December 31, 2008

I guess NY Eve is a busy news day

Who knew?

But I just saw a couple more stories that just begged to be blogged and mocked. Or some of them deserve mocking, like this from Rick Warren who says that the attacks on him are what he calls "Christophobia--people who are afraid of any Christian."

Really? Because I am a Christian and I think Warren is a moron on so many issues. What is it with some Christians that they assume that dislike of their stances equals persecution or attacks on all of Christianity? Isn't that a textbook case of arrogance?

Rick, if you read this blog, know that I am calling you a moron, not all of Christianity. Are we good now?


Speaking of morons, feministing has noted that Dennis Prager seems to think that marital rape doesn't exist.



Heh. Though this was in the last post buried in the story about Bush and Katrina, I have to chuckle at Lawrence Wilkerson's depiction of the Bush Presidency as a "Sarah Palin-like Presidency." The blogosphere is having a lot of fun with the followup question: who is this more insulting to? :)


After the Tomasky list of worst Americans, here is a nice list of progressive intellectuals that make some of us hopeful. My favorites are Rachel Maddow and Chris Hayes.

New Years eve blogging

Just noticed some very interesting news items. First, is Alberto Gonzales' interview with the WSJ where he says he is one of the victims of the war on terror. Sigh.

Michael Tomasky has his top 19 bad Americans for the year. I agree with most on this list, and especially liked these two:
3 George Bush. There were years when he would have been higher - 2000, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007. I'll give him a slight pass for 2001, what with the attacks and all that. In those previous years, he stole an election, started an unnecessary war, lied about it, approved torture, let a great US city drown and so on. This year he merely presided over the bankruptcy of the global economy. Twenty days and counting.

2 Sarah Palin. Does she really deserve to be this high? Never in my adult lifetime has one politician so perfectly embodied everything that is malign about my country: the proto-fascist nativism, the know-nothingism, the utterly cavalier lack of knowledge about the actual principles on which the country was founded. So, heck, you betcha she does!

As for Bush, some of his ex-aides offer their own view of the obvious: that Bush's response to Katrina completely undermined his ability to govern. Assuming he had an ability before that, of course.

I guess the only good thing is that we are under 21 days to the end of this horrible administration.

December 30, 2008


Though moving slow this morning. Long drive yesterday following a couple of other long drives on bad roads. Yesterday's drive was weather free, at least. Just long. It was a good trip and we had a nice time with family in several locations, and had a very nice Christmas with my folks. It was a "white" Christmas as well, with about 10 inches of snow on the ground and quite cold. When we drove back to the Eastern slope (Saturday) we drove most of the mountains in sub-zero temps. Now we are back to warm.


After visiting my folks, we went to Fort Collins to visit my in-laws. I went to high school and a few years of college in that town, so used to know it pretty well. Visiting there is often a bit tricky for me, but never so much as this time. I am not sure why, but the ghosts were really out in abundance this trip. Perhaps the emotions of all the family stuff, I am not sure. I was reminded of the story about the 100 year old composer who referred to the different people he has been during his life, and that kept coming to mind as I drove around my old haunts. I am a completely different person than I was when I lived in Fort Collins, and have no real good way to introduce the Streak of today to the one some would see. It was an odd feeling.


I have been catching up on the news after really being out of the loop for the last week. Tony caught several good stories, including another Wiley Drake idiocy and the RNC chair nominee who sent around the "Barack the Magic Negro" recording (from the Rush Limbaugh show) to help his candidacy. Stay classy, Republicans. Just keep doing what you are doing. As TPM noted, appealing to white racists can't go wrong, right?

Once more with feeling: Virginity pledges don't work - Feministing: "Yet another study shows that teenagers who take virginity pledges are just as likely to have pre-marital sex than non-pledgers. And, naturally, after years of being taught that birth control pills are evil and condoms cause cancer - teens who take virginity pledges are less likely to use contraception when they do have sex."
That is what bothers me about this approach. I have no problem urging and encouraging abstinence, but when it is presented alone, it endangers kids. It isn't just a policy that doesn't work, it actually causes more harm.


Krugman's column is especially good this time. As readers of this blog know, I am increasingly frustrated with the Grover Norquist approach to policy, and believe we are seeing the consequences of a "tax-cut" first economic policy. Our states are in big economic trouble as they are being squeezed on both ends. Federal funds have declined, and their own attacks on taxes has reduced their ability to raise revenue. It all works ok when the economy is flush, but when it is in decline, we are in trouble. Here is hoping that Norquist's brand of destructive policy will be the real casualty of this economic slide.


