August 31, 2008

Limping through Labor Day

Sigh.

And just about to go on a news fast. Saw that McCain and Palin's slogan is "country first." Because the rest of us are traitors and only Republicans love their country. And of course, because a 72 year old man nominating a 44 year old, untested woman from Alaska is "putting country first." Did you know he was a POW? And I saw that Mona Charen (conservative) said that Palin was "from America. Obama is not." I am sure there was nothing about race in that statement. Not at all.

Sigh.

And I am sure that Palin's supporters are consistent in that they want opportunities for all women. To her credit, I saw that she mentioned Hillary at a speech the other day crediting her for opening opportunities for women in politics. Nice. Kind of like the Democrats mentioning McCain's service positively numerous times during last week's convention--to widespread polite applause.

Conservatives booed when Palin mentioned Hillary. Because, of course, they are the party of morality. I keep forgetting that. God prefers them, and they are more moral than us Godless, morally relativistic liberals. Just ask them. When they support torture, by God, it is justifiable. When they invade other countries, it is moral. Feminism is evil even when it opens up opportunities for conservative women too. And at least they don't like gays.

Sigh.

*****

So I will turn my attention back to music. And football. Looks like some good music coming out this September. Jenny Lewis and Mark Erelli both have new albums, and the Kasey Chambers/Shane Nicholson album will finally be available in the states. Calexico finally has a followup to Garden Ruin. All of those look intriguing.

August 30, 2008

Saturday morning and a rough night

I assume that this is all part of progress of therapy, but I had the worst night in over a week. It will get better, or at least that is what I keep telling myself. Meanwhile, my sympathy for those who battle pain on a daily basis grows.

One thing is clear about the McCain vp choice, they bumped Obama's excellent speech off the front pages, which was one of the things they wanted to do. Everyone is talking about Palin and trying to figure out who she is. Turns out she is quite attractive, and well-spoken. But she was also a Pat Buchanan supporter during his last run for office, and has said some really odd things of late. She doesn't really know what the VP does, for example, and she has no idea what our plan is for ending the war in Iraq. Good to know that McCain sees national security as so very important. We also learned that until last week, McCain had met her once and talked to her on the phone. She is also under investigation for ethics violation
The scandal concerns allegations that Palin's office improperly fired the state's public safety commissioner because he refused to remove Palin's ex-brother-in-law from his job as a state trooper after his bitter divorce from Palin's sister. In addition to the legislature's investigation, the Alaska attorney general is also looking into the matter.
Not only that, but she then appointed a sexual harasser to replace the person she allegedly fired improperly. The Alaska AG is supposed to wrap up his investigation in early November.

I think this pick is unbelievably irresponsible. People will talk about Obama's inexperience, but he has, in the last year, mounted an impressive national campaign and defeated one of the strongest political machines in modern memory. Can anyone imagine Palin doing that? And while we can argue about the VP (is it important, is it not?) Obama clearly picked someone who can help him govern. Biden knows how to get things done, is widely admired for his knowledge of complex issues and his competent staff. McCain, in his seventies with some health problems, chose a completely unknown and untested person as his Vp. Which decision shows concern about long term? Which decision demonstrates a continuation of Bush's governing from the "gut?" Which decision reminds us of Harriet Miers for SCOTUS?

Oh, and this from Karl Rove when he thought Obama was going to pick Virginia governor Tim Kaine for veep:
With all due respect again to Governor Kaine, he’s been a governor for three years, he’s been able but undistinguished. I don’t think people could really name a big, important thing that he’s done. He was mayor of the 105th largest city in America. And again, with all due respect to Richmond, Virginia, it’s smaller than Chula Vista, California; Aurora, Colorado; Mesa or Gilbert, Arizona; north Las Vegas or Henderson, Nevada. It’s not a big town. So if he were to pick Governor Kaine, it would be an intensely political choice where he said, `You know what? I’m really not, first and foremost, concerned with, is this person capable of being president of the United States?
As I just noted on Tony's blog, I am sure Karl will sing a different tune for Palin. Her experience in a much smaller state with a tiny population will mean that she is actually more prepared than Obama. It must be nice to not have to worry about truth when you speak. (In fact, Tony has several posts on McCain's choice this morning if you are interested.)

The other part of this is the unbelievable cynicism of this pick. While Cindy McCain bashes Michelle Obama, and Republicans everywhere bash feminism and refuse to support equal pay, now we are supposed to look at Palin and take this seriously? Religious right organizations are all applauding, but they have done nothing to support a woman in this role. Why are people who use the term "feminazis" applauding a woman Veep pick?

Christine Wicker thinks that this support is thin:
"First off, a big chunk of Religious Right folks wouldn't let women lead prayer; they're sure not going to let a skirt lead the country.

Fundamentalists can prove that God wants women to be under the dominion of men with a whole slew of Bible verses. It's God first. Men second. Women and children last."
That may be true, but those same people also supposedly believe in honesty, humility, and some basic Biblical injunctions that might, just might mean that our country wouldn't torture. Those same people have proven to be the strongest support for Bush in the country--still a majority of conservative evangelicals give Bush thumbs up for his performance. I don't trust for a moment that their racism against Michelle and Barack will overpower any poorly positioned opposition to women in power. That opposition only refers to liberals like Hillary.

Can anyone imagine talking heads saying about Palin--as they did about Michelle Obama prior to her speech--that she needs to demonstrate her patriotism? The fact that those words were uttered about Michelle Obama should make us all ashamed. But Palin is white and pretty and conservative. Her patriotism is assumed.

None of this is helping my mood, my back, or my plummeting view of conservatives and evangelicals. Sigh.

August 29, 2008

McCain picks a woman VP

I am sure that has nothing to do with how well the Democrats did this week in undermining the message the GOP had tried to create about Obama. You know, spending months trashing him as a superficial, celebrity air-head with no experience. That is a hard argument to sustain, and I think McCain knew it. Had to go for the long ball (sports metaphor) and so chose Alaska Governor Sarah Palin.

The problems with this pick are pretty clear. If the problem with Obama is lack of experience, then McCain (not a young man) just chose a VP candidate with even less experience. And while it is notable that she is a woman, I am not sure that will appeal to feminists who wanted Hillary, or will completely shore up that religious right group--many of whom like to talk about women being submissive and staying home. Of course, they also believe in morality and humility, but they had no problem with Bush, so we can't discount their ability to self-deceive.

But while I think Obama chose Biden primarily for his ability to actually govern (not saying there weren't political considerations), McCain chose Palin ONLY for the politics of it.

Then this morning, I see this interview where Palin was asked about teaching intelligent design in schools:
"Next, Carey asked about teaching alternatives to evolution - such as creationism and intelligent design - in public schools. […]

Palin: “Teach both. You know, don’t be afraid of information."
Right, because they are of equal weight and value. The same logic would lead us to teach the holocaust deniers right next to the actual history, or the mound builders as aliens right next to, real history. Any alternative explanation is equal.

During the olympics, someone noted that China's great economic expansion is helped by the fact that they don't have debates about evolution and intelligent design. Of course, they are not a democracy, so that changes it too, but they are too busy using science to fuel their economy. But we must spend half our damn time arguing about a faux science.

Our global competitiveness is at stake. But this "alternative viewpoint is just the other side" is also part of our problem. Kudos to the Republican party for being the party of anti-science. And kudos for opposing equal pay for women but deciding that you can still use them for political means.

August 28, 2008

Sí, se puede

Another historic night. And another night where I am proud to be a Democrat, and proud to be an American.

We are a better people than this last 8 years have shown. We are better than torture. We are better than bullying war. We are better than an economy that tells people "you are on your own." And btw, when every Democrat has noted that we have to take better care of our wounded veterans, I think of what a huge moral crime it is to send people into war and then not take care of them. We can do better. We have to.

Sí, se puede

Physical therapy, pain, and introspection about politics

Today I returned to the doctor who sent me to a nearby physical therapist for some work. They were able to work me in, and I spent two hours with electrodes, ultrasound, stretching, wrenching, twisting, and some moist heat. When she hooked me up to the electrodes, the line from Strange Brew flashed through my head:
See, if you'd stick to your 12-point maintinence program, eh, then we wouldn't have to jump-start you like this. Oh, no, you had to do it your way... you think you know everything, eh.

But afterwards, I felt better than I have in weeks. Not back to normal, but better. And I realized just how much pain had weighed on me. It made me so much more compassionate for those who struggle with chronic pain in their lives. And I have just had a few weeks of it.

Last night I felt about as close to needing to call my therapist as I have in over a year. I felt the rising anger and frustration and feeling almost out of control. Part of that, I see now, was the pain wearing on me. Very hard to see clearly in that setting.

Doesn't mean that my issues are gone. But when I was laying on my back, with electrodes sending a very nice little current into my lower back, I considered why I have been taking the current political debate at a personal level. No real answers yet, mind you, but some good questions. Clearly, for me, politics is more than just some abstract issue that is "out there." Some of my friends seem to see it that way, but for me, it is also personal. It is those relationships with people who lectured me about my liberalism and gloated when Bush won. It is the sense of disillusionment that I have recounted here of watching moral people turn away from torture. It is the sense that 8 years of Bush has given us nothing but failure--yet some seem to want to continue that failure. It is that absolute disdain this administration and supporters had for my concerns and political frustrations.

