Sunday, December 23, 2007

Founding "Christians"

In response to Mitt Romney's speech about his faith, in which he said freedom requires faith, an anonymous writer noted Romney didn't mention nonbelievers, but then said, "We were founded by believing Christians."

That comment and this response ended up in my inbox.:

Not really. We were founded by people with a broad range of beliefs, from extremely Christian to complete atheists. The Founding Fathers were generally products of the Enlightenment, which encouraged skepticism and free thought.

Many of the most famous considered themselves "Deists", who believed in some sort of vague supreme being, but openly doubted the literal truth of Christian dogma. Almost to a man, they made statements which would render them completely unelectable today. Samples here.

In many ways, religious debate reached its peak of maturity around the time our nation was founded, and has been going downhill ever since.

Red loafers? Gotta go

I love a bit of irony. Franco Zeffirelli, gay man and respected film director, who knew over-the-top costuming, has offered to be the fashion consultant to the pope. He says the pope's vestments are too cold, sumptuous and showy. But these are more sober times and high-tailored church wear is not appropriate. Benedict has been known to wear red loafers and a red velvet cape with ermine trim. If Zeffirelli thinks Benny's outfits are too much, he'd better listen.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Harnessing fear on the campaign trail

A big article in Newsweek about how fear is used in campaigning. Since fear kept cavemen from being the tiger's dinner. It was better for the caveman to react to fear than to use reason to see if a response to fear was appropriate, which means we respond to fear much more readily to logic. As well as guiding us to safety, fear is very good at goading us to the ballot box.

Problems such as global warming and maxed out Social Security are too diffuse, too far in the future, and too foreign to our caveman brain to trigger a fear response. Dwelling on a problem for too long will also drain it of its fear response, as is happening with the War on Terror.

Images invoke a fearful response much more readily than words, though simple words that don't deal in abstract ideas are still pretty effective. Crude uses of fear may drive people away from the intended candidates. At times of great fear people will cling not to life, but to ideals they want perpetuated after they are gone. Terrorize a liberal and he may vote to ensure liberal ideas.

Fear without hope tends to not work (in the same way as hope without fear). Saying, "The bad guys are going to attack again," won't work. Saying, "The bad guys want to attack again and I'm the one to stop them," will.

What do you mean you don't know?

A big news story that nobody will cover: For the 11th year in a row (about the time Clinton started balancing the budget) the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) cannot offer an opinion on the financial status of the government. Essentially that means the gov't financial records are such a mess that there is no way to tell exactly what is happening to the government's money. There are three sources of problems: (1) Department of Defense, (2) money shared between agencies, (3) inability to create consolidated financial statements. One thing that is clear is the government debt has gone up by $32 trillion (yep, with a "t"), or 150%, since Bush took office. Those that were all over Clinton's case on fiscal responsibility have been silent since Bush took office. Your individual share of the total $52 trillion debt is: $175,000.

We're Cool with That

We have laws that protect juvenile offenders, even those who commit murder, from abuse and severe penalties. Yet we don't have laws that protect gay kids from bullying, which can be severe enough for the kids to consider suicide. Being gay is a crime worse than murder. And it is the people who profess a book that is the last word on love, compassion, and mercy. A European organization of gay youth met last week to develop guidelines for schools to become more gay-friendly. A prominent poster shows 3 teen boys with the headline, "He's Gay and We're Cool with That." Alas, it isn't an American campaign.

Find the commentary here.


Newsweek has been doing articles on all the Prez candidates. This time it is John Edwards. The article didn't strike me as revealing any new, profound truths, so I'll let you read it for yourself.


Campaign news in Between the Lines (alas, no link):

Barack Obama said that as president he would have his attorney general review Bush's executive orders and "anything undermining civil liberties, or overreaching I will overturn it with a stroke of a pen."

It is good to hear a candidate talk about it. Alas, he is only the second (the first being Hillary).


Most memorable quotes of 2007. A sample.

7. "I'm not going to get into a name-calling match with somebody (Vice President Dick Cheney) who has a 9 percent approval rating."
-- Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat.

Find the rest here.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007


Schadenfreude is a German word that means taking delight in another's misfortune. With Huckabee leading in the polls in Iowa we now have Huckenfreude, the delight that the GOP might get stuck with this dude. For 30 years the general idea was that the GOP candidates were supposed to pander to the religious right, not come from there. The right was to be a bunch of cicadas -- rise up every 4 years, elect their guy, and go to sleep. And now they must contend with Huck:

But now the holy-rolling monster the GOP's Dr. Frankensteins have created has thrown off the shackles, fled the lab, and is currently leading in Iowa. And the party doesn't know what to do.

The columnists of the libertarian branch of the GOP, those who want to keep government out of the lives of citizens (and out of the way of business), have lots of outrage and hyperventilation about Huck being in the lead. Well, guys, you made your bed… Here's a summary in the Huffington Post of the weeping and wailing. Enjoy your Huckenfreude while you can.

This just might be a great season for quotes.

“Unless Moses comes down with two stone tablets from Brokeback Mountain to tell us something different, we need to keep that understanding of marriage."
-- Mike Huckabee

"Let's understand what sin means -- sin means missing the mark. … The mark is that we have marriage -- men and women, they marry, they create children, and they train their replacements and you have a future generation then that creates their replacements and trains them. That's the mark. If we didn't have that as the ideal, we wouldn't have a civilization that was able to perpetuate."
-- Mike Huckabee

Though not a formal part of any denomination (including Huckabee's own Southern Baptist) this second quote is a part of the heterosexual imperative, marriage imperative, and procreation imperative. And Huck believes them all. In summary: It is a sin to be non-Christian (well, duh! They get to define the term!). It is a sin to be homosexual. It is a sin to be single (in spite of St. Paul's urge to remain single if you can) unless you become a priest or nun, because otherwise your urges will lead you astray. Since you have to get married, it is a sin to not have as many children as God might choose to bless you with. And if everyone sins, everyone fails to do all these things, than we won't have any more babies and Western Civilization will collapse.

Scan into the comments and we get more of Huck's beliefs. Though the government has to maintain the separation of Church and State, the people don't have to. That means that morality and religious beliefs can be decided by the majority. No one may restrict the religious rights of the majority but the majority has every right to restrict the religious rights of any minority. Huck would make Bush look like a wimp. Tyranny of the Majority? Never heard of it.

Here's the first strip in a series in Doonesbury in which Bush and an aide talk about Huckabee.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Bishop Gene Robinson and the future of the church

I've just finished the book Going to Heaven: The Life and Election of Bishop Gene Robinson by Elizabeth Adams, published Sept. 1, 2006. Though, on occasion, it seems it goes into a bit too much detail it all serves to show how much of a non-event his rise to bishop was to New Hampshire and such a big event to the rest of the world. He had already served as bishop's assistant for over 15 years and his faith and manner of working was already well known throughout the state. Reading it has been a needed antidote to the Right's nonsense, even when the book itself documents how the Right is using Robinson to split the church. Here are some thoughts from the book.

Robinson was asked what it was like to be at the center of something that caused so much pain, confusion, and anger. He responded that Jesus did the same and that it was the churchy types, the Pharisees and Sadducees, who were angry. But the same statements that angered them sounded like good news to those on the margins. Bishops on the Right are angry with Robinson, but his new position is wonderful news to the gays who feel pushed away by the church.

