Thursday, March 31, 2005

Tom DeLay makes threats

I love the AP photo of DeLay looking goofy, laughing, having fun, used with this news article online.

Those "Town Hall" Meetings

The President has been on his lie-lapalooza tour trying to promote his Social Security plan, using taxpayers money to travel and meet. And yet time after time, certain people are kicked out. Finally, some Congressman are looking into it. Check it out at TPM.

North Dakota's congressional delegation wants to get to the bottom of a list that barred more than 40 people from President Bush's speech last month in Fargo.

Rep. Earl Pomeroy said Wednesday his concern stems from a similar incident in Denver, where three people were removed from Bush's March 21 town hall meeting on Social Security.

Pomeroy said the Denver incident raises disturbing questions given what also happened in Fargo. He said he'll evaluate what must be done to launch an inquiry.

Report Released on Vote Tally Irregularities

See the announcement here.

A state-by-state analysis of the discrepancy between exit polls and official election results shows highly improbable skewing of the election results, overwhelmingly biased towards the President.

The report concludes, “ We believe that the absence of any statistically-plausible explanation for the discrepancy between Edison/Mitofsky’s exit poll data and the official presidential vote tally is an unanswered question of vital national importance that needs thorough investigation.

Ph.D. statisticians in America who have seen this group's preliminary exit poll study have not refuted it. This new study is a much more comprehensive an analysis of the exit poll discrepancies.

Rest in peace, Terri

The news alert from the Washington Post. Now what?

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Krugman on Extremists in Our Midst

Yeah, I'm running behind on this, but I did want to link to the excellent Krugman column in the NYT this week.

What we need - and we aren't seeing - is a firm stand by moderates against religious extremism.

A Republican with Some Sense

John Danforth, former U. S. Senator and until recently U. N. ambassador, and a Republican, issues a strong warning about the direction of his own party in the New York Times.

By a series of recent initiatives, Republicans have transformed our party into the political arm of conservative Christians. The elements of this transformation have included advocacy of a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, opposition to stem cell research involving both frozen embryos and human cells in petri dishes, and the extraordinary effort to keep Terri Schiavo hooked up to a feeding tube.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Have a Happy Easter

I'm off for a few days. A blessed Easter to you.

Right on, Mo

Maureen Dowd nails it in her latest column from the New York Times. Go read the whole thing, but here are a few highlights:

Oh my God, we really are in a theocracy.

Are the Republicans so obsessed with maintaining control over all branches of government, and are the Democrats so emasculated about not having any power, that they are willing to turn the nation into a wholly owned subsidiary of the church?


As the Bush White House desperately maneuvers in Iraq to prevent the new government from being run according to the dictates of religious fundamentalists, it desperately maneuvers here to pander to religious fundamentalists who want to dictate how the government should be run.


A CBS News poll yesterday found that 82 percent of the public was opposed to Congress and the president intervening in this case; 74 percent thought it was all about politics.

The president, who couldn't be dragged outdoors to talk about the more than a hundred thousand people who died in the horrific tsunami, was willing to be dragged out of bed to sign a bill about one woman his base had fixated on. But with the new polls, the White House seemed to shrink back a bit.


Republicans easily abandon their cherished principles of individual privacy and states' rights when their personal ambitions come into play. The first time they snatched a case out of a Florida state court to give to a federal court, it was Bush v. Gore. This time, it's Bush v. Constitution.


Mr. DeLay moved yesterday to file a friend of the court brief with the Supreme Court asking that Ms. Schiavo's feeding tube be restored while the federal court is deciding what to do. But as he exploits this one sad case, Mr. DeLay has voted to slash Medicaid by $15 billion, denying money to care for poor people in nursing homes, some on feeding tubes.

Mr. DeLay made his personal stake clear at a conference last Friday organized by the Family Research Council, a conservative Christian group. He said that God had brought Terri Schiavo's struggle to the forefront "to help elevate the visibility of what is going on in America." He defined that as "attacks against the conservative movement, against me and against many others."

So it's not about her crisis at all. It's about his crisis.

Frank Rich on the "God Racket" from DeMille to DeLay

Frank Rich's Sunday column (available online today) pulls together a number of outrageous news threads to reveal the self-righteous hypocrisy of the right. Here's just a couple of paragraphs I grabbed:

We must wait for the court's ruling on whether the relics of a Hollywood relic breach the separation of church and state. Either way, it's clear that one principle, so firmly upheld by DeMille, has remained inviolate no matter what the courts have to say: American moguls, snake-oil salesmen and politicians looking to score riches or power will stop at little if they feel it is in their interests to exploit God to achieve those ends. While sometimes God racketeers are guilty of the relatively minor sin of bad taste - witness the crucifixion-nail jewelry licensed by Mel Gibson - sometimes we get the demagoguery of Father Coughlin or the big-time cons of Jimmy Swaggart and Jim Bakker.

The religio-hucksterism surrounding the Schiavo case makes DeMille's Hollywood crusades look like amateur night. This circus is the latest and most egregious in a series of cultural shocks that have followed Election Day 2004, when a fateful exit poll question on "moral values" ignited a take-no-prisoners political grab by moral zealots. During the commercial interruptions on "The Ten Commandments" last weekend, viewers could surf over to the cable news networks and find a Bible-thumping show as only Washington could conceive it. Congress was floating such scenarios as staging a meeting in Ms. Schiavo's hospital room or, alternatively, subpoenaing her, her husband and her doctors to a hearing in Washington. All in the name of faith.