I am not sure how to make sense of it all yet. But I am working on it. And it is easier to see when the pain isn't shooting down your leg.

August 27, 2008

DNC night 3--Historical

And, as my best friends will attest to, I am in a pissed off mood. Not from the convention. Hell, I thought the Democrats actually did great tonight. No, I was pissy because I tuned into some conversations that were just bashing everyone from Clinton to Kerry.

Fine.

I really don't care what others think. I watched Bill Clinton give an amazing speech. One of the best I have seen. He actually raised the issue of torture, and called on us again to be better. But in between him and Joe Biden (who I also thought was great) was an amazingly fiery speech by John Kerry, (only to hear people grousing about him being boring). I bet you 100 dollars, Kerry had to rush his speech because Clinton went over time, but he still turned in one of the highlights of the convention. He also raised torture--dared to say that America doesn't torture (obviously a commie pinko wimp) and called the Swiftboaters what they were--smear merchants. He then pointed out the obvious, that the Republicans don't own the American flag--something that still grates with me personally.

And then, Barack Obama came out. Forget all the bullshit conventioneering. Forget the manufactured nature of this event (and next week's in St. Paul). Forget the pageantry.

The Democrats officially nominated an African American for President of the United States. Historical. Something many of us thought we would never see.

History.

Republicans offer us Swiftboating and smear for this campaign. I prefer history. And even if we lose this campaign, I will be proud to stand with history.

DNC thoughts

We watched Hillary's speech last night, and I thought she did a great job. Though I have few problems with her policies, I am not a fan. The way she played the primary game drove me crazy, and Bill did not handle himself well.

But last night, she turned in a great speech. It has been a long times since I actually got into one. When she quoted Harriet Tubman? Damn. That was something.

But her best line of the speech, and the one that the Obama people have to like the most was this one:
Most of all, I ran to stand up for all those who have been invisible to their government for eight long years. Those are the reasons I ran for president, and those are the reasons I support Barack Obama for president.

I want you to ask yourselves: Were you in this campaign just for me? Or were you in it for that young Marine and others like him? Were you in it for that mom struggling with cancer while raising her kids? Were you in it for that boy and his mom surviving on the minimum wage? Were you in it for all the people in this country who feel invisible?

Voting for McCain will do nothing to help those issues, and that was a masterful way to make that point.

Thinking back to the primary, I remember wondering about Hillary's electability. That was my big concern about her. I never doubted that she could govern, but I thought that the best way to raise money for the right was to use her name. Irrational as it often seems, people on the right just hate her. When I thought she was going to be the nominee, I suggested that was a little overblown--that the right would go after who ever we put up. In retrospect, of course, that is clearly true. McCain, after swearing off Swift-Boating style, now endorses it. They will do anything to make Obama a monster.

And that is the rather interesting thing, isn't it? After forcing us over the last 40 years to believe that Republicans believe in "family values" we have this situation--where a divorced and admitted womanizer who married into his money is running against a guy who grew up in a one parent household and worked his way up the ladder, forming what certainly appears to be a very healthy family along the way. Hard work, family values, commitment, etc., right?

Several observers noted that the Obama family presented up there Monday night, and through this campaign, has been far more traditional, and far more conservative, and far more familial, than anything the Republicans have tried to force down our throats.

Some of my real frustration of late comes from this lack of basic honesty and even decency in our political discourse. Oppositional responses are required, even if they are dishonest and clearly wrong--what Jon Stewart might call the "Crossfire effect." Calling something as a lie--as when the SwiftBoaters first disparaged John Kerry's service in VN--seems out of the Media's playbook. They have to address how it "played" politically. That made this Juan Williams reaction to Michelle Obama particularly refreshing. Calling it what it was.

Contrast that to those crickets you hear when you turn to the religious right--the self-proclaimed defenders of the family. Any of them standing up and applauding the Obama's work ethic, or approach to family, or, gasp, "family values?" Nope. Those are the same crickets you hear when you turn to them for moral outrage on torture.

No, we are forced to choose between Obama as "messiah" or Obama as "monster." Can't just see him as a great example of the American story. A great example of the American Dream, dare I say. Sullivan notes the complete disconnect between the rhetoric of the right regarding work and effort and reward and family, and how they address their own candidates:
"Mitt Romney is a bad thug, which is why he'd be a fatal choice for McCain. And so it was rather bizarre to hear him say that John McCain deserves all his houses/mansions/compounds because of the 'hard work' of McCain and his wife. McCain, to my knowledge, has never had a private sector job - unless you count working for his father-in-law - and his wife is a largely absentee heiress to her father's beer fortune. They inherited their fabulous life-style, and did nothing to earn it, unlike Mitt. For good measure, Romney, McCain and Bush were all products of the affirmative action called rich-and/or-powerful daddy. Obama did it all with no father and no inheritance. But he's the elitist. Their chutzpah is enough to drive you up the wall."
How dare he? No inheritance AND black? And still successful? Nope. He has to be a monster who kills live babies and secretly loves Bin Laden. When John Kerry married Theresa Heinz, he was a gold digging liberal. McCain, on the other hand, has received permission to cheat on his first wife because of his POW status.

I have said this before, but it merits repeating. I don't ever want to be lectured on moral values by anyone who has stood with these people. Just save it. And stop sending on those emails that whisper that Obama "might be a muslim."

Sigh.

August 25, 2008

Michelle Obama

Yeah, I watched her speech. And I can't help but walk away from it with the weight of history. An African-American woman speaking as potential First Lady. One who grew up in a working class family. Mock that all you want, but that is something. And that lady has substance.

Monday

And about to head off to class. Back is improved, though still stiff. No pain pills last night, so that is good.

In other news, I turned off the anonymous comment option. Just tired of the floaters. If people want to engage, that is fine, but I don't think requiring at least an alias is too much.

And finally, I am so tired of the Clintons right now. I understand not liking to lose, and I understand not even liking Obama personally. Who cares? What I don't understand are people who say they would have voted for Hillary as their first choice, but instead of voting for Obama (with nearly identical policies) they are going to vote for McCain. Can anyone explain that? Someone who thought that Hillary was a good choice instead is willing to go through 4 more years of Republican leadership?

sigh.

Obama's economic philosophy

And despite what you hear from Republicans, it is neither marxist or lacking substance. The entire (long) article is well worth the read, but here is Obama articulating essentially where he thinks his economic policy fits in:
"“I think I can tell a pretty simple story. Ronald Reagan ushered in an era that reasserted the marketplace and freedom. He made people aware of the cost involved of government regulation or at least a command-and-control-style regulation regime. Bill Clinton to some extent continued that pattern, although he may have smoothed out the edges of it. And George Bush took Ronald Reagan’s insight and ran it over a cliff. And so I think the simple way of telling the story is that when Bill Clinton said the era of big government is over, he wasn’t arguing for an era of no government. So what we need to bring about is the end of the era of unresponsive and inefficient government and short-term thinking in government, so that the government is laying the groundwork, the framework, the foundation for the market to operate effectively and for every single individual to be able to be connected with that market and to succeed in that market. And it’s now a global marketplace.

“Now, that’s the story. Now, telling it elegantly — ‘low taxes, smaller government’ — the way the Republicans have, I think is more of a challenge.”"

That is the challenge. Republicans have dumbed down our political discourse to the point that anything complex is incredibly hard to sell. Well, our economic situation is complex. Saying "tax cuts for everyone" is simply not a policy.

August 24, 2008

Sunday evening update--and a question

The back is feeling better after a pretty rotten night and very sore morning. I finally caved to the lure of the pain pills the other night, and they helped a little. Today, the pain seems to have moved back where it started in my lower back--a very familiar place, I might add. So I am mildly optimistic that I am improving. School starts tomorrow and the last few days have not been terribly productive, so I hope my lost time will not show up in a big way. Between that and my back, I am hoping to avoid too much of the political news of the day.

In one of my email conversations, we have been pondering the issue of race in America. Where are we on that subject? Is the nomination of Obama proof that we have made progress?

I kind of think that we have made progress. Not as much as we would like to think, but progress still the same. Not as much as we would like, because I truly believe that Obama had little choice but to nominate a white male as his running mate. Two minorities on the ticket, or even a white woman (imo) would have been too radical. But more progress than I sometimes see because I hear so many people looking for other reasons not to vote for him. They can't come out and say it is because he is black, but could perhaps believe one of the scurrilous rumors that the right has planted about him (radical Muslim, radical Christian, baby killer, etc).

