Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Bush calls Amnesty International report "Absurd"

I think he's losing it. He gets all defensive in a press conference about the Amnesty International report about prison abuses, saying they "hate America." But what if even a few of their allegations are true? Shouldn't we have somebody objective look into the matter--for our own good around the world? How is this going to look in other countries--our president won't even consider the facts the report provides, just calls it all absurd.

Update: Here's a funny diary from Daily Kos--advice to Bush for his lame press conferences.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Harper's Goes to the NRB Convention

A fascinating behind-the-scenes look at the National Religious Broadcasters convention from the latest Harper's Magazine. I've been to the NRB before, and it was enough to make me shudder then. That was a few years ago, and things are only worse. Here are the final paragraphs:

I can’t help but recall the words of my ethics professor at Harvard Divinity School, Dr. James Luther Adams, who told us that when we were his age, and he was then close to eighty, we would all be fighting the “Christian fascists.”

He gave us that warning twenty-five years ago, when Pat Robertson and other prominent evangelists began speaking of a new political religion that would direct its efforts at taking control of all major American institutions, including mainstream denominations and the government, so as to transform the United States into a global Christian empire. At the time, it was hard to take such fantastic rhetoric seriously. But fascism, Adams warned, would not return wearing swastikas and brown shirts. Its ideological inheritors would cloak themselves in the language of the Bible; they would come carrying crosses and chanting the Pledge of Allegiance.

Adams had watched American intellectuals and industrialists flirt with fascism in the 1930s. Mussolini’s “Corporatism,” which created an unchecked industrial and business aristocracy, had appealed to many at the time as an effective counterweight to the New Deal. In 1934, Fortune magazine lavished praise on the Italian dictator for his defanging of labor unions and his empowerment of industrialists at the expense of workers. Then as now, Adams said, too many liberals failed to understand the power and allure of evil, and when the radical Christians came, these people would undoubtedly play by the old, polite rules of democracy long after those in power had begun to dismantle the democratic state. Adams had watched German academics fall silent or conform. He knew how desperately people want to believe the comfortable lies told by totalitarian movements, how easily those lies lull moderates into passivity.

Adams told us to watch closely the Christian right’s persecution of homosexuals and lesbians. Hitler, he reminded us, promised to restore moral values not long after he took power in 1933, then imposed a ban on all homosexual and lesbian organizations and publications. Then came raids on the places where homosexuals gathered, culminating on May 6, 1933, with the ransacking of the Institute for Sexual Science in Berlin. Twelve thousand volumes from the institute’s library were tossed into a public bonfire. Homosexuals and lesbians, Adams said, would be the first “deviants” singled out by the Christian right. We would be the next.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Radical stances stray from true Christianity

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution published today an excellent op-ed piece by the Rev. Dan Matthews, rector of St. Luke's Episcopal Church in Atlanta:

Chan Chandler has had his 15 minutes of the public spotlight, though I imagine he would like to give them back. He is the minister in North Carolina who forced out nine members of his church for the way they voted in the last presidential election.

My heart grows heavy with sadness when stories such as this arise. As an ordained minister, I am discouraged not just by the behavior of a fellow clergy but also by the publicity of the story itself. Once again a radical form of Christianity, laden with judgment, finds its way into the public's awareness.

Unfortunately, many Americans are familiar with only this side of the Christian faith. Consequently, many have given up and walked away, disgusted by the judgment-riddled "agree or leave" theology of the strident right.

I hope that we can begin to rehabilitate the public face of Christianity and reclaim something truer to its original integrity. It is clear to me that the one who we Christians proclaim as Savior was about redemption and grace. Jesus' life was one of restless hospitality: He invited himself into the homes of unrepentant sinners and was all about making connections with God's people --- not severing them.

I have a passion to inform the world that there are Christians, such as myself, who suffer great pain when stories of Christian intolerance surface in the media. We are shocked by the message that the church is only for those of right thought, blemish-free pasts and pure voting record. From its early days, the Christian church was a place for the sinners --- all sinners, and that included everyone. We are all broken and in need of God's love.

So there is no place in Christian theology for smug, self-righteous finger-pointing. Even if Chandler thought that voting for John Kerry was the worst offense for which a Christian could be guilty, then by any form of Christian reasoning he should have delighted in the fact that he had nine lost sheep who were already a part of his congregation.

I read recently that Chandler was forced to resign, and I am saddened by that turn of events as well. An "agree or leave" policy is wrong when it is inflicted on the left-leaning members of the church by the outspoken right. It is just as wrong when it is inflicted by the left upon the right. Retaliation was never a virtue spoken or embodied by Jesus.

You and I live in a disposable world. We throw everything away --- even things of value --- from broken CD players to computers to refrigerators. You and I look at what is not working and immediately try to rid ourselves of it. But God sees us differently. That is what the whole parable of the lost sheep was about.

Christianity has become notorious for the certainty vocalized by ministers who see the world in terms of their own absolutes. Chandler is wrong, not because he picked the wrong candidate, but because he believes one person can exhaustively embody the faith. George W. Bush does not embody or exemplify the whole of Christianity, nor does John Kerry, nor Chan Chandler nor I.

The church has always struggled with discerning God's word in its own day and time. I have some pretty strong convictions, and many of them are strikingly different from the ones I held 20 years ago. I thank God I had a church that welcomed me and allowed me to stay while I worked through --- struggled through --- those beliefs.

I long for a church in which struggling with what we believe is not a sign of weakness but of our desire to understand and be as faithful as possible. Struggling in and of itself is not bad. Certainty and the subsequent unwillingness to accept the (likely) possibility that God's plan differs from ours --- that is the danger.

I may grow in understanding and wisdom, but I will never achieve complete faithfulness or understanding. That is why the struggle continues --- and must continue.

More stories about Koran desecration emerge

So was Newsweek right? And if so, who gets the blame now?

Molly Ivins on the Texas State Legislator with courage

Read the Molly Ivins column about Senfronia Thompson's in-your-face speech in the Texas legislature. At least she had the guts to stand up and tell the truth, though obviously hate and bigotry won out in the end. Another sad day in America.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

PBS Head Challenges Her Own Chairman

Good for Pat! Looks like the outgoing president of PBS, Pat Mitchell, ain't buying what Kenneth Tomlinson, the Republican Bushite chairman of the parent Corporation for Public Broadcasting, is selling. Here's the AP story.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The president of the Public Broadcasting Service on Tuesday rejected criticism by conservatives that public TV is guilty of liberal bias, and she offered a strong defense of PBS' Bill Moyers, a target of right-wing wrath.

"PBS does not belong to any one political party," Pat Mitchell said.

Mitchell's remarks at the National Press Club follow the disclosure that Kenneth Y. Tomlinson, the Republican chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, hired a consultant to keep track of guests' political views on a program hosted by Moyers, who was White House press secretary during the Johnson administration.

"The facts do not support the case he makes" for political bias, Mitchell said of Tomlinson. Surveys show that the overwhelming majority of the public does not perceive bias in public broadcasting, she said.

Kos's last words on the compromise deal

Good summary from Kos.

Anything that makes the far right go crazy, like Dobson and Bauer, can't be too bad.

The rightwing is furious

Well, I wasn't so thrilled with the Senate compromise, because it lets some very suspect people through the process. But the rabid right is furious with the compromise, so it must be good.

Check out Dobson's and Bauer's fumings on AmericaBlog.

And also check out the Daily Kos front page--which has both Senator Feingold's unhappiness from the other side (and I really like this guy) as well as even more rantings from the right.

Monday, May 23, 2005

The Tillmans' grief turns to anger

And rightly so. The Washington Post reports their fury at the Army over the lies they told after their son Pat was killed by friendly fire in Iraq. The painful truths of this war continue to be revealed.