The bible is the primary guide to faith, over experience, tradition, and reason. It is the description of God's love affair with humans. It needs to be weighed against historical understanding and then discussed in a community because it is so easy to make the bible say what we want it to say. This discernment is necessary but not easy. The bible must be taken seriously, but not literally. Easy to say the bible is literally true or not true at all. But each verse must be seen in the context of the whole. You can't raise one verse in importance. Saying one verse is no longer important doesn't bring the whole thing crashing down.

If the bible needs that much discussion and interpretation how do you know how to live your life? Never mind that we are notoriously bad at actually following the bible's directions. In terms of a particular verse, you don't know how to live. The certainty comes in knowing that heaven is there for you. Like the prodigal son, before we have a chance to tell God, "I'm sorry," he'll have the ring on our finger and have ordered up a party. Salvation doesn't depend on getting each verse interpreted correctly. So we read the bible to understand what God is saying to us, and we as a community might disagree on that.

Since we are going to heaven we can take risks, we can think extravagantly about what the church should be. But the church rarely takes risks. It should be about so much more than survival. Churches want to emulate Christ but don't seem to want to get their hands dirty.

As for his opponents, Robinson says they don't seem happy. The Good News hasn't made them joyful. But he needs to satisfy God and his own heart and conscience, not his opponents. Is he a spiritual leader or deceived by the devil? Look at his work, the people he ministers to.

The Anglican Communion worldwide says that homosexuality will divide the church. This one thing is more important than creeds millennia old? Than a baptismal covenant? Than the Trinity? This one thing trumps all that and more? We can still commune together even while we wrestle with the issues. African bishops are increasingly saying that, no they can't commune while they disagree and the only acceptable way to resolve it is to do it their way.

Reasons why homosexuality is a hot-button issue: It (and women's ordination) mark the end of patriarchy. It is painful for straight white males to give up power. The worldwide church sees Americans as cheeky upstarts partly because of many other things America is doing (Iraq) and the general low regard for America. Society and culture have changed so much and so quickly (and in a secular direction) that there is a hunger by some people for something that doesn't change, that can't change, and a literalist interpretation of the bible is one thing that can remain absolute (at least in the eyes of today's literalists).

African bishops are the most vocal against gays. A good deal of that is the culture they are in. Africa hasn't had its Stonewall moment yet. The culture still considers homosexuality taboo. The Christian church is always looking over its shoulder at Islam, which also bans gays. They can't be seen as espousing Western values.

Up through about 1960 Episcopalians (and many other denominations) had no trouble living with a broad range of views, from conservative to progressive, within one church community. This was at a time, however, when Christianity was the dominant religion in America and was pretty much the big background presence in all public life. Two Supreme Court rulings changed that: banning prayer in public schools and Roe v. Wade. Having lost it's grip the Right could no longer be tolerant of any ideas but its own. Takeover is the goal and schism (or threat of it) is one way to increase their influence. The efforts have been slow, but relentless. I, of course, see it in the United Methodist Church where, next April at General Conference, for the first time membership standards will be debated (and the only reason to have standards at all is to exclude certain people).

How do we know if a change to doctrine is valid? Does it increase understanding of God? Liberate our spirit to be more in the image of Christ? Make us more compassionate, just, living, and free? If so, it is of God.

When faced with another issue of inclusion the church uses the same rhetoric and same delaying tactics. Robinson and New Hampshire stirred the hornets because they didn't delay. For every step forward someone does it and the church (and society) figures out it is okay. We can't wait for everyone to believe it is okay before doing it. The real issue isn't theology, but power. We form groups of people like ourselves and want them to remain that way with control in the hands of the insiders. And we'll do some nasty things to maintain that exclusion and control.

Robinson took part in a debate on the topic of gay clergy, talking about how God had worked in his life. As he spoke the audience hung on every word. The next debater talked about how rules need to be maintained and the proper way of doing things was to change the rules. The audience turned him off. Religion must dialogue with its own culture. The church is dying because it is in thrall with the past. For example, many people, including men, don't want to be a part of a church that degrades women. The church makes itself irrelevant.

Some people think religion is about rules and if it weren't for the rules the human spirit, a wild and snarling animal, could not control its passions and would pounce the moment you turned your eye. Civilization would crumble. This rulebook comes with promises attached -- follow the rules and you get the prize. It's a white-knuckle ride, always fearful that you'll mess it up just before the finish line. This rulebook has the added benefit of putting the brakes on change and defining who is "in" and who is "out." But it alienates the religion from society and science. It tends not to attract converts, in spite of the primary task being the Great Commission -- go and make converts.

Others think religion is about "Look at the gifts God gives us!" If we accept God's love we learn to love ourselves and those around us. It releases creative energy, it breaks the bonds of slavery, sets captives free, restores sight to the blind. It is about Hope. It deals with ambiguities and uncertainty, a guide to the current life as well as the next one. This religion supports the spirituality of people turned off by religion. It supports attempts to eliminate the barriers between people, racism, homophobia, environmental degradation, social injustice. The primary task is the Great Commandment -- love one another. I believe in this church.

The book is worth the read.

Since the book was published, the issue of homosexuality has indeed begun to divide the church. Many individual Episcopal churches have withdrawn from the American structure and have associated themselves with Anglican bishops in Africa or South America. And a week ago, the San Joaquin Diocese in central California, all of the churches in that region, voted to leave the Episcopal Church USA. A commentator theorizes this is the first visible sign of the Second Reformation that began with the Stonewall Riots, a small act similar to Martin Luther nailing his list to the church door. It will split denominations as completely as the Reformation split the Catholic Church. He notes that in all other issues -- slavery, divorce, diet, women's issues -- no church now relies strictly on the bible for its understanding. It has allowed the influence of culture. The only issue still under sola scriptura, in which the only source of truth is the bible, is homosexuality.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Nothing up my sleeve

There's a lot of news about tapes of torture having been destroyed by the CIA. There is a reason why those tapes are important. A defendant can have evidence thrown out if such evidence was obtained through torture. But the defendant must prove that torture was involved. Destroy the tapes, no more evidence of torture. Along with news of the tapes is news of how torture was handled. The military or contract grunts didn't decide on their own who got "enhanced interrogation techniques." Each case needed approval from very high up the chain of command -- such as from Bush himself. Congress wants to investigate. Attorney General Mukasey is stalling, saying he wants to avoid, "any perception that our law enforcement decisions are subject to political influence." Huh? Such political influence has been obvious for a long time, it's what drove his predecessor from the job. The AG is supposed to be cleaning up that influence, not protecting it.

Everyone's a team player

I also wrote about how the military is being made more Evangelical. The next step is to make the military more political. Starting with the JAG (military judges), who've been needling Bush about Guantanemo, promotions will now depend on whether the officer is a team player in Bush's world. This idea had been fully implemented before -- by Leon Trotsky as he converted a Bolshevik military to something suitable for the Communists. Will the Democrats work to undo all this imperialism? Will they simply live with a military loyal to Bush? Or will they turn it to their own ends?

Only 9

A few days ago I wrote about the US House and their resolution that declares how important Christmas is. Here's a look at it that is much more dire. Though 40 Democrats boycotted the vote and another 10 merely voted "present" only 9 stood up for the First Amendment. The vote wasn't so much about Christmas as a way to flush Democrats who won't submit to the American Taliban out into the open so that they can be targeted for replacement. Which means 195 Democrats did submit. And you think those 195 are going to do anything gay-friendly? The winners in this vote said that Christmas needed affirmation from the US House because of such a pervasive anti-Christian bias. Yep, because they feel they are prevented from persecuting the rest of us they feel they are being persecuted. Anti-Christian bias? With a Christmas tree on the lawn of the White House?

