August 31, 2007


Welcome to Ethics!: "Defending Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary's new homemaking degree against critics he views as outside the mainstream, a Southern Baptist state newspaper editor suggested that women are hard-wired for work within the home."

I am tired of saying "unbelievable" about these people

New article in the Post says that soldiers and US officials in the Green Zone are given cheat sheets on visiting Democratic congresspeople that one called "being slimed in the Green Zone."
"The sheets of paper seemed to be everywhere the lawmakers went in the Green Zone, distributed to Iraqi officials, U.S. officials and uniformed military of no particular rank. So when Rep. James P. Moran Jr. (D-Va.) asked a soldier last weekend just what he was holding, the congressman was taken aback to find out.

In the soldier's hand was a thumbnail biography, distributed before each of the congressmen's meetings in Baghdad, which let meeting participants such as that soldier know where each of the lawmakers stands on the war. "Moran on Iraq policy," read one section, going on to cite some the congressman's most incendiary statements, such as, "This has been the worst foreign policy fiasco in American history.""

We know from other Post reporting that the Bushies filled this reconstruction people with loyal Buhies and people who had the right opinion on Roe v. Wade, but as many bloggers have noted, we thought that they might have started focusing on some level of competence by now. But no. Everything is political. Instead of all these visitors being "concerned Americans" trying to understand the situation, they are divided into friend or foe and shown only what the Bush people want them to see.
Brief, choreographed and carefully controlled, the codels (short for congressional delegations) often have showed only what the Pentagon and the Bush administration have wanted the lawmakers to see. At one point, as Moran, Tauscher and Rep. Jon Porter (R-Nev.) were heading to lunch in the fortified Green Zone, an American urgently tried to get their attention, apparently to voice concerns about the war effort, the participants said. Security whisked the man away before he could make his point.

Tauscher called it "the Green Zone fog."

"Spin City," Moran grumbled. "The Iraqis and the Americans were all singing from the same song sheet, and it was deliberately manipulated."


Friday morning

Less a rant this morning. Well, we shall see.

The leading news story this week has been Senator Larry Craig's bathroom activities. Last night, I heard the entire tape of his interview with the cops. I couldn't stop listening and there is really nothing newsworthy there. For many of us, the story has been a little funny. The right wing politician caught in an embarrassing situation and publicly shamed. As Sarah (Two-Headed Blog) said:
However, my mirth soon turned to sorrow and pity for the guy, especially after member after member of his own party began turning on him.
Sam Brownback appeared to be the only Republican who responded to Craig with a sense of compassion. Mitt Romney couldn't run over Craig enough and was this close to strapping the Idaho Senator to his car top for a 12 hour ride. Oh wait, that was what he did to his dog.

NPR had a great commentator by Marc Acito last night, who as a gay man himself wanted to jump on the Craig bashing, but couldn't when he started thinking about the pain this man has lived through. As Acito noted, Craig didn't invent the homophobic agenda, "he inherited it."

It has been nice to see liberal voices extending a bit of compassion to this man who's life has probably just come undone.


Now for something different. Kind of. Tony has a post on the evangelical preacher Rick Scarborough who evidently is suggesting that God is punishing America by removing some of its prophets. Who are these prophets? Well, he lists the deaths of Jerry Falwell and Adrian Rogers and the retirement of D. James Kennedy as a suggestion that God is punishing America for, well, I assume it is the standard gays and abortion and liberals and Ted Kennedy. I couldn't read it that closely.

Nevermind that I don't consider any of those three remotely prophet-like. Perhaps I am still remembering Falwell's "blow them all away in the name of the Lord," or Rogers role in overturning the SBC. And Kennedy suggested that when the Puritans slaughtered the Pequots, they were right to do so and God had in fact ordered that hit. Sigh.

Scarborough is famous for embracing Tom Delay as a man of god. (I can't even type that and keep a straight face.) Wikipedia says that he also was a strident opponent for the HPV vaccine in Texas. We talked about that here at Streak's Blog and really all agreed there was a lot of very good reasons to oppose that bill. But none of us suggested what good old Rick saw as the best reason. For Scarborough it was that the vaccine would short-circuit God's punishment for sexually active women. Evidently, the god he worships punishes women who are sexual by killing them. Nice.


Finally, the big daddy weave notes that the SBC is now attacking yoga. A man named Hinkle (from Missouri) is leading this charge to remove yoga from the SBC. When I first started yoga, I read a little on the web about this. Personally, I don't get the concern, but then again, my yoga instructor is more about the stretching and flexibility than she is about mind altering. And it has helped my back and my flexibility tremendously in the last year and a half, and also adds a brief moment of introspection in an otherwise hectic week. But I feel absolutely no inclination to change faiths or invoke magical curses. After all, I am not Wiley Drake!

But BDW notes how many ultra conservative Baptist schools include yoga and asks a rather pertinent question:
"At these Baptist schools, I wonder how many students have been led to demonic activity as a result of excessive stretching? .....Just because something is not decidedly Christian doesn't mean it's anti-Christian. Hinkle can't seem to grasp that point. We don't live in a black and white world...."
I agree.

August 30, 2007

Two years later

Reading this post this morning caused me to go back through my email and blog posts from two years ago. Before I move on to the work of the day, I need to write something so I can put this behind me. Reading those emails and blogs reminded me of just how disheartening that time was. Watching Bush smirk about his drinking days in NO when he finally visited the region was unbelievable. Until his mother chuckled at the refugees and noted that they were better off. Or when Bush did his photo op in NO complete with lights that only turned on for his speech. Or when they all blamed the NO people for not getting out, or said that no one ever suggested that the levies might fail.

I wrote a lot at the time about a need for accountability and for a need to recognize that government can do important work to keep us together and help us through such disasters. Some accountability has occurred. Many people voted Democratic in the last midterm because of Katrina, though Bush seems to have internalized none of that. His incompetence seems purposeful now as he plods along ignoring past mistakes and even pushing for new ones (Iran).

Katrina changed things for me. I remember BB blogging about his belief in a basic social safety net and how its failure during Katrina disheartened him. It did me too. The monumental incompetence of this administration and belief that they should cut taxes further in response to such a huge disaster filled me with disbelief. I remain convinced today, as I was then, that most conservatives (even the evangelicals who continued to support Republicans in the last election) actually want good government and have never quite figured out that Bush doesn't share that goal.

I remain hopeful that we can recover from this administration, but also cynical that the next snake-oil salesman that comes along brandishing a Bible and toting the next Karl Rove behind him will further undermine our Republic.

Ok, back to the work of the day. One more thing. The memories weren't all bad. Who can forget Dick Cheney's heckler?

August 27, 2007

Not sure about this guy either

Latest rumors are suggesting that this is the guy.
TPMmuckraker August 27, 2007 9:18 AM: "Meanwhile, Fox News cites 'sources' as saying that Solicitor General Paul Clement is the likely choice to be Gonzales' temporary replacement. Clement, as third in succession at the Justice Department, has been serving as acting attorney general for the U.S. attorney firings investigation."
His loyalty to Gonzo and Bush will be front and center as well as any lack of effort he made to investigate the firings as Solicitor General. Or lack of willingness to investigate anything in this godforsaken administration.

Oh great

Melissa Rogers: Southern Baptists and "Christian School 101": "Southern Baptists are moving to open their own schools, offering an alternative to public schools that would educate a new generation about biblical principles."

Given the latest educational nugget from Paige Patterson, let's just say that this does not fill me with good thoughts.

Chertoff is an interesting choice

Attorney General Gonzales resigns, officials say - "President Bush will likely nominate Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff to the position, senior administration officials said. Clay Johnson, deputy director for management at the Office of Management and Budget, would replace Chertoff, the officials said."
The rumor I read over the weekend thought that Chertoff would be easier to get through the confirmation process because he was a known quantity and because he had no connections to the US Attorney scandal. But that won't stop the US Attorney scandal from being part of the confirmation process, but won't it also bring in Katrina? If you are a Senator, wouldn't you take this opportunity to ask questions about the screwups?

It just seems apt

Gonzales out--updated

Resigned. First Rove, now Gonzo. If only Cheney.