Former NFL player Pat Tillman's family is lashing out against the Army, saying that the military's investigations into Tillman's friendly-fire death in Afghanistan last year were a sham and that Army efforts to cover up the truth have made it harder for them to deal with their loss.

More than a year after their son was shot several times by his fellow Army Rangers on a craggy hillside near the Pakistani border, Tillman's mother and father said in interviews that they believe the military and the government created a heroic tale about how their son died to foster a patriotic response across the country. They say the Army's "lies" about what happened have made them suspicious, and that they are certain they will never get the full story.

"Pat had high ideals about the country; that's why he did what he did," Mary Tillman said in her first lengthy interview since her son's death. "The military let him down. The administration let him down. It was a sign of disrespect. The fact that he was the ultimate team player and he watched his own men kill him is absolutely heartbreaking and tragic. The fact that they lied about it afterward is disgusting."


Patrick Tillman Sr., a San Jose lawyer, said he is furious about what he found in the volumes of witness statements and investigative documents the Army has given to the family. He decried what he calls a "botched homicide investigation" and blames high-ranking Army officers for presenting "outright lies" to the family and to the public.

"After it happened, all the people in positions of authority went out of their way to script this," Patrick Tillman said. "They purposely interfered with the investigation, they covered it up. I think they thought they could control it, and they realized that their recruiting efforts were going to go to hell in a handbasket if the truth about his death got out. They blew up their poster boy."

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Karzai says it's not Newsweek's fault

Afghan president Karzai told Wolf Blitzer that the riots supposedly caused by Newsweek's article about the mistreatment of the Koran really were actually caused by a number of factors. Of course the administration has pretty much laid the burden of the enmity of the entire Muslim world against us at Newsweek's feet. Karzai, in the portion of the interview I saw, was also furious about the Times report of the Afghan prison torture and the death of a 22-year-old cabdriver. He is not happy with the Americans.

Here's a piece from Daily Kos about the Newsweek part.
The ironic thing is, despite Karzai's contention, CNN is still blaming Newsweek. Very odd.

Times's new public editor already at work

Byron Calame, who replaces the often very frustrating Daniel Okrent as the NY Times's public editor or ombudsman, starts his new job Monday, but has already posted a piece on the Times's lackluster handling of the infamous Downing Street Memo. This is a promising start.

NY Times on the Afghan prison abuse report

It's painful to read. Let's see, how can we blame Newsweek for this?

Frank Rich on the Newsweek fiasco

Frank Rich's Sunday op-ed piece in the Times addresses the administration's hypocrisy at blaming Newsweek for our problems with Muslims. Check it out.

IN the immediate aftermath of 9/11, Fareed Zakaria wrote a 6,791-word cover story for Newsweek titled "Why Do They Hate Us?" Think how much effort he could have saved if he'd waited a few years. As we learned last week, the question of why they hate us can now be answered in just one word: Newsweek.

"Our United States military personnel go out of their way to make sure that the Holy Koran is treated with care," said the White House press secretary, Scott McClellan, as he eagerly made the magazine the scapegoat for lethal anti-American riots in Afghanistan. Indeed, Mr. McClellan was so fixated on destroying Newsweek - and on mouthing his own phony P.C. pieties about the Koran - that by omission he whitewashed the rioters themselves, Islamic extremists who routinely misuse that holy book as a pretext for murder.

That's how absurdly over-the-top the assault on Newsweek has been. The administration has been so successful at bullying the news media in order to cover up its own fictions and failings in Iraq that it now believes it can get away with pinning some 17 deaths on an errant single sentence in a 10-sentence Periscope item that few noticed until days after its publication. Coming just as the latest CNN/Gallup/USA Today poll finds that only 41 percent of Americans think the war in Iraq is "worth fighting" and only 42 percent think it's going well, this smells like desperation. In its war on the press, this hubristic administration may finally have crossed a bridge too far.

Let's stipulate flatly that Newsweek made a serious error. For the sake of argument, let's even posit that the many other similar accounts of Koran desecration (with and without toilets) by American interrogators over the past two years are fantasy - even though they've been given credence by the International Committee of the Red Cross and have turned up repeatedly in legal depositions by torture victims and in newspapers as various as The Denver Post and The Financial Times. Let's also ignore the May 1 New York Times report that a former American interrogator at Guantánamo has corroborated a detainee's account of guards tossing Korans into a pile and stepping on them, thereby prompting a hunger strike. Why don't we just go all the way and erase those photographs of female guards sexually humiliating Muslims (among other heinous crimes) at Abu Ghraib?

The evidence mounts: We were lied to boldly

This piece from the Washington Post appeared on Page A-26 in the Sunday print edition. This kind of news should bring down the administration, but, ehhhh, who cares, right?

On Jan. 24, 2003, four days before President Bush delivered his State of the Union address presenting the case for war against Iraq, the National Security Council staff put out a call for new intelligence to bolster claims that Saddam Hussein possessed nuclear, chemical and biological weapons or programs.

The person receiving the request, Robert Walpole, then the national intelligence officer for strategic and nuclear programs, would later tell investigators that "the NSC believed the nuclear case was weak," according to a 500-page report released last year by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

It has been clear since the September report of the Iraq Survey Group -- a CIA-sponsored weapons search in Iraq -- that the United States would not find the weapons of mass destruction cited by Bush as the rationale for going to war against Iraq. But as the Walpole episode suggests, it appears that even before the war many senior intelligence officials in the government had doubts about the case being trumpeted in public by the president and his senior advisers.

The question of prewar intelligence has been thrust back into the public eye with the disclosure of a secret British memo showing that, eight months before the March 2003 start of the war, a senior British intelligence official reported to Prime Minister Tony Blair that U.S. intelligence was being shaped to support a policy of invading Iraq.

Moreover, a close reading of the recent 600-page report by the president's commission on intelligence, and the previous report by the Senate panel, shows that as war approached, many U.S. intelligence analysts were internally questioning almost every major piece of prewar intelligence about Hussein's alleged weapons programs.

These included claims that Iraq was trying to obtain uranium in Africa for its nuclear program, had mobile labs for producing biological weapons, ran an active chemical weapons program and possessed unmanned aircraft that could deliver weapons of mass destruction. All these claims were made by Bush or then-Secretary of State Colin L. Powell in public addresses even though, the reports made clear, they had yet to be verified by U.S. intelligence agencies.

Read the whole thing.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Civil rights trampled by Governor Ehrlich

This is just astonishing. This stuff has got to stop. Outlawing gay marriage isn't enough any more. Now we have to totally ostracize gays and lesbians, at least in Maryland, where Governor Ehrlich--whose chief of staff is, by the way, openly gay--vetoed a bill that would have extended rights to registered gay couples. Like being able to visit each other in the hospital. Shameless.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Ariana translates Condi on the new military assessment of Iraq

I'm loving the Huffington Post. And for lots of good reasons. Here's one: Ariana's post on Condi Rice's news conference at which she was asked about the NY Times article on the new military assessment of the horrific quagmire that is Iraq.

A politician who speaks the truth loud and clear

Hope you have seen this clip, courtesy Crooks & Liars. George Galloway, a member of the UK Parliament, blasted the administration's lies regarding Iraq. He really laid into Senator Norm Coleman with the facts. It's beautiful to behold. Go see. Now!

And sorry for the delay in posting this, or anything. Been out of town. What else has been going on? God help us all.

Monday, May 16, 2005

See for yourself why Bolton should not be UN Ambassador

Astonishing. Chilling. Why isn't this clip airing on the news channels continually?