Finally, just catching up on the Israeli incursion into Gaza. I still don't know what to think of it, though I hate to see any of this. Listened to NPR coming through Wichita and realized that I simply don't trust Israel any more. I completely distrust Hamas, to be sure, but Israel has lost a lot of credibility over the last few years. Add to that the timing which seems clearly because they know that they can bomb anyone they want with George Bush as President, and you can see my discomfort. I support Israel just as I support any sovereign nation's right to defend itself, and truly believe there is a lot of legitimacy to their problems with Hamas, but also think that Israel has not been a completely honest broker in the region of late.


Anyway. Good to be back and hope to hear from people.

December 23, 2008

Light blogging for a while

On the road for a bit, but will be checking in. Hope you all have a Happy, er., or Merry.....


Anyway. Happy Holidays, everyone. And Peace. We need some Peace.

December 19, 2008

But beyond Warren, Obama is doing a lot of other important stuff

While there is much wringing of hands regarding Rick Warren giving a prayer at the inauguration (and yes, I completely understand and share that outrage) Obama has appointed some really serious people to serious positions. John Holdren and Jane Lubchenco are two very serious scientists who not only believe in climate change, but the need to address it. And the Energy secretary nominee, Steven Chu, only has a Nobel Prize in Physics to bring to the table.

His appointments have not been without problems. I don't particularly like the Vilsack nomination for Ag, but the Hilda Solis labor pick looks very solid, and his economic team is not lacking for smarts. Bush nominated mostly friends of his and friends of industry to all the meaningful posts. In terms of science, he nominated people who fought science at every turn, and we will all pay the cost of that. By comparison, Obama's team looks more than impressive.

Not only that, but while he has asked Warren to give a prayer, he has appointed Nancy Sutley, or the first (as far as I know) openly gay person at this level to lead the WH Council on Environmental Quality. As Upper Left's Shaun (who has a much more personal connection to this than I realized) put it,
I'll save my outrage for policy matters.

I completely understand BB's and Leighton's very legitimate outrage for the Warren nod. As I posted in the comments, Publius made the point that Obama may (and he admits may) accomplish one tiny thing--the elevation of an evangelical leader who does not spend all his time bashing liberals. That could have very important long-term possibilities for progressives.

Anyway, 31 days left in this disastrous administration. Keep the faith, people.

Recent comments not working right

And I have no idea why. I added the same widget that is working fine on Tony's blog, but mine all show from earlier this year. If you are interested in following a comment thread, I suggest either clicking that "have responses emailed to me" or subscribe to the individual comment rss feed.

December 18, 2008


Not that you knew I was gone. Not really "gone" but rather sick. Monday night, I felt fine, and then woke up with a slight sore throat and congested head. Slept most of Tuesday and then felt truly awful all day Wednesday. So congested that I could hardly breathe. This morning, I feel a little better. Still a bit woozy, prone to sneezing fits, and not back completely, but certainly better than yesterday. Had coffee this morning for the first time since Monday, and might even leave the house.


Catching up on the news after a few days in the fog, a few items caught my eye. First, Tony's post on Rick Warren and torture. This strikes me as the quintessential conservative evangelical approach. Warren says that he opposes torture, but never said anything to Bush about it, because it never came up, and he doesn't address "policy issues" with the Presidents. Torture, after all, is just another "policy issue," not a moral issue. Warren did discuss abortion with Obama, but couldn't be bothered to say to the President, "hey, do you know that torture is immoral?" I hate to be a broken record, but this is exactly how most conservative evangelicals seem to have approached torture with this president. It is not impressive, and in fact, is quite disconcerting for those claiming to care about moral values.


Oh, and it turns out that Obama tapped this same Warren to lead the Inauguration prayer. I know that many liberals and progressives are profoundly disappointed with this. I am too. Warren strikes me as a very dishonest person who is more interested in being the heir to Dobson and Robertson than actually representing the gospel. But I will say that I have a certain respect for Obama continuing to reach out to people who endorsed McCain.

But Warren's ignorance and intolerance is rather shocking. Evidently, he thinks that those Christians who care about social justice are actually marxists. He also believes that gay people, even his gay friends, have relationships that are just like child rape, incest or polygamy.

