love. They make men like me fight and struggle, and cause many to fall. THESE WOMEN SHOULD NOT BE ADORED OR FOLLOWED! Christian sisters, please do not think that this attention is anything more than a result of short-sighted shallow men who are sexually frustrated and unwilling to follow God’s plan for sex. To me, women who flaunt their bodies make me turn my head, repulsed, and pray that God would guard my heart, eyes, and mind, and that somehow He would show them His infinite love, and that they don’t need to act in this way to be loved."
As Sully notes, it is all the fault of women. To be sure, I don't disagree that many young women seem to have learned bad lessons about this--that being cute or sexy is their way to get attention. But blaming their sexuality for male thoughts is ridiculous. This reminds me of an argument I had with a friend of mine. I read a story in the Dallas paper about this Christian group called "Point of Grace" (I think). The interview with the very attractive women revealed that their mission in life (besides singing rather vapid Christian music) was to stop young girls from dressing badly. I admired their dedication and willingness to ignore things like poverty and discrimination. Sigh.


Another story from Sullivan, though I have seen it elsewhere. While more political than religious, it has implications--serious ones--for the religious right and their apparent political power. A recent Pew report suggests that Bush and Rove are doing more to undermine Republican policies than anything that the Dems could dream of.
"Religious intensity is falling; acceptance of gay people is rising. The younger generation is the most secular of any. Support for the military has never been stronger - people don't blame the troops for the war. The country is divided down the middle on torture, but still in favor of preemptive war in some circumstances. Sorry, Dinesh, but women's equality and freedom are values now overwhelmingly popular among all groups, including Republicans, and strongest among the young. Since Bush has been president, there has been a sharp decline in the number of Americans favoring "old fashioned values about family and marriage." In the last ten years, opposition to gay marriage has dropped ten points and support has risen ten points. There has also been a striking twelve point increase in support for affirmative action over the past decade - all of it among whites."
Those trends cannot be good for our GOP brethren, unless they are willing to go back to the GOP of old--one not run by idiots and liars. I suggested that Bush was the worst thing for evangelicals, and it appears the worst thing also for true conservatives.

Perhaps the next GOP candidate will be able to read, speak in complete sentences, and think beyond the dumb (use less drugs).

More on Christian "historical" revisionism

H/T my friend Mary for this story on the effort to place Christian nation "history" into Public school curricula. I think what disappoints me the most is just how disengenuous, secretive, and intellectually dishonest these supposed Christians are.
The NCBCPS Bible course curriculum is a heavily guarded secret but appears to push Christian historical revisionist lies. The Texas Freedom Network (TFN) has been at the forefront of exposing the Christian sectarian bias of the controversial curriculum and, as Southern Methodist University Professor Mark Chancey, who managed to obtain a copy, wrote in a TFN special report, "[ It ] reflects a political agenda... it seems to Christianize America and Americanize the Bible.". The curriculum Chancey writes, recommends Wallbuilders, "an organization devoted to the opposition of church-state separation" and a Wallbuilders video that "argues that the Founding Fathers never intended for church and state to be separated and that America has descended into social chaos since devotional Bible reading and prayer were removed from public schools." That allegation of "social chaos" is not well supported by facts : American national rates of murder, violent crime, teen pregnancy, and divorce have dropped dramatically since the early 1990's

Over the past two decades the creation of revisionist historical works claiming America's founders intended the US as a "Christian Nation" has turned into a booming cottage industry. Meanwhile, esteemed and tenured American historians at the nation's finest Universities have almost completely neglected to address the spread of a fabricated, mythologized Christian right historical narrative on America's alleged origins. That's a shame, because over the past several years a well funded, politically connected, organized effort has succeeded at inserting its course curriculum featuring that fake history into possibly hundreds of American public schools from Texas to New Jersey.

March 24, 2007

FBI abuse of Patriot Act

Interesting. This is what we always feared about the Patriot Act. This anonymous person received an NSL letter, was barred from talking about it, even after the FBI decided it didn't need the information.
My National Security Letter Gag Order - "Three years ago, I received a national security letter (NSL) in my capacity as the president of a small Internet access and consulting business. The letter ordered me to provide sensitive information about one of my clients. There was no indication that a judge had reviewed or approved the letter, and it turned out that none had. The letter came with a gag provision that prohibited me from telling anyone, including my client, that the FBI was seeking this information. Based on the context of the demand -- a context that the FBI still won't let me discuss publicly -- I suspected that the FBI was abusing its power and that the letter sought information to which the FBI was not entitled."

This is kind of funny too

Bible Belt Blogger posts about a Utah coffee shop selling a t-shirt with the image of the angel Moroni blowing a trumpet, with coffee poured into the open end. :)

The Mormon church, shockingly as it may be, lacks a sense of humor. Huh. They assert that the image is a trademark and is pushing to make the coffee shop cease and desist. The coffee shop says it is a parody. Bible Belt Blogger wonders if parodies are exempt from trademark laws. I wonder how a church can trademark a religious figure. Is Jesus trademarked? Steve, as our resident lawyer, perhaps you can help us out.

Because lying is fine with this President

Bush reaffirms support for Gonzales despite the fact that the most recent email dump shows that the AG lied to all of us about his involvement in the Attorney purge.
"WASHINGTON - President Bush is standing firmly behind his embattled attorney general despite Justice Department documents that show Alberto Gonzales was more involved in the decisions to fire U.S. attorneys than he previously indicated.

Gonzales said last week he was not involved in any discussions about the impending dismissals of federal prosecutors. On Friday night, however, the department disclosed Gonzales’ participation in a Nov. 27 meeting where such plans were discussed."
For those expecting the President to emulate his favorite political philosopher, we will continue to wait. WWJD? Lie his ass off, evidently, because Bush is more Custer (Little Big Man style) than the Truman he likes to compare himself to. How dare anyone doubt his decisions to appoint an unqualified political hack as AG? How dare anyone question his use of the Justice Department as his own little fiefdom to go after political opponents.

Gonzales has to go, and if his boss had any integrity at all, he would resign too.

March 23, 2007

Republicans are anti-military

Let's just admit that and move on.
Crooks and Liars � Cost-Efficiency In Discharging Vets: "A six-month investigation has uncovered multiple cases in which soldiers wounded in Iraq are suspiciously diagnosed as having a personality disorder, then prevented from collecting benefits. The conditions of their discharge have infuriated many in the military community, including the injured soldiers and their families, veterans' rights groups, even military officials required to process these dismissals.

They say the military is purposely misdiagnosing soldiers like Town and that it's doing so for one reason: to cheat them out of a lifetime of disability and medical benefits, thereby saving billions in expenses."