Krugman on the Iraq quagmire and the Downing Street Memo

In his NYT column today, Paul Krugman wonders about the administration's plan to leave Iraq. Is there one? And he makes these interesting comments:

There has been notably little U.S. coverage of the "Downing Street memo" - actually the minutes of a British prime minister's meeting on July 23, 2002, during which officials reported on talks with the Bush administration about Iraq. But the memo, which was leaked to The Times of London during the British election campaign, confirms what apologists for the war have always denied: the Bush administration cooked up a case for a war it wanted.

Here's a sample: "Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and W.M.D. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy."

(You can read the whole thing at www.downingstreetmemo.com.)

Why did the administration want to invade Iraq, when, as the memo noted, "the case was thin" and Saddam's "W.M.D. capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea, or Iran"? Iraq was perceived as a soft target; a quick victory there, its domestic political advantages aside, could serve as a demonstration of American military might, one that would shock and awe the world.

But the Iraq war has, instead, demonstrated the limits of American power, and emboldened our potential enemies. Why should Kim Jong Il fear us, when we can't even secure the road from Baghdad to the airport?

Newsweek backs off Koran story, and it smells suspicious

Read Americablog on the latest development in the Newsweek Koran story--a paragraph about abuses of the Koran in US detention centers that set off the Islamic world, which erupted in anti-American riots. I agree with John, this looks like damage control. Rather than fix the situation in the prisons, the administration wants to fix the communications channels.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Nicholas Kristof: Liberal Bible-Thumping

Interesting column in today's NYT about the new Bishop Spong book, The Sins of Scripture.

Some of the bishop's ideas strike me as more provocative than persuasive, but at least he's engaged in the debate. When liberals take on conservative Christians, it tends to be with insults - by deriding them as jihadists and fleeing the field. That's a mistake. It's entirely possible to honor Christian conservatives for their first-rate humanitarian work treating the sick in Africa or fighting sex trafficking in Asia, and still do battle with them over issues like gay rights.

Liberals can and should confront Bible-thumping preachers on their own terms, for the scriptural emphasis on justice and compassion gives the left plenty of ammunition. After all, the Bible depicts Jesus as healing lepers, not slashing Medicaid.

When the Church and the State are merged

Frederick Clarkson has a great diary on Daily Kos about the situation in the Air Force Academy in Dobsonville--I mean Colorodo Springs--Colorado, where evangelical Christians have run amuck, leading to the ouster of a moderate Lutheran chaplain and smears and slurs against those going to hell.

Frank Rich on the Anti-Gay Hypocrits

Frank Rich examines the incredibly hypocritical--even pathological--attacks of the right wing against gays and lesbians in his latest op-ed piece in the NYTimes.

Here's his concluding paragraphs:

What adds a peculiar dynamic to this anti-gay juggernaut is the continued emergence of gay people within its ranks. Allen Drury would have been incredulous if gay-baiters hounding his Utah senator had turned out to be gay themselves, but this has been a consistent pattern throughout the 30-year war. Terry Dolan, a closeted gay man, ran the National Conservative Political Action Committee, which as far back as 1980 was putting out fund-raising letters that said, "Our nation's moral fiber is being weakened by the growing homosexual movement and the fanatical E.R.A. pushers (many of whom publicly brag they are lesbians)." (Dolan recanted and endorsed gay rights before he died of AIDS in 1986.) The latest boldface name to marry his same-sex partner in Massachusetts is Arthur Finkelstein, the political operative behind the electoral success of Jesse Helms, a senator so homophobic he voted in the minority of the 97-to-3 reauthorization of the Ryan White act for AIDS funding and treatment in 1995.

But surely the most arresting recent case is James E. West, the powerful Republican mayor of Spokane, Wash., whose double life has just been exposed by the local paper, The Spokesman-Review. Mr. West's long, successful political career has been distinguished by his attempts to ban gay men and lesbians from schools and day care centers, to fire gay state employees, to deny City Hall benefits to domestic partners and to stifle AIDS-prevention education. The Spokesman-Review caught him trolling gay Web sites for young men and trying to lure them with gifts and favors. (He has denied accusations of abusing boys when he was a Boy Scout leader some 25 years ago.) Not unlike the Roy Cohn of "Angels in America" - who describes himself as "a heterosexual man" who has sex "with guys" - Mr. West has said he had "relations with adult men" but doesn't "characterize" himself as gay. This is more than hypocrisy - it's pathology.

ALLEN Drury might not have known what to make of Mr. West or of another odd tic in the 30-year war, the recurrent emergence of gay-baiting ideologues with openly gay children (Phyllis Schlafly, Randall Terry, Alan Keyes). According to Mr. Johnson's fresh scholarship in "The Lavender Scare," a likely inspiration for the gay plot line in Drury's "Advise and Consent" was the real-life story of a Wyoming Democrat, Lester Hunt, who shot himself in his Senate office in 1954 after the Republican Campaign Committee threatened to make an issue of his gay son's arrest in Lafayette Park on "morals charges." Those were the dark ages, but it isn't entirely progress that we now have a wider war on gay people, thinly disguised as a debate over the filibuster, cloaked in religion, and counting among its shock troops politicians as utterly bereft of moral bearings as James West. Check out the good old days in "Advise and Consent," not to mention Charles Laughton's valedictory performance as a Bible Belt senator who ultimately puts patriotism over partisanship, and weep.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

How to win the hearts of the Muslim world. Not.

Thanks to our cavalier treatment of things that are holy to people other than right wing Christians, people are dying. Check out the story from the London Times. Breathtaking stupidity on our part.

Meanwhile, once again John Conyers steps up to demand a special investigation on possible War Crimes. Check out the story on Daily Kos.

Another sick example of the Administration's "Family Values"

Read The Nation article on Dr. David Hager, one of the Bush Administration's favorite fundies. Sick guy.

Rep. Conyers on the Downing Street Memo

Representative Conyers blogs on Daily Kos about the dearth of MSM coverage of the "smoking gun" memo showing Bush administration manipulation of intelligence to provide reason for invading Iraq. Fascinating. 90 Representatives signed a letter requesting an investigation, but the media are largely ignoring it.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Red Alert and Bush is out popping wheelies

Fascinating insights from the Washington Post on Wednesday's false alarm in DC, which sent thousands of government workers (though nobody remembered to tell the White House press) into the streets, Laura Bush to the bunker, Cheney to a secret location... and Bush was out riding his bicycle, and nobody bothered to tell him that they thought the Capitol was under attack until after it all settled down--a half hour or so after. This is worse than sitting there in the school room while America was under attack on 9/11.

Mark Fiore on the future of CPB

Fiore has a great animated cartoon on the possible future of the Corporation for Politicized--I mean Public--Broadcasting. Watch here.

Kos explodes rightwing attempt to destroy Harry Reid

Wow, you've gotta read Daily Kos... the whole front page. Over the past 12 hours or so he has skewered the right's most recent effort to take over the whole government by attacking Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid. The charges are ludicrous and swiftly smacked down by Kos. The whole affair reveals the depths the GOP leadership will go to hang on to their power. Here's hoping it totally blows up in their faces.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

David Korn: Jesus and Springsteen

Nice column from The Nation's David Korn on the Huffington Report (despite Nikki Finki's bash, I am enjoying this new blog).

Many fundamentalist Christians claim victimhood--even though they are free to worship as they like in tax-exempt churches, to send their kids to religious schools, to display the Ten Commandments almost anywhere (such as in their homes, on their front doors, on their cars, on their T-shirts), to vote for politicians who share (if not exploit) their beliefs, and to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on a film that graphically depicts the bloody sacrifice of their savior.