From the New York Times, news that Gonzo extended his resignation by phone Friday night. Something is fishy about this too. Any coincidence that, like Rove, the news comes early Monday morning instead of being buried Friday afternoon? The last I read Gonzales was not one of the senior staffers who wanted to resign, so is it possible that Bush pulled the trigger? Oh, I am sure we will see the Prez hugging Gonzo and telling the American people (again) what a good man this is. I read a rumor over the weekend that Bush intended to bring Chertoff over from HS. We shall see.
Mr. Bush has not yet chosen a replacement but will not leave the position open long, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the Attorney General's resignation had not yet been made public.
I am guessing that is because this has been in the planning for a week or two. Gonzo may have dialed a phone on Friday, but someone else made the call.

But not without whining.

"The official said that the decision was Mr. Gonzales's and that the president accepted it grudgingly. At the same time, the official acknowledged that the turmoil over his tenure as Attorney General had made continuing difficult.

"The unfair treatment that he's been on the receiving end of has been a distraction for the department," the official said."
Oh yes, the unfair treatment. Asking him to recall information. Asking him to explain why people were fired when he is assuring us it was not for political reasons.

I am sure some conservative in Texas will pay Gonzales good money to be incompetent and corrupt for him, but the only good thing that came out of his tenure in Washington was that his incompetence and immorality was revealed before this trainwreck ended up on the Supreme Court. And make no mistake about it, had Bush played his cards a little better, Gonzo would have been a slamdunk. Imagine that. Someone who couldn't recall anything and still acted as the President's lawyer as Supreme Court justice. Or worse, Chief Justice.

We will rue the legacy of this incompetent administration for years to come. But at least we didn't get that trainwreck for the rest of his life. At least that is good. But here is hoping that Gonzales, like Rove, isn't finished with our judicial system.

Now, Dick, aren't you missing the family?

Update: Cnn is already reporting that Bush plans to nominate Chertoff, so I guess that rumor was true. One incompetent person to replace another. Perhaps Chertoff is better than Gonzales, but to be fair, that bar was very, very low.

August 26, 2007

Uh, Conservatives--this guy is unbelievable

Olbermann refers to this guy as "the comedian Rush Limgaugh" but the truth is he isn't very funny. Take a look at the following exchange and let's see how many half-truths and racist comments we can find.
Talking Points Memo | : "LIMBAUGH: Yeah. This is -- you're not going to believe this, but it's very simple. And the sooner you believe it, and the sooner you let this truth permeate the boundaries you have that tell you this is just simply not possible, the better you will understand Democrats in everything. You are right. They want to get us out of Iraq, but they can't wait to get us into Darfur.

CALLER: Right.

LIMBAUGH: There are two reasons. What color is the skin of the people in Darfur?

CALLER: Uh, yeah.

LIMBAUGH: It's black. And who do the Democrats really need to keep voting for them? If they lose a significant percentage of this voting bloc, they're in trouble.

CALLER: Yes. Yes. The black population.

LIMBAUGH: Right. So you go into Darfur and you go into South Africa, you get rid of the white government there. You put sanctions on them. You stand behind Nelson Mandela -- who was bankrolled by communists for a time, had the support of certain communist leaders. You go to Ethiopia. You do the same thing."
Oh, and btw, Rush never mentions the word genocide (at least in the transcript I read) and is he suggesting that Apartheid was a good thing? Or that the Reagan administration was relatively tough on the Apartheid government? Or that Apartheid was awful? Or that opposing Apartheid was an "anti-white" thing?

Is this guy for real? If the conservative evangelicals had any guts they would put this guy on the carpet. Because say what I will and have about conservative evangelicals, one huge global moral issue that many have spoken out on passionately is Darfur. They have been very vocal on trying to stop the killing in Sudan--and they have been right about it. I think their allegiance to Bush has muted their criticism, but they spoken out. Time for Dobson and Robertson to have their supporters flood Rush's phones and tell him what a racist idiot he is. Or better yet, why not call all of Rush's advertisers and give them the riot act.

My fear is that the Republican part of the conservative evangelical will win out. I will be stunned to see them mobilize here. Sure, if Rush was advocating gay marriage or suggesting that the Ten Commandments be removed... I hope I am wrong. I would really love them to turn on Rush. Let's watch.

This makes me feel like weeping

I have joked frequently about Bush operating more like mob boss than devoted Christian. But the story is no longer humorous and I grieve my country.
So Vance says he blew the whistle, supplying photos and documents and other intelligence to an FBI agent in his hometown of Chicago because he didn’t know whom to trust in Iraq.

For his trouble, he says, he got 97 days in Camp Cropper, an American military prison outside Baghdad that once held Saddam Hussein, and he was classified a security detainee.

Also held was colleague Nathan Ertel, who helped Vance gather evidence documenting the sales, according to a federal lawsuit both have filed in Chicago, alleging they were illegally imprisoned and subjected to physical and mental interrogation tactics “reserved for terrorists and so-called enemy combatants.”

No noble outcomes
Corruption has long plagued Iraq reconstruction. Hundreds of projects may never be finished, including repairs to the country’s oil pipelines and electricity system. Congress gave more than $30 billion to rebuild Iraq, and at least $8.8 billion of it has disappeared, according to a government reconstruction audit.

Despite this staggering mess, there are no noble outcomes for those who have blown the whistle, according to a review of such cases by The Associated Press.

“If you do it, you will be destroyed,” said William Weaver, professor of political science at the University of Texas-El Paso and senior advisor to the National Security Whistleblowers Coalition.

“Reconstruction is so rife with corruption. Sometimes people ask me, ‘Should I do this?’ And my answer is no. If they’re married, they’ll lose their family. They will lose their jobs. They will lose everything,” Weaver said.

They have been fired or demoted, shunned by colleagues, and denied government support in whistleblower lawsuits filed against contracting firms.

“The only way we can find out what is going on is for someone to come forward and let us know,” said Beth Daley of the Project on Government Oversight, an independent, nonprofit group that investigates corruption. “But when they do, the weight of the government comes down on them. The message is, ’Don’t blow the whistle or we’ll make your life hell.’

“It’s heartbreaking,” Daley said. “There is an even greater need for whistleblowers now. But they are made into public martyrs. It’s a disgrace. Their lives get ruined.”

This is democracy as Bush sees it? At the same time he villifies government, he crushes those (or allows them to be crushed) who would clean up government.

August 25, 2007

Humor for Saturday

I have been a bit dark and annoyed with people. But last night, SOF and I had a funny conversation after the mail came and she wrote it up. Check it out, and send her some love. :)

August 24, 2007

Friday afternoon rant

Exhausted edition. I really need to sleep a little, but can't let this go. Couple of items caught my eye.

Item 1. When Falwell died, several tried to defend (well, sort of) his initial response after 9-11, noting that he apologized for blaming liberals and abortionists. Yet right before he died, he essentially restated it:
Welcome to Ethics!: "But days before his unexpected death May 15, Falwell told CNN's Christiane Amanpour he stood by his original statement. The interview airs tonight in the last of a three-part series on "God's Warriors" examining the link between religion and politics and the effects of Judaism, Islam and Christianity on politics, culture and public life.

In a video clip on the series Web site, Amanpour reminded Falwell he sparked controversy by suggesting that the Lord was removing his protection from America in 2001.

"I still believe that," Falwell said.... "We're killing a million babies a year in this country by abortion. And I was saying then, and I'm saying now, that if we in fact change all the rules on which this Judeo-Christian nation was built, we cannot expect the Lord to put his shield of protection around us as he has in the past."

"So you still stand by that?" Amanpour asked.

"I stand right by it," Falwell replied."



Item 2. George Bush. Just how bad is he as president?
AlterNet: Rights and Liberties: Bush's Bid for a Death Penalty Fast Track: "The Bush administration is preparing to speed up the executions of criminals who are on death row across the United States, in effect, cutting out several layers of appeals in the federal courts so that prisoners can be 'fast-tracked' to their deaths.

With less than 18 months to go to secure a presidential legacy, President Bush has turned to an issue he has specialised in since approving a record number of executions while Governor of Texas.The US Attorney General, Alberto Gonzales -- Mr Bush's top legal adviser during the spree of executions in Texas in the 1990s -- is putting finishing touches to regulations, inspired by recent anti-terrorism legislation, that would allow states to turn to the Justice Department, instead of the federal courts, as a key arbiter in deciding whether prisoners live or die."
Fast tracking executions. Got to kill them faster, and Bush thinks that will make him more popular?