I feel hip today

Maybe just for today. Last week, right before leaving for vacation, I heard this great review of Neon Bible, the new album from The Arcade Fire. I bought the album on its release date and so felt like I was on top of things when I heard the album reviewed on NPR. Then today, I heard this review of Ted Leo's new album 'Living with the Living' which I just purchased this week. During the review, they named the three other big indie releases of this year--Neon Bible, Ted Leo, and The Shins. I have all three and feel damn near up-to-date.

BTW, they are all good albums.

Speaking of good music, I like Brandi Carlile, though I thought I would never promote a woman named Brandi with an "i". But that said, she can sing! Her new album is coming out April third and is evidently produced by T-Bone Burnett. Burnett, evidently, encouraged Brandi to record sparsely produced songs live (which I assume means in one take rather than recording the vocal track separate) to give it a more authentic voice. And if the first single is any hint, it works. You can hear it here. (Aside, I read a few review of this single on Itunes and had to laugh when one said that American Idol's Simon would call it "dreadful." Just one more reason to dislike American Idol.)

History and faith

Before I left for vacation, I found this article about conservative Christians and history. Clarkson's argument is that the religious right distorts history and does so on purpose to justify their own political movement. The historical revisionism is rather stark, I must say, as they note about Jamestown:
"John Blanchard claims that the Jamestown landing signifies that, 'We were started as a Christian nation and I feel it's God's purpose we stay a Christian nation.' Indeed, to read The Assembly 2007 web site, one would think that the King had sent missionaries to Virginia. Far from it. The London Company behind the venture pooled investors interested in making money. For years, it floundered badly. Eventually, the company gave up the commercial charter and control reverted to the Crown. The gauzy view of Christians claiming the land for Christ and King is clarified by history."
And this revisionist view goes well beyond the founders and often is just revealed by people who clearly don't understand any historical context. I found this from Chuck Baldwin, who besides being a conservative is also evidently a preacher. Baldwin is convinced that feminism is ruining America:
Feminism - Feminism Destroying America: "In just over three decades, the feminist movement has completely uprooted and rewritten the norm for American family life. No longer are women seen as nurturers and helpmeets. The push for 'equality' has done much more than move America's women from the kitchen to the boardroom; it has moved them from under the arm and next to the side of their husbands to, in many cases, a place of independence from, and lordship over, them."

Sigh. No understanding, or even curiosity about the past. Everyone assumes that 19th century middle class women all doted on their children and did domestic work. No sense that women have been battling for some level of autonomy for a long, long time. And really, what you see is simply an angry white male who doesn't understand that things have changed.

But that isn't all. From his main site, you can find a wonderful little sermon entitled Truth about the Confederate Battle Flag:
You see the Confederate flag has never stood as a racist symbol. If you want racism, you go to the Stars and Stripes. In the South, although there was separation, the blacks respected the whites and the whites respected the blacks. And I will tell you this, there was no trouble in the South back then nor in the 1960's until the North came down and started stirring up trouble. So the Confederate flag is not a racist flag. Secondly tonight, the Confederate flag is not a flag of slavery. It does not represent slavery. Are you listening to me tonight? There was not one slave ever brought into this country under the Confederate flag. Every slave that was brought into this country was brought in by Northern ships under the Stars and Stripes. There was not even a slave brought into this country on a Southern vessel! The slaves were brought into this country on Northern vessels under the Stars and Stripes.
Slavery was the North's fault. And racism in the South didn't exist until Northerners came in and told them what to do. He is correct on one point--there is no doubt that Northerners were complicit in slavery and for most of the 19th century relatively indifferent to slavery and then to Southern racism.

I am afraid all of this is part and parcel of the religious right's revisionist history. Feminism is evil, Jamestown was godly, and the South wasn't racist. No wonder these people love Ann Coulter (loves Joe McCarthy) and Michelle Malkin (defender of Japanese internment).


Rural Americans dying more in Iraq?

Steve S. pointed me to this post that suggests that Rural Americans are bearing a much higher burden in this ill-gotten war.
What does this mean? Just over 3,000 Americans have died in Iraq. If the U.S. population is 300 million, then that's just 0.001% of it. Add into this the fact that the American dead come disproportionately from the most forgotten, least attended to parts of our country, from places that often have lost their job bases; consider that many of them were under or unemployed as well as undereducated, that they generally come from struggling, low-income, low-skills areas. Given that we have an all-volunteer military (so that not even the threat of a draft touches other young Americans), you could certainly say that the President's war in Iraq -- and its harm -- has been disproportionately felt. If you live in a rural area, you are simply far more likely to know a casualty of the war than in most major metropolitan areas of the country.

No wonder it's been easy for so many Americans to ignore such a catastrophic war until relatively recently. This might, in a sense, be considered part of a long-term White House strategy, finally faltering, of essentially fighting two significant wars abroad while demobilizing the population at home. When, for instance, soon after the 9/11 attacks the President urged Americans to go to Disney World or, in December 2006, to go "shopping more" to help the economy, he meant it. We were to go on with our normal lives, untouched by his war.
Also interesting to me, in that Bush polled pretty high in those areas of America--and may still. Rural america is one of those areas where the Republican bait and switch works incredibly well--don't look at the economy or the war, focus on the aborting gays and flag burners.

In other news, btw, Steve and I are discussing gun control in the comments. I am sure we could use some other voices if anyone wants to jump in.

March 22, 2007

Won't someone think of the children?

Cue Mrs. Lovejoy. Our AG is staying on to protect the kids.
Staying For The Kids: "GONZALES: I’m not going to resign. I’m going to stay focused on protecting our kids. There’s a lot of work that needs to be done around the country. The department is responsible for protecting our kids, for making our neighborhoods safe, for protecting our country against attacks of terrorism, to going after gangs, going after drug dealers. I’m staying focussed on that."
That's right. He may be politicizing the pursuit of justice--using political pressure to protect corrupt Republicans and to protect the tobacco industry, but it is all for the kids.

The man is an embarrassment and, like his boss, in over his head.

More on a politicized Justice dept

Shaun finds this great question from Robert Reich:
"The real question concerns the other eighty-five U.S. attorneys who are still there. What kind of political vendettas have they engaged in, in exchange for keeping their jobs?"
It is a good question. How many cases of Republican corruption have been shunted aside by these people? And after all of this, Bush expects us to take him at his word, or take Rove at his word?

Dots connected

Politicized Justice department pushes politics over the interests of the American people. Sigh.
Prosecutor Says Bush Appointees Interfered With Tobacco Case - "The leader of the Justice Department team that prosecuted a landmark lawsuit against tobacco companies said yesterday that Bush administration political appointees repeatedly ordered her to take steps that weakened the government's racketeering case.

