Sunday, February 18, 2007

NYT Mag: Narrowing the Religion Gap? - Gary Rosen - New York Times

The Way We Live Now - Narrowing the Religion Gap? - Gary Rosen - New York Times: "Try a quick political thought experiment. First, form a mental picture of the Democratic front-runners for president — Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Now do the same for the leading Republican contenders — John McCain and Rudy Giuliani. Next (and this is the key step), imagine each of them in church, sitting in a pew, head bowed, or better still, at the pulpit, delivering a homily or leading the congregation in worship.

Strange, no? It’s not hard to envision Clinton and Obama among the faithful. She is a lifelong Methodist and self-described “praying person,” and he belongs to a church where some years ago he found himself (in his own words) “kneeling beneath that cross” in submission “to His will.” Both slip easily into the earnest, humble-of-the-earth mode of liberal God talk.

But McCain and Giuliani? You somehow imagine them fidgeting during the hymns and checking their watches. The senator is an Episcopalian, the former mayor a Catholic, but neither man, you have to think, would be caught dead in a Bible-study group or could possibly declare, �la George W. Bush, that his favorite philosopher is “Christ, because he changed my heart.” In the piety primary, the Democrats win hands down."

Saturday, February 17, 2007

A Symbolic Vote Is a Sign of Bitter Debates to Come - New York Times

A Symbolic Vote Is a Sign of Bitter Debates to Come - New York Times: "The symbolic House vote on Friday opposing the American troop buildup in Iraq was an act of Congressional defiance that lays the groundwork for an even more bitter and ultimately more consequential clash over whether and how lawmakers might restrict President Bush’s authority to prosecute the war."

A Divided House Rebukes Bush on Iraq - New York Times

A Divided House Rebukes Bush on Iraq - New York Times: "A sharply divided House of Representatives passed a resolution on Friday formally repudiating President Bush’s decision to send more than 20,000 new combat troops to Iraq."

Friday, February 16, 2007

U.S. Anglican Leader Met With Boycott -

U.S. Anglican Leader Met With Boycott - "Seven conservative Anglican leaders refused Friday to take Holy Communion with the head of the U.S. branch of the church, who supports ordaining gays and blessing same-sex unions, as the fellowship struggles to avert a split.

The boycott came at the six-day meeting of leaders of the 77-million-member Anglican Communion.

"We are unable to come to the Holy Table with the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church because to do so would be a violation of Scriptural teaching and the traditional Anglican understanding," the archbishops said in a posting on the Church of Nigeria Web site."

Disgusting pettiness. How Jesus must weep.

E&P: 'Wash Times' Fails to Correct Fabricated Abraham Lincoln Quote -- Now a Congressman is Using It

'Wash Times' Fails to Correct Fabricated Abraham Lincoln Quote -- Now a Congressman is Using It: "More than two days after an inflammatory quote used by a regular Washington Times columnist was shown to be fabricated -- it was attributed to Abraham Lincoln, no less -- the newspaper still has not removed it from the article, nor carried a correction.

That's one reason Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) cited the quote on the floor of the House today in the debate over the Iraq war 'surge.' He took it to be true, apparently. Rep. Young added, referring to Lincoln: 'He had the same problem this President has, with an unpopular war. The same problem with people trying to redirect the commander in chief.'

Young's spokeswoman, Meredith Kenny, said the congressman took the quote directly from The Washington Times column. 'Now that he's been informed these are not the actual words of Lincoln, he will discontinue attributing the words to Lincoln. However, he continues to totally agree with the message of the statement,' Kenny told The Washington Post.

On Wednesday, E&P and some political blogs pointed out that conservative Frank Gaffney, Jr. opened his latest column on Tuesday morning with this: 'Congressmen who willfully take actions during wartime that damage morale and undermine the military are saboteurs and should be arrested, exiled, or hanged.' — President Abraham Lincoln."