I think I just threw up a little in my mouth.


But we aren't done with Bush. I mentioned this yesterday, but his invocation of Vietnam just boggles the mind. Happily, I am not the only one with a historical eye who thinks so:
Dan Froomkin - The Analogy Quagmire - "'"Historian Robert Dallek, who has written about the comparisons of Iraq to Vietnam, accused Bush of twisting history. 'It just boggles my mind, the distortions I feel are perpetrated here by the president,' he said in a telephone interview.

"'We were in Vietnam for 10 years. We dropped more bombs on Vietnam than we did in all of World War II in every theater. We lost 58,700 American lives, the second-greatest loss of lives in a foreign conflict. And we couldn't work our will,' he said.

"'What is Bush suggesting? That we didn't fight hard enough, stay long enough? That's nonsense. It's a distortion,' he continued. 'We've been in Iraq longer than we fought in World War II. It's a disaster, and this is a political attempt to lay the blame for the disaster on his opponents. But the disaster is the consequence of going in, not getting out.'""
And let's not forget the most obvious part. If Bush really thinks that we didn't do enough to win Vietnam, then where the hell was he? Drunk, I realize, but as President to be browbeating people for not fighting hard enough in Vietnam is unbelievable. Even for this guy.

I was reminded of his delusions of grandeur and wondered aloud last evening if Bush remembers himself as a VN hero. When that man gave Bush the Purple Heart he earned in Vietnam, I really was stunned that he took it. Imagine the reaction if instead he responded like this: "that award was for wounds you suffered in service to our country. I am so very flattered that you would give this to me, but I did not earn it. You did. And so have all the fighting men and women who have been wounded in battle today, blah blah."

Nope, this one took it as if he deserved it. We have learned a lot about the character of our last couple of presidents. We knew that Clinton had many flaws in his, but also many good parts. We knew that Bush Sr. had many flaws, but also some reasonableness. I am still looking for any positive character in W at all. Any.

I am telling you, the SBC is trying my patience this week

With the stupidity. Actually, I saw this last week at big daddy weave where he posted on Paige Patterson's new "academic program:"
a new academic program in homemaking as part of an effort to establish what its president calls biblical family and gender roles.

It will offer a bachelor of arts in humanities degree with a 23-hour concentration in homemaking. The program is only open to women. Coursework will include seven hours of nutrition and meal preparation, seven hours of textile design and "clothing construction," three hours of general homemaking, three hours on "the value of a child," and three hours on the "biblical model for the home and family."
To be fair, I have no problem with the sewing and the cooking. I don't sew, but spend many hours each week cooking and have been looking for some cooking classes. Maybe I should enroll at Southwestern. Oops, this program is only open to women because Paige Patterson evidently is still living in the 1950s, or at least, his version of it.

Ethics Daily had more on this, including some excerpts from Patterson defending his new program. This one is my favorite:
"Asked if he believes it is best for women to stay in the home and have children, Patterson said: 'I am wary of the crusade against mothers ... who choose not to have a career but to devote themselves entirely to their homes. That's noble and our society is worse for not maintaining it as a noble cause.'
Yes, in a Rovian twist, someone who asks why this program is only open to women is then accused of a "crusade against mothers." Unlike Drake, Patterson is not one of the "gallactically stupid" (another movie quote, for you Tony), and in some ways, that makes this all the worse. Yes, Paige Patterson, liberals hate mothers and families and want children to be raised by government-run, lesbian-flag-burning machines. Sigh.


Speaking of the brain surgeon that is Wiley Drake, I wondered yesterday why he would only invoke an imprecatory prayer against someone who, you know, wrote him a mean letter? Why haven't we used this weapon against Osama Bin Laden? Or against terrorism in general? Given our Defense Department's new love affair with fundamentalism, we could have given Wiley his own sub department, where he could call down God's wrath on select terrorists and South American dicatators. Talk about your "smart weaponry" and "air strikes."

But that would be ridiculous. Almost like having a degree in home economics for female seminarians in a world where we might elect our first woman president next year.


August 23, 2007

Music break

I am having problems not listening to this new song by Rilo Kiley. Not sure I am completely sold on the album, though there are several other songs that really catch me too.

Seriously, what to say about someone this deluded

Crooks and Liars has a great bit where David Shuster debunks Bush's VN comparison. Of coruse, the last few years, the man kept trying to say that VN was a bad analogy and "sent the wrong message to the troops." And, of course, Shuster points to the obvious. The same man now brazenly criticizing Americans who got out of Vietnam was nowhere to be found when he had the opportunity to fight there.

As I have said repeatedly, I don't blame him. I would not have wanted to go to VN and would have found whatever alternative I could. I don't blame him for his cowardice. But to then send thousands to die while criticizing those who don't like his little war--that is a whole level of delusion and seems frankly pathological. The other day, Karl Rove said something about being proud to serve a President who wanted to bring the country together. I did a double take then. I do another one now.

What do you say about people like this? Are they that insane? Or are they just very good liars. No honest person can say that Bush has tried to bring us together, anymore than any honest person can say that Bush has credibility to address the Vietnam war.

August 22, 2007

Just tired of stupidity (Obscenity alert)

Maybe it is just the fatigue of the first week of class. I am tired and easily annoyed, and I recognize that. But Tony's post on this idiot pastor wanting armed congregants just pushed me over the edge. Tony is equally annoyed, I think, but as usual, nicer than me.

I am just tired of stupid people saying really, really, REALLY stupid stuff. And too often lately, they have been in a pastoral situation. First Wiley Drake's petulant childish bizarre theology aimed at someone who dared criticize him and call him on his actions. In response he asks God to fucking kill them! I am still stunned by this.

Then Tony notes this guy who says that Congregations should be filled with guns. Not necessarily to shoot, but to show to criminals who, he says, are all cowards and will run from the gun. Because more guns always makes us safer. Because no escalation has ever happened when one person tries violence and is met with violence. Because when you have guns around, no one innocent has ever been shot by well-meaning people.

I am not expecting all pastors to be rocket scientists, nor am I expecting even a depth of theology for all. But is it too much to ask for a modicum of common sense? Forget gun control, these two make me want to push for "preacher control" where you have to pass a basic psychological competency to get a license to Preach.

But that--unlike asking God to kill someone--would be ridiculous.

A few more thoughts

First, Michael Vick. Sully says it very well, calling what the QB did:
"cruelty. It's a vice we don't talk of much, but it is essentially the aspect of the human psyche that sees a vulnerable person, animal or thing, and exploits that vulnerability with further violence or power. It's evil. It's why I despise torture in every form. It is not just the absence of love or respect; it's the active presence of its opposite. And animals, creatures over which we have near total control or dominion, are more vulnerable to such cruelty than many humans. Vick is an inhumane bully, an exemplum of cruelty and arrogance."
I also think that those who would so cruelly treat dogs this way, will do so to humans.


And this is interesting and also a bit suspected--given the Bush admins approach to all things regulation. But McClatchy reports that:
"The Bush administration and China have both undermined efforts to tighten rules designed to ensure that lead paint isn't used in toys, bibs, jewelry and other children’s products.

Both have fought efforts to better police imported toys from China."
At least no one blames the lead in toys on some "act of God" but it appears that the lead scandal is very related to the Bush/GOP view of capitalism, which is, no taxes and no regulation. Even if those taxes are to pay for bridges and the regulation is to protect children.


This kind of confirms what I suspected

The Barna group released a poll that suggests that evangelicals prioritize marriage and families and improving the overall spiritual condition of the US--but don't care nearly as much about environmental concerns or improving conditions for children.
Bible Belt Blogger: When Aimee Semple McPherson came to Arkansas: "In a different way, evangelicals stood out regarding their views on the environment. Only 35% said that protecting the environment should be a top priority - the lowest score recorded among any of the 80 subgroups studied. The national average was 60%. Oddly, evangelicals were also 20 percentage points below the national norm in saying that improving the overall care and resources devoted to children is an absolute necessity. Again, that placed evangelicals at the lowest end of the continuum in terms of support for that idea.'"
Odd. Given that evangelicals voice the most concern for marriage and family, but the least for children? And who do they think are harmed by environmental problems? Are they with Dobson that the environment is only about trees and birds? (Nevermind that these are the same people pushing a literal creation which means that God created those trees and birds that they care so little about.)