Despite all this, ChristFuns maintain they are besieged a repressive anti-Christian bias. Yet of late the religious conservatives and their allies have been the ones on the offense. Pat Robertson, appearing on George Stephanopoulos' show, suggested that American Muslims and American Hindus support the idea of an anti-America jihad (yes, Hindus, too!) and are less qualified to serve in the US government than Christians and Jews. Senate majority leader Bill Frist participated in a religious right rally that claimed opponents of Bush's judicial nominations cannot be people of faith. At the Air Force Academy, commanders are allegedly coercing cadets to convert to evangelical Christianity. Creationists--donning the camouflage of "intelligent design"--are rewriting Kansas' education standards to undermine the teaching of evolution. A Republican state legislator in Alabama proposed a law banning books by gay authors. (Watch out Mary Cheney!) The Georgia state government passed a law that imposes a 24-hour waiting period on women seeking abortions. In the current issue of Harper's, Pastor Ted Haggard, the head of the National Association of Evangelicals (who often chats with Bush), is quoted making anti-Catholic statements. Haggard calls himself a "warrior"--not a peacemaker--"for God."

That's a helluva offensive from people who are supposedly victims. These folks are certainly not bridge-builders. But I assume they believe they are merely following the words of Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, their J.C. is a divider-not-a-uniter.

I much prefer the Christ recently offered to us by that well-known theologian, Bruce Springsteen.

Read the rest...

A Memo to the Producers of "Revelations"

Jason Byassee has a great piece on Sojo.net about the NBC series Revelations. Check it out...

Revelations is a new NBC miniseries designed to tap into the lucrative market of end-times belief—demonstrated by the success of the Left Behind novels. Actor Bill Pullman plays a Harvard scientist whose skepticism, be assured, will gradually be worn down by a Roman Catholic nun who believes signs of the "end of days" are upon us. That Pullman's child has been murdered by the Antichrist and that another now-comatose child is channeling his daughter's spirit while quoting the Bible in Latin from her hospital bed will, no doubt, help wear away his skepticism.

Since network television is new to making shows that deal sympathetically with religious themes, I thought they could use the following pointers.

Notes to the makers of Revelations:

1. It's Revelation. Not Revelations. It's singular, not plural. That's because it's the one revelation of Jesus Christ. Really. I looked it up. People who say "Revelations" show they don't know what they're talking about. I know you've already spent massively advertising this misnomer, and it's a common mistake, but it's still dumb, so please fix it.

2. Jesus hasn't come back for 20 centuries. Sorry to be so obvious here, but someone seems to have convinced you that the "end of days" is really near this time. You're not the first to think this, but everyone who ever has, has been wrong. Like when believers sold their stuff and expected the apocalypse at the turn of the first millennium - the year 1000. Or when someone wrote 88 Reasons the Rapture Will Happen in 1988. Or the Y2K nonsense. Trust us on this; we in the church have been waiting for Jesus to come "soon" for quite some time.

3. The New Testament was written in Greek. So when your lightening-struck brain-dead little girl starts "quoting scripture" and doing so in Latin, the aura created by the use of a dead language is punctured a bit by the fact that it's the wrong language she uses.

Read the rest!

Jim Wallis: God's Own Party?

Jim Wallis opines on sojo.net:

Several weeks ago, Episcopal priest and former Republican Senator John Danforth began an op-ed in the New York Times by writing: "By a series of recent initiatives, Republicans have transformed our party into the political arm of conservative Christians." And, I would add, some Religious Right leaders are trying to transform the church into the religious arm of conservative Republicans. Either way, these partisan attempts to hijack faith and politics are wrong.

Yet each week brings a new outrage. This week's news was of a Baptist church in North Carolina, where nine members, including three deacons, say they had their membership revoked because they were Democrats who supported John Kerry. According to the Charlotte News-Observer, the nine walked out of a church meeting when Pastor Chan Chandler asked them to sign documents agreeing with his political views. When they left, members remaining voted to terminate their membership.

While the pastor has attributed it to a "misunderstanding," the former members say that last fall he told the congregation that anyone who planned to vote for Kerry should either leave the church or repent. One, a 75-year-old deacon, told the News-Observer: "He went on and on about how he's going to bring politics up, and if we didn't agree with him we should leave. I think I deserve the right to vote for who I want to." News reports today indicate that Pastor Chandler is resigning.

It's the latest outrage in a continuing pattern. Last year, news stories included Republicans seeking church membership lists and mailing postcards implying Democrats wanted to ban the Bible. Just a few weeks ago, Religious Right speakers held what they billed as "Justice Sunday - Stopping the Filibuster Against People of Faith" in support of President Bush's judicial nominees. Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council was quoted in the New York Times as saying Democrats "have targeted people for reasons of their faith or moral position."

Because many other religious voices spoke to challenge the attempt to make God a partisan, President Bush, to his credit, repudiated the equation of faith with his policies. He was asked at his recent press conference whether he thought filibusters against nominees were "an attack against people of faith." He replied: "I think people are opposing my nominees because they don't like the judicial philosophy of the people I've nominated.... I don't ascribe a person's opposing my nominations to an issue of faith."

Then, on ABC's This Week, George Stephanopoulos asked Pat Robertson about his statement that "the out-of-control judiciary, and this was in your last book Courting Disaster, is the most serious threat America has faced in nearly 400 years of history, more serious than al Qaeda..." Robertson replied: "George, I really believe that. I think they are destroying the fabric that holds our nation together...the gradual erosion of the consensus that's held our country together is probably more serious than a few bearded terrorists who fly into buildings."

This latest news from North Carolina is the logical, inevitable result of the road the Religious Right and some Republicans have taken.

It is the assumption that Christians must accept one partisan political position on issues, or be accused of not being Christian. This is an assumption we must reject. Rather, we must insist on the deep connections between spirituality and politics while defending the proper boundaries between church and state that protect religious and nonreligious minorities and keep us all safe from state-controlled religion. We can demonstrate our commitment to pluralistic democracy and support the rightful separation of church and state without segregating moral and spiritual values from our political life. Abraham Lincoln, in his famous Second Inaugural Address, said of the two sides in the Civil War: "Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other." He would say the same today.

The Republican Party is not God's own party, as the Religious Right and some Republican leaders seem to be suggesting. And, of course, neither is the Democratic Party. We must say it again and again until it is heard and understood: God is not partisan; God is not a Republican or a Democrat. When either party tries to politicize God, or co-opt religious communities for its political agenda, it makes a terrible mistake. God's politics challenge all our politics. Our faith must not be narrowed to the agenda of one political party.

The Unitarian Jihad Speaks!

From columnist Jon Carroll in the San Francisco Chronicle. This is a month old, but it's making the mail rounds and it's funny!

The following is the first communique from a group calling itself Unitarian Jihad. It was sent to me at The Chronicle via an anonymous spam remailer. I have no idea whether other news organizations have received this communique, and, if so, why they have not chosen to print it. Perhaps they fear starting a panic. I feel strongly that the truth, no matter how alarming, trivial or disgusting, must always be told. I am pleased to report that the words below are at least not disgusting:

Greetings to the Imprisoned Citizens of the United States. We are Unitarian Jihad. There is only God, unless there is more than one God. The vote of our God subcommittee is 10-8 in favor of one God, with two abstentions. Brother Flaming Sword of Moderation noted the possibility of there being no God at all, and his objection was noted with love by the secretary.

Greetings to the Imprisoned Citizens of the United States! Too long has your attention been waylaid by the bright baubles of extremist thought. Too long have fundamentalist yahoos of all religions (except Buddhism -- 14-5 vote, no abstentions, fundamentalism subcommittee) made your head hurt. Too long have you been buffeted by angry people who think that God talks to them. You have a right to your moderation! You have the power to be calm! We will use the IED of truth to explode the SUV of dogmatic expression!