NBC re-signs Olbermann

NBC re-signs Olbermann | "Keith Olbermann will continue to be a thorn in Bill O'Reilly's side for at least four more years.

NBC News announced Thursday it had agreed to a 'second term' with the MSNBC 'Countdown' host. The extension will take him into 2011.

Besides feuding with Fox News Channel's O'Reilly, Olbermann has become a liberal hero. He has seen his ratings increase since launching a series of anti-President Bush commentaries last summer.

His prime-time program averaged 715,000 viewers in January, according to Nielsen Media Research. While his audience is often less than a third of O'Reilly's in the same time slot, Olbermann's viewership is up 85 percent over January 2006."

Thursday, February 15, 2007

ABC News: Bush guru says bond with Americans lost

Political Radar: "In the forthcoming issue of Texas Monthly, former Bush strategist Matthew Dowd writes that President Bush's 'gut-level bond' with the American people 'may be lost' and that 'wholesale change' is needed in Iraq.

'Sending in a small contingent of troops is likely going to be seen as not helpful,' Dowd writes. 'He'd be much better off with the public if he said, 'This is a mess, we made mistakes, and the only way to fix it is a wholesale change.' And that could mean either a serious increase in troop strength or withdrawal.'"

Boedeker on Fox News's new conservative comedy news show

Orlando Sentinel - Fox News Channel bombs with comedy show, by Hal Boedeker: "Jon Stewart knows how to do slashing comical commentary. He weighs in on what's happening, such as the media's bizarre coverage of Anna Nicole Smith's death.

David Letterman knows how to do slashing comical commentary. He takes President Bush's awkward speeches and contrasts them with the lasting words of John F. Kennedy and Franklin Roosevelt.

Fox News Channel does not know how to do slashing comical commentary. The channel debuts 'The 1/2 Hour News Hour' at 10 p.m. Sunday and repeats it at 10 p.m. Feb. 25. This show was meant to be a conservative version of 'The Daily Show.' It is a botch.

'The 1/2 Hour News Hour' does not comment on what is happening; it simply takes swipes at people. These people include Howard Dean, Hillary Clinton, Dennis Kucinich, Barack Obama and Ed Begley Jr. Other joke topics are the ACLU, Time magazine, children's books and global warming.

Laughter, of an awfully canned variety, greets all the gags. Nothing happening on screen justifies these outbursts.

Hey, I'm all for a good dig at the high and the mighty. But these satirists fall short of hitting their targets with wit, timeliness or punch."

AP: Franken runs for Senate

Comedian plans bid for Senate | "Al Franken announced Wednesday that he will run for the U.S. Senate in 2008, making it clear that the comedian and author of 'Rush Limbaugh Is A Big Fat Idiot' wants to be taken seriously as a political figure.

Franken, 55, said he would seek the Democratic nomination to challenge Republican incumbent Norm Coleman and immediately acknowledged the doubts voters may have about electing a former 'Saturday Night Live' performer.

'Minnesotans have a right to be skeptical about whether I'm ready for this challenge, and to wonder how seriously I would take the responsibility that I'm asking you to give me,' Franken said in a video on his Web site."

As a regular listener to Franken on Air America (including his swan song show yesterday), I'm peeved at the slant of the AP article that he's just a "comedian" running for Senate. Any listener, any reader of his books, knows he's a brilliant, thoughtful, concerned, active person who supports the troops but disagrees with the war. Bless him.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Skeptics Doubt U.S. Evidence on Iran Action in Iraq - New York Times

Skeptics Doubt U.S. Evidence on Iran Action in Iraq - New York Times: "Three weeks after promising it would show proof of Iranian meddling in Iraq, the Bush administration has laid out its evidence — and received in return a healthy dose of skepticism.

The response from Congressional and other critics speaks volumes about the current state of American credibility, four years after the intelligence controversy leading up to the Iraq war. To pre-empt accusations that the charges against Iran were politically motivated, the administration rejected the idea of a high-level presentation, relying instead on military and intelligence officers to make its case in a background briefing in Baghdad.

