Saturday, April 30, 2005

Mo on the new Iraqi Oil Minister

You go, Mo.

Here's how it starts:

The Iraqis have thrown us another curveball.

Ahmad Chalabi - convicted embezzler in Jordan, suspected Iranian spy, double-crosser of America, purveyor of phony war-instigating intelligence - is the new acting Iraqi oil minister.

Is that why we went to war, to put the oily in charge of the oil, to set the swindler who pretended to be Spartacus atop the ultimate gusher?

Does anybody still think the path to war wasn't greased by oil?

Stan and Marvel Settle

Good news on the Stan Lee front: Marvel has settled with him. Terms are undisclosed but he likely got something like $10 million. Here's the NY Times story. I sent him a congratulatory email and he replied, "Best of all, I'm just glad it's over."


Back in town

Once again my apologies for being away from the computer for the past two weeks. I've been with my family during a very difficult time. Both my parents have been in the hospital and we're certainly not out of the woods yet. At any rate, I'll try to get back to posting some notable news items and comments this weekend.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

E. J. Dionne on Benedict XVI

A helpful essay on the new pope--who he is, and why he is pope.

Pope Benedict XVI, born Joseph Ratzinger, is not afraid to be unpopular. That is why he was elected pope Tuesday. It is also why he will face excruciating difficulties in holding together the most ethnically, geographically and ideologically diverse religious institution in the world.


Thus the question: Why did the College of Cardinals make such a controversial choice, and with such dispatch? The simple answer is that the 78-year-old pope is a transitional figure. Barring a medical miracle, it is likely that a new pontiff will be elected in a few years. One need not be Machiavelli to suggest that potential popes sitting in the Sistine Chapel decided they did not have the votes or the standing to make it this time, and would use a Ratzinger papacy to prepare for the next.


Pope Benedict XVI was elected because he had a clear sense of where the church needs to go. He will make liberal Catholics and many moderates uncomfortable. They should see his election as a sign of how urgent it is to revive -- and make credible -- Vatican II's hopeful vision of a church that has much to teach the modern world, and much to learn from it, too.

Sen. Voinovich stands up

Here's the Washington Post story on how the Senate Foreign Relations Committee got turned around by Senator George Voinovich (R-Oh) yesterday. Finally, some Republicans with guts to stand up for what's right. Now what happens...

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

NCC's Bob Edgar on Frist's charges

Issued today from the National Council of Churches:

The following letter to the editor is sent to newspapers and other media outlets by National Council of Churches General Secretary Bob Edgar, in response to comments by Senator Bill Frist that persons who disagree with President Bush's judicial appointments are "against people of faith."

Dear Editor:

We are surprised and grieved by a campaign launched this week by Family Research Council and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, who said that those who disagree with them on President Bush's judicial nominees are "against people of faith." This campaign, which they are calling "Justice Sunday," should properly be called "Just-Us" Sunday. Their attempt to impose on the entire country a narrow, exclusivist, private view of truth is a dangerous, divisive tactic. It serves to further polarize our nation, and it disenfranchises and demonizes good people of faith who hold political beliefs that differ from theirs.

To brand any group of American citizens as "anti-Christian" simply because they differ on political issues runs counter to the values of both faith and democracy. It is especially disheartening when that accusation is aimed at fellow Christians. The National Council of Churches encompasses more than 45 million believers across a broad spectrum of theology and politics who work together on issues important to our society. If they disagree with Senator Frist's political positions, are these 45 million Christians now considered "anti-Christian"?

In the spirit of 1 Timothy 6:3-5, we urge Senator Frist and the Family Research Council to reconsider their plan. We will be praying for the Lord to minister to them and change their hearts so that they will not continue to take our nation down this destructive path.

Bob Edgar, General Secretary
National Council of Churches USA

Monday, April 18, 2005

Stan Lee profile in LA Times

Here's the latest interview with my hero, Stan Lee, from the LA Times.

Here's some of the things he's got cooking with his new company:

You're developing characters again with your new company. What are they like?