I hope Obama knows what he is doing.


Meanwhile still-President Bush seems to be heading out as clueless as he came in. His response to a question about al Qaeda coming into Iraq only after the invasion was "so what?" As Sully notes, a perfect summation of his "entire, cosseted, spoiled, rich-kid attitude."

Meanwhile, Cheney admits to, and defends authorizing torture, and I believe in the same interview essentially admitted that even if the intel had shown that Saddam had no wmd, we still would have gone to war. What does it matter that they lied to us about getting into the war? What does it matter that they really didn't care if we went into war as an informed public?


I think that is all I can muster this morning.

December 14, 2008

Wow, maybe Iraqis don't like Bush as much as he thinks

Talking Points Memo | Bush Dodges Shoes Thrown by Iraqi Journalist

Watching the video, I am pretty impressed with Bush's reactions. And while it might just be his perpetual smirk, it appears he is rather amused to have a shoe thrown at him. His joke about it being a size 10 shoe is about the best response this President has had to anything in his Presidency.

Torture and justice

As I have said here many times, nothing over the last 8 years has dismayed me more than our President's decision to torture others in our name. If anything has dismayed me more, it has been the accompanying silence from those evangelicals who in other areas exert a moral authority informed by their faith. I was convinced they would respond to torture, and I was amazed that they did not.

I still recall the Clinton impeachment years, when the Republicans pushed the procedure through over the objections of the American people and shouted "rule of law" over and over. I certainly commend their dedication to that law, but stand by amazed as the same people who were willing to bring the country to a standstill over Clinton's sexual indiscretion and his subsequent juvenile lying about said indiscretion--now stand by as our still President Bush has authorized torture over and over and over again. This week, we saw the understandable uproar over Balgojevich's brazen corruption, but as Daniel Larison points out, the political class seems to think that bribery is more important than torture:
Even so, am I the only one who finds it absolutely crazy that anyone is this concerned about Obama’s answers on Blagojevich when we have just had a Senate report released that confirms that the highest levels of the current administration were implicated in and responsible for serious violations of the law? This is the sort of thing that some people have insisted not be investigated and prosecuted during the next administration’s tenure for various unpersuasive reasons, and not least because of the concern that it would appear to be a partisan witch-hunt. Obviously, we are not concerned about such appearances in Blagojevich’s case, because we think it important to enforce the law here, so why not enforce it when the crimes involved are far more serious and there are far greater breaches of the public trust?

He is not the only one puzzled by our willingness to just let torture go. Hat tip to my friend Bootleg Blogger for pointing me to this Bill Moyers interview with Glenn Greenwald. Greenwald argues that we have just reinforced a two-tiered criminal system. Average Americans could expect severe punishment for breaking the law, but George Bush, Dick Cheney and the crew of tyranny should not be punished for their massive attack on our values.
"We have a law in place that says it is a felony offense punishable by five years in prison or a $10,000 fine to eavesdrop on American citizens without warrants. We have laws in place that say that it is a felony punishable by decades in prison to subject detainees in our custody to treatment that violates the Geneva Conventions or that is inhumane or coercive.

We know that the president and his top aides have violated these laws. The facts are indisputable that they've done so. And yet as a country, as a political class, we're deciding basically in unison that the president and our highest political officials are free to break the most serious laws that we have, that our citizens have enacted, with complete impunity, without consequences, without being held accountable under the law."

The interview is worth the watch, and raises questions we should all ask. My conversations with friends on the conservative side suggest that we never will.

December 12, 2008

Friday morning stuff

I have a few things going for the weekend. Need to finish some stuff for school today, and am smoking some pork shoulder for a little shindig tonight. Bought the materials to make a lovely Anchor style Porter.


The news this week was dominated by the Blogojevich scandal, and somewhat rightly so. Certainly his corruption is ridiculous and truly scandalous, and I, for one, hope that he is punished for it. This is not even close to what good government should look like.

But Blago (as the blogs are shortening him) wasn't the only news. As I am sure you all saw, Republican Senators (including the Oklahoma delegation) killed a possible bailout for the auto-industry yesterday. On one hand, I am quite sympathetic to their concerns. I heard Tom Coburn say that the money would not solve the problem, and I am not sure he is wrong.