Faith in politics, Huckabee and Romney style

Church services and afternoon concert canceled due to snow. We had 4 inches overnight and it is still coming down.

Newsweek has a big article about Mike Huckabee, now that he is at the top of polls in Iowa. The guy has some nice things to say -- he appears to genuinely care for the poor and honestly abhors racism which means he would actually practice compassionate conservatism. He will not be silent when other's rights are at stake (he forced the integration of the church where he was pastor). He is willing to raise taxes (and has) for needs that affect the common good. He appears to be a genuine human instead of a political construct. Alas, the negatives pile up pretty high. Bush may push Creationism to please his base but Huckabee actually believes it. That bit about equal rights excludes gays. He isn't in the Republican Party to reform it, but to embody its current nasty policies.

A commentator lists Huck's top ten moments of extremism.

Another Newsweek article takes a look at the religious battle in the GOP between Huckabee and Romney. When Romney gave his big speech about his faith he said a person's faith really doesn't matter -- except if you have no faith. Somehow liberty requires faith. The reason is that Romney (and lots of others on the Right) believe to have no religion is the same as having no morals. That's something my Unitarian-Universalist friends hotly dispute.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Takeover Complete

A quiet takeover has already happened. Once you've got the government and the judiciary in your control, what's next? The military. The debate over Don't Ask, Don't Tell is only the tip of the iceberg. The Air Force Academy had been a place where leadership for the force and the country had been developed. The code of ethics still states " Military professionals must remember that religious choice is a matter of individual conscience" and new recruits had been met by an assortment of pastors, priests, and rabbis. But the Academy is now for the purpose of creating Christian warriors (the "leadership" part is gone) and if the pastor isn't Evangelical he watches from the balcony as the new recruit is exhorted to convert his classmates. This commentary contains a long list of how that code of ethics has been violated by the military brass. Some is even backed by law. In 2005 the Public Expression of Religion Act says that attorneys who successfully challenge government actions that violate the establishment clause of the First Amendment shall not be entitled to recover attorney's fees. The military has completely blown apart the separation of Church and State and we can no longer sue the government to correct it. Perhaps Iraq is a good thing -- it keeps the troops from turning their zeal against the American populace. Alas, you can imagine what that is doing to our reputation abroad.

Failed reparative-therapy

Matthew Murray, the gunman in Colorado Springs who recently opened fire in Ted Haggard's New Life Church and killed several people, apparently was gay. He was filled with rage because (1) he did everything he was supposed to as part of the reparative-therapy program and was still booted out, (2) the church forgave Ted Haggard but not him, and (3) after all that work Jesus failed to cure him of his homosexuality.

Replies in Metro Times on Impeachment

Last week I wrote a letter to Metro Times and Jack Lessenberry about his discussion with John Conyers. It didn't get published, though I'm not surprised because it was so long. But 3 other letters did. In summary: (1) If there's enough time for Bush to bomb Iran there's enough time to impeach. Why is it important to elect more Democrats when so many now in Congress act like Republicans? (2) The Constitution will be trashed if another GOP is elected as president? Wake up! The Constitution is already trashed! (3) This prez has set a new low for his office and Dems are too cowardly to defend the Constitution. Even without an impeachment vote the hearings will document this low behavior for the public record.

Reject Bigotry

At least this one doesn't have the force of law. The US House passed Resolution 847 yesterday with a vote of 371 - 9 (which I think means 55 abstained) that "recognizes the importance of Christmas to the Christian faith" and "rejects bigotry and persecution directed against Christians, both in the United States and worldwide." Apparently there was a similar resolution in 2005. At least there is a companion Resolution 635 passed on October 2, 2007 that "rejects hatred, bigotry, and violence directed against Muslims, both in the United States and worldwide." Alas, the bill to reject bigotry and violence against gay people got lost in the shuffle.

So did the bill to reject bigotry and persecution against followers of Thor.

Joyful Solstice!

A bit of fun: Lots of people complain that "Happy Holidays" has replaced "Merry Christmas" but nobody is complaining that Christmas wishes have replaced "Joyful Solstice." Modern people don't remember that the date of Christmas was chosen to turn Solstice celebrations into Christian events. Here's your chance to fight back and restore the beloved pagan observance. Complain to stores that won't carry gifts appropriate for your Solstice party. Proudly display the bumper sticker "12-21 Not just a palindrome" (actually the Solstice is on 12-22 this year). And my favorite: For the manger displays near you get a bunch of "It's a girl" balloons and tie them to the hands of the wise men. You can also tie them to the crib and tie a pink bow to the baby's head.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Writings on nonviolence

Gene Sharp as a youth wondered why nations go to war. He hasn't exactly answered that question, but now that he is almost 80 he is able to tell the world how to use nonviolent resistance and why it works. Many peaceful uprisings around the world are based on his writings. Alas, he is almost unknown in the USA. Some of his findings:

Even the most powerful dictator depends on the consent of the governed. The populace can band together and withdraw that consent.

Using violence to withdraw that consent is rarely works because the tyrant's strong point is violence. Even if the tyrant is driven from power he is replaced with another tyrant. Thus, nonviolent methods are the only answer.

Nonviolent methods do not depend on moral purity. The do not depend on the moral superiority of the people in the resistance. Therefore, anyone can follow them.

Playful? Me?

Desmond Morris wrote a famous book The Naked Ape to explain human behavior through evolution. He's back with The Naked Man and at least part of the book "explains" homosexuality as neoteny, childhood traits that extend into adulthood. Gays, he says, "tend to be more inventive and creative than heterosexuals because they are more likely to retain the mental agility and playfulness of childhood." While I claim a lot of creativity and some think of me as playful, his work is dependent on stereotypes, useful at keeping a class of people as "the other," not like us, and not worthy of full rights.

Morris keeps saying that the difference is positive but this commentator isn't buying. It is still labeling gays as intrinsically disordered.

Pope Benedict sticks his foot in it again.

He claims that the nuclear family (headed by one man and one woman, natch) is the "first and indispensable teacher of peace" and that everything that weakens the family and the acceptance of new life is an obstacle to world peace. Didn't realize we had so much power. Considering the number of kids who have hellish childhoods (no peace learned there) and the amount of violence in the world through history (they couldn't have all had gay parents), Benedict doesn't have a clue about what he's saying. Alas, it isn't the first time.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Hijacking the Jefferson Bible

My sister-in-law responded to my quotes from Jefferson, saying:

I see that you quote Thomas Jefferson, I hear that he edited the Bible, taking out parts that he didn't think were "truth"....If you ever see a copy let me know. That might be interesting reading. I'm sure that there were whole books not included. My grandfather did that, it was amusing, took out whole sections....

I had heard about Jefferson taking scissors to Bible, but it was only recently that I heard of the "Jefferson Bible," the published result. So I went looking for such a book and found it on It appears he threw out all of the Old Testament, and from the New only kept the Gospels. From those he started with the birth of Jesus (not the annunciation), and ended with the death (not resurrection). In between, he removed all hints that Jesus was holy. The customer review section in the second half of the webpage contains a popular review that explains what Jefferson did. This describes Jefferson not as removing the parts of the Bible he didn't like but extracting a summary of the parts he did like.