One called Earth Walker we're developing for TV. Lightspeed, we're developing that with the Sci Fi Channel. Night Bird, a female hero, with Bruce Willis and Arnold Rifkin's company. We're doing "Hef's Super Bunnies," in which I'll let the world know what [Playboy magnate Hugh] Hefner's real life is about and how Hef has been saving the world all these years in secret. We're also developing animation shorts for the cellphone, which are very big in Asia now and will be in the U.S. soon. We have a new animated series with Ringo Starr. We've gotten friendly, and we're going to do an animated show in which I make him a reluctant superhero. He's going to do the voice and the music. I told him I'd make him famous. And say that I said it with a laugh!

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Who's unamerican?

Good post by Steven D on Daily Kos. Here is the substance:

It's UNAMERICAN to pay journalists to promote GOP policies, then stonewall the investigation into who in the administration was behind it.

It's UNAMERICAN to blow the cover of a CIA agent and put the lives of her contacts at risk merely to get revenge against her husband for pointing out this administration's lies about Iraq's nuclear program.

It's UNAMERICAN to lie to the American public about the necessity for war in Iraq, and then to revise the reasons for going to war every time one is proven wrong.

It's UNAMERICAN to claim the Social Security Trust fund isn't a trust but merely an IOU, calling into question all debt instruments issued by The US Treasury, just so you can scare the public into dismantling the best social program our country has ever known.

It's UNAMERICAN to change the House Ethics Rules and to replace the chairman of the Ethics committee, just so one scandal plagued Republican Leader, Tom DeLay, can avoid future ethics charges.

It's UNAMERICAN to force Congress to vote on massive appropriation bills (thousands of pages long) prepared in secret, after introducing the bill at 3:00 A.M. and scheduling an up or down vote only 12 hours later, making it physically impossible for anyone to even read the entire bill, much less have a serious debate on its contents.

It's UNAMERICAN to promote lies and otherwise smear the reputation of candidates for federal office who honorably served their country in wartime (Kerry and Cleland) merely for a cheap political advantage.

It's UNAMERICAN to threaten judges with removal from office or even violence if they don't vote the way you want them to vote.

It's UNAMERICAN to pass a bill in order to intervene in any private civil matter involving one individual family in order to attempt to obtain a reversal of a verdict merely to score political points with your supporters.

It's UNAMERICAN to eliminate constitutionally authorized bankruptcy protections for people who lose their jobs or suffer a catastrophic family illness while at the same time making it easier for wealthy individuals and corporations to shield their assets and avoid paying their creditors.

It's UNAMERICAN to destroy the estate tax just so Sam Walton's heirs and Paris Hilton can be bigger billionaires.

It's UNAMERICAN to threaten to eliminate the filibuster rules in the Senate, overriding a tradition that has lasted since the dawn of our Republic, merely to obtain the easy appointment of right wing ideologues to the federal bench.

It's UNAMERICAN to eliminate environmental regulations that protect the health of our children (mercury anyone?) merely to reward the energy and utility corporations that fund your political campaigns.

It's UNAMERICAN to provide moral and political support to vigilante groups (Minuteman ring a bell? whose leaders are associated with white supremacism.

It's UNAMERICAN to force schools to teach religious creation stories and beliefs as the equivalent of well established biological and physical science.

It's UNAMERICAN to call someone a traitor merely when they dissent from the policies of the current government.

It's UNAMERICAN to run up the biggest deficits in our country's history and lie about the fact that they are a direct result of your own tax cutting and spending policies.

It's UNAMERICAN to intimidate intelligence analysts in order to obtain intelligence reports that fit your pre-conceived notions of reality.

It's UNAMERICAN to appear before the committee investigating the largest loss of life on American soil from a foreign attacker, and lie about what you knew before the attack occurred.

It's UNAMERICAN to threaten the mass murder of innocent people in political speeches just because they're Muslims.

It's UNAMERICAN to hide the facts about terrorist activity from the American people just because the truth doesn't confirm that we're winning the War on Terror.

It's UNAMERICAN to refuse to dispense medicine to patients that was legitimately prescribed by their doctors.