Another Anglican Ally in the Cause of Justice

Our friends at faithforward have a nice summary of the Scottish Episcopal Church announcement regarding gay ordinations and marriage. This is very encouraging, that another member of the Anglican family would stand up for justice in a time of terrible rancor against that position. Bravo.

More Olbermann on Dobson & Spongebob

I was missing Keith Olbermann's blogging for a while but he's p0pped back up. Now I know why he was too busy to post: He was wading through hundreds of thousands of wacky outraged emails from Dobson cultists. What a hoot. But also very, very sad.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

The Exit Polls That Refuse to Die

Cannonfire summarizes a thread on Democratic Underground that is worth pondering:

Here's just a bit of it:

The exit pollsters, as we all should know, did not merely ask folks whether they pulled the lever for Bush or Kerry in 2004. The polls included a number of other questions. Specifically, respondents were asked to divulge the recipient of their vote in the year 2000.

In a preliminary exit poll released on CNN at 12:22 a.m., the results for the query about 2000 were 41% Bush, 38% Gore.

Two hours later, the final exit poll was released. At that time, the respondents said that they had voted in 2000 in a ratio of 43% Bush, 37% Gore.

Have you found the oddity yet? Feel free to re-read the last two paragraphs. And when you do, ponder this little factoid:

Al Gore WON the popular vote in 2000!!!

How, prithee, can the NEP and the SSRC (not to mention Dick Morris and innumerable other GOP propagandists) ask us to believe that the exit polls were skewed in favor of John Kerry? If such weighting existed, then the question about the 2000 race would have resulted in a demonstrable preference for Al Gore.

If you scroll further down in the DU forum, you will note that one reader suggested that 2004 respondents may have lied about who they voted for in the year 2000. But this "explanation" explains exactly nothing. If, as alleged, the exit polls were weighted in favor of the Democrats, why would Kerry supporters make false claims about having voted for George W. Bush in the previous cycle? Logic and experience tell us that people are usually reticent to mention that they once voted for a candidate who has since left them feeling disenchanted and ill-used.

But once we allow ourselves to consider the possibility that the exit polling was actually weighted in favor of Bush -- well. Much is explained.

Obviously, any party attempting to rig the election would also have to think seriously about ways to shade the exit polls.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Worth Reading: David Brooks on the Sleaz-o-Cons

Today's New York Times column by conservative David Brooks focuses on the slimy underbelly of the conservative movement. I don't usually link to him because I don't normally agree with him, but his comments are right on. Ralph Reed, in particular, has political ambitions in Georgia, planning to run for Lieutenant Governor (as a prelude no doubt), but I hope this stuff ends any political career for him.

UPDATE: Ed Kilgore, filling in for Josh Marshall, opines similarly.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Hypocrisy Piled Upon Hypocrisy

Digby reminds us yet again:

By now most people who read liberal blogs are aware that George W. Bush signed a law in Texas that expressly gave hospitals the right to remove life support if the patient could not pay and there was no hope of revival, regardless of the patient's family's wishes. It is called the Texas Futile Care Law. Under this law, a baby was removed from life support against his mother's wishes in Texas just this week. A 68 year old man was given a temporary reprieve by the Texas courts just yesterday.

Those of us who read liberal blogs are also aware that Republicans have voted en masse to pull the plug (no pun intended) on medicaid funding that pays for the kind of care that someone like Terry Schiavo and many others who are not so severely brain damaged need all across this country.

Those of us who read liberal blogs also understand that that the tort reform that is being contemplated by the Republican congress would preclude malpractice claims like that which has paid for Terry Schiavo's care thus far.

Those of us who read liberal blogs are aware that the bankruptcy bill will make it even more difficult for families who suffer a catastrophic illness like Terry Schiavo's because they will not be able to declare chapter 7 bankruptcy and get a fresh start when the gargantuan medical bills become overwhelming.

And those of us who read liberal blogs also know that this grandstanding by the congress is a purely political move designed to appease the religious right and that the legal maneuverings being employed would be anathema to any true small government conservative.

Be sure to read the rest.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Terry Schiavo and the Moral Republicans

The Terry Schiavo case is heartbreaking. The Congressional Republicans are making it a circus with a dramatic, and lunatic, show of crocodile tears, meanwhile providing "talking points" for Senators because this, according to party operatives, is a "great political issue" that resonates with conservatives.

Tom DeLay challenges Terry Schiavo's husband: "My question is: What kind of man is he?" I'd like to ask Mr. DeLay that question, since the evidence is mounting daily that he himself is the kind of man who can be bought and paid for time and time again.

Randall Terry is consulting with the Schiavo parents, to help them keep their daughter alive while bringing more attention to himself, yet he--a longtime leader of anti-abortionists--kicked his own son out of his house because he was gay.

Such hypocrisy would be almost humorous if it weren't all so tragic. And these are our moral leaders. Thank God Terry Schiavo doesn't know what's going on around her. God bless her.

Pastor Dan's Good Word for Today: Palm Passion Sunday

Thanks to Pastor Dan for another reminder of why we do what we do. Go read it.

This, I think, is the key to Palm Passion Sunday: the understanding that Christ suffered not for its own sake, but to place himself with all those who suffer. And we are called to follow his example.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Religious Right Wing Group on Tolerance: They're Anti

I saw this press release, reproduced verbatim below, and it just makes me cringe. This attitude is prevalent among the religious right, and it's deadly and anti-Christian.

By the way, speaking of "invasive efforts," how about this groups strident efforts to insist on promoting a lifestyle of intolerance, fear, and hatred?