Below that review is another that says to be very careful which edition you order (and not the paperback version) because it contains a foreword by William Murchison with endorsement by Ralph Reed of the Christian Coalition that claims the Jefferson Bible says exactly opposite of what is actually in the pages! For example, Murchison claims the book is an example of Jefferson's faith, how devoted a Christian he was (he was Deist, not Christian), that Jefferson created the book to demonstrate country was founded on Christian ideals, and that Jefferson disapproved of the separation of Church and State. Quite the hijack!

An equation that causes harm

The Right likes to confuse homosexual with pedophile and say keeping gays away from kids is for the kids protection. That may bring more harm to the kids for two reasons.

* Once the gays are gone parents relax their guard and think their kids are safe.

* Kids experiencing same sex attractions won't have someone to talk to, which is a pedophile's dream.

An example of the first reason: Eugene Evans of the Sea Scouts led the charge to get the organization recognized by Berkeley, CA in spite of its discrimination against gays. In the process he became a darling of the anti-gay crowd. He has now been arrested for 4 counts of child molestation.

Hanukah and a defeat for the Homosexual Agenda

Learn something new every day. Though I seemed to know more about Hanukah than a Jewish friend (Maccabean Revolt, keeping the lamp lit for 8 day with an oil supply sufficient for 1 day) I apparently missed one important aspect. This is now regarded (in some circles) as the first defeat of the Homosexual Agenda. The reasoning is that the revolt was a defeat for the Greeks and Hellenized liberal Jews and a culture that encouraged male nudity in the gymnasium.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Christian Nation?

"Radical Russ" Belville is a part-time progressive radio host in Oregon, trying to be the antidote to Rush. I haven't heard the weekly show, but I have read a few things Russ has written. Russ made fun of Christians (so easy to do, even if I'm one) and got a typical letter in response. Here is that letter and reply. I hadn't heard before that Genesis chapter 1 supposedly gives the timeline and chapter 2 gives the methodology. I just figured since the two stories contradicted each other it is best to treat them both as allegory. Then Russ takes on the claim that America is founded in God.

However, a better answer to that claim is a lengthy comment in a posting referring to Belville's own webpage. Some examples:

Thomas Jefferson: “It is error alone which needs the support of government. Truth can stand by itself.” and “In every country and in every age the priest has been hostile to liberty; he is always in alliance with the despot, abetting his abuses in return for protection to his own.”

From James Madison: “Religion and government will both exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed together.”

The gay voting block

Various surveys and polls (summarized here) show that gays may be about 5% of the population but make up 7% (in small cities) to 9% (in big cities) of the vote. In the 2004 election 92% of gays and 91% of lesbians voted. That is astonishing, compared to 61% for the population as a whole. So why has so little gay legislation actually made it to Bush's desk?

Friday, December 7, 2007

Less value than monkey meat

Why is it that killing and eating monkey meat for religious purposes (no, I'm not making it up) is considered against the law, yet bashing gays for religious purposes is permitted? There is a clause in ENDA that does just that. Way back in 1689 English philosopher John Locke said that freedom of religion cannot take precedence over law. If it does, lawlessness results, simply because anyone can claim they do something, anything, for religious purposes. If you want to remove the clash, change the law. Alas, that has happened to our detriment with the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 which moved the burden of proof of conflict from the practitioner to the government. It has also happened in ENDA, in which religious organizations were specifically exempt from the law. Now, I understand expediency in getting laws passed, but think of what that says to our gay youth. You are of less value than monkey meat. Religious institutions are free to eat your heart and soul.

This is rich: Western Civilization came about only because the Jews suppressed homosexuality and stuffed hetero-sex into the confines of marriage. Considering how violent Western Civilization has been over the millennia maybe we should have stuck with the uncontrolled sexual hedonism of the pagans. Alas, the guy who came up with that gem is Dennis Prager who works for the Catholic Education Resource Center.

Freedom from Fear

December 7, a "day that will live in infamy," is a good time to reflect on one of the famous statements of Franklin Roosevelt, "We have nothing to fear except fear itself." This was said in the dark days of WWII in which totalitarian regimes were using fear to make their people silent and stupid. Fear was being used to threaten nearby countries. Roosevelt understood that the difference between a free country and a dictatorship was that in a free country the government did not use fear to silence its citizens. That extended to saying we did not torture, we did not terrorize.

After WWII America made sure to work in an absence of fear. We transformed defeated Germany, Italy, and Japan from enemies to allies by assuring them they had nothing to fear. What would have happened if, while the world rebuilt after WWII, America instilled fear of its might in the countries it vanquished? Today would be much darker.

Perhaps every year on December 7 we should say, "Have a happy Freedom from Fear Day!"

In a previous post I may have mentioned that is seems the Mainstream Media is aiding and abetting the GOP through the stories it chooses to not cover. It seems the reason is not because the Media approves of the GOP party line, but because whenever an ant-GOP story was run the patriotism of the journalists was challenged.

Here is an article that discusses the hubris of Kaiser Wilhelm II during and after WWI and draws inexact but still scary parallels to the current American leaders. I'll let you read the list yourself. I'm most interested in a quote at the end by Fritz Stern:

"The consequences of their leadership—bolstered as it had been by claims of divine guidance, shrouded in chauvinism, and fortified by the cunning manipulation of pervasive fear—became truly manifest only later, as the people of an aggrieved nation turned against each other, almost reveling in their deep political and moral divisions and hatreds."

Debunking reasons to not impeach

Jack Lessenberry, political columnist for Metro Times, an "alternative" weekly newspaper in Detroit, had a chance to talk to John Conyers over a drink about impeachment of Smirky and Snarly. Conyers, a representative from Detroit, is now the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and knows the most about Bush's crimes. If Conyers wants impeachment, it will happen. If he doesn't, there is no way around him. Lessenberry reports these reasons why Conyers does not want to go through with impeachment -- along with why I think Conyers is wrong.

* The votes to impeach (need 218) and convict (67) simply aren't there. If we try and fail Bush and Cheney are vindicated and get an outpouring of sympathy. Democrats are discredited. A Bush clone gets elected.

I agree that failure has dire consequences, which means Conyers has to do his homework. A thoughtful and complete documentation of Bush's crimes coupled with a strong statement about what those crimes have done to the Constitution presented to the American people will convince a lot more congressmen to agree to impeachment and conviction. There are drawbacks: Democrats haven't been very good at articulating much of anything lately. The Mainstream Media seems to be solidly in the GOP camp and waters down or ignores stories that appear to damage the GOP cause.

* Impeachment would take over a year. There isn't enough time.

More below.

* While impeachment proceedings are in progress nothing else in Washington would get done, ending the war being only one of several vital issues. Nobody would pay any attention to the candidates for president and the vital issues they are trying to raise.

With Bush's sudden fondness for the veto it seems nothing is getting done anyway. There certainly has been no progress on getting out of Iraq and saber rattling continues with Iran. One of the vital issues not getting raised by presidential candidates is what kind of government we want. I don't want what we have. With the way Bush is continually able to steamroll Democrats to get what he wants I'm not convinced a Democratic president is what I want either. What kind of government we want is an issue more important than what the candidates are saying. Impeachment proceedings will at least make that discussion happen.

In addition, impeachment proceedings will force a discussion of what kind of society we want. Right now it appears we have a society that delights in trashing laws for personal power. In spite of Bush's standing among Value Voters, he is the most amoral president we've had. I don't want a society that cherishes amorality.

* Impeaching just Cheney wouldn't work because Bush would appoint someone like Giuliani and give him a boost in his chances for president.