Even so, critics have been quick to voice doubts."

Monday, February 12, 2007

Mystery Illness Wipes Out Bee Colonies

Top News- Mystery Illness Wipes Out Bee Colonies - AOL News: "A mysterious illness is killing tens of thousands of honeybee colonies across the country, threatening honey production, the livelihood of beekeepers and possibly crops that need bees for pollination."

Why Are the Pacifists So Passive? - New York Times

Why Are the Pacifists So Passive? - New York Times: "The fact is, Congress has every power to end the war — if it really wanted to. It has the power of the purse. Its British forebears in Parliament micromanaged the monarchy quite a bit, for instance by making money (the “sinews of war”) contingent on attacking one country and making peace with another. And there is more direct precedent: In 1973, Congress affirmatively acted to cut off funds for Vietnam. It also cut off money for the Nicaraguan contras with the Boland Amendment in 1982.

Not only could Congress cut off money, it could require scheduled troop withdrawals, shrink or eliminate units, or freeze weapons supplies. It could even repeal or amend the authorization to use force it passed in 2002."

For Clinton and Obama, Different Tests on Iraq - New York Times

For Clinton and Obama, Different Tests on Iraq - New York Times: "Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton was challenged on Iraq from corner to corner of New Hampshire this weekend, while Senator Barack Obama drew cheers in Iowa for his opposition to the war."

AJC: Political language can be meaningless

POLITICAL LANGUAGE: Dump 'Free World' in sea of dated words | - Walter Minot op-ed: "Along with our great literary writers, journalists should be the guardians of our language, especially our political language. But are journalists really performing their duty when they either refer to President Bush as 'the leader of the Free World' or allow White House representatives to do so with impunity?

In examining and criticizing political language, journalists would do well to read George Orwell's analytical essay, 'Politics and the English Language,' in which Orwell defines and illustrates a number of abuses of political language. Imagine what Orwell would say about George Bush's phrase 'the axis of evil.' The phrase doesn't really make sense in describing the relationship existing among Iraq, Iran and North Korea. If we use a definition from 'The American Heritage Dictionary,' those countries do not fit the metaphorical political definition of an 'axis,' that is 'an alliance of powers . . . to promote mutual interests and policies.' Iraq and Iran were, not so long ago, enemies in a protracted war, and North Korea has remained politically isolated, without a strong alliance with any other nation."

Sunday, February 11, 2007

New Episcopal Leader Braces for Gay-Rights Test - New York Times

New Episcopal Leader Braces for Gay-Rights Test - New York Times: "In an interview in her office last week, Bishop Jefferts Schori said the conflict was more about “biblical interpretation” than about homosexuality.

“We have had gay bishops and gay clergy for millennia,” she said. “The willingness to be open about that is more recent.”

She said that what she wanted to convey to her fellow primates was that despite the highly-publicized departure of some congregations (a spokesman said 45 of 7,400 have left and affiliated with provinces overseas), the Episcopal Church has the support of most members, who are engaged in worship and mission work, and not fixated on this controversy."

Episcopal presiding bishop may face snub |

Faith & Values: U.S. bishop may face snub | "International church conferences tend to be subdued affairs, but a meeting of Anglican Communion leaders next week could lead to an ecclesiastical smack-down of the Episcopal Church's new leader.

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori is scheduled to meet some of her harshest critics Wednesday at a six-day gathering of Anglican primates —- or regional leaders —- in Tanzania. The Episcopal Church is a member of the Anglican Communion, a 77 million-member global network of churches.

Primates at the regularly scheduled meeting are supposed to share worship and discuss the mission of the communion. But some African primates already have said that they may not even sit at the same table with Jefferts Schori because she supported the Episcopal Church's decision to consent to the election of an openly gay bishop in a relationship."