People of the United States, why is everyone yelling at you??? Whatever happened to ... you know, everything? Why is the news dominated by nutballs saying that the Ten Commandments have to be tattooed inside the eyelids of every American, or that Allah has told them to kill Americans in order to rid the world of Satan, or that Yahweh has instructed them to go live wherever they feel like, or that Shiva thinks bombing mosques is a great idea? Sister Immaculate Dagger of Peace notes for the record that we mean no disrespect to Jews, Muslims, Christians or Hindus. Referred back to the committee of the whole for further discussion.

We are Unitarian Jihad. We are everywhere. We have not been born again, nor have we sworn a blood oath. We do not think that God cares what we read, what we eat or whom we sleep with. Brother Neutron Bomb of Serenity notes for the record that he does not have a moral code but is nevertheless a good person, and Unexalted Leader Garrote of Forgiveness stipulates that Brother Neutron Bomb of Serenity is a good person, and this is to be reflected in the minutes.

Read the rest!

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Finally, the "Smoking Gun" Memo getting MSM play

CNN.com has it. It's the smoking gun that shows US/UK coordination on selling the war in Iraq. It's about to bring Tony Blair down. Who's next?

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Eighty-nine Democratic members of the U.S. Congress last week sent President George W. Bush a letter asking for explanation of a secret British memo that said "intelligence and facts were being fixed" to support the Iraq war in mid-2002 -- well before the president brought the issue to Congress for approval.

The Times of London newspaper published the memo -- actually minutes of a high-level meeting on Iraq held July 23, 2002 -- on May 1.

British officials did not dispute the document's authenticity, and Michael Boyce, then Britain's Chief of Defense Staff, told the paper that Britain had not then made a decision to follow the United States to war, but it would have been "irresponsible" not to prepare for the possibility.

The White House has not yet responded to queries about the congressional letter, which was released on May 6.

The letter, initiated by Rep. John Conyers, ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee, said the memo "raises troubling new questions regarding the legal justifications for the war as well as the integrity of your own administration. ...

"While various individuals have asserted this to be the case before, including Paul O'Neill, former U.S. Treasury Secretary, and Richard Clarke, a former National Security Council official, they have been previously dismissed by your administration," the letter said.

But, the letter said, when the document was leaked Prime Minister Tony Blair's spokesman called it "nothing new."

In addition to Blair, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon, Attorney General Peter Goldsmith, MI6 chief Richard Dearlove and others attended the meeting.

A British official identified as "C" said that he had returned from a meeting in Washington and that "military action was now seen as inevitable" by U.S. officials.

"Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.

"The NSC had no patience with the U.N. route, and no enthusiasm for publishing material on the Iraqi regime's record. There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action."

The memo further discussed the military options under consideration by the United States, along with Britain's possible role.

It quoted Hoon as saying the United States had not finalized a timeline, but that it would likely begin "30 days before the U.S. congressional elections," culminating with the actual attack in January 2003.

"It seemed clear that Bush had made up his mind to take military action, even if the timing was not yet decided," the memo said.

"But the case was thin. Saddam was not threatening his neighbors, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran."

The British officials determined to push for an ultimatum for Saddam to allow U.N. weapons inspectors back into Iraq to "help with the legal justification for the use of force ... despite U.S. resistance."

Britain's attorney general, Peter Goldsmith, advised the group that "the desire for regime change was not a legal base for military action" and two of three possible legal bases -- self-defense and humanitarian intervention -- could not be used.

The third was a U.N. Security Council resolution, which Goldsmith said "would be difficult."

Blair thought that "it would make a big difference politically and legally if Saddam refused to allow in the U.N. inspectors."

"If the political context were right, people would support regime change," the memo said.

Later, the memo said, Blair would work to convince Bush that they should pursue the ultimatum with Saddam even though "many in the U.S. did not think it worth going down the ultimatum route."

Kos Diary: What real journalists sound like

Fascinating post by Magorn on the questions the foreign press has been asking Bush. Tough questions. With follow-ups. Wow, what a concept. Well worth the read.

Rabid Republican preacher resigns

Americablog updates us on the Baptist Church in North Carolina whose pastor reportedly expelled nine members for being Democrats. He's resigned... not because it's right, not because he's damaged the flock under his care, but to avoid further hurt for himself and his family. Joe in DC opines now he will become a martyr, and he's probably right.

Military recruitment abuses revealed

Kos reports on a story out of Houston about some major military recruitment abuses. They're having the threaten and coerce young people to join up, and they're still 30-some percent under their recruitment goals. Scary.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

You go, Harry! Let's vote

Kos reports on a statement from Senate minority leader Harry Reid about the "nuclear option" to end filibustering which majority leader Frist is championing. Let's settle this thing.

I still consider this confrontation entirely unnecessary and irresponsible. The White House manufactured this crisis. Since Bush took office, the Senate confirmed 208 of his judicial nominations and turned back only 10, a 95% confirmation rate. Instead of accepting that success and avoiding further divisiveness and partisanship in Washington, the President chose to pick fights instead of judges by resubmitting the names of the rejected nominees.

This fight is not about seven radical nominees; it's about clearing the way for a Supreme Court nominee who only needs 51 votes, instead of 60 votes. They want a Clarence Thomas, not a Sandra Day O'Connor or Anthony Kennedy or David Souter. George Bush wants to turn the Senate into a second House of Representatives, a rubberstamp for his right wing agenda and radical judges. That's not how America works.

I believe there are two options for avoiding the nuclear showdown, which so many of us believe is bad for the Senate, and bad for America.

But I want to be clear: we are prepared for a vote on the nuclear option. Democrats will join responsible Republicans in a vote to uphold the constitutional principle of checks and balances.

Sad day for the old gray lady

The Guardian reports that the New York Times is considering ways to stop being so liberal. Have they read David Brooks and John Tierney lately??

Monday, May 09, 2005

Huffington Post is up

This should be a fun blog to check regularly, so add it to your bookmarks: The Huffington Post.

Ariana introduces it thusly:

Welcome to the Huffington Post, which, as our motto says, has been delivering news and opinion since, well, a few hours ago. As you look around, you’ll see that our front page features our favorite posts from our group bloggers -- including Senator Jon Corzine, Larry David, John Cusack and Walter Cronkite -- and the top news headlines of the moment. If you are hungry for more, you can always get your fill at The Blog and the News Wire where fresh posts and news stories are added 24/7. And don’t forget to check out Eat the Press, Harry Shearer’s spicy dish about the media. So come in and make yourself at home.

Krugman on the Social Security scammers

Paul Krugman's latest column couldn't make the problems with Bush's so-called solutions for Social Security more clear. Here are a few selections:

Hell hath no fury like a scammer foiled....

And so it is with those who would privatize Social Security. They didn't get away with scare tactics, or claims to offer something for nothing. Now they're accusing their opponents of coddling the rich and not caring about the poor.

Well, why not? It's no more outrageous than other arguments they've tried. Remember the claim that Social Security is bad for black people?


...Mr. Bush isn't calling for small sacrifices now. Instead, he's calling for zero sacrifice now, but big benefit cuts decades from now - which is exactly what he says will happen if we do nothing. Let me repeat that: to avert the danger of future cuts in benefits, Mr. Bush wants us to commit now to, um, future cuts in benefits.

This accomplishes nothing, except, possibly, to ensure that benefit cuts take place even if they aren't necessary.


In last fall's debates, Mr. Bush asserted that "most of the tax cuts went to low- and middle-income Americans." Since most of the cuts went to the top 10 percent of the population and more than a third went to people making more than $200,000 a year, Mr. Bush's definition of middle income apparently reaches pretty high.

But defenders of Mr. Bush's Social Security plan now portray benefit cuts for anyone making more than $20,000 a year, cuts that will have their biggest percentage impact on the retirement income of people making about $60,000 a year, as cuts for the wealthy.