August 21, 2007

Couple of quick items

The Bush legacy will take years to fully understand, but the immediate impact is actually bad enough. AP is reporting that our Army is nearing the breaking point (h/t Upper Left):
"WASHINGTON - Sapped by nearly six years of war, the Army has nearly exhausted its fighting force and its options if the Bush administration decides to extend the Iraq buildup beyond next spring.

The Army's 38 available combat units are deployed, just returning home or already tapped to go to Iraq, Afghanistan or elsewhere, leaving no fresh troops to replace five extra brigades that President Bush sent to Baghdad this year, according to interviews and military documents reviewed by The Associated Press. That presents the Pentagon with several painful choices if the U.S. wants to maintain higher troop levels beyond the spring of 2008:"
How Republicans still get high marks for supporting the troops amazes me. In this piece, they admit privately that one option on the table to provide for 2008 is to extend tours beyond 15 months (which was already an extension beyond 12). I won't castigate the entire Republican party, but Bush and Cheney are horrible on the military. Those Republicans who support them have to decide for themselves. The next SUV I see with a yellow ribbon for the troops, a "these colors don't run" sticker, AND a W, or W 2004--I might just puke.


Item two is the Schip program--or the insurance program for poor children. After failing to veto any meaningful legislation beyond stem cell research when the GOP ran the shop, Bush has rediscovered his veto power. But he uses it in such terrible places.
Faithful Progressive: Bad Medicine: New Bush Health Care Rules Leave Many Children Behind: "The Bush administration, engaged in a battle with Congress over whether a popular children's health insurance program should be expanded, has announced new policies that will make it harder for states to insure all but the lowest-income children."

Last month, Krugman assessed Bush's stance:
It’s not because [Bush] thinks the plans wouldn’t work. It’s because he’s afraid that they would. That is, he fears that voters, having seen how the government can help children, would ask why it can’t do the same for adults. […]

There are arguments you can make against programs, like Social Security, that provide a safety net for adults. I can respect those arguments, even though I disagree. But denying basic health care to children whose parents lack the means to pay for it, simply because you’re afraid that success in insuring children might put big government in a good light, is just morally wrong.
I am afraid Krugman is right here. Bush does have principles, they just suck.


Finally, this gem that really suggests that Bush and his people don't "get" America and never have.
A couple arrested at a rally after refusing to cover T-shirts that bore anti-President Bush slogans settled their lawsuit against the federal government for $80,000, the American Civil Liberties Union announced Thursday.

Nicole and Jeffery Rank of Corpus Christi, Texas, were handcuffed and removed from the July 4, 2004, rally at the state Capitol, where Bush gave a speech. A judge dismissed trespassing charges against them, and an order closing the case was filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Charleston.
Reread that. American citizens were arrested for protesting their President. They didn't threaten his life, or start a riot. They simply wore t-shirts. T-F*&KING SHIRTS!!!!! And the Bush White house tried to put them in jail. They lost, but claim that the settlement was not an admission of wrongdoing. They can't even admit that jailing someone for wearing a t-shirt is wrong.

Boy, those votes for Bush in '04 are starting to look dumber and dumber, aren't they?

August 20, 2007

Politicians on theology

Melissa Rogers points to one of the few parts of the Democratic debate that I caught yesterday where the candidates were asked (by someone in Iowa) about their belief in prayer and how it works.

Here was the question:
"My question is to understand each candidates' view of a personal God. Do they believe that, through the power of prayer, disasters like Hurricane Katrina or the Minnesota bridge collapse could have been prevented or lessened?"
Personally, I thought it was a stupid question, but there it was. It implies that those disasters were acts of God, which really bugs me. Certainly, the hurricane was a force of nature and no one had any control over that. But the "disaster" portion of it was almost purely man made. And the Minnesota bridge collapse? Come on. How about blaming a no-taxes for anything approach? That bridge didn't collapse from some cosmic cough. It went down because it failed and human beings failed to catch that it was failing.

Obama had one of the better answers:
OBAMA: Most of the issues that we're debating here today are ones that we have the power to change.

We don't have the power to prevent illness in all cases, but we do have the power to make sure that every child gets a regular checkup and isn't going to the emergency room for treatable illnesses like asthma.

We may not have the power to prevent a hurricane, but we do have the power to make sure that the levees are properly reinforced and we've got a sound emergency plan.

And so, part of what I pray for is the strength and the wisdom to be able to act on those things that I can control. And that's what I think has been lacking sometimes in our government.

OBAMA: We've got to express those values through our government, not just through our religious institutions.
I am not bashing prayer, but praying for the poor and then voting against them seems problematic to me.

August 19, 2007

Ok, one more on Drake

It is hard to resist. Saw this where they too asked Drake WTF:
"Today, Drake told us by telephone that he has called for prayers aimed at smiting the AU and its leadership not because they oppose him personally, but because "they are attacking God's people."
Again, he equates himself with God's people. I think I am one of God's people, and I don't feel attacked. Well, not by Americans United. Feeling just a little attacked by idiots like Drake.

Speaking of idiocy:
Drake also said he had been careful to state that he was "personally endorsing" Huckabee, not throwing his church's support to the candidate. He put the endorsement on the church's letterhead, Drake said, "because I'm not going to let anyone tell me I have to hide who I am. I use letterhead to pay my phone bill and to send my mother a note.""
Could that be the answer to this riddle? Drake isn't just theologically challenged, but just not very smart.

The riddle is solved by, well me, and the Los Angeles Times columnist Dana Parsons. Parsons writes an interesting take on the Drake nutjobbery by connecting it to teaching the Bible in school. Should we, he asks, teach imprecatory prayer in Public schools? Would that violate the school's "zero-violence" policy? That part is funny and pretty apt.

But included is a little glimpse of Wiley Drake--the wingnut himself. Parsons has interviewed him several times and kind of likes the nut. Parsons assures us that Drake is "no ayatollah." Ok. I don't really care. But he includes this:
He's a Southern Baptist from Texas who is cookie-cut from the mold of men who like to preach the Gospel and issue press releases. I wrote 10 years ago that he "likes microphones for breakfast," and Drake didn't dispute it.

He acknowledged then that he probably had "been rightly accused of being somewhat self-aggrandizing and a media freak" but added that he'd actually accepted years earlier that he wasn't going to become famous.
You catch that last line?
he'd actually accepted years earlier that he wasn't going to become famous
See, I thought that Pastors were supposed to be about service. Drake is just one in a long line of people who are there (at least partially) for the fame and notoriety. The late Jerry Falwell comes to mind, for some inexplicable reason. Or James Dobson's tailored suit as he strides from the limo to meet with the centers of power. Oh, I am sure along the way all did some good to those around them. Drake supposedly fought city hall to establish a homeless shelter at his church, and Falwell famously did much for unwed mothers. Dobson undoubtedly taught some underprivileged couple to spank the hell out of their kid. But all of them love those microphones and revel in the wealth and fame.

Tony calls these types "celebrity Christians" and I agree. Unfortunately, they have a voice and it has been a very bad voice for, well, all of us. Everytime some idiot like Drake pops off, we forget that there are pastors like Tony who clearly are not in it for either fame or money and who recently had his VBS group raise money for Special Olympics (obviously not getting the Bush memo that Special Olympics is supported by the Kennedy family). This is not to single Tony out, except he is the one I know of right now. I also know that Anglican's priest here in Norman is just one hell of a guy and another man serving those around him. There are countless more out there, but those men and women are lost in the mega church-satellite service-video preacher-branded church-mindless "praise and worship"-non denom with the hip music and high tech show, etc., phenomenon. We need to focus more on them and shut the Wiley Drake's and James Dobson's the hell up.

One last thing, an image I found on a blog post about Wiley Drake is very interesting and quite telling. I don't know where the picture was taken or who the people are, but I think it came from the right wing "Move America Forward" website (cheap and cheesy response to, and dominated by a lot of right wingers). It tells us a lot about the Dobson/Drake/Falwell phenomenon. I am sure you will see what I am talking about.