But on the other hand, this appears to be a strong push by conservatives to kill the unions, and that bothers me tremendously. What is more vexing, I think, is the double standard (or triple) regarding oversight and spending. Here, Republicans are raising a stink about $14 billion for the auto industry because they want the unions to push through wage cuts for workers. Where was that for the banking industry? Did I miss that? Did I miss them calling on wage reductions for investment brokers?

What is more, the amazing gall of Republicans complaining about $14 billion dollars here, when they completely looked the other way as Bush sunk nearly a trillion dollars in Iraq and helped the administration fight oversight and accountability efforts. 9 billion of that money just disappeared. Republicans fought efforts to oversee Haliburton on every front. So please don't lecture me on fiscal responsibility, ok?

What is more, it is becoming increasingly impossible to suggest that Republicans care about anything beyond protecting those already wealthy Americans.


Finally, during my drive to my guitar lesson yesterday (double-stops in G and D), I heard the tail end of a story on American composer Elliott Carter, who, at 100 years old, is still writing new and original music. Unbelievable. But I loved most this comment about how his work and self have changed over the years:
"'You know, the different pieces at different times of my life,' Carter says, 'you know we're all different people at different times. We change a good deal. And that's the way you have to accept it and think of it.'"
"We are all different people at different times." I like that. I certainly feel like a different person than the 20 year old version.

Have a great weekend.

December 10, 2008

One-string Willy

This is pretty impressive.

Mike Huckabee the face of conservatism?

I think he wants to be that. Last night, he was on the Daily Show and had a spirited two-part exchange with Jon Stewart. During the first part, they discussed the conservative philosophy toward government, with Huckabee suggesting that conservatives need to stress "good government" (true) and less government. His "less" part, however was problematic as he suggested that less government is only possible if people are willing to self-govern and do the right thing. But his own experience from Arkansas, he admitted, was the good people wanting all those bureaus and agencies to keep the bad people in line. In other words, the good people are already trying to do the right thing, so less government can only occur if the bad people also try. Which seems contradictory. Circular, even.

The second half centered on gay marriage. Jon handled the entire interview very well and pointed out the real flaws in Huckabee's argument. The most annoying for me, was Huckabee's assertion that marriage as we know it now, is what marriage has been for 5,000 years. Disagree with gay marriage all you want, but arguing that marriage has been some static institution is simply ignorant. As Jon pointed out, you go back 5,000 years and you have polygamous marriages as the norm. Marriage is not a religious rite until a 1000 years into the common era, and in that entire time you have a lot of marriage that is about economics, property, slavery, and other variations where individual parties had no choice in the matter. Pretending that marriage has been one thing is the worst possible argument against gay marriage.

If Huckabee is the face, I see the right getting more socially conservative and moving farther right. Not good, in my mind, for either the GOP or the country as a whole.

December 9, 2008

Bush's exit strategy: Do as much damage on the way out as possible

Crooks and Liars headline was better than anything I could come up with.

It does amaze me. The economy is in shambles, foreign policy falling apart, and Bush is busy telling people that he has actually been a good President and then gutting regulations and environmental safety as fast as he can.

Couple of us were joking about him yesterday and wondering if any of these interviewers might just lose their cool talking to Bush and blurt out something honest. You know, like "how does it feel to be the very worst President in the last 100 years?"

Um, no

The LA Times has a memo passed around Bush's admin with talking points for his legacy. You know, saying that he kept us safe, and responded to the economic problems with "bold measures," and bragging about his tax cuts. But my favorite:
"'Above all, George W. Bush promised to uphold the honor and the dignity of his office. And through all the challenges and trials of his time in office, that is a charge that our president has kept.'"
Um, no. There is nothing dignified about this man, and just to put it simply, honorable people don't torture. It isn't very complicated.


Everyone knows that corruption and stupidity are not unique to this administration nor to the GOP. And today, we get news that Democratic Governor Rod Blagojevich has been arrested by the FBI. Looks like he was so stupid he thought he could sell Obama's Senate seat for actual money for him and his wife.



But back to Bush. The Daily Show interview last night was with the former interrogator who argues that our torture has been counter-productive and he was able to get valuable information by building relationships with even actual terrorists. This morning, I heard this story on Maher Arar, (we have blogged about him before) who was accused by the US of being in al-Qaeda and sent to Syria to be tortured by them. This process is called "extraordinary rendition," and to be absolutely fair, the Clinton administration did some of this too. In their case, they at least officially required that the receiving country have a warrant on the person, and that they not torture. They did not send suspects to countries like, well, Syria, because they knew that country had a lousy human rights record and was likely to torture. The Bush people sent Maher Arar there anyway, and Arar recounts how the Syrians beat him with 2 inch electrical cables. He wants some legal recognition from our government of what we did to him, and I hope he gets it.