Suppose you're a full-time Wal-Mart employee, earning $17,000 a year. You probably didn't get any tax cut. But Mr. Bush says, generously, that he won't cut your Social Security benefits.

Suppose you're earning $60,000 a year. On average, Mr. Bush cut taxes for workers like you by about $1,000 per year. But by 2045 the Bush Social Security plan would cut benefits for workers like you by about $6,500 per year. Not a very good deal.

Suppose, finally, that you're making $1 million a year. You received a tax cut worth about $50,000 per year. By 2045 the Bush plan would reduce benefits for people like you by about $9,400 per year. We have a winner!

I'm not being unfair. In fact, I've weighted the scales heavily in Mr. Bush's favor, because the tax cuts will cost much more than the benefit cuts would save. Repealing Mr. Bush's tax cuts would yield enough revenue to call off his proposed benefit cuts, and still leave $8 trillion in change.

The point is that the privatizers consider four years of policies that relentlessly favored the wealthy a fait accompli, not subject to reconsideration. Now that tax cuts have busted the budget, they want us to accept large cuts in Social Security benefits as inevitable. But they demand that we praise Mr. Bush's sense of social justice, because he proposes bigger benefit cuts for the middle class than for the poor.

Sorry, but no. Mr. Bush likes to play dress-up, but his Robin Hood costume just doesn't fit.

A pattern of hypocrisy

Along comes the Vanity Fair piece on the Jeff Gannon controversy. There is a pattern of hypocrisy among right wing Republicans who publicly bash gays and yet their private lives tell another story. Take for another example Mayor West of Spokane, Washington, a "family values" Republican who has a practice of picking up underage boys, and got stung by the newspaper there. Americablog has a number of stories on that sordid guy. And then there's Congressman Don Sherwood, another "family values" conservative, caught having an affair for years with a much younger woman. On and on it goes.

More warnings about Bolton--from a conservative

Check out this diary from Daily Kos. Fascinating. A dyed in the wool conservative tells Senator Lugar that John Bolton, Bush's nominee for UN ambassador, is a "force of darkness." And backs it up with all kinds of proof.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Pathetic victory in the war on terror

A digest on DailyKos exposes the Bush administration's latest attempt to claim victory in the war on terror, while yet more Americans and innocent Iraqis are slaughtered.

The original story comes from the UK Sunday Times. Crooks & Liars points out how readily the MSM buy the administration's fake news.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Is it the "smoking gun" on Iraq?

UPDATE: Raw Story reports 88 representatives have sent a letter demanding an inquiry on this memo. This could break open. Let's hope.


Seeing the Forest is the latest blog reporting on the secret memo of Bush/Blair talks in 2002 about the upcoming war in Iraq. (Read also DailyKos.) It's quite amazing. Now what?

You've been hearing about The secret Downing Street memo -- if you read blogs, that is.

Or, on the other hand, if you follow American news, you probably haven't heard about this.

It's real. It's a "smoking gun." It's proof. There's no more doubt about it. The Bush administration intended to go to war, and altered intelligence to trick the public into believing that Iraq was involved in 9/11. It WAS all a lie. AND they timed all of this to influence the 2002 elections.

But who is going to do anything about it? The American news media won't even report it. The Justice Department is going to help cover this up, not investigate it. The Republicans in Congress certainly aren't going to do anything, and they won't allow the Democrats to do anything.

Is the leadership of the military so infiltrated with right-wing loyalists that they'll put up with this?

Media Roundup from the Interfaith Alliance

You can read this issue online here.


Pennsylvania Clergy Call On Senator Specter To Protect Filibuster

“As the "nuclear option" clock runs down and Senate Republicans prepare to make good on their threat to dismantle our system of checks and balances by eliminating the filibuster, Republican leaders have called on the religious right to whip up fundamentalist fervor. But this morning Pennsylvania religious leaders gathered in Harrisburg to let it be known that Pennsylvanians of faith do not support silencing the minority in our Senate and do not support overturning our system of checks and balances. "A few days ago the people of this country were told by a colleague of yours, Senator Frist, that People of Faith are ALL of the same political point of view," thundered Rabbi Carl Choper who leads the congregation at Temple Beth Shalom in Mechanicsburg and serves as the convener for the Interfaith Alliance of Pennsylvania. "More to the point, Senator Frist told the nation that People of Faith all held HIS point of view. Senator Specter, we are here today as Faith Leaders to say to you that this sort of intertwining of politics and religion is not good for politics or religion in this country." (TIA Press Release, 05-05-05)

Focus On The Family Garners More Attention, Energizes Activists On All Sides

“As Focus on the Family steps more forcefully into the political sphere, groups that have long sought to counter the influence of Christian social conservatives sense that momentum might be shifting their way. But political scientists caution that while secular and religious liberals may be more driven to offer an alternative voice in the current climate, a more likely scenario is that activists on both sides get energized. John Green, a University of Akron political scientist who specializes in religion and politics, said Focus' activities are winning points with its core supporters, which is far more important strategically than shaping mass public opinion. "In a closely divided electorate, intense minorities on one side or another really matter," he said. The Rev. Welton Gaddy, president of the Interfaith Alliance, believes Focus on the Family's higher political profile also may cause disenchantment among some of its supporters. "When Dr. Dobson transferred his authority as a facilitator of healthy families to being a prognosticator about partisan politics, he brought along with him many people whose trust had been won in one realm that is now being played upon in another realm," Gaddy said. (Denver Post , “Focus stirs up both right, left,” 05-06-05)


Pat Robertson Says Threat To Judiciary Bigger Than 911 Terrorists

“….Acknowledging several passages from his new book - where he charged that liberals were engaging in "an all-out assault on Christianity," and that Democrats wanted to appoint judges who would "dismantle our Christian culture" - Robertson told ABC that the federal judiciary, as currently constituted, represents the biggest threat to America in its history. He warned: "They're destroying the fabric that holds our nation together." His interviewer, George Stephanopolous, asked whether Robertson was saying that the threat posed by federal judges was more dire than the Civil War, World War II, and the terrorists who struck on Sept. 11. Robertson replied: "I really believe that. ... I think that the gradual erosion of the consensus that's held our country together is probably more serious than a few bearded terrorists who fly into buildings."

(Knight Ridder, “Pat Robertson continues religion-based attacks on judiciary, Democrats,” 05-01-05)


Christian Evangelicals Plotting To Remake America In Their Own Image

“It's February, and 900 of America's staunchest Christian fundamentalists have gathered in Fort Lauderdale to look back on what they accomplished in last year's election -- and to plan what's next….Meet the Dominionists -- biblical literalists who believe God has called them to take over the U.S. government. As the far-right wing of the evangelical movement, Dominionists are pressing an agenda that makes Newt Gingrich's Contract With America look like the Communist Manifesto. They want to rewrite schoolbooks to reflect a Christian version of American history, pack the nation's courts with judges who follow Old Testament law, post the Ten Commandments in every courthouse and make it a felony for gay men to have sex and women to have abortions. In Florida, when the courts ordered Terri Schiavo's feeding tube removed, it was the Dominionists who organized round-the-clock protests and issued a fiery call for Gov. Jeb Bush to defy the law and take Schiavo into state custody. Their ultimate goal is to plant the seeds of a "faith-based" government that will endure far longer than Bush's presidency -- all the way until Jesus comes back….The godfather of the Dominionists is D. James Kennedy [Coral Ridge Ministries]…” (Rolling Stone, “,” 05-08-05)