It's UNAMERICAN to claim that the Founder intended to form a Christian Nation and never intended the separation of Church and State, when the Constitution specifically prohibits the establishment of any religion, even a Christian one.

It's UNAMERICAN to pass laws allowing the Federal Government to be able to search the library records of any American without a Court Order merely by claiming they may be a constitute a terrorist risk.

It's UNAMERICAN to claim that American are not entitled to a right of privacy, and that Government should be entitled to decide what can be done with their bodies and what they may do in the privacy of their own homes.

It's UNAMERICAN censor books that can be owned by libraries, or to burn books, or to claim that government (or anyone else) should have the authority to decide what can and cannot be avialable for people to choose to read.

It's UNAMERICAN to condemn an entire group of people merely on the basis of who they are.

It's UNAMERICAN to tell me what sexual practices I can engage in with my wife or any other consenting adult, based on someone's interpretation of the Bible.

It's UNAMERICAN to tell me what I can and cannot say about our Government's leaders, especially regarding their war policies.

It's UNAMERICAN to say I don't support the troops if I oppose the war in Iraq.

It's more UNAMERICAN to claim you support the troops at the same time you're failing to provide them with adequate armor and forcing them to stay in the military past the original terms of their service merely to fight in an unnecessary war.

It's UNAMERICAN to claim that the major opposition party should be eliminated and we should be under a one party rule.

It's UNAMERICAN to demand a religious litmus test for judges and other governmental officials and politicians.

It's UNAMERICAN to be for a theocracy.

Those are some of the things I think are Unamerican about the Bush Administration and its many minions in the far out right.

Fascinating news about "lost" ancient works

Check out this report from the Independent in the UK:

Thousands of previously illegible manuscripts containing work by some of the greats of classical literature are being read for the first time using technology which experts believe will unlock the secrets of the ancient world.

Among treasures already discovered by a team from Oxford University are previously unseen writings by classical giants including Sophocles, Euripides and Hesiod. Invisible under ordinary light, the faded ink comes clearly into view when placed under infra-red light, using techniques developed from satellite imaging.

The Oxford documents form part of the great papyrus hoard salvaged from an ancient rubbish dump in the Graeco-Egyptian town of Oxyrhynchus more than a century ago. The thousands of remaining documents, which will be analysed over the next decade, are expected to include works by Ovid and Aeschylus, plus a series of Christian gospels which have been lost for up to 2,000 years.

WaPo reveals yet another conservative/lobbying mess

The Washington Post reports on the strange shift of the conservative Heritage Foundation on Malaysia. First they were critical of the Malaysian PM, and then, suddenly, when one of their founders started lobbying for Malaysian business interests in the U.S., they were positive. There are all sorts of interesting connections--Tom DeLay, Jack Abramoff, etc.--and the IRS is interested.

For years, the Heritage Foundation sharply criticized the autocratic rule of former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad, denouncing his anti-Semitism, his jailing of political opponents and his "anti-free market currency controls."

Then, late in the summer of 2001, the conservative nonprofit Washington think tank began to change its assessment: Heritage financed an Aug. 30-Sept. 4, 2001, trip to Malaysia for three House members and their spouses. Heritage put on briefings for the congressional delegation titled "Malaysia: Standing Up for Democracy" and "U.S. and Malaysia: Ways to Cooperate in Order to Influence Peace and Stability in Southeast Asia."

Heritage's new, pro-Malaysian outlook emerged at the same time a Hong Kong consulting firm co-founded by Edwin J. Feulner, Heritage's president, began representing Malaysian business interests. The for-profit firm, called Belle Haven Consultants, retains Feulner's wife, Linda Feulner, as a "senior adviser." And Belle Haven's chief operating officer, Ken Sheffer, is the former head of Heritage's Asia office and is still on Heritage's payroll as a $75,000-a-year consultant.

On Sept. 27, 2001, Belle Haven hired Alexander Strategy Group, a Washington lobby firm run by Edwin A. Buckham, a former chief of staff to House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.), to help represent Malaysian clients. Linda Feulner works as a consultant for Alexander Strategy Group as well as for Belle Haven. Experts say that the relationship between one of Washington's most influential conservative think tanks and a network of lobbying firms collecting fees from Malaysian business interests -- well in excess of $1 million over two years -- could pose a problem for Heritage's tax status as a nonprofit group. The fees were disclosed in reports filed with Congress and the Justice Department.