Sharon Y. Eubanks said Bush loyalists in Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales's office began micromanaging the team's strategy in the final weeks of the 2005 trial, to the detriment of the government's claim that the industry had conspired to lie to U.S. smokers.

She said a supervisor demanded that she and her trial team drop recommendations that tobacco executives be removed from their corporate positions as a possible penalty. He and two others instructed her to tell key witnesses to change their testimony. And they ordered Eubanks to read verbatim a closing argument they had rewritten for her, she said.

"The political people were pushing the buttons and ordering us to say what we said," Eubanks said. "And because of that, we failed to zealously represent the interests of the American public.""

March 21, 2007

Only a week late

Bill Maher's New Rules last week were pretty good. He challenged the notion that Bush has not asked us to sacrifice:
"You've given up faith in your government's honesty, the goodwill of people overseas, and six-tenths of the Bill of Rights. Here's what you've sacrificed: search and seizure, warrants, self-incrimination, trial by jury, cruel and unusual punishment. Here's what you have left: hand guns, religion, and they can't make you quarter a British soldier. If Prince Harry invades the Inland Empire, he has to bring a tent.


But, look, George Bush has never been too bright about understanding 'fereigners.' But he does know Americans. He asked this generation to sacrifice the things he knew we would not miss: our privacy and our morality. He let us keep the money. But he made a cynical bet that we wouldn't much care if we became a 'Big Brother' country that has now tortured a lot of random people. "
Worst president ever.

Republicans and science

I am so sick of Republicans right now. The White House wants their people to appear without oath--which means that they want them to not have to tell the truth--similar to how they allowed the bloated oil executives. I am so tired of Republicans lecturing me on morality. They have turned truth and honesty into partisan tricks. My Republican friends, you are voting and supporting some of the shittiest human beings in our country. And many of them like to wave their "born again" status. Sigh.

But there are moments when I just have to laugh, and also to remind myself that there are responsible and grown up republicans. No, not Chuck Hagel who voted against the rollback of the provision in the Patriot Act that allowed the President to bypass the Senate!

No, this bit of humanity came from the House when one Republican sided with Al Gore:
"Other members in the minority party were far less antagonistic, though. Maryland Republican Roscoe Bartlett said his wife often reminded him of the important connection between conservatism and actual conserving: 'I think it's probably possible to be a conservative without appearing to be an idiot.'"
Yep, that is what I have been saying to my Republican friends. You don't have to align yourself with Dobson, Falwell, Bush and Rove. You can actually have values and also embrace something called "intelligence." If you are willing to take back your party, I will start respecting the GOP, or the party of Lincoln. Until then, I would rather vote for anyone else.


And wondering just when Al Gonzales will want to spend more time with his family. When we arrived last night, we heard Bush talking tough--wanting Rove and Miers to meet with congressional oversight, but in private, with no transcript, and not under oath.

President Jesus indeed.


Speaking of that, "Entire Field Of Credible Dem Candidates Has Gotten Fewer Divorces Than Rudy Alone" yet it is the Republican party that cares about family, right? Of course.

And less we forget, there is this:
"George Barna, a born-again Christian whose company is in Ventura, Calif., found that Massachusetts does indeed have the lowest divorce rate among all 50 states. More disturbing was the finding that born-again Christians have among the highest divorce rates."
In fact, the Bible Belt has the hightest divorce rates of anyone.


Speaking of Bible Belt madness, we drove past the subtleCROSS OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST MINISTRIES outside Groom, Texas. Everytime I see one of these ginormous crosses, I wonder if these evangelical conservatives have ever read the story of the Tower of Babel? But then again, I wonder if those putting up Ten Commandment monuments have ever read the part about worshiping idols. Or why those who display the decal of Calvin (from Calvin and Hobbes) praying to a cross even though that is a bootleg and copyright infringement. WWJD?

March 19, 2007

Streak in action

Yeah, we are skiing. Well, WE were until SOF pulled a muscle after falling. She is fine, but decided to shop today instead of skiing.

And skiing was only part of it. My ski partners like to hike to ski, which always bothered me. That is what ski lifts are for. Anyway, here is a picture of me and one of my ski partners:

I spent $30 or so on a day pack that holds the skis. Thank the lord, because carrying the skis, poles and trying to negotiate the hike in ski boots without that pack was no fun. At the top, we gathered our breath. Ok, mostly me. But I was exhausted. 11,500 feet before we start hiking suggests limited oxygen.

And then had to go down this:

Steep and scary, but also fun.

Anyway, tomorrow it is back to the world.

March 17, 2007

On the road

for a little r&r. I promised Tony a blog post on history and conservative evangelicals, but that might have to wait. More tomorrow.

One note. on the road today, I noticed just how many people drive gigantic SUVs. Navigators, Suburbans, Escalades, they are amazingly popular even with gas at over 2.50 or so. Al Gore may be winning some hearts and minds, but it is obvious that for many, gas is damn near as cheap as it was before.


March 15, 2007

Funny. Unfortunately, too true

A friend sends this clip from Mad TV that is a little too close to true. Last night on the Daily Show, Zbigniew Brzezinski had this to say about the Bush administration:
"'The real problem is that we have had a policy lately that has been dividing our friends and uniting our enemies, and should be the other way around.'"

March 14, 2007

Interesting twist on the US Att scandal

I really think that Bush and his people got so used to working without challenge that they did the US Att purge thinking they could get away with it. After all, with the Republicans in charge of the hen house, they have been challenged how many times?

But now there is a new approach and it is causing some problems. And what is more interesting is the reality that following the leads on this purge may lead to other corruption sinkholes. Take the hack friend of Karl Rove's:
Bush's New US Attorney a Criminal? Greg Palast: "But the Committee missed a big one: Timothy Griffin, Karl Rove’s assistant, the President’s pick as US Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas. Griffin, according to BBC Television, was the hidden hand behind a scheme to wipe out the voting rights of 70,000 citizens prior to the 2004 election."

How do you erode something that is already gone?

This story from TPM noting that there appears to be some conflict between the Bush people and Gonzales. If true, this means that we will see the famous limits of Bush loyalty--and frankly should. But of course, Gonzales is not the problem, the guy who hired him and sent him the list of prosecutors is.

But I found the last quote from the Times piece funny:
TPMmuckraker March 14, 2007 08:53 AM: "“They’re taking it seriously,” said the other of the two Republicans who spoke about the White House’s relationship with Mr. Gonzales. “I think Rove and Bolten believe there is the potential for erosion of the president’s credibility on this issue.”"