On that note, Frank Rich suggests that the media is more concerned about race:
"Most Americans, unlike the press, are not obsessed by race. (Those whites who are obsessed by race will not vote for Obama no matter what he or anyone else has to say about it.)"
A good column, btw, that included this little tidbit on media bias.
What Obama also should have learned by now is that the press is not his friend. Of course, he gets more ink and airtime than McCain; he’s sexier news. But as George Mason University’s Center for Media and Public Affairs documented in its study of six weeks of TV news reports this summer, Obama’s coverage was 28 percent positive, 72 percent negative. (For McCain, the split was 43/57.) Even McCain’s most blatant confusions, memory lapses and outright lies still barely cause a ripple, whether he’s railing against a piece of pork he in fact voted for, as he did at the Saddleback Church pseudodebate last weekend, or falsifying crucial details of his marital history in his memoirs, as The Los Angeles Times uncovered in court records last month.
Ok, I am done for this evening. Hope you all have a good week.

Where McCain's income matters

Yglesias points to how McCain’s Tax Cut would mean that Cindy and John would get tax cut of over 370 thousand dollars. The Obama's would make out better under McCain's tax plan too.

August 23, 2008

McCain's comeback on the house gaff

And it strikes me as not a very good answer:
"McCain spokes-Doberman Brian Rogers had this to say, 'The reality is they have some investment properties and stuff. It's not as if he lives in ten houses. That's just not the case,' Rogers said. 'The reality is they have four that actually could be considered houses they could use.'
That makes it better, doesn't it? Only four houses? Wow, that guy really knows what life is like for most of us.

And then there is this, which many people are starting to point out is becoming a very tired response, and one that might end up costing McCain some votes:
He also added: 'This is a guy who lived in one house for five and a half years -- in prison,' referring to the prisoner of war camp that McCain was in during the Vietnam War."
This "I was a POW" card only goes so far. No one doubts that was tough on him, and no one I know doesn't appreciate and value that service. But at a certain point, this turns into a really cynical use. We can't criticize him on marrying into wealth (after dumping his first wife because of her injuries) because he was a POW? When Elizabeth Edwards pointed out that McCain has had government sponsored healthcare his entire life, he played the same card.

Just not sure how often he can go to that well.

Obama/Biden

I saw it in my email (along with several other million Americans). I have to say that I like this pick, though he scares me a little. Biden is the most dynamic and interesting of the picks floated out there. While Tim Kaine puts me to sleep, Biden keeps me watching. His stuff during the debates was just classic--like the one where someone asked him a very long-winded question about his own long-windedness. Could he be brief? "Yes." Or his take on Rudy Giuliani's message: "A noun, a verb, and 9-11."

A little hard to control, but smart, and unlike our VP pick in 2000, a damn fighter. He will not back down like Lieberman. I am still mad about how stupid Joe Lieberman was in the VP debate with Cheney. He was awful. Seeing him now, makes you wonder if he threw the campaign because he was working for the Bushies. :)

Ok, your thoughts? Will Biden be good?

August 22, 2008

Turns out that the McCains Own Eight To Eleven Houses

But Obama is the elitist. I think most of us can tell how many houses we own. The counting isn't hard.

Susan Eisenhower no longer a Republican

The National Interest:
My decision came at the end of last week when it was demonstrated to the nation that McCain and this Bush White House have learned little in the last five years. They mishandled what became a crisis in the Caucusus, and this has undermined U.S. national security. At the same time, the McCain camp appears to be comfortable with running an unworthy Karl Rove–style political campaign. Will the McCain operation, and its sponsors, do anything to win?

That appears to be the case. Eisenhower is now an Independent and this is how she sees the current Republican party:
"Hijacked by a relatively small few, the GOP of today bears no resemblance to Lincoln, Roosevelt or Eisenhower’s party, or many of the other Republican administrations that came after. In my grandparents’ time, the thrust of the party was rooted in: a respect for the constitution; the defense of civil liberties; a commitment to fiscal responsibility; the pursuit and stewardship of America’s interests abroad; the use of multilateral international engagement and “soft power”; the advancement of civil rights; investment in infrastructure; environmental stewardship; the promotion of science and its discoveries; and a philosophical approach focused squarely on the future."

Friday morning

And still cursing. Still avoiding the pain pills, for what that is worth, but not easily.

After swearing at me (as only Tony can) for beating him to a couple of blog posts, Tony has a couple of beauts. Interesting that the average senior pastor makes over 80k, and 25% make 97k. Serving God is good business, evidently, and may explain why so many of those pastors vote Republican ("the poor should become pastors"). But my favorite, out of touch pastor for this week is Rick Warren, with this amazingly self-righteous defense of his own success:
"“Do you know why God blessed ‘The Purpose Driven Life’ book and made it the best-selling book in the world and the best-selling hardback in history?” he asked, referring to his 2002 devotional book which has sold over 25 million copies worldwide. “You know why I think it went? ’Cause God knew that He could trust me with the money. He knew that we weren’t going to spend it on ourselves.”"
As Tony noted, the "next Billy Graham" seems to be pretty sure what God thinks (unlike the original). I never read the book, but is it possible that it is just another simplistic self-help book that took off? Or is the Da Vinci Code good history? I forget.

****

Speaking of Warren (and that Saddleback forum sure did raise his profile, not that that was his intent, of course), the discussion about Obama and McCain continues. Sully has a post that reminds me of one of my own regarding the two candidates view of evil.
McCain's vow to "defeat evil" at Saddleback was both asinine machismo - like we haven't had enough of that after eight years of Cheney - and deeply unChristian. There's no way a president of the United States or any country can "defeat evil." Evil is everywhere and always for Christians - until the Second Coming. Particular manifestations of evil can be defeated, but not evil itself. That endures, and is part of us too.

In this, of course, Obama's theology is far more mainstream than McCain's bravado. And Christians are first reminded that we too are capable of evil - even as we try to do good. And so a genuine effort to spread democracy and human rights can even allow some leaders, divorced from real Christianity, to commit absolute evil in the name of good.

Like, say, torture.
McCain, Bush and evidently the Religious Right still think that evil is only what other people do.

****

Not sure if this qualifies as evil, but it still stinks. The fat idiot who still draws big Republican guests said that Obama's nomination occurred because "nobody had the guts to stand up and say no to a black guy". Sigh.

August 21, 2008

The Olympics

Or the post I was thinking about this morning. Must of forgot with the pain and annoyance.

As I said, I didn't plan on watching the Olympics, but knew I would. SOF likes it more than I do, and I always get roped in. I enjoyed watching Phelps win his 8 medals, and have even enjoyed some of the gymnastics and beach volleyball.

SOF and I noted that this game did a little better job with the human interest stories. There weren't as many. Or maybe I just used the DVR better this time. I don't know. And the coverage was, for the most part, not bad.

Fewer stupid interviews. Fewer, but not zero, and one interviewer has to be the worst. The guy who interviews the track athletes on the field is just horrible. The other night, he grilled the American who was disqualified in the 200 and asked the dumbest questions imaginable. Hell, just interviewing a guy who went from Bronze medal to nothing was just dumb and heartless. And we were just watching the 4x100 relay where the Americans dropped the baton, and the same doofus asked Tyson Gay (who has had the worst Olympics--and not even counting when the American Family Association website filter had his name as "Tyson Homosexual.") what happened. He then asked him why his olympics had gone so badly, and I left the room when he asked, "Do you think part of what makes it so tough is that you were expected to win Gold in the 100 and 200?" Mr. Gay would have earned my respect for dropping that guy with a right hook.

And the commercial part of the games left me cold, as I thought it would. But it also just reinforced that the games are more commerce than athletics or good will. That became clear when I was watching the women's beach volleyball championship last night. One of the Chinese players kept adjusting her hat, and when she did, I noticed the little Nike Swoosh on the hat. Not sure there are different nations represented her as much as Corporate brands v. some real athletics.

But I watch, and part of it is that despite the waste of resources of these athletic ventures, and the stupidity of so many of the people (the gymanst's father who derides silver as some kind of failure) there is always a kernel of genuine drama and human connection that makes the games fun. During the last event final for the women, the Chinese gymnast gave the American gymnast a hug after her performance. Yeah, they all do these fake hugs and kisses, but this was one of those that spoke of something more than fake. It was a genuine connection between people.

Perhaps in the midst of a lot of stupidity and excess lay some actual human emotions and connections. Those aren't bad things.

Wiley Drake is back on the crazy

H/t to Jadon for more Wiley Drake the wingnut gift that just keeps coming. He is "sadden" that Focus on the Family pulled its "mildly humorous" video asking for prayer on Obama's speech. Drake says nuts to that, calls for more Imprecatory prayer using a "Telephonic Prayer Meeting."

Batshit crazy. And harmful to our political dialogue in ways that I can't even count. Humility, it seems, is only for other people. When you have God speaking directly into your ear, humility is for saps.

Grownup Christian Conservative Evangelicals? Time to retake your faith. Calling down curses on people isn't cool. It isn't cool when radical Muslims do it, and it isn't cool when dipshits like Drake and Shepard do it. You don't own God and it is time you recognized that.

Or perhaps it is just the meds talking. But I don't think so.

Thursday (I think)

And I had a rather bad night. I know others suffer with far worse pain, but this has made it tough to sleep. I may have to try the pain pills. Kept thinking all night of the Ryan Adams song "Drugs not working" (though I am pretty sure he meant something else).