There's much more.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

faithforward has had enough, and so have I

I'm a big fan of Pastor Dan's Faithforward blog. Here's some of his posting today:

I don't know about you, but I've had enough. It's time Dr. Frist, Tom DeLay, James Dobson, the Family Research Council, and anyone else who would make adherence to political goals a literal article of faith heard from another side of the country. To that end, and for the time being, I am suspending the regular business of this blog and giving it over to a single project.

It is time for us to state, simply and directly, that we can affirm faith while disagreeing with the Republican legislative agenda. By "we," I mean anyone who can get under that statement. You don't have to be religious yourself. You don't even have to be a Democrat. You just have to be willing to say that you are willing to affirm faith, but you don't believe that it should be used as a weapon in a partisan campaign to increase the political power of a single party in the American commonwealth.

What if you really do hate faith? Well then, frankly, you can fuck off. I know there are some who will say those words are far too strong. I don't agree. I'm happy to speak up for the rights of non-believers, but I have no time for hatred, from the left or the right, from the religious or the a-religious, and I'll catch you another time.

In any case, perhaps by the time this video comes out on the 25th, we'll have quite a few testimonials to let Frist and DeLay and their friends know that the radical right wing isn't the only branch of faith in this country. (I'll also work on a link to contact your Senators to let them know where you stand.)

It's a work in progress. Here's some general guidelines, and my own statement.

  • Give as much of the following information as you feel comfortable sharing: your name, your hometown, and whatever religious affiliation you may have. Include a picture of yourself if you're brave enough.

  • State, in the simplest possible terms, that you affirm faith, but you disagree with the Republican agenda to impose the nuclear option and appoint radical right judges. Tell them why.

  • Conclude with a positive statement of your vision of what this nation could become, minus the fear, selfishness, arrogance, and general recklessness we have experienced in the past four years.

  • In your statements above, try to avoid profanity if at all possible. This is for public consumption.

Isn't that easy?

You can do it.

Frist and the coming Theocracy

From The New York Times editorial:

Right-wing Christian groups and the Republican politicians they bankroll have done much since the last election to impose their particular religious views on all Americans. But nothing comes close to the shameful declaration of religious war by Bill Frist, the Senate majority leader, over the selection of judges for federal courts.

Senator Frist is to appear on a telecast sponsored by the Family Research Council, which styles itself a religious organization but is really just another Washington lobbying concern. The message is that the Democrats who oppose a tiny handful of President Bush's judicial nominations are conducting an assault "against people of faith." By that, Senator Frist and his allies do not mean people of all faiths, only those of their faith.

It is one thing when private groups foment this kind of intolerance. It is another thing entirely when it's done by the highest-ranking member of the United States Senate, who swore on the Bible to uphold a Constitution that forbids the imposition of religious views on Americans. Unfortunately, Senator Frist and his allies are willing to break down the rules to push through their agenda - in this case, by creating what the senator knows is a false connection between religion and the debate about judges.


We fully understand that a powerful branch of the Republican Party believes that the last election was won on "moral values." Even if that were true, that's a far cry from voting for one religion to dominate the entire country. President Bush owes it to Americans to stand up and say so.

Mo Dowd on lobbyists

Kind of a sweet look at the glory days of lobbying in Dowd's column today in the NYT. And then comes the disgusting realities of today:

Sleazoid lawmakers like Tom DeLay gulp down the graft from sleazoid lobbyists like Jack Abramoff, who took Mr. DeLay, the House majority leader, to play golf in Scotland in 2000 as part of a $70,000 trip with Mr. DeLay's wife and staff, and for a six-day "fact finding" trip to Moscow in 1997.

If there are any ethics questions, Republicans helpfully gut the House Ethics Committee, while DeLay & Co. try to gut the New Deal.