August 18, 2007

Couple of cute stories

From yesterday. Obviously later in the evening, my Alafair moment took over the night, but the afternoon was rather charming. First, I mowed (no, that isn't charming) but before I could get started, this woman came over and asked me and my neighbor to help her daughter push a pickup down the street a few houses to their rental driveway. We agreed and negotiated the busy east/west traffic. We told the daughter to put it in neutral, and let off the brake. We started pushing and yelled steering commands. But the truck just kept going straight. Finally she hit the brake and stopped the truck. I assumed the lack of power meant that the power steering wasn't working right. But when we came around the front, she said, "the wheel seems locked up."

Then she pulled the keys out of her purse. Yep, a locked steering wheel would cause that.


Second, we went to the pet adoption where we found Abbie. We returned a crate they were so nice to lend us and took them some spare leashes and extra paper towels--things we assumed they could use. They were so nice. And several asked who we had adopted. When we told them Maggie--now Abbie--one said, "what and you didn't bring her back to visit?" and the other said "Please send pictures."

I thought with all the dogs they might lose track of the individuals. But they knew exactly who is running around our house making us smile.

More Wiley Drake wingnuttery

Welcome to Ethics!: "In an interview with, Drake responded to the AU’s second press release dealing with his call for imprecatory prayer.

“If they think it’s ‘outlandish,’ it doesn’t surprise me,” Drake stated. “They’re ungodly, un-scriptural, not even Christians.”

“They have no reverence for the Word of God,” Drake continued. “And if they think it’s ‘outlandish,’ don’t blame me, I didn’t write it, God did.”

“It really doesn’t matter what my words are,” Drake added. “What matters is what does God’s Word say? God’s Word says if they continue to attack God’s people, God will cause their children to become orphans and their wives to become widows. I didn’t say that, God did.”
Shorter Wiley: "Don't blame me. Blame God for writing such crazy stuff. Can I help it that it is useful for me?"

What a scumbag.

August 17, 2007

Alafair's pond

It has been two + weeks since we said goodbye and we are doing better. I say that after having one of those moments we call "Alafair moments" over the last few days that are painful and yet also nice. We miss her so much. We adopted her from an organization up in the city (Pets for People). She was sickly and shy and scared of everything. We loved her and she loved us back and for ten years, our lives were better for knowing her. We named her after a James Lee Burke character (the main character (also a nickname--Streak) adopted a daughter--Alafair), though she took on numerous nicknames. Her tail was thin and kind of curly, so she became the Monkey. The short version of Alafair was 'Fair' which became 'Bear.

One of our friends said that she brought joy to everyone in her world. And that is true. She made our lives better every day she was with us. She would bark at us with this half bark--actually more of a soundless bark--when she wanted a walk. When she felt good in the backyard, she often ran from spot to spot in a full frenzied way that brough a smile to us every time. Her happiness made us happy. Even when the stress of the mundane got us down. We loved her so very much.

This week, I finally started her pond. I know she would have been scared by all the machinery and swearing it took to get it operational. I still have to do more to add fish and plants. But the soothing sounds of the waterfall--I know she would have liked that. She was the best that life has to give us--a glimpse of unconditional love, and unconditional friendship. We miss her very much.

Huckabee spokesperson calls Wiley Drake's comments "evil"

Thanks again to Melissa Rogers for this heads up. This is a bit of good news/bad news. One one hand, I really not considered just how batshit crazy Drake's attack was. I kind of thought he was just calling on God to disfavor these individuals. I guess I hadn't considered just how bloodthirsty Drake is, or how fond he is of the OT God here. But he is calling for these people to die, for their children to be "fatherless." A Southern Baptist fatwa, in other words. Truly unbelievable and horrifying.

And Drake isn't backing off. Of course, as a true crazy wingnut, he is just blaming God for it.
“The prayer does call for serious, serious punishment on people. But I didn’t call for that, God did,” said Drake, who completed a term in June as second vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention.

The whole "God did it" is nice, isn't it? I always love the passive aggressive "your argument isn't with me, but with God" that is so often used by fundamentalists. No, Mr. Drake (I won't call you a minister--ministers don't do this. Mob bosses and terrorists do this) our argument is with you and your pretense to represent something approaching Christianity.

Oh, and all of this was because Americans United suggested that Drake be investigated for using Southern Baptist letterhead to endorse Mike Huckabee for President. As Barry Lynn noted, that is beyond the allowable endorsement for someone trying to keep their tax exempt status. Never mind that Drake is free to endorse whoever he wants as a private citizen. That is not enough for the crazy wingnut.
Drake said in a telephone interview Thursday that neither he nor the church violated the law and insisted he could use church stationery and the Internet program to “personally” endorse a political candidate. He said the Bible calls for imprecatory prayer when someone “attacks the church.”
Because Wiley Drake IS the church, evidently. Maybe when he dies, the Southern Baptists who have allowed him to have this voice will put up a shrine to him along with eternal flame and bus parking.
On his Internet show, in a news release on ChristianNewsWire and in an e-mail to Americans United, Drake called on others to pray that the Americans United officials be punished.

He gave as examples of imprecatory prayer:

“Persecute them. ... Let them be put to shame and perish.”

“Let his children be fatherless, and his wife a widow.”

“Let his children be continually vagabonds, and beg.”
This makes me want to vomit. A supposed minister hoping that children be poor and fatherless.

The only good news here is that Huckabee's spokesperson responded forcefully:
Huckabee was campaigning Thursday. Alice Stewart, a campaign spokesman, said the campaign did not coordinate with Drake on any of the material he’s distributed regarding the Americans United complaint.

“We certainly don’t condone the evil comments he’s made,” she said.
Yes, they are evil. I think I need a shower.

Falwell Shrine?

Our friend Tony (who has decided, btw, to start a second blog where he writes about the intersection between faith and social and political issues) caught this gem of a story about the Falwell family/company building a shrine to the late preacher/GOP activist. As Tony notes, whatever on the memorial. Certainly, the family and college can do that. But this one includes an "eternal flame," because as his son and current carrier of the family jackass label put it, the flame is "a fitting tribute to his legacy and his vision and his passion to reach soul’s [sic] for Christ."

Nothing says care for other people's souls like an eternal flame. Or the legacy of a person who blamed people like me for 9-11. I guess one nice irony--an eternal flame will nicely represent someone who reveled in his large (and I do mean large) carbon footprint and laughed at global warming.


August 16, 2007

Here it is: Jon Stewart grills Stephen Hayes

One of my favorite lines is when Hayes argues that Cheney appears more wrong than he is because he speaks in public so infrequently. Get that? Because he speaks publicly less, there is more attention to the times he is wrong. Ok.

August 15, 2007

Late notes

First, via Melissa Rogers news that Wiley Drake has struck again calling on Baptists to pray for misfortune to fall on two staffers for the Americans United for Separation of Church and State. Because, of course, Jesus called on us to use prayers to smite people. Like magical spells.


Second, I just watched Jon Stewart dismantle Stephen Hayes, the author of the recent Cheney biography. I will post the video when I find it online, but Jon was masterful and spoke for all of us who doubted Bush/Cheney and were called traitors for our trouble. As Jon said, when you have been so wrong about so many things, you shouldn't call us weak or idiots when we disagree with you. Hayes really stumbled at one point and said that no one in the Bush administration had doubted critics patriotism. The crowd just laughed at him. I guess Hayes forgot that Bush's brain did that on a regular basis. Here, from 2005:
Rove Questions Liberals' Sympathies: "'Has there ever been a more revealing moment this year?' Rove asked 'Let me just put this in fairly simple terms: Al Jazeera now broadcasts the words of Senator Durbin to the Mideast, certainly putting our troops in greater danger. No more needs to be said about the motives of liberals.'"
I have said this about a million times on this blog, but Jon Stewart asks questions that most media never even seem to consider. He actually calls some of these people on their bullshit. And even if this was a Weekly Standard twerp Cheney proxy--it was damn nice to see.

August 14, 2007

On Rove

Eugene Robinson won't miss Rove, though he doubts that he will really be gone.
Rove didn't invent "wedge" politics, but he was an adept practitioner of that sordid art. When Bush was campaigning in 2000, he proclaimed himself "a uniter, not a divider." But the Bush-Rove theory of politics and governance has been divide, divide, divide -- either you're "with us" or "against us," either you're right or you're wrong, either you should be embraced or attacked without quarter.

Yes, politics is about winning -- they don't give style points for graceful failure. But the us-or-them brand of politics that Rove mastered and that Bush practiced has been a disaster for the nation and its standing in the world.