Really? The President has credibility left to erode? On what?

March 13, 2007

The Coulterization of the American right

(H/T Carlos at Jesus politics) | The Coulterization of the American right: "For this isn't really about Coulter at all. This is about a pact the American right made with the devil, a pact the devil is now coming to collect on. American conservatism sold its soul to the Coulters and Limbaughs of the world to gain power, and now that its ideology has been exposed as empty and its leadership incompetent and corrupt, free-floating hatred is the only thing it has to offer. The problem, for the GOP, is that this isn't a winning political strategy anymore -- but they're stuck with it. They're trapped. They need the bigoted and reactionary base they helped create, but the very fanaticism that made the True Believers such potent shock troops will prevent the Republicans from achieving Karl Rove's dream of long-term GOP domination."

Updated a little more from the end of the post:
Yet despite their supposed beliefs, a kind of nihilism, an intellectual sterility, emanates from the Coulters and Limbaughs of the world. This is in part due to the fact that they are, at bottom, entertainers, stand-up comedians of resentment. Their riffs are so facile and endless that they devour whatever actual beliefs supposedly stand behind them. Incapable of compromise or nuance, lashing out robotically, never finding common ground or examining their own ideas, they are shills of negativity, forever battling cartoonish monsters in a lurid, increasingly unrecognizable world. And most Americans, even conservative ones who may share some of their putative positions, are tired of their glib, empty paranoia. If these are the messengers, there must be something wrong with the message.

The GOP brain trust presumably knows this -- but it doesn't have any other cards to play. And as the feebleness of the right's agenda becomes more and more apparent, we can expect the noise from figures like Coulter and Limbaugh to get louder and louder. But the tactic will not work -- in fact, it is likely to backfire. And if the Republicans go down big in 2008, conservatives will finally be forced to confront the Frankenstein monster they created -- and decide whether they dare get rid of it before it consigns their movement to oblivion. Based on their recent history, I don't think they have the common sense to take out the garbage.

Prosperity gospel

Tony has another interesting post, this time on a Lifeway quarterly story that sure appears to endorse the "prosperity gospel." Guy is a slacker, then 20 years later is a rich guy dressed in Armani. You do the math.

Two things about this bug me. The Prosperity gospel, of course, is ridiculous, and embarassing. How damn convenient for rich suburban Americans to decide that their wealth is because God likes them better? Or because they attend church.

Of course, a good many American Christians reject this message, but in the age of Church as Consumer good, it will always be popular, just as Ronald Reagan was popular because he told Americans things would be better and they didn't have to be ashamed to be rich and spoiled. Kind of.

The other personal annoyance is the quarterly itself. I have bad memories of Sunday School lessons drained of nuance, depth or, well, anything. Quarterlies seemed to have that as a goal--to oversimplify and avoid anything controversial or difficult.


Speaking of morality--wtf?

This story bothers me, not because I am trying to defend homosexuality as much as I question the conservative approach to morality and the military. Peter Pace responded yesterday to a question about the Clinton era "don't ask, don't tell" policy:
"'I believe homosexual acts between two individuals are immoral and that we should not condone immoral acts,' Pace said in a wide-ranging discussion with Tribune editors and reporters in Chicago. 'I do not believe the United States is well served by a policy that says it is OK to be immoral in any way."

I would like to agree with him--that immorality is a bad thing. Except the credibility here is not just lacking, it is AWOL.

Let's revisit this. Bad war planning (well, if you can call it planning) with too few troops and too little armor in a war based on faulty intel and horrible policy--but it is the gay guys who are "immoral."

When the Generals want more troops they get Rumsfeld, and when the Generals want fewer troops they get a Surge. But it is the gay guys who are immoral.

When the war creates unbelievable increase in severe brain injuries, the response is to cut funding for research into brain injuries. Oh yeah, but it is the gay people who are immoral.

And when the troops come home, their rehab is in mice-infested mold holes--all assisted by the private contracts handed out to Bush's friends. But gay people, blah blah blah.

And if that wasn't bad enough, this story:
"The U.S. Army is ordering soldiers at Fort Benning classified as 'medically unfit to fight' to war in Iraq, Salon reports, asking aloud if it is an 'isolated incident or a trend.'

'As the military scrambles to pour more soldiers into Iraq,' writes Mark Benjamin for Salon, 'a unit of the Army's 3rd Infantry Division at Fort Benning, Ga., is deploying troops with serious injuries and other medical problems, including GIs who doctors have said are medically unfit for battle. Some are too injured to wear their body armor, according to medical records.'

Benjamin cites recent cases of troops at Fort Benning whose medical profiles were 'downgraded ... without even a medical exam, in order to deploy them to Iraq.'"

Yeah, the gay interpretor who speaks Arabic is immoral. The President who destroys our military is "family values" friendly. Unbelievable.

March 12, 2007

Scumbags? and other news

Last night, watching Hardball, they asked Richard Land and Tony Perkins on to discuss the "value voter." At least Richard Land admitted that credibility was an issue. He said that if they now absolved the multiple marriers, the press might call them hypocrites after Clinton. Of course, the Clinton's are still married. Tony Perkins said it was great that Newt confessed and admitted that there was something wrong with it. I am not sure what "it" refers to since I don't know anyone who suggests that adultery is ok.

But why am I listening to Tony Perkins? The same man who spoke to a Council of Conservative Citizens (white supremacy group) and bought a mailing list from David Duke--is lecturing me on moral values?

This speaks more to the declining moral credibility of the right. Though, to be frank, I am not sure how much more they could lose after their complete silence on the issue of torture.

Two other points: Republicans, for all their parading on moral values have already given us the first divorced President--which oddly enough, I had forgotten, and that man still is idolized by the religious right. And the second president that they claim is George W., even after torture, Abu Ghraib and failed wars. They still claim him as a great moral values president.

I can't seem to find respect for their moral values.


The US Attorney purge-gate is gathering steam. Talking Points Memo reports that George Bush the Holy personally spoke to Gonzales to pass along concerns about David Iglesias responding to complaints from the New Mexican senator. And there is more:
Perhaps as telling, according to the new Times article, Kyle Sampson, Alberto Gonzales's Chief of Staff and the guy who was actually in charge of drawing up the list ... well, he resigned today.

Believe me, his boss won't long outlast him.

And one other tidbit -- Sampson had a partner in assembling the list: then-White House Counsel Harriet Miers.

As someone noted on another blog, those complaining about "judicial activism" are again strangely silent when they see their Jesus President politicizing the US Attorney's office and our entire judicial system. But then again, I am beginning to doubt the "value voter" even gets our system. I am almost completely convinced they don't understand the Constitution, and now think that they believe all the safeguards, freedoms, protections, etc. listed in the constitution only belong to them.