CONTACT: Finn Laursen, Executive Director of Christian Educators Assoc. In'tl, 440-667-4548,

MARCH 17, 2005

Response to "We Are Family" Video

"It is evident that our children have become the targets of special interest groups that insist on promoting the homosexual lifestyle within the school setting. Two such invasive efforts are currently underway and America's educators, parents, grandparents, and concerned citizens need to stand up and ....just say No!" insists, Finn Laursen, Executive Director of Christian Educators Association International.

Recently, a video call "We are Family" was delivered to over 60,000 elementary schools in the nation under the banner of promoting diversity. The introductory letter to educators states, "children will learn about different kinds of families and will explore the importance of appreciating cultural diversity." Just in case teachers are too naive to understand the purpose of this video put out by the We are Family Foundation, the teachers guide provided says to be sure to "ask further questions of the class if they only give these traditional answers" (mommy, daddy, sister, brother) when discussing who might be part of a family.

After viewing the video, Laursen stated that it was obvious, though subtle, that the purpose for including 100 television characters our children love and respect in this video was to promote the concept that families may be different than the time-honored traditional family. Although the video does not blatantly take this issue to the next level, the topic could easily be taken to the next step of raising the flag of tolerance for lifestyles that most parents do not want their preschool children and elementary children to openly embrace or to focus little innocent minds on.

"Most American families DO NOT send their children to schools to have the concept of traditional family polluted by special interest groups and for this reason need to speak out." explained Laursen.

He encouraged all in agreement to contact their schools and ask that their children not be forced to endure this video and thus allow parents to decide how they pass on their family values to their children. Teaching our children what a family should look like is a responsibility of parents and not that of our schools. Schools should be teaching academics not non-traditional lifestyles.

Laursen pointed to a similar manipulation targeting our older youth being perpetuated by GLSEN (Gay Lesbian, Straight Education Network) under the deceptive banner of anti violence. A Day of Silence , April 13, 2005 is, according to GLSEN, " a student-led day of action where those who support making anti-LGBT bias unacceptable in schools take a day-long vow of silence to recognize and protest the discrimination and harassment -- in effect, the silencing -- experienced by LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) students and their allies."

Again, according to this educational leader, it is not the role of our schools to promote non traditional sexual expression and bringing this issue to our schools should not be tolerated. "If laws are being violated and some students are being harassed, this is a legal issue for our courts, not a reprogramming project to be carried out in our schools." insisted, Finn Laursen.

He went on to say, "Our community should not be bullied by political correctness or fear of being considered intolerant...let's get back to the teaching of the basics and leave family and sexual morality issues to our parents."

Christian Educators Association International, founded in 1953, is the foremost public school association for Christian educators serving in public and private schools.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Where is the Bush backlash?

I keep waiting for it. Every day comes some new revelation, some amazingly stupid decision or insulting nomination, and other than on the liberal blogs we just don't hear much in the "mainstream media."

The Iraq war continues, and we lose young Americans week after week. And we get reports from trustworthy sources that the recent election there was rigged. Which unfortunately isn't surprising.

The Halliburton rip-off scandal makes a blip on the radar screen and then goes away. How many millions have they bilked us out of now?

Bush cronies Karen Hughes, Alberto Gonzalez, Paul Wolfowitz, John Bolton, and countless others get placed in vital roles on the national and international stage, which can only further erode our freedoms and international stature.

The Gannon/Guckert case gets swept under the carpet by the House committee, hoping it will all go away. There is so much more here deep under the surface, I am sure, that we will never know.

The administration is using millions of dollars of taxpayers' money to unethically influence them through one-sided video news releases and paid-off commentators.

And the Social Security fiasco... where to start?

Was Bush again using an earpiece at the news conference yesterday?

Will we ever find out the real scoop on the 2004 election and the fraudulent voting machines? What about all the folks who were unable to vote on flimsy excuses?

And who was behind the Rathergate memos?

What will happen to our environment? Thank God the "Clear Skies" initiative was defeated, but then the next week we have oil drilling in pristine Alaskan wilderness.

On and on the litany goes. Sure, Bush's approval rating dips slightly week by week. But when is America--red states and all-- going to wake up?

Cal Thomas puts the blinders on even more narrowly

Here's conservative columnist Cal Thomas's column on why evangelicals should let the environment go to hell. It's stunning to read that he believes evangelicals should ignore everything but sharing the gospel. Has he even read the Bible? Does he see nothing of working for justice and peace in there, nothing of being stewards of the earth?

Episcopal Bishops Decide to Take a Time Out

Here's the Washington Post on what the bishops in the Episcopal Church USA decided yesterday. It's frustrating to me that the church has to be held hostage by some narrow minded folks in other countries. Here are some highlights:

The nation's Episcopal bishops have called a temporary halt to the naming of new bishops and the establishment of formal blessings for same-sex couples, saying the church needs "time for healing" after an international outcry over the election of a gay bishop in New Hampshire.

The moratorium will remain in effect for at least 15 months, until the church's next General Convention, in June 2006. More than 1,000 lay delegates, priests and bishops are scheduled to convene that month in Columbus, Ohio, for what is shaping up as a fierce debate over homosexuality, the Bible and the value of remaining in step with the rest of the worldwide Anglican Communion.

Since then, Episcopal leaders have apologized for causing anguish to other Anglicans but have not said they were wrong. The "Covenant Statement" adopted in Texas continued to take that line, expressing "deep regret for the pain that others have experienced."

The Rev. Susan Russell, president of Integrity, a 30-year-old advocacy group for gay Episcopalians, said she was pleased that the bishops called a halt to the naming of any new bishops, not just gay ones. "They're saying that unity is important but so is justice, so the whole church will bear the burden," she said.