Our government did that to him, and to countless others. They tortured in our name, or sent people to torturing countries to be tortured. This is horrific, and still amazing that George Bush sees himself as a person of honor.

He is not honorable, and he has dishonored all of us. We can fight evil without becoming evil. We can do better than we have this last 8 years.

We must.

December 7, 2008

Live music tonight

Tonight, we went to hear Slaid Cleaves play at our little local venue. This was my fourth time, and SOF's second, and both of us agree it was one of our favorite shows. His songs often look at people down on their luck, or those who made bad decisions. His big hit from years ago, "Broke Down" has one of my favorite lyrics:
Baby in the back seat, and another on the way,
Sherry thinks of Billy at the end of every day,
Spends her nights waiting for real life to start,
Listening to the sound of her double crossed heart.

His songs are very good, and his old Gibson sounds great, and his rhythm guy was also great, but the best thing about Slaid Cleaves is his voice. One of the best I have ever heard.

There is just something magical about that live music experience, and we sometimes forget that.

December 5, 2008

December 4, 2008

Shorter George Bush: 'My regret is that other people failed me'

As Jon Stewart refers to the Still President Bush, the man is the gift that keeps on giving. There are many things about this interview that will make you sad, but one of the clear failings of this man is not a new one. We have known since his early days in the White House ("joyful" days, according to the man) that he is incapable of admitting error.

This is a character issue, and certainly not the only one I take issue with this man, but this is a big one. Good people are able to admit their weaknesses and their errors. This isn't complicated. This is as basic as what you all learned before Kindergarten. We all learned this lesson.

Except Bush. And most amazingly, many of those people who learned it about themselves, somehow, someway gave Bush a "get out jail free" card on this failing. People who would never tolerate such arrogance in their spouse, or their colleagues, or church mates--somehow just looked the other way or even applauded as this man refused to even acknowledge error. For some reason, they turned this into a virtue.

It is not. It is arrogance.

America's Godly Heritage

For the umpteenth time. Or so it seems.

I saw this exchange at Bruce's blog about Dr. Robert Jeffress' misconceptions about American and Baptist history. This seemed an odd coincidence since I had just discovered Pastor Jeffress after a friend of mine told me about a sermon on evolution that made some good points. I found that to not be true, but in the meantime, I found that the good Pastor has a lot of opinions. He told his people that they had to vote for a Christian, and that meant a real Christian, not some fake Christian. Hmm. Since both candidates in the last election said they were Christian, I wonder which one he thought was fake? His other insightful points about voting were all about gays and abortion, so I am pretty sure he has decided, in his infinite knowledge, that Obama is the fake.

Nice. But that seems par for the course. I listened to half of the evolution sermon (it's a two parter)--just enough to hear the good Pastor bash liberals, scientists, and pretty any one who doesn't see the Bible as he does. Reminds me of this great Sojo post about Christians who seem to take pride in their ability and willingness to insult and alienate people who disagree with them. Pastor Jeffress is certainly proud of that, or seems that way. His sermon on evolution was filled with half-truths, rhetorical cheats, and rather juvenile shots at people, well, like me.

But back to this seemingly endless argument about our Christian heritage. Over the years, I have had numerous arguments with people about this idea. My own historical specialty is not Colonial or Revolutionary America, though I studied those eras and have taught on that period. I even read extensively on religion during this time and can tell you that it is a complicated and contested mess. A mess, in which Christianity plays a pretty big role.

But here is the kicker. That role is both good and bad. For some of the good, they are also involved in some of the worst that early America had to give us. Slavery, oppression of women, mistreatment and wars against Indians--and the list goes on. Those who want to claim America as a Christian nation should rethink what they want to take credit for.

And that is where the entire discussion avoids history. Most of this David Bartonesque argument can be summarized as a quote war. They quote John Winthrop, John Jay, and Patrick Henry. Liberals quote Jefferson and John Adams. Big deal. In our own political context, we have annual announcements by politicians about our Christian nation status. What the hell does that tell us? Either way?

As my friend Anglican is fond of saying, how about asking if we actually lived like a Christian nation? Were we Christian when we imported millions of African slaves, and our economy relied on either slave trade, or slave produced goods?