March 11, 2007

I am kind of enjoying this

Well, not really. But it seems funny that religious conservatives are bending over backward to make sense of Rudy Guliani, Mitt Romney, or the dark horse candidacy of Newt Gingrich. After all those tirades about "family values" I am watching a religious movement implode. Power, it seems, is not only a temptation to liberals and secularists, but to people like Dobson and Falwell. And having experienced 6 years of elevated power, these two political hacks can't give it up easily. I wonder if there is a 12 step program for political power addiction. Of course, if there was, Dobson would bow out and send his friend Ted Haggard through the program.

But if Newt is the candidate, then the religious right has indeed become a complete and utter joke. Nothing remotely connecting it to values or morals or even theology will remain.
Will confessing to James Dobson help Newt Gingrich's campaign? - By John Dickerson - Slate Magazine: "Gingrich argued that he wasn't a hypocrite for pushing for Clinton's impeachment while having an affair. 'Perjury is at the very heart of our legal system,' he said of the 1998 House proceedings. 'I [had] no choice except to move forward and say that you cannot accept ... perjury in your highest officials.' (This is apparently not true for conservatives railing against Scooter Libby's conviction for perjury and obstruction of justice.)"
Redemption and forgiveness reduced to political tactic, not only by Gingrich, but by Dobson and Falwell. And Jabba Falwell has already forgiven Newt:

"He has admitted his moral shortcomings to me, as well, in private conversations," Falwell wrote in a weekly newsletter sent Friday to members of the Moral Majority Coalition and The Liberty Alliance. "And he has also told me that he has, in recent years, come to grips with his personal failures and sought God's forgiveness."

Gingrich, 63, who served as Republican speaker of the House of Representativesafter leading the party to its first House majority in 40 years, has been married three times. He has supported a family-values agenda as a candidate, and his two divorces have sparked reports of extramarital affairs as well as charges of hypocrisy from critics.

Jabba is so close to Bush that he now uses the same "insight" that our leader applied to his friend Putin--he can look into people's soul and determine their genuine faith.
Falwell, in his newsletter, said he has usually been able to tell when a man who has experienced "moral collapse" was genuinely seeking forgiveness. "My sense tells me that Mr. Gingrich is such a man," he wrote.

If this were not so serious, it would be funny. The entire moral framework of Christian conservatives has been reduced to a house of cards. Free to chastize any other for sins--especially sexual, they have decided to offer absolution to conservatives who will reward them with favors. Falwell actually defends this latest move by referencing Reagan as the first divorced candidate, and now the religious Christianists are working to elect the first candidate with multiple divorces and they are the party of family values?

Please understand, I am not anti-divorce, though I recognize how difficult it is on those who experience it. I have no idea if those divorces make Newt or Rudy bad candidates. But the religious right asserts that it speaks for God and truth and the Bible. You don't get to shake your finger self-righteously at Bill Clinton for infidelity and then reward Newt for even more infidelity.

March 10, 2007

Republican party and the Military

Have to think that Karl Rove hates to see this:
"'"We've got this thing that so many military believe that Republican administrations are good for the military. That is rarely the case. And, we have to get a message through to every soldier, every family member, every friend of soldiers that the Republican party, the Republican dominated Congress has absolutely been the worst thing that's happened to the United States Army and the United States Marine Corps."

March 9, 2007

Friday blog and news round up

I have been tired this week from the lack of sleep. Just one of those weeks, I guess. Yesterday, I felt like I was fighting off a depression and could not really figure out the source. My yoga friends suggested that I might be reading too much news which, as everyone can figure out, tends to annoy me. I don't doubt that, but also know that I have simply been out of sync--not enough music, not enough water, too much coffee and not enough sleep.

I am still tired today, but feeling better.

Anyway, lets do oddball... :) Er, or that is just one of the stories that Nathan finds contradictory. Turns out that our good friend Newt Gingrich admitted to having an extra-marital affair during the impeachment crisis. I thought we already knew that, but maybe it is my general sense of him being a lying sack. Funny part is his response:
"According to Newt, he is not a hypocrite because he was leading the charge of impeachment for alleged perjury, not for the extra-marital affair. However, we probably should forget all the times he attacked Clinton for his behavior in efforts to build support against the President…"
Right, Newty, you aren't hypocritical at all, just as your Party isn't when it suggests now that "perjury isn't that big of a deal when there is no underlying crime." Sigh.


Nathan is on a roll, because he also had this little gem:
"Al Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, advocates support for changing the sexual orientation in the womb from homosexual to heterosexual."
Interesting for two reasons. First, Mohler actually attacked Ann Coulter for her anti-gay slur against John Edwards. Second, aren't conservatives always concerned about science playing God when it comes to genetic testing? Aren't they the ones who don't want us to invade the womb?



In this breaking news story, we find that the sky is blue and the earth revolves around the sun. Yep, that's right, under Bush's administration the FBI misused Patriot Act powers:
"The FBI improperly and, in some cases, illegally used the USA Patriot Act to secretly obtain personal information about people in the United States, a Justice Department audit concluded Friday. And for three years the FBI underreported to Congress how often it forced businesses to turn over the customer data, the audit found."

I don't want to belabor the obvious, but one of the concerns raised by liberals and many conservatives was that oversight is essential to ensure that the power of the state is not overused. Critics of the Patriot Act were denounced as "soft on terror" even when we raised these very concerns. And does anyone really think that we would even find out about this had the Republicans maintained its hold on congress?
The audit by Justice Department Inspector General Glenn A. Fine found that FBI agents sometimes demanded personal data on individuals without proper authorization. The 126-page audit also found the FBI improperly obtained telephone records in non-emergency circumstances.

The audit blames agent error and shoddy record-keeping for the bulk of the problems and did not find any indication of criminal misconduct.

Still, "we believe the improper or illegal uses we found involve serious misuses of national security letter authorities," the audit concludes.


Fine's annual review is required by Congress, over the objections of the Bush administration.
See, you can trust us, can't you?


I still think the US Attorney issue is incredibly important. Discussing this with a golf colleague of mine, he noted that this really looks like the Bush administration normal play, but now that the Dems are in charge, they don't recieve a blank check from Congress. For the life of me, I cannot figure out why so many conservatives that I know and respect were not more scared of the Bush administration when Congress virtually refused to even bother to investigate.

Anyway, TPM Muckraker keeps up on this story and suggests today that the pressure is working. Even Al "an overblown personnel matter" Gonzales is playing nicer. Perhaps he sat up when Arlen Specter said this: ""One day there will be a new attorney general, maybe sooner rather than later."