Holding the office of Vice President is historically a bad way to get to be president. Only Bush Senior has managed it since 1965. Allowing Giuliani to go from VP to president will given the nation a true idea of what is policies are (he seems to be talking out of both sides of his mouth right now). Discrediting Bush and Cheney is a way to discredit the entire GOP field and can be done by tarring them all with the same brush. Claiming we must elect a Democrat implies the policies that allowed Bush to abuse the Constitution are GOP Party policies. Giving these policies full airing allows the Democrats to run against them, not just against Bush and not just against individual candidates.

* To protect the Constitution it is most important to elect a Democrat.

Karl Rove famously claimed that he was making government agencies more partisan so that there would be a GOP government in perpetuity. That sovereignty might last all of 8 years. Does Conyers think there will never be another GOP president? Is he trying to make the same claim that Rove did? Won't we go through all this again when we get another GOP president? At some point, we will.

In addition, I've heard only Hillary make any kind of noise that she would refuse some of the powers that Bush has accumulated (and that through a British website). Conyers is assuming a lot by thinking that Democratic presidents would simply not use all presidential powers at their disposal. After the Bush abuses we need a national forum to say what is appropriate for a president and what is not. Impeachment proceedings are that forum.

Back to the issue of not enough time and not enough votes. It doesn't have to be all or nothing. Conyers can begin by laying out the grounds for impeachment and then work to explain his case to America. If the public mood shifts and a behind-the-scenes tally of votes shows there is enough he can proceed with actual articles of impeachment.

Of course, the GOP is going to call that playing politics. But I'm tired of Democrats who haven't figured out how to counter that charge.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Ready for that war in Iran?

Cheney has long been pushing for war in Iran (see archive of this blog) apparently because the GOP needs a bogeyman to strike fear in the populace. He fought for at least 6 months to prevent the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran from being made public. But it has, and it puts the danger from Iran pretty low. True to form, Bush remained belligerent on Iran, which now looks to be one of his 3 standard ways of lying, this being the least convincing of the three. Does it matter? It shows that Bush's credibility is dropping. But even with no credibility, Bush still holds sway. No Democrat will call out the liar, nor praise the analysts (like Hans Blix who was proven right on WMD in Iraq) who produced reports proven to be balanced and correct because they don't want to be seen as weak on national security. Looking strong is more important that being fair and truthful. The opposite of a statesman.

Even though Cheney would love to bomb Iran, there is thankfully a reason to believe it isn't likely -- Robert Gates, Rumsfield's replacement at Defense, isn't a Bush lapdog (makes you wonder if Bush knew what he was getting). Though Gates isn't loud, he has been very firm in telling Bush and Cheney he won't support an Iran invasion because there isn't a need, it would do more harm than good, and because the military couldn’t support another front.

Flip-flopper? or paying attention and learning more?

The completeness with which Neocons have equated changing one's mind with the heinous crime of flip-flopping has, of course, affected the prez. campaign. Example 1: Giuliani, who has been saying both, "I believe in a woman's right to choose," and, "I will nominate only strict constructionist judges." The latter is a code-word for nominating judges who would overturn Roe V. Wade. So Giuliani didn't change his mind, he is of two minds (or maybe there are two Giulianis out there). But Americans change their minds all the time, from 23% who opposed the war when it started to 58% now. We just prefer to describe the process as "concerned citizens who paid attention, learned more, had second thoughts." This is from a commentary by Anna Quindlen in Newsweek.

Neocon reference here

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Any motives besides profit?

A week ago I wrote: Reagan, who said, "government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem." Since then the GOP has been electing people who believe that government won't work. Surprise, we're getting government that doesn't work.

The latest Washington Spectator, dealing with the Blackwater mess, expands on that idea a bit: "… the Republican Party's contempt for government and the belief that what's needed is brains, balls, and muscle from the private sector to make it function properly…"

That explains their rush to contract various necessary pieces of the military to outside companies and not bother with any oversight. Not surprisingly, the contracts are based on politics and cronyism and have a way of enriching the appropriate legislators.

The big problem is that the cost of getting something done must include not just labor and materials, but profit, and at the taxpayers expense. In the same way we don't have Medicare for all yet. The GOP believes a governmental service is no good unless someone makes a profit from it.

Friday, November 30, 2007

We don't trust the Holy Spirit.

I've started reading a book about spiritual gifts. I'm only to page 22, so I don't have a lot to say about it, though it prompted some thoughts that have been rolling around in my brain for a while. The book opens with a discussion of life in the 1st Century church in which members learn to use the gifts of the Spirit for the benefit of the community. Each one has a part to play and each is considered equal to the others. They are all working towards a common goal.

By the end of the 2nd century the church has two classes of members: clergy and laity. The laity are considered to be not all that important and their gifts of the Spirit are ignored. The church has taken on a secular organization that is not suited to its goals and it will be hampered by that organization. We don't trust the Holy Spirit.

The laity gained some importance beginning with the Reformation in the 16th Century. The importance of spiritual gifts in clergy and laity has gained prominence in the church since the 1950s. But we still don't trust the Holy Spirit.

As part of my efforts to battle the church over the issue of homosexuality I have written letters to the denomination newspaper/magazine here in Michigan saying that for an organization that is based on the grace of Christ we are spending way too much time enforcing the rules. Responses to my letters almost always contain the thought, "If we don't enforce the rules what do we stand for?" I claim we should stand for the love of Christ, but that doesn't get very far.

Through further reading of the bible and other books I've come to understand how things should work. As one reads and studies the bible, prays, listens to sermons, and interacts with other people one is taught by the Holy Spirit (usually through a gentle nudge after an interaction goes wrong) on how to lead a loving life.

But we don't trust the Holy Spirit. We become frightened when the Spirit prompts us to head off in directions in which "We've Never Done It That Way Before." We become incensed when someone who had committed a grievous offense doesn't get the smite from God as quickly as thoroughly as we demand. We are convinced certain behavior just has to be sinful yet someone claims the Spirit prompted them to do it. We can't verify the source of such promptings. We are much more comfortable with a list of dos and don'ts than with the claim that the Spirit will teach us if we just give him time. It is much easier to gauge if another person is Christian by that list than by personal promptings of a Spirit who gifts us individually. The institutional church, even with a structure that inhibits its message, won't easily give up its power, even to the Holy Spirit. In an age that pits the religious against the scientific we discourage our spiritual sides to avoid being seen as a bit loopy. We don't trust the Holy Spirit.

How to strengthen that trust will have to wait until I've done more reading.

1987? Or 2007? A Second Look

Now that I've had some time to do some web browsing I have an update to my post of a couple days ago about the Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Act that passed the House with an overwhelming majority. There are, of course, differing views on what it all means.

From Dahlia Lithwick at Slate: No need to get alarmed, the bill is actually harmless. It doesn't allow the government to go after terrorists, it merely sets up commissions to study terrorists. In particular, how those with extreme ideas turn violent. Even more specific, the area if inquiry is how the internet is used to encourage those with extreme ideas to become violent and how to carry out that violence. On the good side the bill has sunset clauses. Well, yeah, the commission will propose new laws on how to curb terrorism and those might curb free speech, but we can fight those battles when the time comes. It is good for a change to see a government that is very good at throwing real power behind pretend problems (Iraq and Guantanemo) to throw pretend power at a pretend problem.

Naturally, others aren't convinced.