  • Were we Christian when we "civilized" Indian tribes and then dispossessed them of their lands? Or when we placed them on reservations?

  • Were we Christian during the Industrial revolution when we treated immigrant workers like slaves? Or when we placed children in mines and factories?

  • Were we when we abolished Slavery only to institute a vicious two-tiered social system that kept African Americans on the bottom, kept there by social rules and night terror? Or when African Americans went off to war in WWI only to come back to repeated lynchings? Or WWII where they had less freedom in parts of America than German POWs?

    There are a lot of good too. Some Christians played a strong role in the early feminist movement, and led the way in the effort to abolish slavery. Some Christians objected to child-labor and led on the "settlement house" movement to provide assistance for immigrant women and children. Some Christians worked very hard, and laid their lives on the line for Civil Rights.

    But in each of those situation, Christians were also on the other side. People like Dr. Jeffress tend to forget that or minimize them as "a product of sin." Just as they, today, minimize the role that their most recent Christian president played in authorizing dehumanizing, immoral, and illegal torture of untold hundreds of suspected terrorists. Were we Christian when we did that?

    I don't think so. But I am sure we can find a whole list of quotes from the torturers about their deep devotion to their Christian faith. Does that tell us anything about torture?

    I don't think so.
  • December 2, 2008

    The cause of our economic woes

    I think Andrew Bacevich may be more right than anyone, in blaming all of us for wanting to live beyond our collective means, but I also think that a big part of our problem is the faith that says markets are all knowing. Don't get me wrong. I think markets can be wise in certain ways. But self-interest and greed are not always the best ways to make decisions, and we all know that in our own personal lives. Why we think that should govern an economy is beyond me. Grover Norquist (famous for wanting government small enough to drown in a bathtub) now blames the crisis on the 2006 election, and says the economy melted down because the market senses upcoming tax hikes. The man is a moron, so we should not take him seriously even though he is a prominent advisor to the Republican leadership.

    But this hands-off approach to the economy was not a good thing, and I don't know why people argue that. You can arguably squelch an economy with too much regulation and taxation, I will concede, but you can also create economic chaos by not bothering to keep an eye on those with economic power. Yesterday, we learned (to no one's shock here at the blog) that Bush was warned about this, but chose to listen to the wolves rather than guard the henhouse:
    "The Bush administration backed off proposed crackdowns on no-money-down, interest-only mortgages years before the economy collapsed, buckling to pressure from some of the same banks that have now failed. It ignored remarkably prescient warnings that foretold the financial meltdown, according to an Associated Press review of regulatory documents."
    As we have said many times. Our choices are not between socialism and a free market. Our choice is to engage in our economy and keep an informed eye it. That means that just as businesspeople don't just assume their workers will do a good job, we don't assume that corporate and business leaders have the same interest as the consumer or the worker. History has taught us that.

    December 1, 2008

    Because he is still President

    We have to keep talking about the worst president ever. And I mean that. The economy is crumbling around our ears, his vaunted War on Terror amping up in India, and what is our President doing?

    Of course you know that, because he is not only a bad president, but actually a shitty one (technical term), he is busy gutting environmental regulations and workplace safety, even as you are thinking, "didn't he already do that?" His Labor department is planning on making it much harder for government to regulate toxic substances and limit worker exposure. And that isn't all:
    "The Labor Department rule is among many that federal agencies are poised to issue before Mr. Bush turns over the White House to Mr. Obama.

    One rule would allow coal companies to dump rock and dirt from mountaintop mining operations into nearby streams and valleys. Another, issued last week by the Health and Human Services Department, gives states sweeping authority to charge higher co-payments for doctor’s visits, hospital care and prescription drugs provided to low-income people under Medicaid. The department is working on another rule to protect health care workers who refuse to perform abortions or other procedures on religious or moral grounds."
    Who needs clean water? Another rule would make it easier to build power plants near national parks and wilderness areas. It is literally as if Bush has not done enough damage to our environment. Evidently, that is what he thinks should be his priority before the change of power to the next admin. Heckuva Job, there Bushie!