Anyway. Back to the news. I am kind of shielding myself from some of the Obama/Mccain stuff. Just too painful. McCain is so far away from the seemingly principled maverick of 2000 when he called sleaze campaign tactics what they were, and stood up to the "agents of intolerance." This year, he uses the sleaze tactics and hugs the agents of intolerance.

Sigh.

One thing I will note, and I am not providing links on this one (just don't feel like it right now) is how desperate some on the right are to paint Obama as some kind of animal. That is what they mean when they say he is a closet Muslim, or a radical Christian (shouldn't you have to choose between those two?), and it is absolutely what they are trying to do by painting him as some infanticidal radical.
Obama is pro-choice, but the odious Jill Stanek is spreading around a story that Obama doesn't even care about infants who have a chance to live. To put her radicalism in respect, she recently called Michael J. Fox a "cannibal" for supporting embryonic stem cell research, and has called for the end to condom distribution in Africa. She is not an honest broker, something I found out in some real-life email exchanges over her willingness to use racist imagery to attack Native Americans.

But the part that disturbs me the most is their willingness to demonize him into some kind of monster. Those on the right seem to think that shame is only applied to liberals, and they don't even need to think about it. They should be ashamed every time some "religious" person spreads a scurrilous lie about someone. I believe there is something in the Bible about that.

***

Speaking of religious right voters, (H/t to Bruce at Mainstream Baptist) for this story:
People who listen to religious radio shows like "Focus on the Family" are less knowledgeable about current events than the average American, according to a recent survey on media consumption by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press.


Just 12 percent of regular listeners of religious radio could correctly identify which party now controls Congress, who is the current U.S. secretary of state and name the new prime minister of Great Britain.

That is ahead of regular consumers of media like "Access Hollywood" and the National Enquirer but behind viewers of TV news magazines, morning news shows and network news. The national average is 18 percent.

People who view "fake" news shows like "The Daily Show" and "The Colbert Report" are better informed than readers of "real" news programs like "O-Reilly Factor" and "Lou Dobbs Tonight." The highest knowledge of current events was found among readers of The New Yorker and The Atlantic (48 percent), NPR (44 percent), MSNBC's "Hardball" (43 percent), and "Hannity & Colmes" at 42 percent.
While I cannot comprehend how Hannity and Colmes made the list, it comes as no surprise that religious radio does not encourage a thoughtful knowledge of the issues. I used to listen to Focus on the Family (before my car had a cd player) and I can't tell you how many times I heard actual, factual news spun and distorted.

Sigh.

Time for one more this morning, but one of the things I have written about a lot on this blog (I did a search one time, and need to count up how many times) is torture. The other person who has written about this as much (if not more) is Andrew Sullivan and he has had a few posts recently noting that John McCain, while he may have manufactured some of his Christian faith, actually experienced real and devastating torture. The same kind of torture that George Bush and Dick Cheney say are not torture.

The fact that John McCain can even look at Bush without puking suggests that he made some deal a long time ago to sell his soul for power. But it is Obama who is consumed by ambition. Right.

August 20, 2008

Turns out it is sciatica

Finally went to the doctor this morning and he was very helpful. Said that even though I hadn't had the tingling or numbness often associated with sciatica, it is indeed some kind of constriction on the sciatic nerve. Better, he said, that having a problem with the IT band or a torn muscle. (For the record, this was my yoga teacher's first thought).

So I am home with some meds and hoping to be in a better mood soon.

August 19, 2008

Well, one conservative likes Corsi

Beyond Mary Matalin, that is. Constitutional Party candidate Chuck Baldwin thinks that Corsi is an intelligent and credentialed writer, and the criticisms of Obama Nation (say that fast) are just because they worship Obama.

Sigh.

Tuesday rainy morning

The leg is a little improved this morning, though still achey in the morning. And it is still raining. And yes, that is a good thing. Steady continuous rain is something that our friends in North Carolina, I am sure, would welcome. It does make for a gloomy morning, though. And our friend Anglican reports more leaky roof problems. So we have a good thought for him and his wife. And his landlord.

Speaking of Anglican, he has a very thoughtful post this morning about the difficulties of our conversations about politics and religion. It is one thing to debate, as I am with one of our friends, tax policy. It is another to debate whether Obama is a muslim, or possibly, as Jill Stanek is trying to argue lately, in favor of infanticide. Where is the common ground there?

As I have argued elsewhere, there are people on both sides of the debate who have no interest in common ground and have no interest in a dialogue. I fear very much that those people, while on the periphery of the Democratic party, are central to the Republicans, and I further fear that Rick Warren is just another one of those Christianist leaders.

Consider the DMN RELIGION Blog's quote of the day:
"'I've gotten a lot of questions the last few weeks asking if Obama is the antichrist. I tell everyone that I don't think the antichrist will come out of politics, especially American politics.'

-- Jerry B. Jenkins, co-author of the 'Left Behind' apocalyptic novels (quoted by Christian News Wire)"
How do we have a reasonable discussion when people are asking of one of the candidates is the symbol of evil? How does that conversation occur? How has intwining the far right into politics (where compromise and negotiation are the watchword) made us any better?

The strange bedfellows part sure has worked. Christian evangelicals tacitly supporting torture, and cheering on a disastrous war.

August 18, 2008

Rick Warren not an honest broker

The Daily Dish | By Andrew Sullivan: "If you didn't think that a pastor has any business being the first to interview two presidential candidates in his church, you'll be even more alarmed that Saakashvili was apparently on the phone with Warren yesterday. And he relayed this information on Sean Hannity's radio show. Yes, we need much more religion in politics, don't we? The secularism is suffocating."
Speaking to Hannity is just one bit of proof.

More on the Cross in the dirt

And I think Sullivan nails it
Many readers have noted that versions of this story - attributed to Solzhenitsyn by Chuck Colson - have been a staple of evangelical sermons for a very long time. They aren't always attributed to Solzhenitsyn, but this sermon, preached by Father Luke Veronis, is a classic of the genre. It's a trope, a kind of urban legend in evangelical circles - and, of course, rooted in deep spiritual truth. Used in a sermon as a way to talk about Christ's redeeming power is one thing. Actually saying it happened to you in a specific place and time is another.
And of course, none of this would be salient were it not for the obvious motive for coopting the story. McCain has never been a very devout man. He doesn't come across that way in his first account of the story; and he doesn't come across that way now. But as the Christianists took over the GOP, he must have understood that this was a problem - especially against Bush in 2000. So in 1999, the story, already poignant and true in its particulars, changes into a much more grandiloquent and sectarian affair, echoing deep evangelical themes and tropes.
And it would not be salient if McCain hadn't deployed the anecdote in his own words - with a misleading image - in a campaign ad, and used it again in front of an evangelical audience Saturday night. And it would not be salient if religious fanatics had not a strangle-hold on the Republican party, seeking doctrinal assurances and echoes of their own type of faith in political candidates.

It is just one of those days

I think I pulled one of my hamstring muscles last week. My yoga teacher tells me that there are three on each leg. Or something. Whatever it is, it stretches from my, uh, upper thigh, to my knee along the outside of the leg. Gradually getting better (I think) but painful and annoying. Add to that, the rain (which I like, and appreciate, mind you) which darkens my mood, and you have one annoyed blogger.

The news doesn't help my mood either. We have had a rousing discussion here at the blog where Anglican posted that list of things we shouldn't do from Leviticus (in addition to homosexuality, of course). My favorite is the one about the neighbor working on the Sabbath. "Am I morally obligated to kill him myself, or should I ask the police to do it?"

Heh.

Ok, a few items and then I have to move on to other stuff. Hat tip to FP from the comments, pointing us to this story: Waterboarding an attraction at amusement park. Turns out it is a protest of waterboarding at Coney Island, and from what it sounds like, fairly effective. Hope Dick Cheney doesn't hear about it.

Our discussion in the open thread was about Rick Warren's recent hosting of Obama and McCain at his Saddleback monstrosity church where the kingmaker wannabe Preacher asked different questions to the candidates each candidate the same questions in an honest attempt to help McCain talk about religion in American political life.

Yeah, but it turns out for all the questions he asked (none on torture, btw h/t Tony) the only one he cared about was those on abortion. Because any of us who are pro-choice are the same as holocaust deniers, and there is no way in hell that Preacher Rick is voting for a holocaust denier. Just last week, evidently, he said he would never vote for an adulterer either. But that was evidently only in the case of John Edwards, and he never asked McCain about that either. What is more, Pastor Rick asserted this:
Warren also told Gilgoff that Democrats' efforts to talk about faith alone fall flat: "just because a person can say 'God' and 'Jesus' and 'salvation' and whatever doesn't mean they have a worldview. And people want to know what do they believe, not just their personal faith.
Because, you see, only conservatives are true Christians. Duh.