Yesterday, in remarks on the White House lawn, Rove praised Bush for putting the nation "on a war footing" after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. But that's precisely what Bush failed to do. Rather than try to foster a spirit of national solidarity and shared sacrifice, he persisted with tax cuts designed to please his wealthiest supporters. Rather than engage critics of the war in any meaningful dialogue, Bush accused them of wanting to "cut and run." Rather than actually practicing the bipartisanship he disingenuously preached, Bush governed with a hyperpartisan political agenda.
Exactly. Bush, with Rove's guidance, decided to use the 9-11 attacks to divide us further, not build some kind of bridge. And the odd thing is that I truly believe he could have been far less divisive and far more effective at building the Republican majority he so badly wanted. Imagine the power of Rove or Bush had he seriously reached across the aisles and pulled America together for more than a week. Instead, Rove decided it was better to demonize those of us who disagreed as "soft on terror."
Rove said he was leaving so he could spend more time with his family -- the standard reason in Washington for leaving any job. Bush said Rove will continue to be "a dear friend," and I don't doubt for a minute that Rove will continue to be one of the president's closest and most trusted advisers. I don't think the Bush administration is going to change course at this late date.

"I'll be on the road behind you here in a little bit," Bush said to Rove as the two men faced reporters yesterday.

Not soon enough.

August 13, 2007

Ding Dong

Karl Rove to quit at end of August -
"'Obviously it's big loss to us, said Deputy White House press secretary Dana Perino. 'He is a great colleague, good friend and a brilliant mind.'

Perino said Rove 'wouldn't be going if he wasn't sure this is the right time to be giving more time to his family.'"
Yeah, right. Spend more time with his family. Until one of the GOP buys the notion that Rove is brilliant and is willing to do whatever it takes to win. Jon Stewart's joke about Scott McClellan comes to mind. Perhaps it would go like this, "Karl Rove has resigned to spend more time lying to his family and spreading rumors that his neighbors are anti-American flag burning gay terrorists."

Reading that article in the Atlantic on The Rove Presidency makes me think that Rove was a perfect advisor for Bush. Arrogant to the core, and completely unwilling to admit either error or acknowledge the harm they have done--they were meant for each other. And neither is close to being as smart as they think they are.

Personally, I think this man should be in jail instead of making up something about his family. I am sure the right wing will shower him with money and adoration. But I also suspect this is not the last we have heard from him. Either running another campaign or indicted or both.

August 12, 2007

Jonathan Alter on the new FISA law

And speaking of enhanced power.
Talking Points Memo | : "I hate to sound melodramatic about it, but while everyone was at the beach or "The Simpsons Movie" on the first weekend in August, the U.S. government shredded the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution, the one requiring court-approved "probable cause" before Americans can be searched or spied upon. This is not the feverish imagination of left-wing bloggers and the ACLU. It's the plain truth of where we've come as a country, at the behest of a president who has betrayed his oath to defend the Constitution and with the acquiescence of Democratic congressional leaders who know better. Historians will likely see this episode as a classic case of fear -- both physical and political -- trumping principle amid the ancient tension between personal freedom and national security. [...]

Democrats obtained a sunset clause that requires the whole thing to be reauthorized in six months. But real damage has been done. At a minimum, we have suspended the Fourth Amendment for the time being."
Emphasis mine.

Constitutional protections. We used to believe in them. We used to. Evidently, that is pre-9-11 thinking. Back before the terrorists had scared us into giving up basic civil liberties. Shame on Bush and Cheney. Shame on the Democrats for caving on this one. Shame on the entire Republican establishment for giving us this administration.

Kind of been my point all along

Comics and Editorial Cartoons: Mike Luckovich on Yahoo! News

Conservatives who excuse this expanse of centralized power have to convince me they wouldn't mind Hilary or another Democrat continuing that use of power. Hard to push those back into the box once you have let them out.

Fight cynicism by doing something good

If you want. Feministing alerted us to a tragic fire in Boston that destroyed a domestic violence shelter. If you choose, you can help here.

Religion in America

And it is contested, isn't it? As it always has been, but today's world seems particularly contentious and ambitious and something other than church (at least for me). Marty pointed to this story that breaks your heart:
"ARLINGTON, Texas - A megachurch canceled a memorial service for a Navy veteran 24 hours before it was to start because the deceased was gay.

Officials at the nondenominational High Point Church knew that Cecil Howard Sinclair was gay when they offered to host his service, said his sister, Kathleen Wright. But after his obituary listed his life partner as one of his survivors, she said, it was called off.

“It’s a slap in the face. It’s like, ’Oh, we’re sorry he died, but he’s gay so we can’t help you,”’ she said Friday."
And to a certain extent, I understand the dilemma the church faced. They have bought into a world view where homosexuality is the new evil--up with terrorism. After all, we would rather be attacked by terrorists than use gay translators in the military. Given how that has been framed, it is almost expected that a church would refuse to even hold a memorial service for a gay person. But it makes me sad.

But maybe not as sad as this story (H/t Mary) about a group within the Defense department, or at least endorsed by the Pentagon, that advances an apocalyptical view of the world and pushes that view on our soldiers. And those we are trying to democratize.
Baldwin became a right-wing, born-again Christian after the 9/11 attacks, and now is the star of Operation Straight Up (OSU), an evangelical entertainment troupe that actively proselytizes among active-duty members of the US military. As an official arm of the Defense Department's America Supports You program, OSU plans to mail copies of the controversial apocalyptic video game, Left Behind: Eternal Forces to soldiers serving in Iraq. OSU is also scheduled to embark on a "Military Crusade in Iraq" in the near future.

"We feel the forces of heaven have encouraged us to perform multiple crusades that will sweep through this war torn region," OSU declares on its website about its planned trip to Iraq. "We'll hold the only religious crusade of its size in the dangerous land of Iraq."
Good grief. Even George Bush learned that using the word "crusade" in this context was stupid. But I fear that these people use it knowing its meaning and intending to bring that message to an already turbulent and chaotic region. And sending copies of the Left Behind video game is just stupid. Yeah, let's just amp up the us v. them.

I recently had a conversation with a young person struggling with their faith. This person had been taught that either they believed in the literal and absolute innerant Bible or they were going to hell. Even now, this person felt forced to choose between Christianity (meaning fundamentalism) and being a non-Christian. I suggested there were alternatives, and that the bulk of Christians over time have not held such a fundamentalist line. But it is that tradition that gave us the Idaho representative misquoting the Bible to suggest that God was going to smite us for, well, religious freedom. And in the comments on that story, the faithful chimed in thanking their God for a Congressman who stood up for God.

But I don't think that is what he did. I don't think he made one thing better, just as I don't think sending Left Behind video games to anyone will make imrpove their lives, and I certainly don't think declaring a Christian Crusade in the Middle East will accomplish anything except get people killed.

Religion can do better. It has to.

August 11, 2007

Not a bigot

Remembering this earlier post about GOP bigotry, today we have Represenative Sali's spokesperson claiming that his boss isn't a bigot. You know, because when he said that a Hindu prayer would bring the wrath of God, he meant it in the best possible way.

Rudy and the truth

Evidently don't have a lot in common. Check out this
Village Voice article on Rudy's five lies about 9-11.

Interesting article

in The Atlantic this month on The Rove Presidency. The entire article is well worth the read as a study in arrogance. In this telling, Rove clearly preferred to bully people than work with them. Not only that, but he had/has a very elevated view of his own status--and according to this piece alienated Republican leaders by interrupting House and Senate leaders and called them by their first names as if he were an equal or superior.

But this little story tells us much about Rove, Bush and, I might add, people like Dick Armey and Bill Clinton.
Dick Armey, the House Republican majority leader when Bush took office (and no more a shrinking violet than DeLay), told me a story that captures the exquisite pettiness of most members of Congress and the arrogance that made Bush and Rove so inept at handling them. “For all the years he was president,” Armey told me, “Bill Clinton and I had a little thing we’d do where every time I went to the White House, I would take the little name tag they give you and pass it to the president, who, without saying a word, would sign and date it. Bill Clinton and I didn’t like each other. He said I was his least-favorite member of Congress. But he knew that when I left his office, the first schoolkid I came across would be given that card, and some kid who had come to Washington with his mama would go home with the president’s autograph. I think Clinton thought it was a nice thing to do for some kid, and he was happy to do it.” Armey said that when he went to his first meeting in the White House with President Bush, he explained the tradition with Clinton and asked the president if he would care to continue it. “Bush refused to sign the card. Rove, who was sitting across the table, said, ‘It would probably wind up on eBay,’” Armey continued. “Do I give a damn? No. But can you imagine refusing a simple request like that with an insult? It’s stupid. From the point of view of your own self-interest, it’s stupid. I was from Texas, and I was the majority leader. If my expectations of civility and collegiality were disappointed, what do you think it was like for the rest of the congressmen they dealt with? The Bush White House was tone-deaf to the normal courtesies of the office.”

