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.