Amy Goodman at Democracy Now interviewed Jessica Lee of the Indypendent and Kamau Karl Franklin of the Center for Constitutional Rights. Even for a course of study the definitions of violent terrorism are amazingly broad. Laws that come from the commission will also have broad definitions. The gov't can say "You threatened to use force and we don't like your ideas. You're a terrorist." Though the bill implies, and it's author's commentary states, the target would be Islamic jihadists, the bill is actually sponsored (if not written) by the Rand Corporation, in which the target is the anti-globalization crowd (who have shown willingness to use force). I'm sure there is special significance that the Rand Corp. is a driving force, though I don't know what that is. One of the recommendations of the commission is likely to be putting national filters onto Islamist terrorist sites as well as on sites the gov't doesn't approve of (one wonders how that could be accomplished, but that won't stop lawmakers from trying). Even if it is just a study there are practical and ethical concerns of studying a group so that when the study ends you know the best way to shut them down. In an 18 month study, even if you do get "inside" some of these organizations, how well do you really understand the complex issues?

The source of the original posting:

We blew it

The Letters page in Newsweek (alas, no link) has reactions to the article about how 1968 was a defining year that still strongly affects the nation (certainly national politics). One letter has this idea: In 1968 we were a the cusp of real change, of ending poverty, protecting the environment, refusing war, ending racism. And we didn't. Instead, the radicals of the 60s are the establishment of today, not blinking at Cheney's request of phone records and dismissing anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan as an overwrought mom. It was all within our reach and we blew it. No wonder we're so apathetic.

Art in Detroit, a gem of a museum

Even Newsweek had a big article about the reopening of the Detroit Institute of Arts! In addition to expanded gallery space the whole purpose and presentation of the museum has been reworked, making it all much more friendly to the novice. I wandered through the DIA for 5 hours last Friday during their free-admission Open House. I'm quite impressed with what I saw. Though I gave many galleries only a cursory glance and looked at just the highlights in several others I went through the American Art section slowly, savoring many of the paintings. The American landscape paintings were especially captivating, and were talking only the eastern part of the country. Well worth a visit.


Did you know that most of us are homo-socksuals? We wear the same kind of socks on both feet. Alas, hetero-socksuals, with a different kind of sock on each foot, must not wear shorts. Enjoy the theological implications -- and the fun -- here:

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

1984? Or 2007?

This one is truly scary. A Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Act has already passed the US House (by a vote of 404 to 6 -- meaning lots of Democrats support it) and is now before the Senate, where it looks to get broad support. It is being ignored by the press. This act creates "a congressional commission that will be empowered to hold hearings, conduct investigations, and designate various groups as 'homegrown terrorists.' The commission will be tasked to propose new legislation that will enable the government to take punitive action against both the groups and the individuals who are affiliated with them." It does not define terrorism other than saying it has to do with an extremist belief system, and that term is not defined. That means anything outside what the commission defines as anti-American. The likely target is Muslims, but can include such things as anti-tax agitators, immigration protesters, peace demonstrators, and anti-abortion protesters. And those promoting the Homosexual Agenda. In addition, the Internet is cited as a conduit for terrorist ideas. So you better not read my blog. This one is worth a call or letter to your senator. Give me a day or two and I might have a sample letter to share.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Dealing with Contradictions

An ambigram is an image that can be perceived in two or more ways and those ways are contradictory. Many of the images created by M.C. Escher are ambigrams and this link has an image of a very good one. Can you see both sides of the contradiction at once or are you able to see only one aspect at a time? Does it take you a while to make sense of it? This is the binding effect. The idea of an ambigram can be extended to non-visual contradictions and in those cases the language used to describe the situation plays a big part in how the ambigram is perceived -- which explains why "spin" works. We're the good guys. They're terrorists. We as a nation have a huge ambigram in front of us. Bush says we don't torture, we only use aggressive questioning. Evidence contradicts him. But what does an ongoing ambigram do to our collective national psyches? It can't be healthy.

The men's room is that way

Some on the Right are now pushing the scary idea that the only reason why transgender men want to transition to female is so that they have an excuse to use the female bathroom and cause all kinds of mayhem while there. Never mind that men who rape are never found to be wearing women's clothing (the crime is about male dominance) and such bathroom crimes haven't actually occurred. Somehow, though, being transgender is about the bathroom.

In 3 parts:

Pesky questions for GOP

Several weeks ago the Democratic prez debate featured questions gathered through YouTube. Now it’s the GOP's turn to face the video generation. Some of the questions will be juicy and I suspect they may not get used. Two examples:

* Billy Bean, gay baseball player, asks, "Will you discourage people from using their religious beliefs as a way to justify discrimination against citizens like me?"

* Chris Dodd, Dem candidate for prez: "What do you plan to do to restore the Constitution in the aftermath of the Bush Administration's false choice of security vs. giving up individual rights?"

Could be fun.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Lie? Not here

Bush is accused of lying and the media yawns. Scott McClellan, Bush press secretary, has a new book coming out soon about the Valerie Plame investigation. In promoting the book McClellan said he had "unknowingly passed along false information" to divert investigators from Rove. The false info was given to the investigators and apparently came from Bush. Clinton's actual impeachment crime was perjury. Now, Bush didn't lie under oath, but an oath isn't necessary when feeding information to investigators. Scandal? No scandal here. Move along.

A Midas Touch

It seems that every foreign leader who supported Bush in the Iraq war has been thrown out of office. It looks like Bush has a reverse Midas Touch when it comes to dealing with his allies. So far voters have rejected Berlusconi in Italy, Anzar in Spain, Blair in Britain, and Kaczynski in Poland. Bush's most faithful boot-licker, John Howard of Australia, was sent packing last week. The most significant system of military alliances, in place since Truman, is now gone. Rubbing salt in the wounds Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury (head of the Anglican Church) and with sterling conservative social credentials, has said that Bush's attempts at overseas interventions are worse the Britain's at the height of its Empire days. At least England installed a working government in India.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

What I want a Democrat to be.

A posting in one of my favorite blogs laments that Democrats aren't what they used to be and asks the question: What does it mean to be a Democrat?

Most of the responses discuss what Dems are at the moment. This is my list of what I think Democrats should be.

A Democrat is someone who…

* will help the little guy to have a fighting chance against the big guy (and the corporation).

* helps the downtrodden get a second (and third) chance.

* promotes improved living for everyone, including through education and health care.

* believes in tolerance and is welcome to a variety of ways of living.

* believes in truth and openness (yeah, I know sometimes government needs to keep secrets, but I want my Democrat to take the opposite stance from Bush).

* believes a woman is not a slave to any man.

* promotes equality of law no matter the difference.

* recognizes the urgency of taking care of the environment and fosters clean business practices.

* is fiscally responsible, unwilling to saddle future generations with our extravagance.

* does not weigh down business with unnecessary burdens.

* recognizes that diplomacy is far superior to war.

* respects religion, allowing each to believe (or not) as they see fit.

* understands the Constitution and its balance of power and seeks to uphold it.

* understands the value and integrity of science, how science works, and what science can and cannot accomplish.

* understands we're all in this together.

* has strength to stand firm on his convictions.

Quiz question for today: How many of those traits listed above are Christian (referring to what Christ taught, not what the Right has twisted it into)?

The question was first stated at another website:

Senator Diane Feinstein of California broke from Democratic ranks and voted for A.G. Mukasey and bigoted judge Southwick. Over 34 thousand Democratic Californians are disgusted with her votes and wanted the California Democratic Party to censure Feinstein. Now they are disgusted with the party because the censure motion was never brought up at their meeting. This website allows you to send your own definition of a Democrat to Feinstein and the CDP. Warning: the autoreply email will ask for a donation.