But the Rev. David C. Anderson, president of the American Anglican Council, which stands for orthodoxy in the church, said he was outraged that the moratorium would apply to "a bishop-elect who is lawfully married to a person of the opposite sex." Anderson also said the moratorium on same-sex blessings was a "phony baloney" move that would not stop priests from performing informal rites.

Bush's Secretary of International Spin

The Washington Post's Richard Cohen on Karen Hughes, who has been nominated to be undersecretary of blowing smoke internationally-- and the administration's use of spin in the media, town hall meetings, etc. Bottom line:

What matters most at the moment, however, is that Hughes is Bush's creation and a great target of opportunity. She represents a chance to force -- or, better yet, shame -- the Bush administration into ceasing its use of our money to sell us a bill of goods or pretend that its Social Security town halls, about as spontaneous as a military funeral, are really exercises in small-town democracy. Her nomination is a gift, a chance for Senate Democrats, even some Republicans (I'm looking at you, McCain) to get the Bush administration to stop blowing smoke. After all, this is not a Democratic or Republican issue. In the spirit of bipartisanship that Bush has long promised, his administration has been deceiving us all.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Halliburton Is a War Profiteer-- According to Bush's Pentagon

AmericaBlog pulls together some links from the New York Times story and a Vanity Fair piece on how Dick Cheney's old company is ripping off the American taxpayers. Of course, we already knew this. Only now the source is the Pentagon in the Bush Administration. But the report was ready a month before the election, and stifled.

Activist Judge Is a Republican Catholic

AP offers some background on that judge in the gay marriage case in California. He's actually "one of them," a Catholic and a Republican.

Supporters of same-sex marriage found an ally in San Francisco Judge Richard Kramer - a Catholic Republican appointed to the bench by a former GOP governor.

"We're certainly feeling the judge's decision is right," said San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, whose city's lawsuit prompted Kramer's ruling Monday that gays and lesbians have the right to marry in California, despite a law and a voter-approved measure declaring marriage to be the exclusive realm of heterosexuals.

Opponents of gay marriage immediately declared that 57-year-old Kramer is a judicial activist whose decision was "ludicrous" and "nonsense."

Sunday, March 13, 2005

NY Times on the Iraqi Weapons Looting

The New York Times picks up a story that got batted around before the election and then disappeared. Here's how the story starts:

In the weeks after Baghdad fell in April 2003, looters systematically dismantled and removed tons of machinery from Saddam Hussein's most important weapons installations, including some with high-precision equipment capable of making parts for nuclear arms, a senior Iraqi official said this week in the government's first extensive comments on the looting.

The Iraqi official, Sami al-Araji, the deputy minister of industry, said it appeared that a highly organized operation had pinpointed specific plants in search of valuable equipment, some of which could be used for both military and civilian applications, and carted the machinery away.

Dr. Araji said his account was based largely on observations by government employees and officials who either worked at the sites or lived near them.

"They came in with the cranes and the lorries, and they depleted the whole sites," Dr. Araji said. "They knew what they were doing; they knew what they want. This was sophisticated looting."

The threat posed by these types of facilities was cited by the Bush administration as a reason for invading Iraq, but the installations were left largely unguarded by allied forces in the chaotic months after the invasion.

Heads should roll.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Well, at least some broadcast journalists are getting their back up

Broadcasting & Cable covers the Radio TV News Directors banquet, and there are some very disgruntled journalists increasingly upset at the influence the administration is wielding--sometimes in courts--against journalists. Worth a read. Here's how it starts:

The White House, the courts and the Federal Communications Commission all took hits from broadcast journalists Thursday night, who said they were feeling under fire from a manipulative and even malicious government.

NBC News President Neal Shapiro set the tone, telling a roomful of top journalists gathered for the Radio-Television News Directors Foundation awards dinner in D.C. that the press is under attack as never before from the executive and judicial branches, which he says are pursuing journalists with "actual malice" just for doing their jobs.

It's time to "sound the alarm," he said. That call was picked up by other speakers and punctuated with applause from the crowd.

The Unethical Journalistic Practices of the Bush Administration

An extensive New York Times story details the numerous ways the Bush administration uses the news media for its own purposes. It's a shocking abuse of taxpayers' money to foist biased PR-style blather on the nation by duping the news media. The practic e of 'Video News Releases' is growing, not only by the government but by business. The ethics of this whole practice should be explored carefully.

Clearly we have a savvy administration using every means possible to brainwash the populace, whether they're paying off "commentators" like Armstrong Williams et al. to promote their positions or sending out fake TV news reports. This is fraud.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Hal Crowther on the Dough-Face Nation

An outstanding essay by Hal Crowther from the Independent Weekly. Go and read.
The doughface will always be with us; in a democracy he's the dead weight the rest of us will always be obliged to carry. But in times of civic peril and critical decision--the 1850s, certainly, and the first decade of the 21st century--doughface inertia becomes a millstone so heavy it can crush a nation's heart. A doughface crisis approaches when public servants commit spectacular outrages that seem to outrage no one; when unbearable truths are evident but widely ignored or rejected; and not coincidentally, when public figures who appear to be imbeciles grin from every wall and page and screen.
And here's the chilling conclusion:

But any pogrom must be orchestrated by the White House Rasputin, Karl Rove, whose portfolio is power-maintenance in all its forms. His fingerprints will eventually be found on the Swift Boat smear of John Kerry, and probably on the dubious document that brought down Rather, Mapes and the better half of CBS News. Rove is a professional assassin, a Texas version of Chucky the Devil Doll. Now that he reigns supreme, no one mentions that George H.W. Bush fired him from the campaign in 1992 for going feral and firing a political bullet at Robert Mosbacher, the president's friend and chief fundraiser. John Diulio, recently a White House domestic policy advisor, claims he overheard Rove screaming "We will fuck him. Do you hear me? We will fuck him. We will ruin him. Like no one has ever fucked him." Diulio never caught the name of the victim-to-be.