Democrats Seek To “Religionize” Public Remarks

“God does not side with the Republicans, Sen. John Kerry said in a fiery speech last week, accusing Republican leaders of politicizing religion to further their agenda. This week, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy quoted Jesus from the Bible. It was a rebuttal, he said, of Republicans' claims that Democrats are "against people of faith." Rep. John W. Olver, an Amherst Democrat, said he's considered buying an "anthology of good Biblical quotations" that he'd use to neutralize Republicans' religious references. Some observers and lawmakers say the Democrats' use of religious language reflects an adjustment following their electoral losses last fall. President Bush, who ended a speech on Wednesday with "God bless you all," successfully mobilized the evangelical right in the November elections.” (Sentinel and Leader, “Dems beefing up on Bible quotations,” 05-01-05)


President’s Faith Based Initiative Targets Hispanic Community

“As a Baptist minister, the Rev. Luis Cortes has long sought to build a national network of Hispanic churches, one that would bring new power to an emerging minority. As an elected official, President Bush has long sought a more diverse Republican Party, one that would lure more blacks and Hispanics to a dominant conservative bloc. These days, the two are united by faith, friendship, and a line item in the federal budget called the Compassion Capital Fund. Operating from a converted envelope factory in North Philadelphia, Mr. Cortes's organization, Nueva Esperanza Inc., has one of the largest contracts of the 44 groups chosen to provide the training to smaller organizations and distribute the federal cash. With $7.4 million, it has worked with 180 small programs from Miami to Seattle, making Mr. Cortes one of the most prominent Hispanic evangelicals in politics, even though he has found it more difficult than he expected to bring fledgling programs to scale.” (NY Times, “Hispanic Group Thrives on Faith and Federal Aid,” 05-03-05)


Debate Over “Justice Sunday” Is A Faith-Debased Debate

“…The current faith-debased debate is over Democrats' attempts to use the filibuster to block a handful of President Bush's judicial nominees. Republicans did the same thing to some of President Clinton's judicial nominees. Democrats claim Bush's nominees are extremists. Sen. Bill Frist, R-Presbyterian, and other Republicans claim the nominees are being blocked because they are "people of faith." Apparently, the 205 Bush judicial nominees the Democrats haven't tried to block are atheists….Not to be out-faithed, the Interfaith Alliance, the Religious Left's continuing effort to counter the fund- and ruckus-raising on the right, took an opposing view. "Justice Sunday was not about religion; it was part of an ongoing power grab to take over the courts and reverse decades of progress for minorities, women, the environment, workers' rights . . . " said Rev. Carlton Veazey, president of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice.” (Memphis Commercial Appeal, “Raising a filibuster to high heaven,” 05-02-05


More rightwing rantings on NPR

Media Matters reports on NPR's religion reporter and her rightward slant. Further proof Public Broadcasting is going down the wrong path.

In a May 5 report about religious conservatives who believe that separation of church and state is inconsistent with the principles espoused by the country's founders, National Public Radio (NPR) religion correspondent Barbara Bradley Hagerty concluded by intoning: "While many Americans may travel a middle road, they are caught in the crossfire between those who believe that asserting Christian values is the greatest hope for America's future and those who see it as a threat."

Hagerty appeared to have learned nothing from her own report, on Morning Edition, which illustrated that many believe that a clear delineation between church and state is a Christian value. Hagerty's conclusion is particularly baffling given her preceding interview with a congregant at a Northern Virginia Baptist church whose "Christian values" seemed to include that very principle. The congregant, Kathy Baskin, denounced the posting of the Ten Commandments in government buildings, describing such public displays of particular religious principles as "a metaphor of feeling excluded and alienated from my own public institutions." She added, "I guess I think that does do harm to a citizen."

Indeed, Hagerty played a clip of Baskin's minister praying that the church would continue to "walk with Christ," even as Hagerty noted that not all Christians agree with religious conservatives who advocate tearing down the constitutional wall between church and state. The clear implication of the clip is that "walking with Christ" can mean believing it's wrong to insist that public institutions walk along with you.

Do go read the whole thing.

Conservative Christians banish Democrats

Hard to believe, but thoroughly documented, here is Georgia10's diary from Kos.

Check it out... here's the start:

For those that thought that there has not been a full scale war lanched against liberals; for those who didn't take the radical right's promise to "eradicate liberals" seriously, I present to you, Exhibit A: East Waynesville Baptist Church has just kicked out all its Democratic members.

Yes. You read that right. If you didn't vote for Bush, you had to "repent your sin". And finally, they figured why deal with the liberal sinners at all..

Thursday, May 05, 2005

ABC plays the hypocrite in kowtowing to religious right

Here's the press release from the United Church of Christ. If this isn't blatant bigotry, what is?

After twice rejecting UCC’s ad, ABC airs ‘Focus on the Family’ commercial

By J. Bennett Guess
News Director

May 3, 2005

The communication director of the 1.3-million-member United Church of Christ is questioning a decision by ABC television to allow James Dobson’s Focus on the Family to air two commercials during the network’s season finale of “Supernanny” on May 2.

In an Associated Press story (May 2), Focus on the Family’s president and CEO, Jim Daly, said the spots were an attempt by his organization to offer “faith-based” advice on parenting, despite the fact that ABC executives have twice denied recent similar requests by the UCC to purchase network time as part of its national advertising campaign.

“Focus on the Family is clearly a religious organization,” the Rev. Robert Chase, director of the UCC’s communication ministry, told United Church News. “Here’s yet another illustration of how a particular narrow agenda makes up the rules as they go along, while another religious viewpoint cannot even purchase time on the people’s airwaves to proclaim an all-inclusive message.”

In December and March, the three major networks denied a purchasing request by the Cleveland-based UCC. NBC and CBS rejected the UCC’s 30-second ads as “too controversial.” ABC, however, sidestepped the fray by maintaining that it has a blanket policy against all religious advertising.

“Why are the network executives so willing to bow to this narrow agenda of the religious right?” Chase said. “Why is one religious viewpoint continually accommodated by the network elites?”

“Focus on the Family may be using a non-sectarian come-on, but what kind of assurances can ABC provide that Focus on the Family’s follow-up literature is respectful of all faiths, respectful of non-traditional families, respectful of the one million kids that have same-sex couples as parents?”

The apparent hole in ABC’s advertising policy has not been lost on internet blogs. Below are a few recent posts:

Media Matters: Is ABC providing airtime to Focus on the Family after denying it to United Church of Christ?

Talking Points Memo: You may recall

AmericaBlog: ABC accepts ad from Focus on Family after rejecting gay-friendly Christian Church

Another stark difference in UK and US politics

Blogger Markos Moulitsas (Daily Kos) marvels in today's Guardian at the Tories' attempts to woo the gay vote, in stark contrast to the stance of US conservatives

Town Hall Meetings: Bush v. Blair

The Daily Show compared typical Town Hall meetings of Bush and Blair. Can you see the differences? Courtesy of Crooks and Liars, a terrific blog.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Where were they last November?

CNN.com reports:

A majority of Americans do not believe it was worth going to war in Iraq, according to a national poll released Tuesday.

Fifty-seven percent of those polled said they did not believe it was worth going to war, versus 41 percent who said it was, according to a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll of 1,006 adults.

That was a drop in support from February, when 48 percent said it was worth going to war and half said it was not.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

A couple of outrages of the day

From Media Matters for America:

Is ABC providing airtime to Focus on the Family ad after denying it to United Church of Christ?

During the May 2 season finale of the ABC reality series Supernanny, James C. Dobson's Christian ministry Focus on the Family plans to air a nationwide commercial promoting the organization's toll-free phone number and its Focus On Your Child parenting website. In December 2004, ABC reportedly refused to air a commercial on its broadcast network from the United Church of Christ promoting its inclusive policy towards gays, racial minorities, and people with disabilities. While the ABC Family cable channel ran the commercial, according to a United Methodist Church press release, ABC's broadcast network (which airs Supernanny) joined broadcasters such as CBS, NBC, and UPN in rejecting the ad as "too controversial."

From Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

Storm brews over weather information
Mark Lane - Daytona Beach News-Journal
Tuesday, May 3, 2005

A big part of my summer last year was spent nervously clicking on the National Weather Service's hurricane page (www.nhc.noaa.gov/). I expect to start again next month.

Nor am I alone. The weather service's site received 9 billion hits --- a government Web site record --- last year.

Wow. A government agency performing a useful service valued by a huge number of people, giving them easy access to data that was collected using their own tax dollars.

Obviously, this sort of mischief needs to be shut down and right away.

Obviously, that is, if you're a very conservative senator who happens to represent the state that is headquarters to AccuWeather.

Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) has introduced the National Weather Service Duties Act of 2005, which says weather service employees may not "willfully impart" information otherwise available from the private sector.

This would seem to shut down the weather service's Web pages and silence your weather radio. It could prevent the agency from giving data to the Federal Aviation Administration so it can be used by pilots. No marine reports.

It would even forbid government meteorologists from talking with the press.

In other words, data collection would be at taxpayer expense, but data distribution would be for-profit only.

Monday, May 02, 2005

The Decline of PBS Explained

The New York Times exposes the McCarthyite chair of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting--a Republican who is working behind the scenes to "correct" PBS's "liberal bias." To get you started:

The Republican chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting is aggressively pressing public television to correct what he and other conservatives consider liberal bias, prompting some public broadcasting leaders - including the chief executive of PBS - to object that his actions pose a threat to editorial independence.

Without the knowledge of his board, the chairman, Kenneth Y. Tomlinson, contracted last year with an outside consultant to keep track of the guests' political leanings on one program, "Now With Bill Moyers."

In late March, on the recommendation of administration officials, Mr. Tomlinson hired the director of the White House Office of Global Communications as a senior staff member, corporation officials said. While she was still on the White House staff, she helped draft guidelines governing the work of two ombudsmen whom the corporation recently appointed to review the content of public radio and television broadcasts.

Mr. Tomlinson also encouraged corporation and public broadcasting officials to broadcast "The Journal Editorial Report," whose host, Paul Gigot, is editor of the conservative editorial page of The Wall Street Journal. And while a search firm has been retained to find a successor for Kathleen A. Cox, the corporation's president and chief executive, whose contract was not renewed last month, Mr. Tomlinson has made clear to the board that his choice is Patricia Harrison, a former co-chairwoman of the Republican National Committee who is now an assistant secretary of state.

Mr. Tomlinson said that he was striving for balance and had no desire to impose a political point of view on programming, explaining that his efforts are intended to help public broadcasting distinguish itself in a 500-channel universe and gain financial and political support.

"My goal here is to see programming that satisfies a broad constituency," he said, adding, "I'm not after removing shows or tampering internally with shows."

But he has repeatedly criticized public television programs as too liberal overall, and said in the interview, "I frankly feel at PBS headquarters there is a tone deafness to issues of tone and balance."

Pat Mitchell, president and chief executive of PBS, who has sparred with Mr. Tomlinson privately but till now has not challenged him publicly, disputed the accusation of bias and was critical of some of his actions.

"I believe there has been no chilling effect, but I do think there have been instances of attempts to influence content from a political perspective that I do not consider appropriate," Ms. Mitchell, who plans to step down when her contract expires next year, said Friday.

Krugman on Bush's Latest Social Security Plan

When I first heard a news summary about Bush's press conference, they said his latest proposal would cut future benefits of the wealthiest. I thought, finally, something that makes sense (although to me it makes more sense to simply raise the cap on earnings for SS withholding). But now Paul Krugman reveals the truth behind the latest proposal, and it really smells. Read it, from the NY Times.

This'll get you started:

By now, every journalist should know that you have to carefully check out any scheme coming from the White House. You can't just accept the administration's version of what it's doing. Remember, these are the people who named a big giveaway to logging interests "Healthy Forests."

Sure enough, a close look at President Bush's proposal for "progressive price indexing" of Social Security puts the lie to claims that it's a plan to increase benefits for the poor and cut them for the wealthy. In fact, it's a plan to slash middle-class benefits; the wealthy would barely feel a thing.

Under current law, low-wage workers receive Social Security benefits equal to 49 percent of their wages before retirement. Under the Bush scheme, that wouldn't change. So benefits for the poor would be maintained, not increased.

The administration and its apologists emphasize the fact that under the Bush plan, workers earning higher wages would face cuts, and they talk as if that makes it a plan that takes from the rich and gives to the poor. But the rich wouldn't feel any pain, because people with high incomes don't depend on Social Security benefits.

Cut an average worker's benefits, and you're imposing real hardship. Cut or even eliminate Dick Cheney's benefits, and only his accountants will notice.

I asked Jason Furman of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities to calculate the benefit cuts under the Bush scheme as a percentage of pre-retirement income. That's a way to see who would really bear the burden of the proposed cuts. It turns out that the middle class would face severe cuts, but the wealthy would not.

The average worker - average pay now is $37,000 - retiring in 2075 would face a cut equal to 10 percent of pre-retirement income. Workers earning 60 percent more than average, the equivalent of $58,000 today, would see benefit cuts equal to almost 13 percent of their income before retirement.

But above that level, the cuts would become less and less significant. Workers earning three times the average wage would face cuts equal to only 9 percent of their income before retirement. Someone earning the equivalent of $1 million today would see benefit cuts equal to only 1 percent of pre-retirement income.

In short, this would be a gut punch to the middle class, but a fleabite for the truly wealthy.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Frank Rich on South Park Conservatives

Frank Rich's op-ed piece Sunday in the NYTimes is a fascinating review of what would seem an improbable new book, South Park Conservatives.

onservatives can't stop whining about Hollywood, but the embarrassing reality is that they want to be hip, too. It's not easy. In the showbiz wrangling sweepstakes of 2004, liberals had Leonardo DiCaprio, the Dixie Chicks and the Boss. The right had Bo Derek, Pat Boone and Jessica Simpson, who, upon meeting the secretary of the interior, Gale Norton, congratulated her for doing "a nice job decorating the White House." Ms. Simpson may be the last performer in America who can make Whoopi Goldberg seem like the soul of wit.

What to do? Now that Arnold Schwarzenegger's poll numbers have sunk, the right's latest effort to grab a piece of the showbiz action is a new and fast-selling book published by Regnery, home to the Swift Boat Veterans, and promoted in lock step by the right-wing media elite of Fox News, The Wall Street Journal's editorial page and The New York Post. "South Park Conservatives: The Revolt Against Liberal Media Bias," by Brian C. Anderson of the conservative think tank the Manhattan Institute, gives a wet kiss to one of the funniest and most foul-mouthed series on television. The book has even been endorsed by the grim theologian Michael Novak, who presumably forgot to TiVo the "South Park" episode that holds the record for the largest number of bleeped-out repetitions (162) of a single four-letter expletive in a single television half-hour. Then again, The Weekly Standard has informed us that William Bennett, egged on by his children, has given the show a tentative thumbs up.


But a funny thing happened on the way to the publication of "South Park Conservatives": Emboldened by the supposed "moral values" landslide on Election Day, the faith-based right became the new left. Just as Mr. Anderson's book reached stores in early April, Mr. Parker and Mr. Stone, true to their butt-out libertarianism, aimed their fire at self-righteous, big-government conservatives who have become every bit as high-handed and meddlesome as any Prius-pushing movie star. Such is this role reversal that the same TV show celebrated by Mr. Anderson and his cohort as the leading edge of a potential conservative victory in the culture wars now looks like a harbinger of an anti-conservative backlash instead.