Oversight, checks and balances. Perhaps they are not the work of the devil after all.


It might be possible that Karl Rove is not a completely useless excuse for a human being. Well, actually, I suspect he is, but this is one of those examples where his lack of a soul might help us. Watching one of the evening shows the other night, someone said that Cheney has lost stature after giving the Bush Whitehouse the Scooter trial and conviction. All of that is bad for the White House. The explanation was that early in the admin, Cheney and his neo-con thugs had almost a free rein, but now all of their efforts--invading Iran or escalating against Syria, for example--had to be filtered through Rove's concerns about '08 and the party.

Interesting. Maybe it is just a question of which evil bastard wins out.


Ok, back to my struggling psyche. I know I need to listen to more music. I almost always feel better when I am listening to more music. SOF knows that it keeps me sane (or at least more so). I sometimes lose the time to listen to the ipod, or find myself watching tv at home instead of listening.

This week, we bought the new Arcade Fire. I won't say I love it yet, but I like it. I also am very fond of the new Shins album.

But now the food is here and it is time to eat. I hope everyone has a good weekend.

March 7, 2007

Everything is political

I wrote a list this morning (I think it was this morning--I didn't get much sleep last night) outlining the list of scandals from this administration. I have also asked people to give me examples of positive contributions from this administration or a successful implementation of a policy. Any policy. Have they been effective at passing tax cuts during wartime at the same time they cut Veteran's benefits? Yep.

I have said this before, but I remember how people criticized Clinton for the continual "war room" and charged him with politicizing policy. I honestly don't think Bush people understood that charge, because if Clinton did that, he was an amateur compared to this admin. One time they used the published Budget to insert Bush administration campaign promotions. Who can forget the fake news programs they produced to sell to tv stations, or hiring news analysts to covertly promote their programs on Cable news? Add that Soviet style propaganda a desire to replace policy experts with political hacks everywhere from the FDA, EPA, and who can forget the interviews for employees in the Iraq Reconstruction asked about their views on Roe?

The US Attorney scandal is perhaps the worst example of how this Administration sees every possible moving thing in Washington as a political game. That is what Cheney thought of Watergate, and he has had free reign in this admin to further his agenda. The good news from this was that in spite of their vast level of incompetence, the Bush people evidently appointed some good US Attorneys--people who took their responsibility seriously and professionally. Now we have numerous examples, from New Mexico, to California, to Washington where US Attorneys have been fired for being too tough on immigration or too soft on immigration, or wait, too tough on Republican scum.

As I told Steve in the comments, I know far too many Republicans to assume this is how they believe. I know they are ethical, prinicipled and thoughtful people. But they have carried the water for a White House who is none of the above. At some point we will return to a more level playing ground where scandal is a bi-partisan issue, but that won't happen until this breed of Pseudo-Religious-Corrupt Republicans is sent back to the real estate business.

Worst president in our history. And worst example of Lincoln's part ever.

"Support the Troops" indeed

Nothing more annoying that people who, as Tony Snow tried to deny, repeat a mantra of "support the troops" while at the same time privatizing their care, cutting VA benefits, cutting research into brain injuries, and, as we see from Walter Reed, completely abandoning them after they receive initial care.
Nathan is equally annoyed at the lack of consistency among the so-called "pro-military" crowd:
"If one says “I support our troops”, that must carry over beyond sending them care packages to the desert or putting a tacky magnet on a vehicle. “I support our troops” also means “I support our troops by guaranteeing the best medical care to treat them after their physical and mental injuries."

I agree. I have asked conservatives if there wasn't a contradiction between parading their military members through their church services, slapping yellow magnets on their car (the Daily Show had a great bit on that last night including a car covered in yellow ribbons) and then voting for people who consistently undermined the health and welfare of the troops. I have yet to hear a consistent response, and am baffled at how often liberals are portrayed as anti-military.

March 6, 2007

Libby guilty

Libby Verdict in: Guilty on 4 out of 5 counts!. Now what? Will the White House wait for the appeal? Will they pardon Scooter?

According to one blog I read, Fox Noise is already saying that the verdict is flawed because there is no underlying crime. How soon they forget. Perjury was enough to impeach a sitting President when the underlying offense was not only not a crime, but was largely inconsequential to the Nation. Here, legally there may not be a criminal violation, but the underlying action was to out a CIA agent who worked on WMD AND to push us into a disastrous war with bad intelligence.

March 5, 2007

US Attorneys fighting back

Some of those purged will testify in congress. Here is an anonymous Assistant US Attorney writing Josh Marshall to thank him for exposing this farce. This writer suggests that the Bush administration has undermined the budgets for federal prosecutions and continually undermined their efforts to keep their prosecutions Constitutionally sound.
Talking Points Memo: by Joshua Micah Marshall: March 04, 2007 - March 10, 2007 Archives: "And now the purges. So they've slashed U.S. Attorney's budgets, trashed rights we have sworn to uphold, and now, tried to toady-up the ranks of our leadership by firing some of our best and brightest, apparently to make room for wingnut-annointed political hacks. Folks who do stuff like this deserve
to get caught."

March 4, 2007

In our name

Steve asked about violations of civil liberties under Bush. This oped from Khaled El-Masri, a German citizen who had first hand experience with the America created by Bush and Cheney. Unfortunately, given what we know about this policy of "extraordinary rendition" suggests that this story is not anamalous:
"ON NEW YEAR'S EVE in 2003, I was seized at the border of Serbia and Macedonia by Macedonian police who mistakenly believed that I was traveling on a false German passport. I was detained incommunicado for more than three weeks. Then I was handed over to the American Central Intelligence Agency and was stripped, severely beaten, shackled, dressed in a diaper, injected with drugs, chained to the floor of a plane and flown to Afghanistan, where I was imprisoned in a foul dungeon for more than four months.

Long after the American government realized that I was an entirely innocent man, I was blindfolded, put back on a plane, flown to Europe and left on a hilltop in Albania — without any explanation or apology for the nightmare that I had endured."

That this man experienced this in my name makes me ill. Our "City upon a Hill" for all its problems, has been transformed into a house of horrors. What do we say to a terrorist group that kidnaps an American citizen and tortures them? Do we express horror? Do we chide them for their immoral behavior? Or do we shrug because we know that if we have the chance, we will do the same thing?

The damage done to our moral image around the world is incalculable and will take generations to bridge.

March 3, 2007

More Dobson

Melissa Rogers alerted us that Dobson was once again going after NAE VP Richard Cizik for daring to focus on global warming. I think it is clear that I have no respect for Dobson and these other "religious" leaders. I remember hearing Dobson dismiss global warming as something that only concerned plants and animals--because, evidently, humans are not part of the environment. Sigh.
“We have observed,” the letter says, “that Cizik and others are using the global warming controversy to shift the emphasis away from the great moral issues of our time.”