One of the comments in the first link above has this idea:

The Neocons, who were instrumental to getting Bush elected and who drive at least his foreign policy have effectively equated learning from experience and changing ones mind to the heinous crime of flip-flopping. Is this why Bush can't admit to his mistakes in Iraq?

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Politicians won't do it without a shove

John Conyers is back in the local news. Cindy Sheehan, rabble rouser for the end of the war was given an award from the Cranbrook Peace Foundation. Introducing her was -- John Conyers. Strange since Sheehan held a demonstration in July at Conyers' office for refusing to hold impeachment hearings. Her message: politicians won't do it on their own, so we need to force them to do what is right. Enough of the Democrat's ineffective attempts to end the war (and they know they're ineffective) through troop withdrawal provisions in spending bills. There are better ways: refuse the bills outright or, better yet, impeach. Conyers is still mum. Time to tell him to get off his ass. I've sent my letter (and will gladly provide a copy to anyone who wants to provide their own). Conyers Detroit phone is: 313-961-5670.

That's Entertainment

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. have a speech at Wayne State University a couple weeks ago (alas, I didn't attend). He was eloquent enough for people to wonder why he wasn't running for president, following in the footsteps of his father. A quote from the speech. In agency after agency, lobbyists representing corporations have been put into positions to regulate the industries they came from. Why? The blame is partly on a "negligent and indolent press that has simply let down American democracy. … We are the best-entertained, least-informed people on earth."

Interpreting the Bible on homosexuality

The latest noise in the ongoing Anglican-Episcopalian debate on homosexuality prompted an article in the Chicago Tribune about what the Bible says on the issue and how the Bible should be read. "We don't worship the Bible, we worship Jesus Christ," says Rev. William Persell, Chicago's outgoing Episcopal bishop. The Bible is a core document and if we find internal disagreements or if we disagree with Paul or Leviticus we need to come back to Jesus for a conversation about those passages, says Liz Stedman, a lesbian pastor. While the body of the article counters some of the passages, it ends with a bare listing of the problematic 7 verses. Alas, it doesn't offer alternative definitions of many of them. For the record:

Genesis 2:21-25: Saying that male and female is needed to create life and straight marriage is the norm for 95% of the population says nothing about the morality of gay relations practiced by maybe 5% of the population.

Sodom and Gomorrah: Elsewhere in the bible the crime is said to be inhospitality to strangers, not amoral sex.

Leviticus: The people who trumpet this one don't follow anything else in Leviticus and can't say why this is the only one that must be followed. Besides, Jesus says salvation is through him, not the law.

Romans 1:26-28: The quote is missing the leading "Therefore" which means much of this perversion is a result of disobeying God. It does not say loving same-gender couples are automatically perverted.

Corinthians 6:9: "Homosexual offenders" is a mis-translation of a Greek word whose true meaning is unknown.

Timothy 1:10: Huh? Doesn't even mention gays, unless we are lumped under "perverts" and that cannot be assumed. Another case of bad translation.,0,6677080.story

Details of my rebuttal at:

Secular Rapture

An example of government that doesn't work: There are now companies that will take care of you when disaster strikes. Spray your house (and only yours) with fire retardant when San Diego County is swept with flames. Evacuate you by helicopter to 5-star resorts when hurricanes loom. Use connections to a national disaster center for warnings and supply you with food, water, housing (no doubt plush), and medical attention during man-made (terrorist) or natural disasters. No need for a heavenly rapture, the secular version is here now, if you've got the bucks. But wasn't this what government was supposed to do, and do it for everyone?

Anybody out there?

If you're reading this I'd appreciate a comment saying you're out there. I'd also like to hear about topics of interest.

Princesses, travel, politics, hunger -- a roundup from Newsweek

A collection of articles from Newsweek (the issue dated Nov. 26, 2007):

Just because it is cool and the article is insightful… Amazon is offering an electronic replacement for the book. Even so, at this price I'll probably wait awhile before getting one.

On facing pages there are opinion pieces from Karl Rove (eww) and Markos Moulitsas (known for his Democratic political blog dailykos). I didn't bother to read Rove's (nor will I link to it, besides another commentator described it as a "snore"). The other one harkens back to Reagan, who said, "government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem." Since then the GOP has been electing people who believe that government won't work. Surprise, we're getting government that doesn't work. So Dems can not only run against Bush but should also say he is a product of GOP policies.

Disney has a new big line of products under the name of Princess that allows women (not just girls) to be the heroine like Belle, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Snow White, Jasmine, and Ariel. But there is a subtle twist as shown in the stage version of "Little Mermaid" coming to Broadway soon. Instead of waiting for Prince Eric to dispatch the evil Ursula, Ariel does it herself. The new movie "Enchanted" also plays up the independent woman (as it skewers every princess cliché in the book). A big part of the Princess line is wedding gowns modeled on the outfits of the above characters that will make your wedding a fairy tale event.

International travel has increased around the globe -- except to the USA. For example, British travel to America declined 11% in spite of the dropping dollar, but Brits to India has increased 102%. The reason is the Department of Homeland Security is very slow in issuing visas and travelers go home with horror stories on how they are treated by customs officials. Congress has tried to improve the situation but no official wants to be the one who stamped the passport of a terrorist.

A look at Rudy Giuliani and the people around him. It seems that he is like a mafia don who is loyal to loyalty, not to the talents of the people around him.

Want to twist the tail of the Right? Here's a study that looks at whether early teenage sex (say, at age 14) is detrimental. Finding: kids who engage in early sex have "lower levels of delinquency and antisocial behavior a few years later, not more." This is a part of the debate of whether early life disadvantages forever plague the child.

Anna Quindlen has a wonderful commentary. Food and money to places that feed the hungry are dropping, down more than 50% from a few years ago. Reasons range from cuts in government spending to better quality control that eliminates battered boxes and dented cans. Even though we could eliminate most hunger with the amount of money that could be considered rounding errors in the Federal Budget we as a nation have a hard time admitting to hunger. That makes it nearly impossible for a candidate to run on the issue. So even though "you can't get more Biblical than feeding the hungry" (Matthew 25:31 and following), the God Talk we hear is on school prayer instead of hungry students, beginning of life instead of the end of poverty, private behavior instead of public generosity. Want to talk about bedrock God stuff? Try charity, mercy, the least of our brethren. Feed the hungry, comfort the weary, soothe the afflicted.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Health care for...