And finally, I even hesitate to post this, but it seems like a very interesting story, if true. John McCain, as you know, spent time in a POW camp during George Bush's drinking and drug years Vietnam. He talks about it every chance he gets is loathe to discuss his experience because, you know, he doesn't want to politicize being a POW.

Well, evidently, he has a story about a VN guard who very subtly drew a cross in the dirt to let McCain know that he was a Christian. Only problem is that the story only started showing up in his memoirs in 1999, and it wasn't that McCain didn't talk about his POW experience before that. Oh, and it also sounds exactly like a story about Solzhenitsen.

August 17, 2008

Saddleback forum--open forum

By request. Don't make me come back there.

The nature of evil

I need to get some work done this afternoon, so this will be brief. I did not watch the Saddleback conference last night (can't watch McCain right now) but have read about it. I caught this different response on the nature of evil and it caught my eye. If you notice, McCain wants to continue the definition of evil as external enemies. For him, as for Bush, evil is Al Qaeda and suicide bombers. Obama, on the other hand, notes those external evils (though his reference was to Darfur, not the obvious Al Qaeda) but also notes the internal evils, "sadly on the streets of our cities. We see evil in parents who viciously abuse their children."

Exactly right. Bacevich noted this the other night, saying that most Americans define their problems as external, and refuse to face those within us. This strikes me as a huge theological difference as well, and shame on those Christian conservatives who cheer McCain's simplification of evil as Bin Laden or his followers.

But McCain's explanation, much like Bush's entire collection of answers over the years, is simplistic, and therefore greedily accepted by people who don't want to consider the deeper issues. Obama, on the other hand suggests that evil is everywhere, and also in us.

I imagine the Joel Osteen lobotomy club will eat this up. But we will be better off if we can address a more complex world with a more complex understanding. We have just had 8 years of simplistic answers, and we are clearly worse off than we were before.

More Andrew Bacevich

Since I watched that interview yesterday, I have continued to mull over his take. I disagree with some of his analysis on the political side. For example, I think he is far too harsh on the Democrats for not being able to end the war after the 2006 election, but there is little doubt that he correctly notes that Pelosi and Reid seem more concerned with protecting their majorities than doing the right thing.

But his analysis on the problems with this Global War on Terror just keep resonating, and of course, remind me that even the conservative Rand Corporation believes that the military is the wrong tool to use against terrorism. Bacevich compared Al Qaeda to a "criminal conspiracy" (a violent one, obviously) and argued that the best way to battle this very real threat was to use intelligence and police forces wisely.

He also has some suggestions for where we are now as a nation after 8 years of Bush and Cheney. From the the Boston Globe, this op ed on "What Bush hath wrought":
Among other things, the Bush team has accomplished the following:

Defined the contemporary era as an "age of terror" with an open-ended "global war" as the necessary, indeed the only logical, response;
Promulgated and implemented a doctrine of preventive war, thereby creating a far more permissive rationale for employing armed force;
Affirmed - despite the catastrophe of Sept. 11, 2001 - that the primary role of the Department of Defense is not defense, but power projection;
Removed constraints on military spending so that once more, as Ronald Reagan used to declare, "defense is not a budget item";
Enhanced the prerogatives of the imperial presidency on all matters pertaining to national security, effectively eviscerating the system of checks and balances

Hard to argue with him on any of those, I think. He also notes that McCain, while different than Bush in many ways, is the one most fundamentally wedded to Bush's approach to foreign policy.
"The challenge facing Obama is clear: he must go beyond merely pointing out the folly of the Iraq war; he must demonstrate that Iraq represents the truest manifestation of an approach to national security that is fundamentally flawed, thereby helping Americans discern the correct lessons of that misbegotten conflict.

By showing that Bush has put the country on a path pointing to permanent war, ever increasing debt and dependency, and further abuses of executive authority, Obama can transform the election into a referendum on the current administration's entire national security legacy. By articulating a set of principles that will safeguard the country's vital interests, both today and in the long run, at a price we can afford while preserving rather than distorting the Constitution, Obama can persuade Americans to repudiate the Bush legacy and to choose another course."

Bacevich makes a very strong point that history has taught us that military power can be useful for sure, but it has very clear limits. Bush and Cheney seem to have missed that altogether, and when you add that to a public who believes that our military is invincible, it becomes and intoxicating and addictive thing to call for military force.

Bacevich seems like a pretty credible source on this, btw. He served in the military for some 20 years and retired as a Colonel. One of Sully's readers recalls how he retired when he was passed over for General after an incident in Kuwait. Bacevich, according to this reader, took full responsibility for what occurred under his watch.
At any rate, when you talk about Bacevich, not only has he lost his son to this stupid war we both supported, but he is just a decent, honest, honorable, good man. At a time when no one ever takes responsibility, he is a man who believes in it, and walked the walk.
Contrast that with this administration, (and one can argue--the previous administration as well) where nothing is ever their fault.

August 16, 2008

Our Obama Yard Sign--continued

As I noted, some ignorant knob stole our Obama sign the other night.

Saw a neighbor down the street and said the same thing happened to him a few weeks ago. Evidently, some people think that is reasonable discourse. I recall wanting to jump on a few W signs in 04, but of course, I did not. That isn't how democracy is supposed to function.

But when the Republicans get their models from Karl Rove and now John McCain, there is no wonder. The same neighbor noted that one of his relatives had read the new Corsi hatchet book on Obama and thought it was good. My friend told his relative that it was based on documented lies. His relative said, "everyone has their opinion on Hussein Obama."

How do you talk to that kind of ignorance?

Andrew Bacevich

On Bill Moyers Journal talking about his new book and his deep concern with our political, economic, and military disfunction in this country. His discussion is thoughtful, equally tough on Republicans and Democrats, and at the heart--suggests that Americans are unwilling to acknowledge who they really are.

You can read an excerpt from the book and watch the video interview here. I think it is worth the time. And there is more at the American Empire Project blog.

Couple of thoughts right after viewing. One, he is the first in sometime to give Jimmy Carter credit for recognizing the problems of a self-indulgent and consumer based economy. In future years, we may recognize the brilliance of that more than we do now, and we might also recognize the destructive nature of the Reagan approach of "you can have more and more and more, and it won't cost you anything." Two, he challenges our fundamental arrogance that believes we can win any military venture we enter. I think that is so very important, because I genuinely believe that the American people, even after seeing the limits of our power in Iraq, still believe that we are invincible. When you couple that with an Imperial Presidency (and he includes all the most recent presidents in that), you get the extension of military power as if that is our best effort.

And finally, he challenges something that made me practically applaud--the ridiculous and completely vapid way that most Americans talk about "supporting the troops." As he notes, a bumper sticker hardly makes up for the fact that we, collectively, outsource our military power, and then turn away. Add that to Bush's call for us to go shopping after 9-11, and you see the level of great disfunction.

Very thoughtful argument, and I hope it gets more attention.

August 15, 2008

Our Obama Yard Sign

Some knob took it last night.

Grrr.

Children as proxy?

Watched the women's all-around last night. It was high drama and some fantastic athleticism, and even some fun cheering for the USA. But while discussing gold medalist Nastia Liukin, the commentator said that she had been aiming for this gold medal her entire life, and that her father had taught her that the silver medal was bad. Turns out her father was a Soviet gymnast:
"Twenty years ago, in another heated battle between teammates, Valeri Liukin, competing for Russia, lost the 1988 men's all-around Olympic title in Seoul to Vladimir Artyomov. 'She fixed my mistake,' said her father. 'I was second, half a tenth behind Vladimir, and she fixed that. I am very proud,' he said, too emotional to continue. Liukin senior might have ended up lost for words Friday, but his daughter's gold was the perfect ending."
I wonder what would have happened had she not won. And I also wonder what you do when you achieve your life's dream at 18. What do you do next?

Friday roundup

Bush To Russia: Stop The "Bullying And Intimidation":
"'Bullying and intimidation are not acceptable ways to conduct foreign policy in the 21st century,' the president said."
Just too rich--our President lecturing other countries on "bullying foreign policy." Seriously? Does this guy even know about his own Presidency?

*****

As Tony notes this morning, we have another candidate for a, well, delusional candidate
"In the twenty-first century, nations don't invade other nations."

Yeah, John McCain said that. I guess our invasion of Iraq just doesn't count in his brain. Why not just come out and say, "when we do something, it is fine." Grownup Republicans? You really don't think that kind of "do as I say, not as I do" will actually be a sustainable foreign policy, do you?

*****

According to an analysis of campaign contributions by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, Democrat Barack Obama has received nearly six times as much money from troops deployed overseas at the time of their contributions than has Republican John McCain, and the fiercely anti-war Ron Paul, though he suspended his campaign for the Republican nomination months ago, has received more than four times McCain's haul.
But I thought the military were all grateful for the Republican support and were staunchly Republican. After all, Democrats are "soft" on the military issue of your choice, and don't like people in the military. Even when the candidates are from the military.

Perhaps not. After 8 years of harming our military to the breaking point--and continuing to threaten military action in Iran, Georgia, (who want's next?), etc., perhaps those actually doing the fighting are getting sick of neo-con led foreign policy.