Thursday, February 08, 2007

No discipline for gay Lutheran minister |

No discipline for gay Lutheran minister | "The Rev. Bradley E. Schmeling of St. John's Lutheran Church in Atlanta learned Thursday that he faces removal from the denomination he's loved since he was a kid.

But the news didn't discourage him or some of his biggest supporters."

"The more I think about it, the more hopeful I am that the conversation is continuing," Schmeling said in an interview after the decision was released. "They could have chosen to remove me immediately, but they clearly want the church to change the policy."

An Evangelical Lutheran Church in America jury Thursday called for the removal of Schemling from the clergy roster for defying church policy that bans clergy from same-sex relationships. Schmeling's removal takes effect Aug. 15 -- four days after the ELCA has a chance to debate the policy at its church wide assembly in Chicago.

Yet a detailed reading of the decision -- and even the timing of Schmeling's removal -- convinces the 44-year-old pastor and his supporters that he eventually may be vindicated.

Schmeling and his supporters pointed out that a majority of the 12-member jury concluded that "no discipline of any sort" should be imposed against the pastor. The jury, noting the growth in St. John's congregation and its support for Schmeling, also called for the ELCA to change its ban on sexually-active gay clergy at its church wide assembly, supporters said.

"They were so clear that my [same-sex] relationship didn't interfere with my ministry and even more, they said the policy was bad and unconstitutional," Schemling said. "That was a courageous and bold decision."

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

It’s the War, Senators - New York Times

It’s the War, Senators - New York Times editorial: "It is not an inspiring sight to watch the United States Senate turn the most important issue facing America into a political football, and then fumble it. Yet that is what now seems to have come from a once-promising bipartisan effort to finally have the debate about the Iraq war that Americans have been denied for four years.

The Democrats’ ultimate goal was to express the Senate’s opposition to President Bush’s latest escalation. But the Democrats’ leaders have made that more difficult — allowing the Republicans to maneuver them into the embarrassing position of blocking a vote on a counterproposal that they feared too many Democrats might vote for."

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

New Wilberforce film inspires new abolitionist movement

Amazing Grace Sunday: News from the National Council of Churches.

Two hundred years after the British Empire abolished slavery – and 144 years after the Emancipation Proclamation – an estimated 27 million people around the world are living in slavery.

This winter, as a new film tells the story of Amazing Grace, the hymn written by a reformed slave trader, a new abolitionist movement is being mounted to end slavery forever. Tens of thousands are planning to launch this effort February 18 on Amazing Grace Sunday.

This year marks the 200th anniversary of the British Parliament's act to end the sale of human beings in its empire. The act did not end the slave trade between Africa and the Americas but it set a political precedent and a moral standard for the rest of the world.

Haggard Now "Completely Heterosexual" |

Haggard Now "Completely Heterosexual" | "One of four ministers who oversaw three weeks of intensive counseling for the Rev. Ted Haggard said the disgraced minister emerged convinced that he is 'completely heterosexual.'

Haggard also said his sexual contact with men was limited to the former male prostitute who came forward with sexual allegations, the Rev. Tim Ralph of Larkspur told The Denver Post for a story in Tuesday's edition."

This would almost be funny if it weren't so pathetically sad.

Monday, February 05, 2007

USA Today on Jefferts Schiori

Episcopal church's new dawn - "The long-simmering tensions between those who adhere to a strict interpretation of the Bible and those who read it less literally came to a boil in 2003. That's when the church's governing body approved the election of the church's first openly gay bishop, the Rev. V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire.

Jefferts Schori has been excoriated by conservatives for her theological views. Some primates say they won't sit in the same room with her at her first meeting of the primates in Tanzania next week.

Yet, despite 'white-hot animosity thrown at her, she's unflappable,' New York Bishop Mark Sisk says.

Confronted with seemingly intractable conflicts, Jefferts Schori smiles like someone well versed in Matthew 6:25's refrain: 'Be not anxious.' The world is all of God, she says, so go forward."