In the past, Rove specialized in character and career assassinations. But I took a chill from the cause of death--apparent suicide--when I read an obituary for Gary Webb, 49, the prize-winning investigative reporter who accused the CIA of funding Nicaragua's contra death squads through a cocaine cartel in San Francisco. Once shunned, the bloodstained old contra crowd--including the new security chief, John Negroponte--rides high again in Karl Rove's Washington.

USA Next isn't finished with AARP yet

I have to say this infuriates me. Here's the story from Editor & Publisher.

AARP has every right to lobby on behalf of their members. I just joined myself, and am glad I did. They are a very powerful and balanced organization. USA Next is a hateful, vengeful, screeching right wing group that has already put such a vile ad against the AARP online that they were forced to drop it--and now the gay couple they pictured kissing (as part of the "AARP agenda") are suing them for illegally using their image. I hope they win millions.

The fact that the guy running USA Next formerly worked for Focus on the Family, the hatefilled narrow-minded group that purports to be Christian, only reveals the extent that that group will go to use dirty tricks and meanness to sell their false morality.

There's some hope in that E&P article though. Charlie Jarvis's two sons lean left, and he says they've had "knockdown" fights.

Thursday, March 10, 2005 U.S. Quits Pact Used in Capital Cases

The Washington Post reports on the latest attack on human rights by the Bush administration. Wonder if this will ever affect U.S. citizens arrested overseas?

Salon on the Religious Left: What Would Falwell Do?

Amy Sullivan has a piece on Salon that's worth reading. Nothing that hasn't been said elsewhere, but a good overview. Some excerpts:

What would Falwell do?
After years of near-invisibility, religious progressives want to regain their vanished political clout. But with conservatives claiming a monopoly on godliness, it's going to be a struggle of biblical proportions.

The Bush administration is going to hell. That, at least, could be the take-away message from a Tuesday press conference religious leaders from five major Protestant denominations held at the National Press Club. Clad in clerical collars, and invoking the Gospel story of Lazarus, a poor man ignored at the gate of a rich man's estate who went to heaven while the rich man was sent to hell, the leaders called on Congress to oppose what they called an "immoral budget" and staked a claim for moral values that don't have anything to do with abortion or gay marriage. "The 2006 budget that President Bush has sent to Capitol Hill is unjust," they charged. "It has much for the rich man and little for Lazarus." But while the press conference focused on calling attention to the need for truly compassionate policies that protect the most vulnerable in society, it had another mission as well: to assert the relevance of the religious left.

What's that, you say? The religious what?

Everyone knows about the religious right, a movement of conservative, mostly Christian, religious communities that has become increasingly involved in American politics over the last three decades. The idea that there could be a countervailing religious force, whether defined as religious progressives or simply everyone not part of the religious right, has long since been dismissed from public consciousness. Indeed, the religious left had almost forgotten about itself -- the community hadn't come together to protest a federal budget, one of the religious leaders told me, "since the early Reagan years."


The decline and fall of the religious left has been so complete that news organizations regularly conflate terms like "religious voters" and "moral values" with "right-wing," without a second thought. When Time magazine recently ran an article about Democratic religious outreach efforts, the piece concluded with the thought, "Religious voters might like the music, but they're unlikely to be seduced by it as long as Democrats stick to their core positions," as if religious Americans could only support the Democratic Party by putting their faith aside, not because of their faith. The easiest way to change this perception is for the religious left to aggressively and vocally reenter political life. But it's a long climb back to relevance.


There are signs of hope. After the election, the religious left commissioned and received a report that brutally, but accurately, assessed the movement's weaknesses and past mistakes. Jim Wallis, founder of Sojourners magazine and the progressive Call to Renewal organization, has a new book on the New York Times bestseller list and has been blanketing airwaves on a national book tour, chatting up Jon Stewart, Charlie Rose and Terry Gross. And millions of Americans, outraged by post-election assumptions that "moral issues" are defined exclusively as conservative concerns, are hungry for a way to mobilize their religious progressive numbers. They may have to go hungry a while longer. When I asked the assembled leaders how they planned to mobilize their congregants to oppose the Bush budget, the response was meek: "We have some listservs ... we're asking people to contact their representatives." After an election season in which the Christian Coalition distributed 70 million voter guides, the religious left will need to do more to make itself heard.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Democrats must reclaim moral ground

Jim Kelley of Atlanta has written a nice op-ed piece for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Here are some excerpts:

...Our country has definitely shifted hard to the right. By appealing to people's fears, right-wing religious leaders and political operatives — such as Jerry Falwell, Ralph Reed and Karl Rove — have redefined what is mainstream in America. The political center has disappeared and what were only a few years ago considered right-wing fringe positions are now accepted as mainstream.

So what are liberals to do?


In order to be significant and to make a difference, the liberal wing needs to become the most vocal and outspoken part of the Democratic Party. We cannot be afraid to be called "liberal." It is not a four-letter word. We need to be true to our own moral values and articulate our views in calm and clear ways that will appeal to the voter.


As long as we remain a secular left instead of a religious left, we are doomed to be on the fringe of American society. It is not enough for our political candidates to "find religion" just to grab a few more votes. The voters will see through that in a heartbeat. Liberal religion must come from the heart. Liberals must begin articulating our own positive "moral values."