As it turns out, by the way, the military isn't the only shocking place where Obama gets support.
But a recent poll taken by the Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation reveals that Obama has more support among hunters and fishers than previous Democratic nominees Al Gore and John Kerry. A Christian research firm says that Obama enjoys more support than McCain among all Christian subgroups excepting Evangelicals. The Washington Post also polled working class whites and found that they support Obama over McCain too.
All sub groups except evangelicals. I swear. I will never figure those guys out. They supported Bush after the torture stuff came out too. What the hell?

*****

Speaking of Christian conservatives, as Tony also noted this morning, and of course, our lovely Anonymous commentator noted yesterday, Victoria Osteen received a unanimous verdict of not-guilty of slapping a flight attendant. Fine. But I know full well they will attribute this verdict to God's intervention, just as our commentator credited their obscene (that's right, obscene) wealth to God's desire. Their theology makes me ill. When greed is actually masked as "listening to God"--it lends itself to a Gilded Age theology, which you see front and center with the Osteens. I know this is not Christianity, but as in the grownup Republican issue, I would like to see the Christians who believe in sacrifice, sin, and even those who think that greed is not good--to stand up. And by the way, while you are up, please tell James Dobson the same thing, and remind him and Bush that torture is not a Christian act.

****

Speaking of torture, one of Sully's readers just finished the Dark Side:
the second half of it more or less since 12 pm this afternoon. Last night, sitting in one of those cafes they stick on the sides of Barnes and Nobles, I almost broke down crying. Instead, I went to the poetry section and quietly read aloud a couple of Hektor's speeches in the Iliad -- something oddly reassuring about them to me.
Scattered throughout my copy of the book are prayers for forgiveness. That was all I kept thinking as I read. Normally, I'm angry about this. With this account, I only felt a deep, tremendous sadness.

August 14, 2008

Swiftboating Obama

Jerome Corsi, famous in 2004 for writing one the book attacking John Kerry's service in VN, is back at it with a book that says again that Obama is a closet Muslim. A book, evidently, that Mary Matalin calls " a piece of scholarship, and a good one at that."

Joe Klein is not very happy about it and notes that at one time, John McCain could be counted on to stand up against such sludge. John Kerry defended McCain when conservatives attacked the Senator's war record in 2000. But McCain isn't just being silent on the Coris stuff. He is sending out Joe Lieberman to follow the Mark Penn advice to paint Obama as an alien.

Klein calls out McCain:
"But there is no excuse for what the McCain campaign is doing on the 'putting America first' front. There is no way to balance it, or explain it other than as evidence of a severe character defect on the part of the candidate who allows it to be used. There is a straight up argument to be had in this election: Mcain has a vastly different view from Obama about foreign policy, taxation, health care, government action...you name it. He has lots of experience; it is always shocking to remember that this time four years ago, Barack Obama was still in the Illinois State Legislature. Apparently, though, McCain isn't confident that conservative policies and personal experience can win, given the ruinous state of the nation after eight years of Bush. So he has made a fateful decision: he has personally impugned Obama's patriotism and allows his surrogates to continue to do that. By doing so, he has allied himself with those who smeared him, his wife, his daughter Bridget, in 2000. Those tactics won George Bush a primary--and a nomination. But they proved a form of slow-acting spiritual poison, rotting the core of the Bush presidency. We'll see if the public decides to acquiesce in sleaze in 2008, and what sort of presidency--what sort of country--that will produce."

It is really amazing, and says a lot about John McCain that he was outraged when this sleaze was used against him, and rightfully so, but has decided to dip into that well. Bush and Rove's attacks (which Bush told McCain were "just politics") were so over the top bad and sleazy that they make hard core political hacks queasy. Telling South Carolina white Republicans that John McCain might be unfaithful to his wife, and with a black woman? That is a level of cynicism and poison that is hard to fathom. Rove, of course, should always be remembered as someone who not only did that to McCain in SC, but also spread rumors that McCain had cracked under interrogation and betrayed his country, that Ann Richards was a lesbian, and that an Alabama Judge with a background helping children was a pedophile. There is a special spot in hell for that kind of person.

Klein says that Democrats don't normally make these kinds of attacks, that these are the realm of Bush Republicans. But I know that there are Democrats who are willing to stoop that low. Mark Penn comes to mind. According to internal Clinton camp emails, he wanted to paint Obama as foreigner and alien, and just subtly suggest that he wasn't one of us. Very Rovian. (Hillary Clinton, to her credit, pushed back--either out of conviction or pure politics. I have no idea which.)

No, it isn't that Democrats are somehow more moral than Republicans. I know far too many Republicans (and too many Democrats) to ever suggest that. But there is something wrong here, and I am not sure how to explain it. It is almost that many conservatives are so convinced of their morality, that they are completely blind to this kind of tactic when it happens to the opposition candidate. Democrats, perhaps, are more cynical and expect this kind of stuff. I don't know. This reminds me of the contradiction and paradox of Bush running as the most visible Christian politician since Jimmy Carter and yet overseeing the most unChristian policies one could imagine. He takes credit for being a Jesus supporter, but governs more like Rome (if Rome was highly incompetent, of course). And the Republican Christians focus on his Jesus part, and miss the fact that in that famous time, Bush would have been enabling the Roman attacks on Christ, and Karl Rove would have spread rumors that Jesus was gay.

It is a world that does not make sense and is not sustainable. Republicans may have to make a choice--be the party of morality and conviction, or be the party of brutality and scorched-earth tactics. There was hope as Bush's star faded, that Republicans might move away from this kind of politics. McCain's recent swing toward the awful suggests that hope was premature.

Grownup Republicans? The choice is yours.

August 13, 2008

Arkansas Democratic Chair Bill Gwatney killed

To take this into the main postings instead of the comments. The Chair of the Arkansas Democratic party was killed by a gunman earlier today. (H/t to Leighton for alerting us to this tragedy.) We previously reported that some said the shooter (who was killed also, btw) was possibly a former employee of the deceased chairman, but this update casts doubt on that:
"The Little Rock police said, however, at an afternoon news conference that the shooter, whom they did not identify, was NOT a Gwatney employee and, so far as they knew, never had been, contrary to some early reports mentioned here earlier in the day."

Our hearts go out to the Gwatney family.

Interesting court ruling

RELIGION Blog | The Dallas Morning News: "When considering applicants from Christian high schools, the University of California system does not have to recognize courses that reject evolution or declare the Bible infallible, a federal judge has ruled."

The court held that this was not because of a religious view, but because the course didn't meet the university's legitimate academic standard.

More McCain madness

Part of what McCain clipped from the Wikipedia article on Georgia was the assertion that Georgia was "one of the first nations on Earth to convert to Christianity" to which Melissa Rogers responds: "You say that like it's a good thing . . ."
First of all, a nation cannot "convert" to Christianity -- only individuals can choose to follow Jesus Christ. Second, while some nations do establish an official religion, I find it disturbing that an American presidential candidate would seem to describe that as a good thing.
Yes, do tell us all the times that establishing a state sponsored religion has worked out for the state and the religion. Do tell. And please, Senator McCain, this doesn't have to do with the fact that you think you need the evangelical vote, does it? And you believe that the evangelical vote also wants to claim Christianity as our official religion?

I don't think that is where most (even conservative) evangelicals are, but then again, I thought most conservative evangelicals would abandon Bush over torture.

Actually more disturbing to me this week has been McCain's bellicosity toward Russia and his assertion of Presidential authority in promising American assistance. I read this morning that McCain has been in constant contact with the President of Georgia and is stepping all over even our administration's message. Not that they will rein him in, of course.

And most disturbing (besides the fact that McCain idiot friend Joe Lieberman now says that Obama is unpatriotic) is that McCain and his people think threatening more wars--lots more wars--will win votes.

August 12, 2008

Argh

First, John McCain assures Georgia that we are "all Georgians" today. Of course, when Obama dared to speak to a German audience in relatively vague terms about where we might go on fighting terror, McCain called him presumptuous and acting like he had already won the election. But in this case, McCain speaks literally for all of us, and also comes very near to promising military support for the Georgian state. Are you kidding me? First it was "bomb, bomb, bomb Iran," and now this saber rattling with Russia. How many wars do these people want to fight?

Top it off with the former Democratic vice presidential candidate (and suspected McCain VP candidate) saying that Obama does not put America first and I feel the screaming coming on. A hot button issue for me, as everyone here knows, but I am so tired of just how casually conservatives can doubt a liberal's patriotism. And evidently, John McCain agrees
Just moments ago, the McCain campaign emailed out the same Lieberman quote to its full press list -- putting its official stamp of approval on Lieberman's assertion.

This is effectively an abandonment of the campaign's quasi-official position, which used to be that the McCain camp saw questioning Obama's patriotism as off limits. Last month, senior McCain adviser Charlie Black said explicitly that "we don't want to talk about his patriotism and character. We concede that he's a patriot and person of good character."
The Republican party (and Lieberman might as well join the GOP now) has left the stable of just being the "party of the stupid" and now is the "party of the horrible." I am sorry, but John McCain may have served his country with honor during Vietnam, but his campaign against Obama is dishonorable and disgraceful.