Give the rest of it a read.

August 10, 2007

GOP bigotry rears its ugly head

And I would also note, a bit of Biblical illiteracy. But first, the
old fashion bigotry and American exceptionalism:
"We have not only a Hindu prayer being offered in the Senate, we have a Muslim member of the House of Representatives now, Keith Ellison from Minnesota. Those are changes — and they are not what was envisioned by the Founding Fathers,” asserts Sali.

Sali says America was built on Christian principles that were derived from scripture. He also says the only way the United States has been allowed to exist in a world that is so hostile to Christian principles is through “the protective hand of God.”

“You know, the Lord can cause the rain to fall on the just and the unjust alike,” says the Idaho Republican.

According to Congressman Sali, the only way the U.S. can continue to survive is under that protective hand of God. He states when a Hindu prayer is offered, “that’s a different god” and that it “creates problems for the longevity of this country.”"
The rain falling on just and unjust passage? That comes from Matthew AND IS IN THE CHAPTER COMMANDING US TO LOVE OUR FREAKING ENEMIES:
43"You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor[h] and hate your enemy.' 44But I tell you: Love your enemies[i] and pray for those who persecute you, 45that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?
Sigh. And if you want a little more depression, follow the link and read some of the comments from the Bible-thumping drones.

Friday morning--updated

And feeling down a little this morning.

Once again, reading the news doesn't exactly help. As many of you know, the President held a press conference on his way out the door for vacation. Nevermind that he is the most vacationed President in history, and that given what his war is creating for some 160,000 troops, perhaps he could skip his vacation this year. Nevermind.

Some of his comments were actually reasonable. Suggesting (even though I thought he was an ass about it) that congressional earmarks are a problem to be solved before raising taxes for infrastructure projects is not a bad idea. After all, one of his own party is famous for things like the famous "bridge to nowhere."

But much of the rest was more proof that Bush is delusional. Or worse. When asked about accountability--and reminded that he made that a part of his campaign--and asked how that squared with commuting Scooter's sentence and still employing Al Gonzales, he responded in the way that only Bush could respond:
THE PRESIDENT: Lewis Libby was held accountable. He was declared guilty by a jury and he's paid a high price for it.

Al Gonzales -- implicit in your questions is that Al Gonzales did something wrong. I haven't seen Congress say he's done anything wrong. As a matter of fact, I believe, David, we're watching a political exercise. I mean, this is a man who has testified, he's sent thousands of papers up there. There's no proof of wrong. Why would I hold somebody accountable who has done nothing wrong? I mean, frankly, I think that's a typical Washington, D.C. assumption -- not to be accusatory, I know you're a kind, open-minded fellow, but you suggested holding the Attorney General accountable for something he did wrong.

And as a matter of fact, I would hope Congress would become more prone to deliver pieces of legislation that matter, as opposed to being the investigative body. I mean, there have been over 600 different hearings and, yet, they're struggling with getting appropriations bills to my desk.

Q If I could follow -- sorry. Given the decision to commute the sentence of Libby and given the performance of Iraqi leaders, is it fair for people to ask questions about your commitment to accountability?

THE PRESIDENT: I would hope people would say that I am deliberate in my decision-making; I think about all aspects of the decisions I make; and I'm a fair person.
Bush is the only person who thinks that Gonzales has done nothing wrong and one of the minority who actually thinks that Scooter actually paid much of a cost at all. Who can forget the check he wrote to pay his fine--casually. But I am sure the probation is just eating at him.

As for Gonzales, seriously. Who could watch that man testify, lie, repeat, and think he did a good job outside his mother? Gonzales is an idiot and a liar and willing to do whatever Bush asks him to do. Sigh.

Of course, as Eugene Robinson suggests:
"At least now maybe people will understand what I've been saying for months, which is that Bush doesn't care what anybody else thinks.
You really have to wonder how his mind works. If it does.

But my favorite part was this followup question on interrogation techniques:

"Q Red Cross report? THE PRESIDENT: I haven't seen it. We don't torture."
Did you get that? We don't torture. Except we do. And have and do. The VP himself said that waterboarding was a "no brainer." And the Red Cross report? Yeah, it isn't good:
"Congressional and other Washington sources familiar with the report said that it harshly criticized the C.I.A.’s practices. One of the sources said that the Red Cross described the agency’s detention and interrogation methods as tantamount to torture, and declared that American officials responsible for the abusive treatment could have committed serious crimes. The source said the report warned that these officials may have committed “grave breaches” of the Geneva Conventions, and may have violated the U.S. Torture Act, which Congress passed in 1994. The conclusions of the Red Cross, which is known for its credibility and caution, could have potentially devastating legal ramifications."

But as long as the President says we don't, I am convinced. Nevermind.

Update NPR newsblog caught this little gem in the New Yorker article on the Red Cross report describing some of the interrogation techniques and their origin:
"It starts with isolation. Then they eliminate the prisoners' ability to forecast the future -- when their next meal is, when they can go to the bathroom. It creates dread and dependency. It was the K.G.B. model. But the K.G.B. used it to get people who had turned against the state to confess falsely. The K.G.B. wasn't after intelligence."
I guess why the hell not. Bush and Cheney have turned America into a country that uses former Soviet Gulags to hide prisoners. Why not use the interrogation techniques of the KGB. That won't undermine our moral standing in the world, will it?


August 8, 2007

Busy again

This last week has been tough, and both SOF and I have tried to work through our grief with some physical labor. Really amazing how much that helps.

My latest project, which I am scrambling to complete before the semester starts, is to restore the garden pond in my backyard.

I should have taken pictures earlier, because this thing was nearly completely covered with vines and weeds. I cleared it away to reveal the potential of this pond.

Last week, I rented a pump and emptied as much of the fetid water that had accumulated over this wet spring.

Yesterday, I rented a little machine called a Groundhog (I think) to run a trench for the electrical. Wrestling with this beast has me quite sore today, but in a short hour or so of work, this machine allowed me to dig a trench some 14 inches deep over 60 feet.

Streak kept a watchful eye on me while I worked.

And then retired to the deck to oversee the entire operation.

Meanwhile, Abbie thought that my digging meant she should do some of her own.

Dirty nose dog.

Today, I am quite sore and tired, but it was a successful afternoon. I now await the electricians to complete the power connection and once the pond dries, will work to repair some cracks in the concrete walls. Then we fill it and add the waterfall. After it works for a while, we are looking to add fish.

August 6, 2007

Couple of videos

Of music I am listening to now.

First, Gomez (thanks Ubub) and this really delightful song. Not perhaps their best, but right now, I am just enjoying nice lyrics and melodies. Sue me.

Next, Brandi Carlile. Love how she sings and this song has all the good hooks.

And this song from Spoon's latest that is so intoxicating, Zalm called it (I think) "crack you can clap to."

Arab-American Christian on American Evangelicals

Deanna Murshed addresses something that has always bothered me:
"I've gotta admit, it hasn't been easy being a Christian Arab-American, much less in the evangelical church. How many times can you explain that Jesus wasn't baptized in the Rio Grande, that there are tens of thousands of indigenous Palestinian Christians still living in the Holy Land, and that loving Jewish people and 'blessing Israel' (as is oft cited from scripture) doesn't mean giving the modern (and mind you, secular) nation-state of Israel a carte blanche on foreign policy or grant it some sort of biblical immunity from criticism? For too long, such criticism has been deemed by my fellow American evangelical brothers and sisters as not only unbiblical but sometimes even -- yes, anti-semitic. (Notwithstanding the fact that Arabs are also Semites), the idea that Palestinians had any right to any part of the Holy Land has long been considered anathema by too many of my American kinfolk."