Jesus would not have thought it fair to give a tax cut to the ultra-rich while giving crumbs to the poor.

Jesus would be appalled with the lies that we were given as reason to invade Iraq and would condemn the modern-day religious crusade that we have started.

Jesus preached inclusion and compassion and included people who were considered outcasts in his society, such as lepers and prostitutes, among his followers. I am sure that he would have had compassion on gays and lesbians and would have condemned the recent effort to use the law to restrict their full rights as citizens.

Jesus was never afraid to criticize the politicians of his day but he never supported one faction over another. The intertwining of religion and politics that we have now and the corrupting influence that it has on both our church and political leaders would appall him.

The radical religious right feels that it has a monopoly on morality. It does not. We need to remember that and not be afraid to speak out about our values. People might not always agree with us, but if we have the courage to remain true to our convictions, they will respect us.

Dan Rather, Leaving By the High Road

Tom Shales bids farewell to the CBS News anchor in a fascinating column from today's Washington Post.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

A nice little getaway to Savannah, Georgia

Savannah, Georgia, near the Atlantic coast and across the Savannah River from South Carolina, is one of my favorite places, but it's been years since I've visited. Family vacations there, along with one late-night spontaneous trip years ago with friends to what we decided was the closest beach to Atlanta, have given me some good memories. So when I had the opportunity to spend a night at a Holiday Inn Express there, I grabbed it.

You've seen the commercials, which I must say are a bit silly, about how smart it is to stay there. This guy is wearing a towel to business meetings, playing chess, etc. and showing how smart he is because he stayed at a Holiday Inn Express, which has a terrific shower head and delicious cinnamon rolls. Not sure the connection, but it is cheap, and it is well managed with nice amenities like that, even free high speed internet. Anyway, that was the base of operations. And for about 24 hours some friends and I enjoyed the town of Savannah and its unique history, beautiful old homes, lovely squares scattered throughout the city, and its riverfront, with tons of shops and good seafood restaurants, artists and musicians at work, and lots of people watching each other enjoying the gorgeous setting. The weather cooperated most of the time we were there--a gorgeous, crisp spring day with a sudden cold shower Saturday night, but clear again Sunday.

We took a trolley tour of the town and got a nice firsthand overview of some of the history (which notoriously includes the gay murder featured in the book and movie, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil). There are a lot of interesting characters in Savannah, and a ton of fascinating stories. George Washington was so impressed with the town he sent them two cannons, still on display.

We also spent a bit of time at the beach, on Tybee Island. All in all, it was a nice little getaway. They were already getting ready for their huge St. Patrick's Day celebration. As busy as this weekend was, I can't imagine how you would get around with that party going on. But it would be fun to try.

Just What is Reverend Moon Up To?

One of my guilty blog-reading pleasures is Joseph Cannon's blog, Cannonfire. He's been a source of all sorts of interesting information about the stolen election, Bush's back bulge, and such topics, and proudly proclaims himself part of the "X-Files wing of the Democratic Party."

Lately he's been on the case of Reverend Sun Myung Moon, the self-proclaimed Messiah who funds far-right newspaper The Washington Times. Moon has strong connections, for instance, to Doug Wead, who revealed those embarrassing tapes of George W. Bush prior to his election. Some wonder if the tapes weren't released to let W. know who's really in control.

Today Joseph has a piece on the Moon connections with the Tim LaHaye ministry. LaHaye is the author (actually in name only, Jerry Jenkins wrote 'em) of the phenomenal Left Behind series of books. It's mostly conjecture but the pieces are fitting. Somebody needs to really dig into this creepy cult and see how far its tendrils reach. It may be terrifying. Google Moon and see what else he's been up to in recent years, it could make your skin crawl. And do be sure to scroll through Joseph's blog for all sorts of interesting nuggets. For instance, is the GOPUSA organization--of Gannon/Guckert fame--a Moonie front?

Having come out of the far religious right myself--a graduate of a conservative rapture-oriented dispensational seminary--I find this fascinating, and deeply troubling. And it only makes me glad to be free of those bonds.

Speaking Out against Bush's Budget

I encourage you to click here and sign this petition from Here it is:

The Petition below, "A Vision of Hope & Justice for the FY 2006 Federal Budget," is a document of "“Let Justice Roll: Faith and Community Voices Against Poverty”

The federal budget of the United States is a document that establishes the priorities for our country. It is a document that reflects our values as a nation and what we believe is important for the public and future generations. It is a moral document.

Our federal budget should reflect the values of equality, opportunity, and justice that honors the poor, supports families, and builds strong, viable communities.

The Bush Administration’s FY2006 budget is morally misguided and misrepresents the true values of the American people. It suggests that we value military might and war spending more than the poor, families, and strong, viable communities. It favors permanent tax relief for the wealthy and corporations at the expense of further burdening the poor, families, and communities with economic despair. It is a budget that eats away at the heart of the American dream by eliminating funding for programs that are certain to provide us with future opportunities, progress, and security on the home front.

Our nation’s future is in serious danger if cuts or caps to programs such as Medicaid, food stamps, job training, veterans’ health services, education, housing and community development grants, among many others, are used as solutions to reduce a projected $427 billion dollar deficit.