Dalai Lama named professor at Emory |

Dalai Lama named professor at Emory | "The Dalai Lama, a Nobel Peace Laureate and leader of the Tibetan exile community, has been named a presidential distinguished professor at Emory University, school officials said Monday.

It is the first time the Dalai Lama has accepted a university appointment, Emory officials said.

He will deliver his inaugural lecture during an Oct. 20-22 visit where he will participate in a conference on science and spirituality, and an interfaith session on religion as a source of conflict and a resource for peace building."

C&L's Nicole Belle on that car-bumping Hummer video

Crooks and Liars - Winning Hearts & Minds: If you haven't seen the video, check it out; Keith Olbermann featured it Friday night, but Nicole Belle had some pertinent thoughts on it: "There is so much about this that bothers me. First, the very reality that the reason the Humvee driver is driving this way is because they are afraid of an attack if they slow down. Listen at the end of the video to the disdain one troop member expresses towards a pedestrian: '…as if he hasn't got a care in the world.' Because these guys are aware that every day–every assignment–could be their last. Can you imagine what the constant state of stress like that has done to our troops, especially after two, three, four tours? And now with Bush's escalation, the likelihood that their tours will be extended again. PTSD doesn't begin to cover it. And yet, the Bush Adminstration has made it harder to get a diagnosis of PTSD and reduced vet benefits on top of that.

And then my thoughts go to the Iraqis. Can you imagine having your country occupied by another nation and be subjected to this kind of bullying behavior every day? Watch as the Humvee runs into car after car to force them to pull to the side and narrowly misses pedestrians. Is this the liberation we promised them? Are our actions in Iraq winning their hearts and minds to the benefits of a democracy?"

Solution elusive as churches weary of gay clergy debate |

Solution elusive as churches weary of gay clergy debate | "Ron Miller is a member of Druid Hills Presbyterian Church in Atlanta who says he would have 'no problem at all' accepting a gay pastor.

But the genial church elder says he'd rather focus on something else —- and so should other churches.

'A lot of time and energy is being spent by governing bodies and individual churches over this issue,' Miller says. 'That time could be devoted to the real mission of the church: helping the poor, the homeless, the community at large.'

Miller's frustration reflects the weariness in several Protestant denominations. After years of fighting over the acceptance of gay clergy, some church leaders say they're exhausted. The nonstop battles are draining the life from their congregations and driving members away."

A Bleak Assessment on Iraq - New York Times

A Bleak Assessment on Iraq - editorial in New York Times: "There isn’t much encouraging news in the new National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq. Ethnic and sectarian identities are hardening and violence is spiraling, as shown again in Saturday’s horrific Baghdad market bombing. Iraq’s new governing institutions are weak and leading politicians have a “winner-take-all attitude” that can only make matters even worse."

Saturday, February 03, 2007

AJC: Churches improve marketing efforts

Faith & Values: Church's campaign isn't subtle, but it is personal | "Mara Einstein, associate professor of media studies at the City University of New York and author of the forthcoming book 'Brands of Faith: Marketing Religion in a Commercial Age,' says churches are being forced to devise new marketing techniques.

She pinpoints the problem: Churches can no longer rely on brand loyalty. There's no longer social stigma attached to skipping church, and people feel no obligation to attend the church of their parents, she says.

'Religion has become a product just like everything else,' she says. 'Churches have to become brands because brands are quick pieces of information that people don't have to think about but they can identify with.'"

Friday, February 02, 2007

Iraq at Risk of Further Strife, Intelligence Report Warns -

Iraq at Risk of Further Strife, Intelligence Report Warns - "A long-awaited National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq, presented to President Bush by the intelligence community yesterday, outlines an increasingly perilous situation in which the United States has little control and there is a strong possibility of further deterioration, according to sources familiar with the document."