She notes the letter from progressive evangelicals to Bush advocating a two-state solution.

August 5, 2007


Watching Tim Russert this morning and feeling the need to write him an angry letter. On 08 candidates, he remarked that we needed to know more about these people before electing them, and used GWB as one of those people. Yet Russert interviewed Candidate Bush and lobbed softballs to him. Now, Russert talks about that as if he had nothing to do with the obfuscation and poor reporting.

Interesting polling data came up, however. Seems like the public is starting to see the Republicans as not very trustworthy:
"Many of the issues being discussed by the presidential candidates — including the war in Iraq, health care, education and immigration — would be better handled by the Democratic Party, according to the poll’s respondents. And among issues traditionally known to be strong points for Republicans, such as the deficit, taxes and protecting America’s interests on trade matters, the Democrats now hold an advantage."
This is reaping the harvest of BushCo, and I have no sympathy for hardline Republicans. Many of us suggested this guy was absolutely incompetent and corrupt--but you knew better. On moral values, the Republicans still lead, though only by 5 points. How they have a 5 point lead amazes me. What amazes me even more, however, is that the public still gives Republicans the advantage on "promoting a strong military." After Walter Reed, backdoor draft, 15 month extensions, refusing to give our troops adequate time between active duty, cutting research on brain injuries, pushing PTSD soldiers back into duty, etc., etc., how the hell do you give the Republican Party an edge on the Military? After 6 years of absolute control, is our military stronger than it was under Clinton?


August 4, 2007

Abstinence Only Plans Ineffective...And Detrimental?

SOF and I spent the day doing grief through mindless yardwork. During my mowing session, I recalled my experience in California in the 80s where I led backpacking trips for a SBC camp in California's Sierra Nevada Mountains. The camp was deep in the woods and that summer was dry and hot. I remember the fear that a major fire would sweep through and we would be done. Narrow gravel road+tinder dry conditions=bad outcome.

Luckily, we never experienced the fire that we feared. And we had an elder fire fighter who volunteered at the camp with his family. I liked him. He had great stories and during one scare, we all accompanied him to ostensibly fight a small fire close to camp. We had no training and no real skills. It could have been a disaster.

I remember a camp full of youth at the height of that fire concern. The camp leaders voiced the concern that kids might sneak off into the woods to smoke and start the dreaded fire. I suggested that we make the sand vollyball court--right next to the little river--our smoking area. The old firefighter had a coniption. That would be condoning sin. I suggested that we could save potential lives. He said that it would be condoning sin. I objected. But I was 22. He wasn't. I still don't remember where the camp leadership was on this, but I suspect fervently wishing they didn't have to make a choice and fervently hoping that nothing bad would happen. We did nothing and fortunately nothing happened. But I thought then, and think now, that was stupid policy.

I am reminded of that experience whenever I read about abstinence only programs. It seems like the height of avoidance AS policy, ignoring evidence, human behavior, hormones, scientific evidence on birth control, etc in favor of some idealized view of human sexuality. It's like parents saying to their kids, "don't drink and drive, but if you do, don't use the seat belts and don't you dare call us or someone you trust." Better that they experience the worst possible outcome rather than have the tools to address human error--even if it is their own. But this is the nature of our abstinence only program--something Ubub clearly identified as ideologically driven, not something there for its effectiveness.
Thought Theater: Abstinence Only Plans Ineffective...And Detrimental?: "Note that the study compared young people in abstinence only programs against similar aged individuals who were receiving no sex education. In other words, children enrolled in abstinence plans were as vulnerable to sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy as their counterparts receiving no counseling whatsoever.

Essentially, the abstinence plans simply consume large sums of government funding with no measurable benefit...except to assuage the moral judgments of certain religiously inclined individuals. That sounds to me to be the equivalent of utilizing the state to impose religious beliefs...a scenario which I would equate with a clear violation of the separation of church and state."
Sure glad we are spending millions on a completely useless program.
The study goes on to demonstrate that money spent on sex education, which includes providing young people the knowledge to protect themselves from pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, is very effective. Therefore, every dollar spent on an abstinence program reduces the money that can be spent on sex education; thereby increasing the rate of STD's and the number of pregnancies.

Nice. I am curious. What do you call a policy that has results completely opposite intent? A war against terror that increases terrorists? Anti-pregnancy/STD program that increases disease, pregnancy, and abortions?

That old firefighter was willing to risk all of us dying in a horrible fire rather than possibly allow kids who were going to smoke, to smoke in relative safety. No fan of teen smoking, I sincerely hope that kids make better choices. But we weren't going to stop the teen smokers there. Not that he cared about that. His idealized sense of their behavior was his guide--not reality.

No wonder conservatives distrust government.

Mondale on Cheney

Faithful Progressive: Former Vice President Walter Mondale: Cheney Has Gone Too Far: "I’ve never seen a former member of the House of Representatives demonstrate such contempt for Congress - even when it was controlled by his own party. His insistence on invoking executive privilege to block virtually every congressional request for information has been stupefying - it’s almost as if he denies the legitimacy of an equal branch of government. Nor does he exhibit much respect for public opinion, which amounts to indifference toward being held accountable by the people who elected him."

Cheney is a disgrace to our country and our system. And the man who has given him this unprecedented power and allowed him to flaunt public opinion and congressional oversight is even worse.

August 3, 2007

This IS unbelievable

Anglican has a post on a couple of new license plates available to Oklahomans that are supposed to...fight terrorism?

This is conservatism?

Natalie is equally annoyed at the anti-tax movement:
"It's events like this that make me so angry at the Republican philosophy of government. Sure, everyone wants to get rid of waste and ridiculous spending in our government, but whittling the system down so much that it cannot protect and serve us is stupid. Do those on the right not realize how much we rely on this shared system we have? Schools, roads, fire, police, food inspection, and more VERY important things! It's almost like a self-fulfilling prophecy: if you cut off funding so that you cripple government services, of COURSE they will do a poor job. Slacktivist notes that Minnesota's Republican governor vetoed a transportation package earlier this year, based on his promise to avoid any new taxes:"

Rick Perlstein calls this "your government on conservatism," and also reminds us that not everyone was fooled:
"When Howard Dean ran for president, he said George Bush's federal tax cuts were a mirage--that every dollar states and municipalities could not get from the federal government for essential services they would have to raise on their own. They would actually turn out to be a tax hike--if, that is, states and municipalities were able to summon the political will to raise taxes at all. Some have had a hard time doing that.

And now the bill is coming due. The ground is opening up beneath our feet, swallowing people and machines."

Seriously. I am so tired of the anti-tax mantra. It is almost like a homeowner refusing to do basic maintenance on their house. Needs a new roof? Nope, that is boring. Instead, I will buy a new stadium, or invade someone. I heard Tucker Carlson suggest that privatizing was the answer. That seems to be the Republican vision of an infrastructure that only those with money can use.

For people who lament and romanticize small town life, Republicans seem particularly bad at community.

August 2, 2007

Bridge Collapse

I am sure everyone knows about the Minnesota bridge collapse last night. Our thoughts and prayers go out to those involved and those who have lost.

I also think this is time to restart the conversation about community and shared experience. This is not intended to blame particular people, but I really do think there has been far too much individualism in our public debate and less about shared values. This is a great example. It costs money to build and maintain these structures that benefit us all. We can all pay for them. We build communities that we all use, and that should be the watchword of our political dialogue. Too often, and unfortunately almost constantly from the conservative side, has been a call for individualism and the sense that any tax is bad.

On a related point, btw, I saw Kathleen Kennedy Townsend on Colber the other night and she made a really good point about Christianity being about community. Of course, many of us have talked about it that way, but she pointed out that the Lord's Prayer does not go "my father" but "our father," and "our transgressions" and "deliver us."

Perhaps I am biased because I feel like I have been leaning on my community this last week. We are all in this together.

August 1, 2007


Just a brief update. We are doing better tonight. Today was rough, but mixed in with the crying jags were moments of routine and normalcy. SOF said yesterday that she felt like her insides had been wrung out, and today they felt a little less so. I concur.

Everyone has been so damn nice. All the emails and comments, and a couple of surprise phone calls. One from my oldest brother was very nice last night, and tonight, a friend from the DC area called after reading about Alafair on the blog.

Thanks. This community of friends--cyber and other--is a good thing.