Of course, when Lieberman was the VP candidate for Gore (Gore must lay awake nights thinking, what did I do?) he was a horrible campaigner and refused to fight at all for Gore. What a horrible person.

Speaking of horrible people, the odious Michelle Bachmann says that we don't need environmental controls because "Jesus already saved the earth."

Seriously. Two things. 1, either the Republican party gets rid of these neo-con warmongers or we will spend the next several generations fighting their wars. You don't think they will stop with the next war, do you? Someone else wants to fight us, and John McCain is there ready to offer up more American lives (in an Army we don't have, btw) for their next war.

And 2) if conservative Christians don't rescue their faith from the likes of dipshits like Michelle Bachman and the Osteen's, you will have a faith of pure Capitalism and Greed, merged with one that disbelieves in Gravity, and is firmly convinced that Jesus Christ is an American Republican who loves war.

Joel and Victoria Osteen, just the latest

Barbara Ehrenreich succinctly nails the problem with the Prosperity gospel, and this kind of misuse of prayer:
"Consider the ways the Lord works in the life of the Osteens, as recounted in Joel's book Your Best Life Now, which has sold four million copies and is graced by a back cover photo of the smiling couple. Acting through Victoria, who kept 'speaking words of faith and victory' on the subject, Joel was led to build the family 'an elegant home.' On other occasions, God intervened to save Joel from a speeding ticket and to get him not only a good parking spot but 'the premier spot in that parking lot.' Why God did not swoop down with a sponge and clean up the offending stain on the armrest remains a mystery, because Osteen's deity is less the Master of the Universe than an obliging factotum.

Plenty of Christians have already made the point that the positive thinking of Christianity Light is demeaning to God, and I leave them to pursue this critique. More importantly, from a secular point of view, it's dismissive of other humans, and not only flight attendants. If a person is speeding, shouldn't he get a ticket to deter him from endangering others? And if Osteen gets the premier parking spot, what about all the other people consigned to the remote fringes of the lot? Christianity, at best, is about a sacrificial love for others, not about getting to the head of the line."

These people drive me nuts, and I know that I am not alone here. This is not Christianity, and it is a shame that they represent the faith to so many people. We all know that most Christians are not like this, and make a positive contribution to their community and their world.

Focus on the Family pulls video seeking prayers for rain at Obama speech

But they only meant it to be mildly humorous. You know, asserting that God prefers Republicans and that Obama is our enemy.

Birthday Wishes for Ubub

Today is friend of the blog, and a personal friend of SOF and myself (as well as Anglican) UBUB's birthday. I won't say how old he is (for national security reasons) but Ubub has been one of my very best friends now for many years. I can't say enough good about him, and I know that SOF and Anglican will agree. On the other hand, once the Birthday wishes are over, we can get to the ritual "airing of the grievances." :)

Happy Birthday!

August 11, 2008

Bush people silent on this Hamdan verdict

Maybe, argues Jonathan Diamond, because they realize this verdict was a strong rebuke of their administration of the war on terror. Even with the court stacked against the defense, and an administration bent on a kangaroo verdict, all they could get for OBL's driver was a few more months in prison. Even the presiding judge wished Hamdan well.
"I don't hold much hope that this lesson will be taken by the current administration, whose moral bank account is woefully overdrawn. I would not be surprised if Bush/Cheney harmed our international standing even more by ignoring the jury and holding Hamdan indefinitely."

Suskind's big claim

Perhaps not that the VP ordered a forged letter, but that White House knew Saddam didn't have WMD:
"The former head of Britain's MI6, Sir Roger Dearlove, confirms to Suskind on the record that both Bush and Blair received late-breaking but excellent first-hand intelligence that Saddam was bluffing on WMDs. A James Bond character, British spy Michael Shipster, secured a real line of information from an Iraqi intelligence chief. Blair had tasked MI6 with getting to the bottom of the WMD question. Suskind's original source, a high-level American intelligence agent, puts it this nway:
'We knew,' he says.
'Knew what?'
That there were no weapons in Iraq.'
'Sure,' I say, 'people suspected. Define knew.'"

If true, this war becomes not well-intentioned blunder ("we had bad intel") but horrific crime. If true.

August 9, 2008

The Past

Yes, I am watching some of the games. Blame SOF. And some of it is quite interesting. The human interest stories just drive me crazy, but the competition is fun. Watching some of the rowing this afternoon, I had to laugh when the analyst described one of the teams compared to 4 years ago. She said, "well, there is no Penske and no Hurtz (making the names up)" as if those names meant anything to me at all. I suspect that is what some of my friends feel like watching football and hearing references to Elway and Marino.

-----

Thomas Wolfe famously said that you can't go home again. I haven't read the book, but that quote has come up over the years--I think first from a good therapist. The allure of the nostalgic past is something I have written about in my work, and I am not immune from that call.

It has come to mind again this week. I have a membership on one of the social networking sites. I use it rarely, but was thinking the other day how has illustrated these weird connections to the past, present and other worlds of my life. Recently, I was added to the friend's list of a former high school colleague. That is 25 years ago. Yikes.

Then the other day, our old BSU sent out a request for people to join a group online, and I thought--how would I even start? SOF said it well last night when she noted that that old life is like a completely different country. I am certainly a different person. Almost hard to see the Streak of now in those old pictures. Who was that guy? I would need a translator and guide to negotiate that connection.

I have run into people from the past before, and rarely positively. Often, they are (or seem to me) to be very much as they were, while I have changed so much. When they see me, they just see the impish kid from Fort Collins. When I saw that invite from the BSU, it was "world's colliding" and I had no idea how to manage that. So I didn't.

Those close to me have watched me mature over the last 25 years, or have met me more in my current incarnation. I don't even know how to explain that transition who last knew me when I was 19 or 21. I am physically different (though not a lot) but emotionally, spiritually, and philosophically I am a completely different person. I can usually speak that language of 25 years ago, but am no longer fluent or comfortable. And those times when I have attempted to introduce the man to those who knew the boy--well, it hasn't gone well.

I am ok with that. I am happier and more relaxed with who I am in my 40s than I was in my 30s and sure as hell when I was in my 20s. But I must say I rarely seek out people from my past. Maybe that is for the best. I am happy in this country.

The Dark Side

And interesting interview with Dark Side author, Jane Mayer.

Political side

As I noted in the previous comment thread, I thought the last person who wanted to see the Edwards' affair scandal right now was John McCain, and it looks like Josh Marshall agrees.

Suskind may be mostly right?

Several conservative and liberal voices have expressed healthy skepticism about Suskind's allegation that the White House ordered a forged document to support their claims about Iraq and Al Qaeda. I shared some of that skepticism.

Well, a couple of items this morning. First, the author has posted a transcript of his interview with the CIA's former Deputy Chief of Clandestine Operations that tend to support Suskind's claims.

And if that wasn't enough, from a very odd source an allegation that Suskind was both right and wrong about the letter. The American Conservative says that Suskind was right that the VP ordered the letter, but not through Tenet and the CIA. Instead, he tagged Doug Feith with the job.

August 8, 2008

Oh damn

I know this is not new now, but I think everyone has now heard that John Edwards admited to having an affair. This is obviously not good. Not only did he cheat on his ill wife, but he lied about it during the campaign.

It is always frustrating when someone you admire or support does something so stupid and so wrong. And I don't begrudge the media for following this story--well, not completely. I am not condoning adultery, by the way, but I have never quite figured out when that became the unforgivable sin for a politician. As Cenk Uygur asks, how does his affair make John Edwards any less capable at pursuing good public policy?. And more importantly for our current discussion, why is this affair a career killer for Edwards, but the GOP is running someone who is now married to the "other woman." McCain not only cheated on his first wife (with several other women) but he dumped her after she had a very bad car accident.

I remember the bullshit from the Clinton years--"if he will cheat on his wife, how can we trust him to not cheat on us?" And "he lied to his wife and therefore is untrustworthy." At the time, I suggested that HW Bush had not cheated on Barbara, but had certainly lied to us about Iran Contra. His son has taken that ridiculous metric to another level. I have no reason to think that Bush has been anything but faithful to Laura--but he certainly has not been faithful to us. His supposed fidelity to his wife didn't stop him from lying us into war, turning us into a torture nation, and gutting our Constitution. One thing has nothing to do with the other.

And, I suspect, most Republicans will respond that way about McCain. "It was many years ago, and has nothing to do with his potential as a President." Evidently, fidelity is only required of Democrats.

I am sorry for the Edwards family and the harm he has caused to his wife and children. But I remain disgusted by the double standard that will spur countless hours of OUTRAGE on cable news over the weekend.

McCain might be a little quiet, however....

Know-nothing politics

I often find Krugman a bit shrill, and even think he loses a little of his argument in this piece, but he is on to something when he suggests that the GOP has become the party of the stupid:
"Now, I don’t mean that G.O.P. politicians are, on average, any dumber than their Democratic counterparts. And I certainly don’t mean to question the often frightening smarts of Republican political operatives.

