Sunday, July 31, 2005

What he said!

David Sirota is on a roll. See here...
And that's when we get to the real problem with the DLC -- its policies are BOTH morally bankrupt, and politically disastrous. The rise of the DLC within the Democratic Party has coincided almost perfectly with the decline of the Democratic Party's power in American politics -- a decline that took Democrats from seemingly permanent majority status to permanent minority status. In this last election, just think of Democrats' troubles in Ohio as a perfect example of this. Here was a state ravaged by massive job loss due to corporate-written "free" trade deals -- yet Democrats were unable to capitalize on that issue and thus couldn't win the state because the DLC had long ago made sure the party helped pass the very trade policies (NAFTA, China PNTR) that sold out those jobs.
...and here...
These are the 9 Democrats who are the difference between House Democrats being in the majority and the minority - they are the people who undermine the vast majority of honest/courageous Democrats who fight for ordinary people in Congress everyday. They are the ones who make it consistenly impossible for Democrats to deliver a message that they are the party that stands up for ordinary working people in this country. The fact is, if Democrats are going to be in the minority for the forseeable future, it would be better if these folks were defeated, because they do more harm than good to a party that desperately needs unity to let America knows what it stands for.
(And to those of us who've been letting ourselves begin to trust Harry Reid's leadership -- note that he piled on with a dozen other corporate Dems, setting aside the defense bill in order to tackle the far more important work of shielding the nation's gun manufacturers from lawsuits.)

Sunday Cat(s) Blogging

More substantive stuff to follow. It's time for a little cat blogging. That the three in this picture were holding still this long and this close together is worth photodocumenting. They are the newcomers to the family, adopted last Monday from Cats Are Truly Special. From top to bottom: Shirley, Jack and Riley (aka Chaos, Bedlam, and Entropy; don't let this picture of tranquility fool you). In May our 13-year-old dog Bear died, and in June, our 19-year-old cat Web. 12-year old Baxter and 10-year old Cosmo (the only family member to have escaped this blog so far; we'll have to remedy that) have been so depressed and out of sorts (we also had to leave our home of 10 years in June) that we thought a little youthful energy might cheer them. We weren't thinking of THREE KITTENS, but that's who we met and how they came. And not even 7 days after the introduction, everyone is getting along splendidly.

Friday, July 29, 2005

It depends on what the meaning of "Holy Scriptures" is....

You've probably heard about the flap in North Carolina over just whose "Holy Scriptures" get to be the resting place for oaths to tell the truth, the whole truth, etc. Seems the Quran isn't considered holy writ in some places, so the ACLU is bringing suit to rectify this situation. The Christian Alliance for Progress has a thoughtful commentary on the matter -- reminding readers again (see post above) about the importance of who sits on a Supreme Court that might eventually hear the ACLU's case.

But here's a thought that just struck me: since our president is supposed to be such a religious guy, maybe we should check out photos from his inaugurations to see exactly what book he had his hand on when he took those oaths to uphold the Constitution. Could it have been Macchiavelli's The Prince, or possibly one of the Left Behind series, that got pulled off the shelf instead of the volume that says things like, "Blessed are the peacemakers"? Just a thought....

P.S. to my last post: I apologize for the weirdness of the pull quotes. My absence from Blogger has been so long that I've forgotten how to get rid of hard returns. I'll refrain from quotes until I've re-educated myself.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Bits and Pieces, with More to Come

It's the errant blogging partner, after a long absence! Since I last posted anything here, oh so long ago, I've given notice at my job and retired as of mid-July. Lots of change, all good.

Last week I attended the Conference on Spiritual Activism in Berkeley, CA, joining 1,300 other folks who want to find a way to "challenge the misuse of God and religion by the Religious Right." It was a terrific event lasting four days, although I only lasted two, felled by a very bad cold. I'll report later on the two days I did manage to get to.

One of my goals for retirement was to be a more faithful blogger; this is a modest (maybe even meager) start, with a couple of items I saw today.

Pope Benedict XVI (aka Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, chief enforcer of orthodoxy at the Vatican) has managed to keep mostly out of trouble so far -- oh, except for leaving Israel out of prayers for victims of terror. But that doesn't mean his flock isn't keeping an eye on him. "Global Perspective" is a product from the National Catholic Reporter. You can subscribe to this weekly online series, currently a succession of open letters to Benedict XVI from Catholics, mostly in the developing world. The most recent letter, from a young layperson in Malaysia, bluntly challenges the new pontiff:

The points I would like to ask you, your grace is why is the Catholic church so
rigid when it comes to morality but does not seem to have that same passion when
it comes to demanding that is believers share and sacrifice their material
wealth for the common good? Why do you allow millions of rich Catholics not to
worry about our neighbors?

Why indeed? As someone who wavers somewhere between Lutheran and Catholic, I have these same questions of the institutional church -- not, thank God, of my Catholic home in San Francisco, St. Boniface in the Tenderloin, an oasis of hospitality and compassion in all ways.

Changing the subject (but perhaps not), the John Roberts nomination is bringing up lots of questions -- most of them for Mister Roberts, but also for the members of the Senate who do have constitutional responsibility here. The Center for American Progress has just released a pretty thoughtful and useful report on the confirmation process, prefaced with this admonition:

Senators should insist on exercising fully their Advice and Consent
responsibilities—and should use their political capital—to confirm only those
nominees who recognize that the meaning of the Constitution has continued to
evolve to meet the needs of a changing society and who will interpret the
Constitution to preserve and promote the ability of Congress and the courts to
protect fundamental rights.

As Jay Leno says, the Supremes are pretty important; after all, these are the people who elect the President. (Not!)