    And less we forget the other great legacy of this President, this, from an interrogator in Iraq about our torturing administration. And this is not some lefty anti-war person. He helped get the intelligence that got us Zarqawi. but he is still haunted by what he saw in Iraq--from our side. This section caught my eye:
    I know the counter-argument well -- that we need the rough stuff for the truly hard cases, such as battle-hardened core leaders of al-Qaeda, not just run-of-the-mill Iraqi insurgents. But that's not always true: We turned several hard cases, including some foreign fighters, by using our new techniques. A few of them never abandoned the jihadist cause but still gave up critical information. One actually told me, "I thought you would torture me, and when you didn't, I decided that everything I was told about Americans was wrong. That's why I decided to cooperate."

    Torture and abuse are against my moral fabric. The cliche still bears repeating: Such outrages are inconsistent with American principles. And then there's the pragmatic side: Torture and abuse cost American lives.

    I learned in Iraq that the No. 1 reason foreign fighters flocked there to fight were the abuses carried out at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. Our policy of torture was directly and swiftly recruiting fighters for al-Qaeda in Iraq. The large majority of suicide bombings in Iraq are still carried out by these foreigners. They are also involved in most of the attacks on U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq. It's no exaggeration to say that at least half of our losses and casualties in that country have come at the hands of foreigners who joined the fray because of our program of detainee abuse. The number of U.S. soldiers who have died because of our torture policy will never be definitively known, but it is fair to say that it is close to the number of lives lost on Sept. 11, 2001. How anyone can say that torture keeps Americans safe is beyond me -- unless you don't count American soldiers as Americans.

    Elections matter. Oh do they matter.

    Christmas Letter Hell

    It is that time of year. Despite all the War on Christmas nonsense, I love this time of year. I love the cooler weather, the shorter days, the decorations and lights, and even the sounds and smells of Christmas. I love it all.

    And I generally love the Christmas cards (especially since we are so very inconsistent on sending out ours). But with all due respect to the Christmas letter writers out there, some of you should not. I know, I know. I should not use the word "should." But some people are a danger to others.

    Certainly not all. I have a completely arbitrary and subjective system for evaluating letters. Good, meh, and BAD.

    In the Good category, I have to say (and this is not just because she reads here) are my mother's letters. Scrupulously fair in mentions and praise of relatives, brief in text, and completely lacking in bragging. My Texas friend's parents are similar. Brief, in an impressive sort of way, and then a little explanation of their travels or movement during the year, then salutation and a picture. Most of their discussion is about the grandkids--not always stuff I am terribly interested in, but certainly understandable and within the rules. My rules, of course.

    Meh. New popular blog word (just got into the dictionary, I heard) and describes a mediocre feeling about something. That clearly describes a lot of Christmas letters we get. They don't insult me, nor do they excite me. They are informative, often pretty, and usually with pictures. Sometimes, these letters are marked down for not including pictures of the adults--which in some cases, means that we have a picture of the only people in that family that we have never met and do not know.

    Bad. Oh my. Bad letters have sub-categories, though all are measured against the Baddest of the Bad, or infamous letters from a female church member when I was in high school and college. I would dare that her letters are still famous. Hers were long and wordy. That isn't always a bad thing, but when those numerous words are used as she did. . . Oh my. Each year, the entire church community was treated to rather detailed and lengthy discussions of her latest illness and procedures. Not necessarily graphic, but close enough to make you shudder. The year SOF and I married, her Christmas letter mentioned that several people had weddings that year, but her son's was clearly the best.

    I don't know a person from that time who didn't wince when they saw that letter in their mail.

    Some are Bad in the "Our family is better than your family" way. One family was very nice, and I liked them very much. But their Christmas letters are a list of successes, job promotions, prize-winning grandkids, and new houses. I still remember the description of one of the weddings in a mansion on a hill. Sigh. Reading their letter made us feel like failures.

    Others seem to have the "let me use this Christmas letter to send a political message." I still remember a former friend sending a letter in the 90s that mocked the Clinton administration. Perhaps he really thought all of his Christmas list voted Republican. I don't know. Everyone here knows that SOF and I are very pleased with the last election, but we would not send out a gloating Obama Christmas letter as we know that a good portion of our Christmas card list voted for McCain. That isn't so complicated, is it?

    We just received a similar letter. Not exactly Republican propaganda, but to put it in perspective, to keep up, I would have to send out our Christmas letter (assuming we do one this year) mocking creationism, or taking on David Barton. Sigh.

    Perhaps there is no general rule. Everyone has their own goal for sending out a letter. But I don't think that is the place for a political ax, or something in the "too much information" category. They should not make you feel bad.

    That seems simple enough.