What I mean, instead, is that know-nothingism — the insistence that there are simple, brute-force, instant-gratification answers to every problem, and that there’s something effeminate and weak about anyone who suggests otherwise — has become the core of Republican policy and political strategy. The party’s de facto slogan has become: “Real men don’t think things through.”"
That is certainly how it looks. This drilling policy is simply ridiculous--as a policy. Maybe we should drill in some of those areas (I don't think so) but it should be part of some kind of plan, not a political stunt.

But it isn't just drilling, it is abstinence only, attacks on science, and tax-cuts regardless of the situation. It is a party that has demonized government to the point where the logical extension of their platform is disaster. Hard to implement killing the government in an effective and efficient way.

And, as Krugman notes, the Patron Saint of the GOP's turn to "dumbness" is George W. Bush. They used to worship this man as some kind of idiot savant who didn't need "no fantsy booklarning" to govern. He just needed his "gut."
“Mr. Bush is the triumph of the seemingly average American man,” declared Peggy Noonan, writing in The Wall Street Journal in 2004. “He’s not an intellectual. Intellectuals start all the trouble in the world.”
And it has already started again this year. Obama is the "elitist" who likes "arugula" instead of regular food, while John McCain is "one of the people" who wears 500 dollar shoes while his wife says that the only way to travel around Arizona is in private plane--you know, like normal people. Meanwhile John McCain switches gears on drilling to utter "we should drill here, and drill now" after saying that it would do nothing for us. He thinks that the voters are too dumb to notice.

Eight years of Bush has made me far too sad to disagree.

August 7, 2008

August 6, 2008

A house guest

Our friend L took care of our menagerie while we were in Hawaii, and she brought with her a newly adopted kitten. As you will see, the little guy was injured by a car or something when he was very little and still doesn't have the full use of his left foreleg. She named him Trypod, appropriately enough.

Note, I tried to upload some video, but ran into some problems. So here is a little screen shot of the little guy. You can see his damaged limb.




L had to leave town and wondered if we could take care of the little guy for a few days. He was familiar with the house and our animals, so we quickly said yes. But we didn't anticipate just how much we would like the little guy, and how inspiring he has been for us. As SOF said, when you look at him with that little injured paw, it makes you sad. But Trypod isn't sad. He is fine--something I realized when the three (and a half) legged kitten launched off the table on top of Abbie, and then chased the 28 pound dog around the living room. I just wish I had video of that.

Abbie, by the way, loves this kitten and plays with him in a really fun and gentle way. The rest of the animals are fine with the little guy (for the most part). We caught this picture of Calvin looking at the visitor.



We are going to have a tough time giving the little guy back to L. He seems to be teaching us something about acceptance and perseverance every day. Plus, he likes to crawl in our laps for naps.

Joel Osteen and his Slapping Wife

Tony has a couple posts on the case of Victoria Osteen, accused of slapping a flight attendant for a stain on her first class seat.

I loathe the commercialized Christianity these two sell (and "sell" is the operative word), but as Tony noted, some of the prospective jurors suggest that they will never have a need for a future lobotomy. So awestruck of the Osteens, several said that they were inclined (heavily) to believe whatever the Preacher and his wife said.
"As a Christian, I wouldn't feel it would be my place to judge them," another prospective female juror said.

I may be sick now.

August 5, 2008

Silly Obama--expecting rational discussion to work in America?

As Dee Dee Myers notes, Americans shouldn't have to check the air in our tires:
"As one of President Bush's spokesman once said, ours is a blessed way of life. And if we want to drive on mushy tires, then dammit, we should be able to drive on mushy tires. Oh, and go shopping. That's the American way."

McCain's campaign

Has reduced itself to simply mocking Obama. Nothing else. Obama is too arrogant, too out of touch, too elitist. Whatever.

Interesting as the accusation used to be that Obama was simply a media creation with no substance beyond his beautiful speeches. Turns out that Obama has much more detail in his proposals than McCain. Don't tell the media. They are still saying that McCain is a "maverick" and that "some people say" that Obama "might be a muslim." Sigh.

The latest effort from Camp McCain has been to ridicule Obama's energy plan. Seems that the Illinois Senator suggested basic maintenance and conservation, including checking those tires to keep them properly inflated (reminds me....). Republicans from Newt to whoever else is on Fox have jumped all over Obama. Of course, they want to "drill now" to, uhm, er, possibly lower your gas prices in many years. Turns out that Obama's common sense approach is far from stupid, it is just more evidence that McCain has no real ideas.
"But who's really out of touch? The Bush Administration estimates that expanded offshore drilling could increase oil production by 200,000 bbl. per day by 2030. We use about 20 million bbl. per day, so that would meet about 1% of our demand two decades from now. Meanwhile, efficiency experts say that keeping tires inflated can improve gas mileage 3%, and regular maintenance can add another 4%. Many drivers already follow their advice, but if everyone did, we could immediately reduce demand several percentage points. In other words: Obama is right."

More on Suskind

As Tony noted, the White House response to Suskind was to call him a "gutter journalist" only interested in selling books. The big news, of course, is the allegation of the WH forging a letter, but there is potentially other problems for Bush and Cheney, namely that
"in early 2003 in secret meetings with British intelligence, Habbush revealed that Iraq in fact did not have weapons of mass destruction. That information was passed on to the CIA. Suskind claims the president wasn't interested in information that contradicted the case for war. After the president was told about Habbush, Suskind quotes Mr. Bush telling an aide, 'Why don't they ask them to give us something we can use to help us make our case?' Suskind writes that Mr. Bush later dismissed Habbush and cut off the channel of communication to the Iraqi intelligence chief. . . .

Froomkin excerpts part of Suskind's prologue which has this description of our President:
Suskind writes about the dilemma "that would come to define America's posture in the world: Bush's powerful confidence in his instinct. It might be called a compensatory strength, making up for other areas of deficit. He's not particularly reflective, doesn't think in large strategic terms, and he's never had much taste for the basic analytical rigors embraced by the modern professional class. What he does is size up people, swiftly -- he trusts his eyes, his ears, his touch -- and act. . . . [His] headlong, impatient energy fueled his rise. . . . It's how Bush -- like many bullies who've risen to great heights -- became the president. Once he landed in the Oval Office, however, he discovered that every relationship is altered, corrupted by the gravitational incongruities between the leader of the free world and everyone else. Everything you touch is velvety, deferential, and flattering. To fight this, presidents have been known to search furiously for the real, for the unfiltered, secretly eavesdropping on focus group sessions far from Washington, arranging Oval Office arguments between top aides -- a Gerald Ford trick -- or ordering policy advisers, as Nixon often did, to tell them something the advisers were sure they didn't want to hear. These men, even with their overweening confidence, embraced a unique kind of humility, recognizing they were in a bubble and fearing they would make historic mistakes.

"Bush, with his distaste for analysis and those who contradict him, didn't go down those paths, and he seemed unconcerned, unlike other presidents, that isolation would prompt errors in judgment. . . . [He was a] man who trusts only what he can touch placed in a realm where nothing he touches is authentic.

"It's a diabolical twist worthy of Sophocles or Shakespeare. Either would have written it as a tragedy. Because, over the years, the bullying presence of Bush -- making things personal without hesitation or limits -- became the face of America. . . . After eventful years and Bush's re-election, the nation and its leader became inseparable, as America, itself, was viewed as angry, reckless, petulant and insecure, spoiled and careless, with a false smile that concealed boiling hostility."

White house behind forgery?

Ron Suskind has a new book out this week that claims White House ordered the forgery of a letter linking Saddam to Al Qaeda. If true, this seems like a big deal to me.

Of course, I thought that torture might actually lead to impeachment, so what in the hell do I know?

August 4, 2008

The liberal media

And I think this is a great example of what we are talking about here. I was just about to post something like this the other day (seriously) but ran out of time/took a nap.

But seriously, as The BRAD BLOG notes, the death of the alleged anthrax killer has been covered without anyone noting the political bent of the attacks. Two of those letters were sent to prominent liberals (Daschle and Leahy in the Senate), a fact that most coverage of the recent suicide failed to mention.

And to be fair, there is a great possibility that this guy was as unhinged as the latest church shooter, and that his "political" was actually "crazy."

But here is the kicker. You tell me (honestly) if the victims had been conservative, and the alleged killer were percieved to be liberal--don't you think that would have led every broadcast and been in every headline? When the media repeats McCain talking points about Obama being too arrogant (because McCain is humble because he repeats "my friends" instead of "um?") don't you think even the so-called liberals in the media would have led off with, "some say that the attacks were politically motivated by liberal hatred of conservative blah blah?"

I think absolutely they all would have. The church shootings in Colorado were explained exactly that way. Columbine was explained that way. But the only time I can remember any discussion of right wing hatred was the OKC bombing. And even that became a defensive effort on the behalf of Limbaugh and his drones.

But now, with a clear opportunity to talk about the political bias of the alleged murderer, and the media omits the question?