Congress must act boldly and creatively to oppose budget cuts in human services. Speaking as God’s messenger, the prophet Amos offered these words to the people because of their misplaced focus, “But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream (Amos 5:24).” To be true to our values as a nation, we strongly urge Congress to reverse the destructive course our nation is on and reject the Bush Administration’s budget. The FY2006 budget should be funded by scaling back tax relief for the wealthy, closing corporate tax loopholes, and holding military and war spending in check. We call on Congress to draft and approve a budget and policies that will provide the poor, families, and communities with the tools to meet basic needs such as access to nutritious food and quality child-care, accessible and affordable housing, comprehensive and affordable health care, high quality education at every stage of life, a fair and just tax system, job creation and a livable income to sustain their future.

This positive vision for our nation is only limited by the lack of political will to make it happen. We call on Congress to Let Justice Roll!

Stories of Note from Today's Paper

Just read the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and these are a few of the stories that struck me:

The president picks a prominent critic of the United Nations, and a well-known non-compromiser, to be his nominee for UN Ambassador:

Washington --- President Bush on Monday announced his nomination of Undersecretary of State John Bolton as ambassador to the United Nations --- an institution that Bolton has pointedly criticized.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice praised Bolton as a ''tough-minded diplomat'' with ''a proven track record of effective multilateralism.''

But congressional Democrats, signaling a likely confirmation fight, branded him as the wrong man at the wrong time.

Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry called it ''just about the most inexplicable appointment the president could make to represent the United States to the world community.''

''Mr. Bolton once said, 'If the U.N. building in New York lost 10 stories, it wouldn't make a bit of difference,' '' said Kerry, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. ''Now we're supposed to believe he's the right person to represent the United States at the United Nations?''

Bush makes a few positive strides in the world community with his recent European trip, and then turns around and smacks the world in the face again.

Then there's the story of the rabid anti-gay protesters in Cleveland, Georgia, who flew in to oppose a high school student's Gay/Straight Alliance club--and the resulting counter-protest, thank God:

Two days after a small group of fundamentalist Christians from Kansas began a strident protest against a proposed gay student support group at a high school in the Georgia mountains, the townspeople said enough is enough.

On Monday morning, about 100 people showed up with picket signs in front of White County High School to counter the eight members of Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka who had flown in on Saturday and staged loud demonstrations against the gay club as well as seven local churches.

"Go back to Kansas!" the Georgians shouted.

Ever since a 16-year-old gay junior, Kerry Pacer, founded the Gay-Straight Alliance and asked to meet at the high school, Cleveland hasn't been the same. She's been booed. School board meetings have been contentious, attracting media attention. And now the Kansans have shown up, screaming insults and anti-gay epithets.

The locals were especially livid at the out-of-towners for showing up at churches on Sunday morning before services and hurling at worshippers such insults as "Thank God for 9/11," "God hates you" and "Your pastor is lying." The fundamentalists said the churches were targeted because they had not condemned homosexuality strongly enough.

And here's some unexpected good news from the Georgia State Legislature, who this year, more than ever, have been acting like a bunch of white, male, Republican businessmen (because, well, mostly they are):

It's probably a question of when --- not whether --- Georgia's 24,000 electronic voting machines will produce a paper record of a voter's ballot.

Two lawmakers, one in the House and one in the Senate, have introduced legislation requiring that the machines be outfitted with a voter-verified paper audit trail.

The paper record, produced by a printer, would allow voters to review the selections they make on the machine's touch screen before casting a final ballot. The paper record would drop into a locked box, so voters would not be able to take it with them.

Supports of the paper record say it's necessary to make certain the machines are accurately recording votes and to quell concerns that they could be rigged to manipulate elections.

Secretary of State Cathy Cox has resisted adding a paper trail, arguing that no federal technical standards for such a system exist. She also says hard-copy records have been a source of election fraud for decades.

Last year, Cox successfully beat back legislative efforts to outfit the machines with printers. But the drumbeat for a paper trail is growing louder.

Cox, by the way, is a Democrat and will almost certainly be a gubernatorial candidate next time, but she championed the Diebold voting machines in Georgia--and we know all about those, don't we.

And finally, there's this bit of good and hopeful news, an op-ed piece written by a middle school student (and I hope they don't mind my reproducing the whole thing):

Gay parents set a loving example for children

What do you think when you think of gay people? Most people would answer that question with sounds of disgust. But why? What did gay people do that was so bad? Why do so many people hate gay people?

Is there a reason? Well, most people would say, "It says so in the Bible." Who wrote the Bible? Men. Men who feared. Men who had to be in control. Men who also said women should have no rights.

The same men who said women should have no rights also said that gay people should have no rights. But why? Because they feared what they didn't understand. You hide behind God. You say, "Well, God said that gay people can't be together, they won't go to heaven." But did he? No. He only left behind 10 laws. We know them as the Ten Commandments. None of them says, "Gays can't be together or they won't go to heaven." God loves and accepts everyone.

Don't you see that what happened only a few years ago is happening now? It used to be everyone hated the black people, but now it's everyone hates the gay people.

Is this what the world should be like? Hatred? No. God put us on this world to love.

Gay people are just like everyone else. They love. They have arguments. They want children. They have to eat to live. They die at old ages. So what makes them so different?

And if we made it against the law for gay people to be together, guess who else you'd be hurting? Children. The children in orphanages who always dreamed of having a real home, a home where they were loved and wanted.

Gay people are adopting children because they can't have children of their own. Trust me, I would know.

I am one of those children who were adopted by two gay men. They are the best family I've ever had. And they love.

They don't care that I'm black and they're white, they don't care that I look, sound or am different. They love. And who could understand that more than a child who had never been loved, and is finally loved by people whom other people hate?

I don't think that I could ever hate because I'm surrounded by real love.