Three GOP prez candidates have survived cancer -- McCain, Thompson, and Giuliani. All three propose ways to increase health insurance coverage, but none of these will be of any help to other cancer survivors who have to buy individual policies. Insurance companies can reject patients that aren't healthy (and having had cancer certainly is that), or set rates so high they aren't affordable.;jsessionid=DA4DDD9F41C2938F5A874EC56739E8F0?diaryId=3727

The GOP complains about the specter of socialized, government run medicine. But we have that already. It's called Medicare. I firmly believe the solution to health care can be summed up in the phrase "Medicare for all." However, that pulls the plug on all health insurance companies and they aren't going to let go of the cow they've been milking without a big fight. Candidates aren't going to want to give up the money that comes their way from that cow.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Quote of the Day -- Desmond Tutu

"Our world is facing problems - poverty, HIV and AIDS - a devastating pandemic, and conflict...God must be weeping looking at some of the atrocities that we commit against one another. In the face of all of that, our Church, especially the Anglican Church, at this time is almost obsessed with questions of human sexuality

...It is a perversion if you say to me that a person chooses to be homosexual. You must be crazy to choose a way of life that exposes you to a kind of hatred. It's like saying you choose to be black in a race infected society."
-- South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu speaking to the BBC on the Anglican church's fixation on homosexuality

Tilting at windmills

Ken Hutcherson of Antioch Bible Church and rabid homophobe has taken on Microsoft. Good luck dude. Several years ago Hutcherson persuaded Microsoft to not support a pro-gay bill in Washington State. The law was narrowly defeated and Microsoft was hit with a huge gay protest, especially from its internal gay organizations. That bill has since become law with Microsoft's help and two Hutcherson attempts to overturn it have fallen flat. So Hutcherson made a stink at the Microsoft shareholder meeting, calling on the company to end its LGBT support. Not only did the board ignore him, another shareholder asked the board how the rest of the shareholders could support Microsoft's pro-gay policies. Answer: when such policies come up for a vote, approve them. Last year they did and passed with 97%. Hutcherson has now vowed that he and his supporters will hit Microsoft with a "firestorm" by buying enough stock that they can force a different outcome. Um, dude, for 50% of the shares that will cost you $159 billion.

Main story:

Comments about the price:

Monday, November 19, 2007

Case for Impeachment

A few days ago I came across a couple articles having to do with the prospect of impeaching Bush and Cheney. This is what I emailed at the time:

A new poll of registered voters has a result that is both wonderful and disturbing. The wonderful part is 64% say that Bush has abused his powers as president and 55% say that the abuses are serious enough to warrant impeachment. What's not to like? 21% (included in the 55%) say that while Bush committed impeachable offenses he should not be impeached. That's what's disturbing. Has our morality been so twisted that we're all hot and bothered about law and order issues, ready to impose death penalties, yet many of us think the prez is guilty of some pretty serious crimes and don't want to prosecute him?

As for Cheney, 70% believe he has abused power, 52% think he deserves impeachment and only 9% (included in 52%) think he has committed impeachable offenses but should be given a pass.
A summary:
The raw numbers, including candidate standings:

An organization called Peace Action celebrated its 50th anniversary (so why haven't I heard of them?) and Rep. John Conyers attended the Detroit chapter banquet. The Keynote Speaker, Randi Rhodes, listed Bush's failures then noted that Dennis Kucinich last week introduced another bill to impeach Cheney. Before Pelosi could kill it some House GOPs supported it as a way to embarrass Pelosi (strange how politics works) and as a joke. That means the bill will go to Conyers' Judiciary Committee. Conyers has been the one to gather documents that would be used in impeachment proceedings, but has refused to act on them since Dems took House leadership. Asked what would happen to the Kucinich bill Conyers was evasive -- but did not say he would kill it. Perhaps it is time to tell Conyers what he should do with the impeachment bill -- act on it!

A friend with similar view of our government responded:

While I lust for a pound of Cheney's and Bush's political hides as never before, impeachment would be a mistake. All the voters who poll "impeach" will vote next year for change. Starting the impeachment engine would divert all that energy into "Democrats seeking [well-deserved] revenge for the abuse of Bill Clinton" and that would fix Hillary in the media headlights for the wrong reasons.

So, my lust remains a nice simmering fury with a long memory.

Here is my response to him:

It is rare that I disagree with you so completely.

Fortunately, I can respond from the comfort of my own home with time to think through my arguments and to look up what I written in the past. So you're going to get the full benefit of all that thinking.

Have Bush and Cheney committed "high crimes" according to the Constitution? In addition to our opinions in the matter, the evidence mounts that they have. I could go into details, but I don't think that's what this discussion is about. Let me know if you want those details.

They have committed high crimes. They should be impeached, tried, and removed from office. Period. My morality is flexible, but not that flexible. This is too important.

I don't want Bush (and Cheney) to continue to do what he is doing. Yes, I know it is only 14 months, but Bush has shown he can get into a frightful amount of mischief in that amount of time.

I don't want another president to do or condone what he is doing. He (and the GOP) has remained unchallenged in his nastiness. Many GOP congressmen have shown they are quite willing to keep doing all kinds of mischief because the Dems won't simply say it is wrong. Impeachment is a way to define what the presidency is and isn't as well as defining what is acceptable behavior and what isn't.

Bush was elected on a platform of values and places himself as a beacon of morality, yet is the most immoral president we've had. Even without that contradiction I don't want Bush to be a continuing example of morality in this country. Lots of people (lawmakers to corporate CEOs) see that Bush is getting away with it, they can too. I don't want to see his kind of amorality emulated and cherished.

I am disgusted with the argument that having Bush around as a whipping boy increases the chance of Dems sweeping the government a year from now. As much as I despise the GOP having Dems willing to use the death of the Constitution as a convenient way to gain power is just as despicable. Having Dems with insufficient backbone (which they, alas, have demonstrated many times) to say that a proposed bill or action is unconstitutional isn't a recommendation to give them power. I would have much more respect for and be more inclined to vote for Hillary (or any other Dem) if they left their calculations behind and said that Bush is wrong, he is hurting bedrock principles and institutions, he should be removed, even if it hurts the Democratic chances. That person would show values worthy of leading the country and world. That Dem would certainly gain the respect of the world.

Will the GOP raise a stink? No question. They're masters at that game. It is time the Dems stood up to it, doing something not because of politics but because it is right. That ideal is way too rare in this country.

Now back to the pragmatic side. If indeed 55% of voters think Bush has committed impeachable offenses (and that's 70% for Cheney) going through with impeachment won't give the Dems the black eye you think it would.

He responded:

Very good arguments, principled and well grounded in morality. I'll give them more thought. I'm no happier with these Democrats than you are nor confident of them.

Let me introduce myself

About the time in late 2003 that the Massachusetts Supreme Court told that state's legislature it had to create gay marriage I started sending out email to various friends and family with summaries of noteworthy news stories with links to the actual articles. As I told various people about my orientation and the news articles became more interesting the emails became more frequent, though rarely more than once a day.

Over time my focus shifted from general news (it became tedious to mention one more state working on a marriage protection amendment) to a perusal of interesting ideas floating around the web. My postings will still contain summaries of such articles and stories and many will also contain my thoughts about what has been written.

I had been quite content to continue with email until my niece wrote to say she would rather read a blog than to get more email. When her mother (my sister-in-law) also suggested I start a blog because she thought my commentaries were well written I seriously began to consider it. And so I have begun.

I won't be leaving a lot of personal details in my blog. I have a brother who married into the Catholic faith and I fear that if his wife learned I am gay she would deny me the privilege of being an uncle to her delightful children. It was only after he and his family moved out of state did I finally come out to other family members. My parents and other siblings now know, as do a few friends.

Another reason for being anonymous is because I am also a leader in my local church. While my pastor knows I am gay (and he gets some of my emails) no one else in my congregation does. However, I am working behind the scenes to make the congregation (at least) a bit more gay friendly. This is a mainline denomination that has some policies against gays (can't be a pastor and have a same-gender life partner), but isn't fundamentalist.

I will be looking at our culture as if from the vantage point of a crow's nest. I am most interested in issues related to gays (obviously) as well as religion, and the strange noises coming out of Washington because that is where much of the anti-gay fuel comes from. I may share stories of my small attempts at gay activism. As with any blog, I may veer off into other directions.

Welcome. Let me know if you are out there.

The Crow