Another lobbyist, Tongsun Park, a South Korean at the center of a Congressional bribery scandal in the 1970's known as Koreagate, blasted back from the past this week. Mr. Park has been charged with secretly collecting at least $2 million from Saddam Hussein for clandestine help setting up the corrupt U.N. oil-for-food program and carting away bags of cash from Iraq's diplomats in New York, partly to bribe a U.N. official.

Not exactly broad daylight with a brass band. More like midnight in the sewer.

Sometimes life throws a curveball

Sorry for the week without a post. Life got crazy, necessitating an unexpected trip home to be with my folks. There's more to come, and I'll take it a day at a time, like everybody has to.

Thanks for checking in. I'll try to keep in touch.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

A refreshing change of pace

I will admit I have CNN on this morning with the coverage of the Royal Wedding of Charlie and Camilla, and though I could hardly have less interest, it is a refreshing change of pace from the last two weeks of non-stop Papal coverage. Anderson Cooper is clearly having fun, mocking the funny hats (sticks and twigs and leaves--what's up with the hat thing), going giddy over a male streaker in the crowds outside, and generally not taking much of anything seriously about the whole affair. His tongue is firmly in cheek and after days of emotional drudgery, I hope he is enjoying it. I am.

Something doesn't compute here...

From the New York Times:

Arthur J. Finkelstein, a prominent Republican consultant who has directed a series of hard-edged political campaigns to elect conservatives in the United States and Israel over the last 25 years, said Friday that he had married his male partner in a civil ceremony at his home in Massachusetts.

Mr. Finkelstein, 59, who has made a practice of defeating Democrats by trying to demonize them as liberal, said in a brief interview that he had married his partner of 40 years to ensure that the couple had the same benefits available to married heterosexual couples.

"I believe that visitation rights, health care benefits and other human relationship contracts that are taken for granted by all married people should be available to partners," he said.

Media Matters on the GOP Schiavo Memo

Here's the latest roundup from Media Matters. This really stinks. What's so outrageous was the right's strident efforts to paint the memo as a Democratic dirty trick from Harry Reid's office. Rush Limbaugh went nuts with that. Now it's blowing up in their faces and many questions remain. It's very telling every which way you look at it.

Mixed emotions on the death of the pope

I've been very busy lately traveling for business and so forth, so have only caught bits and pieces of the massive media coverage of Pope John Paul II's death and funeral. I've been amazed at how overwhelmingly positive it is. Have they had any interviews with folks who have been affected negatively by some of his hardline policies? Yes, of course, he was a wonderful, gifted leader, and he accomplished great things through his force of personality. But he also marginalized many, many people, including those who are gay, applying words such as "evil" and "aberrant" to their lifestyles. I happened to run across one account about the mixed emotions in the gay Catholic community regarding his death in the New York Blade, and it's worth reading.

How do we impeach these people?

Dana Milbank's piece in the Washington Post this morning will make your blood curdle. A group of conservatives such as Phyllis Schlafly railed at a conference against "judicial tyranny." These people speak of violence against judges they disagree with, including Justice Kennedy, appointed by Reagan. When will these people go away?

Here are some tidbits:

Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy is a fairly accomplished jurist, but he might want to get himself a good lawyer -- and perhaps a few more bodyguards.

Conservative leaders meeting in Washington yesterday for a discussion of "Remedies to Judicial Tyranny" decided that Kennedy, a Ronald Reagan appointee, should be impeached, or worse.

Phyllis Schlafly, doyenne of American conservatism, said Kennedy's opinion forbidding capital punishment for juveniles "is a good ground of impeachment."


Not to be outdone, lawyer-author Edwin Vieira told the gathering that Kennedy should be impeached because his philosophy, evidenced in his opinion striking down an anti-sodomy statute, "upholds Marxist, Leninist, satanic principles drawn from foreign law."

Ominously, Vieira continued by saying his "bottom line" for dealing with the Supreme Court comes from Joseph Stalin. "He had a slogan, and it worked very well for him, whenever he ran into difficulty: 'no man, no problem,' " Vieira said.