C&L: Olbermann on Iran

Crooks and Liars - Iraq War! Part Deux: "After rummaging through the old tape bin last night, Keith [Olbermann] compares the eerie similarities between Bush's 2002 Iraq rhetoric and his 2007 Iran rhetoric and puts together a pretty compelling case that should worry us all." Check out the video.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Milbank: Kissinger says Bush has secret plan for Iraq?

Dana Milbank - Wherever a Senator's Question Leads, Kissinger Gamely Follows - "So now it can be told: President Bush has a secret plan to end the war in Iraq.

Henry Kissinger, who as Richard Nixon's secretary of state learned something about secret plans, went before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee yesterday to argue that Bush, too, has such a proposal.

'I am convinced, but I cannot base it on any necessary evidence right now,' Kissinger told the senators, 'that the president will want to move toward a bipartisan consensus' to stabilize Iraq through diplomacy."

Al Gore Nominated for Nobel Peace Prize

Al Gore Nominated for Nobel Peace Prize | "Former Vice President Al Gore was nominated for the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize for his wide-reaching efforts to draw the world's attention to the dangers of global warming, a Norwegian lawmaker said Thursday.

'A prerequisite for winning the Nobel Peace Prize is making a difference, and Al Gore has made a difference,' Conservative Member of Parliament Boerge Brende, a former minister of environment and then of trade, told The Associated Press."

Franken to run for Senate in Minnesota -

Franken to run for Senate in Minnesota - "Comedian Al Franken has decided to run for the U.S. Senate from Minnesota in 2008, a senior Democratic official from Minnesota said Wednesday.

Franken told the official, who did not want to be identified because Franken has not made an announcement, that he had decided to run in a recent conversation."

Writer Molly Ivins dies

Writer Molly Ivins dies of cancer at 62 | "Best-selling author and columnist Molly Ivins, the sharp-witted liberal who skewered the political establishment and referred to President Bush as 'Shrub,' died Wednesday after a long battle with breast cancer. She was 62."

Very sad news. Rest in peace, Molly.

Here are links to some tributes to Molly:
John Nichols column in the Nation --

Texas Observer --

Thursday’s Austin American Statesman --

Thursday’s New York Times --

Washington Post -- reprint of 2000 profile --

NYT: Bush bullying Iran

Bullying Iran - New York Times: "Given America’s bitter experience in Iraq, one would think that President Bush could finally figure out that threats and brute force aren’t a substitute for a reasoned strategy. But Mr. Bush is at it again, this time trying to bully Iran into stopping its meddling inside Iraq.

We have no doubt about Iran’s malign intent, just as we have no doubt that Mr. Bush’s serial failures in Iraq have made it far easier for Tehran to sow chaos there and spread its influence in the wider region. But more threats and posturing are unlikely to get Iran to back down. If Mr. Bush isn’t careful, he could end up talking himself into another disastrous war, and if Congress is not clear in opposing him this time, he could drag the country along."

U.S. Agency Finds New Waste and Fraud in Iraqi Rebuilding Projects - New York Times

U.S. Agency Finds New Waste and Fraud in Iraqi Rebuilding Projects - New York Times: "A federal oversight agency reported Wednesday that despite nearly $108 billion that had been budgeted for the reconstruction of Iraq since the 2003 invasion, the country’s electrical output and oil production were still below prewar levels and stocks of gasoline and kerosene had plummeted to their lowest levels in at least two years."

Biden Unwraps His Bid for ’08 With an Oops! - New York Times

Biden Unwraps His Bid for ’08 With an Oops! - New York Times: "Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware, who announced his candidacy on Wednesday with the hope that he could ride his foreign policy expertise into contention for the Democratic nomination, instead spent the day struggling to explain his description of Senator Barack Obama, the Illinois Democrat running for president, as “the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy.”

The remark, published Wednesday in The New York Observer, left Mr. Biden’s campaign struggling to survive its first hours and injected race more directly into the presidential contest. The day ended, appropriately enough for the way politics is practiced now, with Mr. Biden explaining himself to Jon Stewart on Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show.”"