Those issues, the signers say, are a need to campaign against abortion and same-sex marriage and to promote “the teaching of sexual abstinence and morality to our children.”

The letter, dated Thursday, is signed by leaders like James C. Dobson, chairman of Focus on the Family; Gary L. Bauer, once a Republican presidential candidate and now president of Coalitions for America; Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council; and Paul Weyrich, a longtime political strategist who is chairman of American Values."
There is some good news. The NAE head Leith Anderson pushed back and defended Cizik. Occassionally, evangelicals give me hope that they focus on things other than the sexuality of others. But every day that James Dobson is a "respected" religious voice is a bad day.

Bill Moyer on Freedom and War--a Must Read

Hat tip to the Bootleg Blogger for this link. This is an amazing speech and I wish I could have heard it live. Moyers gives us as good a discussion about freedom, military, war, and democracy that I have read in sometime. Read it and pass it on. A few select graphs:
"Let me cut closer to the bone. The chickenhawks in Washington, who at this very moment are busily defending you against supposed “insults” or betrayals by the opponents of the war in Iraq, are likewise those who have cut budgets for medical and psychiatric care; who have been so skimpy and late with pay and with provision of necessities that military families in the United States have had to apply for food stamps; who sent the men and women whom you may soon be commanding into Iraq understrength, underequipped, and unprepared for dealing with a kind of war fought in streets and homes full of civilians against enemies undistinguishable from non-combatants; who have time and again broken promises to the civilian National Guardsmen bearing much of the burden by canceling their redeployment orders and extending their tours.


don’t let your natural and commendable loyalty to comrades-in-arms lead you into thinking that criticism of the mission you are on spells lack of patriotism. Not every politician who flatters you is your ally. Not every one who believes that war is the wrong choice to some problems is your enemy. Blind faith in bad leadership is not patriotism. In the words of G.K. Chesterton: “To say my country right or wrong is something no patriot would utter except in dire circumstance; it is like saying my mother drunk or sober.” Patriotism means insisting on our political leaders being sober, strong, and certain about what they are doing when they put you in harm’s way.

More on Republican hate

Glenn Greenwald has moved his blog to Salon, if you didn't know that, and has a great column on the Coulter hate speech, and how popular it is among that far right. For me it is the part of the oddest damn bedfellows I have ever seen--sometimes in the same people. On one side, religious leaders who assert "moral values" and talk about "Biblical values" and how their leader is a good "Christan man" or "Man of God." On the other side are people who routinely call to nuke parts of the Middle East, embrace our torture of detainees, and love to question the morality, patriotism, and sexuality of liberals. And sometimes, like I said, they are the same people. I am sure we recall that James Dobson devoted two separate days to interviewing (and laughing with) Ann Coulter. Do you think that Mr. Biblical Values is now calling for an appology from her?

This actually relates to my previous post, where Bruce Prescott reiterated Randall Balmer's argument that the religious right coalesced, not around protecting pre-born life, but around defending racial segregation. When religious right leaders speak out against such hatred voiced at these conferences, they will get some small bit of respect from me--until then, I will think of Ann Coulter when I think of the Religious Right.

Glenn Greenwald - Salon: "And after she does that, she is cheered wildly by an adoring conservative movement that has made her bigoted and hate-mongering screeds best-sellers, all while they and their deceitful little allies in the media, such as Howard Kurtz of The Washington Post, write idiot tracts about how terribly upset they are by the affront to decency from HuffPost commenters [in between writing obsequious, tongue-wagging profiles of Coulter's most radical ideological allies, such as Michelle Malkin, who penned a lovely defense of the internment of Japanese-Americans, for which even Ronald Reagan apologized (but, I believe, she never cursed while doing so, which is what matters most)].

This is why I wrote so extensively about the Edwards blogger 'scandal' and the Cheney comments 'scandal.' The people feigning upset over those matters are either active participants in, or passive aiders and abetters of, a political movement that, at its very core -- not at its fringes -- knowingly and continuously embraces the most wretched and obvious bigotry and bloodthirsty authoritarianism. They love Ann Coulter -- and therefore continue to make her a venerated part of their political events -- because she provides an outlet, a venting ground, for the twisted psychological impulses and truly hateful face that drives the entire pro-Bush, right-wing spectacle."

March 2, 2007

Randall Balmer takes on Richard Land

Heh. According to Bruce from Mainstream Baptist, Land tried to play the "evangelicals have always stood for life" card, but hadn't read the book.
Talk To Action | Reclaiming Citizenship, History, and Faith: "Apparently Richard Land has not read Balmer's book Thy Kingdom Come. Had he read it, he would not have been so foolish as to link the rise of the Religious Right with evangelical opposition to abortion. That's one of the myths that Balmer buries in his book. Here's Balmer's response to Land during their online debate:

"C'mon, Richard, you're a better historian than that. The Religious Right did not coalesce as a political movement in response to the 1973 Roe decision. The catalyst was a lower-court decision, Green v. Connally, which upheld the attempt on the part of the Internal Revenue Service to rescind the tax-exempt status of institutions that engaged in racial discrimination. Bob Jones University of South Carolina stood in the crosshairs of that decision, and that is what motivated evangelical leaders to become politically active; abortion was cobbled into the political agenda in the late 1970s, in preparation for the 1980 presidential campaign, and not in direct response to the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. Despite the labored efforts of the leaders of the Religious Right to style themselves as the "new abolitionists" in order to draw a moral parallel with the 19th-century evangelical opponents of slavery, the Religious Right organized as a political movement effectively to defend racial segregation."

Isn't that something. Religious right organized, not to fight abortion or to stand up for the oppressed, but to DEFEND RACIAL SEGREGATION.

Need I sigh here?

The Face of the Republican party?

I know reasonable conservatives like to distance themselves from her, but the hardcore activists love her.
The Daily Dish: Coulter In Her Element: "'I was going to talk about John Edwards but these days, you have to go into rehab if you say the word 'faggot,'' - Ann Coulter, cheered to the rafters at CPAC today."
Also on the speakers list are Michele Malkin and other such reasoned souls. Hate is the watchword of the conservative movement.

But I thought our economy was great?

Buffalo News - Severe poverty in U.S. hits high: " The percentage of poor Americans who are living in severe poverty has reached a 32-year high, millions of working Americans are falling closer to the poverty line and the gulf between the nation's 'haves' and 'have-nots' continues to widen."
Those tax cuts sure have made helped, haven't they? Haliburton and the wealthy people are doing well.