The full Stalin quote, for those who don't recognize it, is "Death solves all problems: no man, no problem." Presumably, Vieira had in mind something less extreme than Stalin did and was not actually advocating violence. But then, these are scary times for the judiciary. An anti-judge furor may help confirm President Bush's judicial nominees, but it also has the potential to turn ugly.

A judge in Atlanta and the husband and mother of a judge in Chicago were murdered in recent weeks. After federal courts spurned a request from Congress to revisit the Terri Schiavo case, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) said that "the time will come for the men responsible for this to answer for their behavior." Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) mused about how a perception that judges are making political decisions could lead people to "engage in violence."

"The people who have been speaking out on this, like Tom DeLay and Senator Cornyn, need to be backed up," Schlafly said to applause yesterday. One worker at the event wore a sticker declaring "Hooray for DeLay."

Here is an especially chilling paragraph:

This was no collection of fringe characters. The two-day program listed two House members; aides to two senators; representatives from the Family Research Council and Concerned Women for America; conservative activists Alan Keyes and Morton C. Blackwell; the lawyer for Terri Schiavo's parents; Alabama's "Ten Commandments" judge, Roy Moore; and DeLay, who canceled to attend the pope's funeral.
No, these aren't the wackos, this is mainstream conservatism these days. It's out of control.

Monday, April 04, 2005

On this date in 1967...

Martin Luther King, Jr. gave a speech at Riverside Church in New York City that isn't as well known as some of his other ones--especially his "I Have a Dream Speech" from 1963.

On this date in 1968, Dr. King was murdered.

In honor of his memory, take a few minutes to read his speech from 1967: "Beyond Vietnam." I daresay it may be relevant today. Here are some excerpts:

A genuine revolution of values means in the final analysis that our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual societies.

This call for a world-wide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one's tribe, race, class and nation is in reality a call for an all-embracing and unconditional love for all men. This oft misunderstood and misinterpreted concept -- so readily dismissed by the Nietzsches of the world as a weak and cowardly force -- has now become an absolute necessity for the survival of man. When I speak of love I am not speaking of some sentimental and weak response. I am speaking of that force which all of the great religions have seen as the supreme unifying principle of life. Love is somehow the key that unlocks the door which leads to ultimate reality. This Hindu-Moslem-Christian-Jewish-Buddhist belief about ultimate reality is beautifully summed up in the first epistle of Saint John:

"Let us love one another; for love is God and everyone that loveth is born of God and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. If we love one another God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us."

Let us hope that this spirit will become the order of the day. We can no longer afford to worship the god of hate or bow before the altar of retaliation. The oceans of history are made turbulent by the ever-rising tides of hate. History is cluttered with the wreckage of nations and individuals that pursued this self-defeating path of hate. As Arnold Toynbee says : "Love is the ultimate force that makes for the saving choice of life and good against the damning choice of death and evil. Therefore the first hope in our inventory must be the hope that love is going to have the last word."

We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history there is such a thing as being too late. Procrastination is still the thief of time. Life often leaves us standing bare, naked and dejected with a lost opportunity. The "tide in the affairs of men" does not remain at the flood; it ebbs. We may cry out deperately for time to pause in her passage, but time is deaf to every plea and rushes on. Over the bleached bones and jumbled residue of numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words: "Too late." There is an invisible book of life that faithfully records our vigilance or our neglect. "The moving finger writes, and having writ moves on..." We still have a choice today; nonviolent coexistence or violent co-annihilation.

We must move past indecision to action. We must find new ways to speak for peace in Vietnam and justice throughout the developing world -- a world that borders on our doors. If we do not act we shall surely be dragged down the long dark and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight.

Now let us begin. Now let us rededicate ourselves to the long and bitter -- but beautiful -- struggle for a new world. This is the callling of the sons of God, and our brothers wait eagerly for our response. Shall we say the odds are too great? Shall we tell them the struggle is too hard? Will our message be that the forces of American life militate against their arrival as full men, and we send our deepest regrets? Or will there be another message, of longing, of hope, of solidarity with their yearnings, of commitment to their cause, whatever the cost? The choice is ours, and though we might prefer it otherwise we must choose in this crucial moment of human history.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Dowd on the Latest WMD Commission Report

Mo's Sunday column is a zinger:

We don't need a 14-month inquiry producing 601 pages at a cost of $10 million to tell us the data on arms in Iraq was flawed. We know that. When we got over there, we didn't find any.