Thursday, March 03, 2005

The Amazingly Sad "Drilling to Hell" Story

Here's a fascinating investigation of an "absolutely true" Christian legend foisted upon gullible viewers of Trinity Broadcasting Network some years back.

Bill Moyers on the State of the Media

Interesting interview by Nick Welsh with the respected, and now unfortunately retired, journalist here. This will get you started:

Spend five minutes on the phone with Bill Moyers, dubbed by some “the conscience” of American journalism, and it’s abundantly obvious that the man is troubled, and profoundly pissed off; though it’s doubtful someone so imbued with good Southern manners would use such talk. Now 70, Moyers has spent most of the past 55 years hunting the truth behind his craft, a working journalist tracing the twisted paths of power for both newspapers and television. Embodying that rare combination of graciousness, dignity, and passion, Moyers has been audacious enough to tell “the truth behind the news,” rather than to report the “he-said-she-said” ping-pong that often passes for news. And the truth about the news business — and democracy — as Moyers sees, could not be more grim. The mainstream news media, Moyers laments, has taken a dive at a time when the power of the Republican Party has never been more absolute and more morally bankrupt. As a result, public discourse has been reduced to a scream-fest dominated by such unabashedly conservative media giants as Fox, Clear Channel, and Sinclair, who’ve become “echo chambers” for the Bush administration, if not outright propagandists. And when it comes to the realities of bare-knuckle politics, Moyers is hardly some pious sissy.

Bush Keeps Pushing Privitization

There are so many troubling aspects to this article in today's Washington Post I hardly know where to begin.

What is behind Bush's insistence that this huge change in Social Security occur? I heard that he has been running on this plank since his first Congressional run in the late 1970s. I know that Social Security--a "big government handout"--has always been anathema to conservatives. But you have a large majority of Americans opposed to the idea, you even have Senator Frist, the majority leader, saying it's got to wait. Now, in response to that, the dogs have really been let loose:

Despite polls showing support for the plan slipping, Bush is confident he is winning the first phase of the public debate over Social Security and has no plans to significantly alter his strategy for enacting the most dramatic changes ever to the venerable system, said senior White House officials who have talked to Bush. Several congressional Republicans, however, said they do not share Bush's optimism and questioned his strategy for enacting changes this year.

Once again the President is living in la-la land. His attitude--with everything from the war in Iraq to this--seems to be "if only I believe it hard enough it must be true! And if I repeat it often enough, everybody else will believe it too!"

One day after Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) said the Senate might not meet Bush's year-end deadline, the White House announced plans to step up its effort to pressure lawmakers into action by dispatching Bush, Vice President Cheney and other administration officials to 60 events in 60 days. Cheney, in particular, will assume a larger role in the effort, including attending town hall meetings with GOP lawmakers.

The pressure builds. And who knows what's going on behind the scenes... Well, we get a little glimpse of what some of it might be:

The White House is also intensifying efforts to enlist the help of its business supporters. At a private meeting last Thursday, senior adviser Karl Rove signaled to lobbyists that a group run by Business Roundtable, which plans to raise $20 million to promote personal accounts, should be viewed as the White House's muscle in the business community, participants said. Snow huddled this week with the top lobbyists for Fortune 500 companies, some of whom have shown tepid interest in getting involved in the debate.

So business, which really would be the winner in the President's new plan, is getting the squeeze. And Rove is pulling the strings. And money is being spent to "persuade."

And then there's this:

After the meeting, DeLay lashed out at AARP, the seniors group that has led opposition to the Bush plan. "It's incredibly irresponsible of the AARP to be against a solution that hasn't even been written yet and running ads trying to convince people that personal retirement accounts is like going to Las Vegas and playing the lottery," he told reporters. "The Democrats have decided that their whole approach is going to be blame Bush. Well, we've seen how that has worked over the last four years."

First of all, why isn't the Raw Story's scoop about DeLay's continuing ethical problems getting more play in the media? Well, in another interesting article in the Washington Post this morning, they at least mention the latest situation--in a summary of all of DeLay's woes. But why isn't he in jail yet? Why is he allowed to "lash out" at AARP, clearly the raw meat target du jour of the rabid right? And if a sound plan to help Social Security hasn't been written yet, why hasn't Congress done so?

Really, the only thing Social Security needs is to raise the income cap so that richer people pay a little bit more. People can augment it with all the IRAs and personal retirement accounts they want to. Bush's plan does nothing, as has been well documented, to "save" Social Security, because that's precisely not his goal. It's all smoke and mirrors, and you can be sure his business pals will profit.

But perhaps Bush's plan will ultimately become the spear he will fall on.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Spider-Man's Greatest Bible Stories

Yeah, yeah, it's heresy, but my inner kid thinks it's cool. From the Portland Mercury.

Dennis Prager on Good Vs. Evil

Faithforward offers a fascinating, and frankly frightening, review of a piece by conservative radio show host Dennis Prager, on Hate as a biblical value. Check it out.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Stan Lee has yet another new idea

Hollywood Reporter says "my pal" Stan Lee is joining forces with famed producer Robert Evans to bring another of his creations to the screen: "Foreverman." Here's the story from Zap2It. And highlights:

Producers are keeping the details about the hero under wraps, only confirming that he'll have the typical problems of saving the world while juggling his private life.

When the project was initially kicked around in 2003, Lee said, "It has to do with crime and punishment in the not-too-distant future and a unique way of punishing people who are menaces to society. It's a concept that hasn't been seen before, with tremendously interesting villains with unique powers."

Lee reportedly came up with the story in two days, which "Hellboy" scribe Peter Briggs will write for the screen.

And don't forget this post from January! :)