They did this in our name

We all have blood on our hands. I am horrified by what our country has become. And even more horrified at the number of Americans who read about this and say something like "they are terrorists." The first quoted line from this piece speaks to how low we have become.
The Daily Dish: Confessions of an American Torturer: "The most remarkable line in the entire piece is:

"We almost never had evidence on anybody."

The results on these people were intense:

"We went on them hard for almost a month, I think, and these guys were just completely broken down, physically, mentally, by the end of it. One guy walked like a 90-year-old man when he was done. He was an ex-army guy, he was a real healthy young man when he came in, and by the end he was a mess."

Another interrogator confirms Lagouranis's account and adds:

"I saw barbaric traits begin to seep out of me and other good and respectable people — good Americans who never should have been put in that position to begin with. They have two choices — disobey direct orders or become monsters. It's a lonely road when everyone else is taking the other one."

Last year, the commander-in-chief who is ultimately responsible for every act committed under his command, passed a bill exculpating him and every other civilian employee of the government from any legal consequences for committing war-crimes. Regular soldiers were not given such immunity. The war criminals who gave the orders get off free, while the grunts they ordered may face prosecution at some point (but not if the Pentagon can cover it up)."

Friday morning

Little break this morning and avoiding grading.

Talking Points Memo and their offshoot TPMmuckraker has done a great job of exposing the administration's unprecedented purge of US Attorneys simply to make room for political hacks. But evidently it is more than just that. One of the fired attorneys has essentially confirmed that last fall New Mexico Republicans pressured him to indict a state democrat before the election.

I am not naive. I know how politics works. But once the GOP wrapped themselves in the Bible, those pesky little "ethics" issues became more of an issue of credibility. I am well aware that Democrats are vulnerable to corruption, but after this administration and GOP run, I don't ever, ever want to hear a Republican lecture me on ethics or morality.

On a side note, it is nice to see that the "scorched earth" political method employed by Karl Rove and Dick Cheney has its limits. We know it is highly unethical and immoral, but it seemed to work during the first 4 years of this disaster, but the method requires that you torch some on your side of the fence to keep discipline. Kind of like the mob executing some of their own for disloyalty. At some point, one of those will fight back. Especially when the Pres is polling at 29%.


Yesterday Al Gore spoke at the University of Oklahoma to a packed house. Wapo says 7,000 attended, but I have heard from others that it might have been higher. Regardless this kind of interest in one of the Redder states is heartening:
"'This is not a political issue. It's a moral, ethical and spiritual issue,' he said."
Now if only we can get those most concerned with morals, ethics and spiritual issues to pay attention to our planet. We might get something done.


Phil Carter is furious about the Walter Reed issue:
"Today we learned just how far the dysfunction at Walter Reed extends. Not only did these problems happen on Army Surgeon General Kevin Kiley's watch—they literally happened across the street from his quarters. When told that soldiers were complaining about bureaucratic obstacles to medical care and substandard housing, the surgeon general ignored them. His staff summarily dismissed members of Congress—and their spouses—when they tried to advocate for wounded troops. Despite the fact that 150,000 military personnel live in the Washington area, including hundreds of generals and sergeants major, no one paid any attention to what was going on there. Despite promising publicly to fix the problems at Walter Reed, Army leaders have decided instead to torment the wounded troops by waking them up at 6 a.m. and ordering them not to talk with the press. It's fast becoming clear that the entire military bureaucracy is rotten to the core—incapable of managing problems at Walter Reed, let alone fighting and winning a war.


Perhaps the most disturbing news about Walter Reed is that until today, the Army has pinned blame on "several low-ranking soldiers who managed outpatients." Accountability and command responsibility do not start at the bottom with a few sergeants who performed as their superiors told them to; rather, such responsibility starts at the top. Today's decision to sack Maj. Gen. George Weightman, Walter Reed's commanding officer, affirms the principle of command responsibility, thought to be a dead letter after the Abu Ghraib scandals. But this termination is only a first step. Every commander between Army Secretary Francis Harvey and the wounded soldiers being treated at Walter Reed bears some blame."

More from his website.


Melissa Rogers is keeping an eye on the Bush administration's "First Freedom Project." Perhaps I am too cynical, but anytime this administration says "freedom" I feel queasy. Melissa has more coming on this issue, but compares the process and choice of announcement here (shock, the Bush people announced it at the SBC annual meeting to one of their remaining strongholds of support--against all reason and morality, I must add), while the Clinton administration tried to clarify religous freedom by reaching out to diverse groups and appealing to common grounds. We need to keep an eye on this. When Al Gonzales speaks of freedom, I am reminded he wrote memos supporting our torture policy. I guess Richard Land didn't consider torture an issue when he presented a Religious Liberty Award to Bush
Richard Land of Nashville, who heads the lobbying arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, presented the 2006 John Leland Religious Liberty Award to Bush in the Oval Office on Monday.

The president was honored for "courageously defending the right of all people to exercise freely their religious faith."

The award called the president a "faithful witness to his faith in the Lord Jesus Christ to both his countrymen and the world's leaders."

It cited him as an advocate for people to practice their faith without fear.
I guess that is why the President is so good at reaching out to people outside the fundys? Oh wait.


March 1, 2007

Arthur Schlesinger, Historian of Power, Dies at 89 - New York Times

Arthur Schlesinger, Historian of Power, Dies at 89 - New York Times

This is really indefensible

My texas friend thinks I that perhaps I am outraged all the time about things. And maybe he is right, but I honestly don't know how to look at this administration and not feel that way. For example, I have been thinking about this wounded vet story all week. The original story was horrible enough--and we had a glimpse of what could be when Robert Gates thanked the WaPo for breaking the story and pledged to stop this horrible mistreatment of the troops. But now we see that the military is going to simply make those same troops just stop talking to the press to make this go away.

But it isn't just those Walter Reed patients. Marty notes the story about ABC News anchor Bob Woodruff who narrowly survived a brain injury when an IED exploded near his armored vehicle. But as she notes, thanks to the weaponry used, body armor, etc., the signature wound of the Iraq war is the Traumatic Brain Injury--and Congress (before the Democratic takeover) wanted to cut funding into researching those injuries.

And yet, it is still commonly asserted that liberals don't care about the troops and are anti-military. Leaving the liberals aside for a minute, the real question is how do conservatives with yellow ribbons on their SUVs but voting for reductions in veterans benefits or research into TBIs still say they are pro-troops? How do they support a President who has almost single handedly ruined our military and still say that they are all pro-military.

I think Anglican is right. They are pro-military in the same way that corporations are pro-immigrant workers.