This is the fourth exhaustive investigation that has not answered the basic question: How did the White House and Pentagon spin the information and why has no one gotten in trouble for it? If your kid lied and hid stuff from you to do something he thought would be great, then wouldn't admit it and blamed someone else, he'd be punished - even if his adventure worked out all right for him.

When the "values" president and his aides do it, they're rewarded. Condoleezza Rice was promoted to secretary of state. Stephen Hadley, Condi's old deputy, was promoted to national security adviser. Bob Joseph, a national security aide who helped shovel the uranium hooey into the State of the Union address, is becoming an under secretary of state. Paul Wolfowitz, who painted the takeover of Iraq as such a cakewalk that our troops went in without the proper armor or backup, will run the World Bank. George Tenet, who ran the C.I.A. when Al Qaeda attacked and when Saddam's mushroom cloud gained credibility, got the Medal of Freedom.

Then the president appoints a compliant Democrat and a complicit conservative judge to head an inquiry set up to let the president off the hook.

What they're saying

From the Atlanta Journal Constitution:

"His voice and moral authority gave inspiration and hope to millions well beyond the Roman Catholic Church. His commitment to the unity of the church expressed itself in his personal willingness to meet with representatives of other faith communities and to invite those outside his own tradition to reflect on how the ministry of the Bishop of Rome might be of greater service both in the cause of Christian unity and the well-being of the world."
--- Frank T. Griswold, presiding bishop, Episcopal Church USA

"With the death of Pope John Paul II, the world has lost one of its greatest, most influential and compassionate religious leaders. . . . Pope John Paul II modeled unselfish compassion. He set aside his own physical challenges, disdained the threats of extremist opposition and traveled the world to demonstrate his appreciation for diversity, his interest in interreligious dialogue, and his deep commitment to religion as a source of reconciliation and peace rather than conflict and war. . . ."
--- the Rev. C. Welton Gaddy, Baptist pastor and president of the Interfaith Alliance

''Pope John Paul II was a man of God, and he was also a man of the people. He was a source of hope to so many, and he honored that devotion by traveling the world to reach out to people of all ages, nationalities and faiths.''
--- House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.)

''He was a shining example . . . a 'good steward of the manifold grace of God.' "
--- Metropolitan Herman, primate of the Orthodox Church in America

"Muslims worldwide respected Pope John Paul II as an advocate for justice and human rights. His message of international peace and interfaith reconciliation is one that will reverberate for decades to come. We offer our sincere condolences to members of the Roman Catholic Church and to all those who seek a more peaceful world."
--- Council on American-Islamic Relations

''There will be time in the days ahead for the proper tributes to be paid. For now, we remember his life and ministry with thankfulness.''
--- Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury

''Israel, the Jewish people and the entire world lost today a great champion of reconciliation and brotherhood between the faiths.''
--- Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom

The Death of John Paul II: Now What?

The Washington Post offers an analysis of the man and his papacy. And makes some points I agree with:

For those who expected more from the modernization -- American priests ordained in the 1960s, say, Catholic women who wanted to be priests or Latin American leaders who wanted a partner in revolution -- the pope not only betrayed his promise but locked the church in place for years to come.

"I'm of the generation of priests who were euphoric about the idea that the church could change," said the Rev. Andrew Greeley, an author and columnist. "And while I recognize all his great talents, I think he pulled the plug on it, and that greatly dismays me."


Each time an encyclical was anticipated, many Catholics, especially in the United States, waited for a shift in policy. And each time they were disappointed, as the pope reinforced church orthodoxy on the role of women, sexual ethics, homosexuality. The pope enforced his rulings by appointing a huge percentage of the bishops and cardinals now serving worldwide, more than 90 percent in the United States alone, men who would be faithful to his vision.

To the Catholics who felt betrayed by how little he changed the church, his popularity was a kind of trick, the thing that most reminded them of the gap between what he appeared to be and what he was. "Because of his travels and television, he may have more prestige than any pope in history," said McBrien. "But he has very little influence on the lives of Catholic lay people. They see him and cheer for him. But there's not much substance" in his effect on them.

Ultimately, he was hard to categorize in the American context. The terms liberal and conservative "just don't apply to him," said Glendon, the philosopher. He opposed abortion and the death penalty; he was equally passionate about the role of the male priesthood as he was about workers' rights. Conservatives accepted his teachings on morality but played down his emphasis on social justice and the limits of the free market. Liberals did the opposite. "But you can't pick and choose," Glendon said.

I'm wondering how much influence he had on the rightward tilt of much of culture these days. We could have made major strides culturally with his leadership, but the Roman Catholic church now seems stuck and hard-edged. Birth control, LGBT issues, women's roles... so many issues causing so much pain.

Yes, of course, his life leaves a largely positive legacy. But in the end he kept control, and the near future at least does not seem to offer any hope of change--except perhaps to grow even more controlling.

Still, it was hard not to like the man, even respect him. The outpouring of love and joyful grief is moving. I heard Aaron Brown of CNN opining movingly about the impact the pope has had not only on the world, but on himself, a Jew. You can disagree with the pope's positions, but still regard his life and work with admiration and hope.

Rest in peace, Karol.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Unbelievable Pharisees

Two items in the papers lately that reveal how pharisaical and, well, stupid, conservative Episcopalians can be.

First is this article in the Mail & Guardian:

An African bishop has announced that he will not accept more than $350 000 of funding to help Aids victims in his area because it comes from an American diocese that supported the election of a gay bishop two years ago.

Jackson Nzerebende Tembo, the Bishop of South Rwenzori in Uganda, has rejected the money from the US diocese of Central Pennsylvania, saying its clergy and bishop, Michael Creighton, endorsed the election of Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire in 2003.

In a statement released to an American conservative Episcopalian website but not to the United States diocese, Bishop Nzerebende announced: "South Rwenzori diocese upholds the Holy Scriptures as true word of God ... Of course this will affect some of our programmes. This includes our Aids programme and [the money] they have been sending for ... orphans' education.

"We pray and believe that our God who created and controls silver and gold in the world will provide for the needs of His people. Halleluiah! Amen."


Although several African primates have declared themselves out of communion with the North Americans, they have mostly continued quietly to accept cash for church projects.

The US Episcopal church has insisted that it does not attach strings to its donations.

So Bishop Nzerebende would rather penalize poor victims under his care than accept tainted money. If this isn't upside-down theology, I don't know what is. It just shows the lengths the conservatives will go to hold on to their bigotry.

The other piece from Columbus, Ga., isn't on the same level, but shows the blind and silly hatred, or fear, many so-called Christians have toward gays--to the point of punishing anyone associated with them:

A choir invited to Columbus from St. Bartholomew's Episcopal Church in Atlanta, which is led by an openly gay rector, will not perform for a June 15 Morning Prayer service at Trinity Episcopal as some had wanted.

"I felt like it would not be an appropriate space, given their history and Trinity's history," the Rev. Jim Yeary, Trinity's interim rector, said Thursday.

Brad Hughley, the director of the audition-only group from St. Bartholomew's, received an e-mail inquiry March 20 from Joseph Golden, a professor at Columbus State University's Schwob School of Music and a former organist-choirmaster at Trinity. Golden is also the coordinator for the American Guild of Organists Region IV convention June 13-15 in Columbus. In that role, he sought out the St. Bartholomew's choir for one of many events planned that week.

Golden then had a conversation with Yeary, who suggested the choir not perform.

About three years ago, St. Bartholomew's called an openly gay priest as its rector, the Rev. William "Mac" Thigpen. He and his partner moved to Atlanta from Los Angeles.


Hughley of St. Bartholomew's said he welcomed the invitation from Golden but is angry about what he called a "disinvitation."

"He obviously had confidence we would do a good job musically," Hughley said of Golden, "and to be dismissed for political reasons is unconscionable. I think it's hateful."

Me too.