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Home again, home again

Lovely to see all of my dear friends and family in the east and midwest, but gracious, it's nice to be back in the July nip of San Francisco! My flight was much less eventful than this guy's (which I linked to before but which seems worth reflecting upon in light of Congress's continued infatuation with the Patriot Act), although I was mysteriously tagged as an "unaccompanied minor" on my return flight. Attendants at both connecting gates took one look at my 42-year old self and declared, "clearly you are not a minor." Clearly. In any case, I'm in the all-too-chronic state of "catching up," but will smack particularly attention-getting items up here. For example, David Sirota on the DLC, and Frank Rich's terrific "Eight Days in July."

The Christian Paradox

There are two good features in Harper's Magazine this month. Bill McKibben's "The Christian Paradox: How a faithful nation gets Jesus wrong" is excerpted on the web site. It seems to pull some punches, but still gets the important points across:
It's hard to imagine a con much more audacious than making Christ the front man for a program of tax cuts for the rich or war in Iraq. If some modest part of the 85 percent of us who are Christians woke up to that fact, then the world might change.
And Mark Crispin Miller has a good summary of John Conyer's report What Went Wrong in Ohio, and the media blackout on its findings:
The Boston Globe gave the report 118 words (page 3); the Los Angeles Times, 60 words (page 18);. It made no news in the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Newsweek, Time, or US News & World Report. it made no news on CBS, NBC, ABC, or PBS. Nor did NPR report it (though Talk of the Nation dealt with it on January 6). CNN did not report it, though Donna Brazile pointedly affirmed its copious "evidence" on Inside Politics on January 6. (Judy Woodruff failed to pause for an elaboration.) Also on that date, the Fox News Channel briefly showed Conyers himself discussing "irregularities" in Franklin County, though it did not mention the report. He was followed by Tom DeLay, who assailed the Democrats for their "assault against the institutions of our representative democracy." The New York Times negated both the challenge and the documents in a brief item headlined "Election Results to be Certified, with Little Fuss from Kerry," which ran on page 16 and ended with this quote from Dennis Hastert's office, vis-'a-vis the Democrats: "They are really just trying to stir up their loony left."
I have a copy of Conyer's book, but can't read more than a few pages at a time, many days apart, with circular breathing exercises immediately after each exposure.

At $6.50 newstand price, Harper's is making itself non-habit-forming. But this is a good issue to pick up for full access to those articles. (I subscribe every 5 years or so, seduced by the $12.97 introductory subscription price, but then the issues start piling up alongside my hundreds of partially-read or unread books, and I discontinue. But let's face it, it's worth that price for the monthly Harper's Index alone.)

The foul-mouthed parrot

"Foul-mouthed British parrot banished by embarrassed keepers." Reminds me of an old joke:
Jimmy received a parrot for Christmas. The parrot was fully grown, with a very bad attitude and worse vocabulary.

Every other word was an expletive; those that weren't expletives were, to say the least, rude. Jimmy tried to change the bird's attitude by constantly saying polite words, playing soft music... anything he could think of. Nothing worked.

He yelled at the bird, and the bird got worse. He shook the bird, and the bird got madder and more rude.

Finally, in a moment of desperation, Jimmy put the parrot in the freezer. For a few moments he heard the bird swearing, squawking, kicking and screaming and then, suddenly, there was absolute quiet.

Jimmy was frightened that he might have actually hurt the bird, and quickly opened the freezer door.

The parrot calmly stepped out onto Jimmy's extended arm and said, "I'm sorry that I offended you with my language and my actions, and I ask your forgiveness. I will endeavor to correct my behavior".

Jimmy was astounded at the changes in the bird's attitude and was about to ask what had changed him, when the parrot continued, "May I ask what the Chicken did?"
(Gosh, I love Google. Where else could I find a joke link like that?)

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Melting in the midwest...

What was that I said about posting from the road? I'm nearing the end of my sweltering-in-150%-humidity east/midwest visit. My mother hasn't noticed that the blog is now over 7 days old, but that's because my presence keeps her away from the computer. I simply must check in today, however, because I see on the front page of what passes for a newspaper here that Bush has rushed his Supreme Court nominee into the news cycle, no doubt hoping to distract from the growing Rove crisis and simultaneously "feed the base"?

This little publication never disappoints me for sheer comic entertainment on its editorial page: today it declares (the link is not available, yet) "there's a huge question as to whether Plame actually was a covert agent." Apparently the editorialists hadn't yet read the Wall Street Journal (via TPM). And they declare that the attacks on Rove are "politically motivated" and thus Bush is justified in altering "his standard" for firing the leaker.

  • Or is that leakers? As Buzzflash put it, "twice the treason and double the fun"! (Frank Rich thinks Rove will fall on his sword before Bush's own involvement is uncovered. I'd much rather see the frog-march.)

  • Smart words from Buzzflash:
    The Democrats should stop calling for Rove to resign and instead take a page from the GOP/Luntz playbook. Just keep saying Rove and treason together in as many possible media forums as possible. Everyone knows the Democrats want Rove to resign. That's not a message that gets embedded in the public mind. It's only a tactic that feeds into the Rove strategy of throwing up enough flak to confuse people and have the media report on this as a partisan fight, rather than an act of betraying the national security interests of the United States of America.

    Rove's outing of Plame has made us all less safe, seriously less safe. Because she specialized in the tracking the illicit sales of Weapons of Mass Destruction. People's lives have been endangered as a result of the White House's betrayal.

    And the Democrats shouldn't make this about Joe Wilson -- a man of boundless courage -- vs. Bush, which is what Rove wants. The Department of Justice investigation was initiated at the request of the CIA, by George Tenet, who Bush gave a Medal of Freedom to. The CIA believed and believes that the national security of the United States of America was compromised. This is Rove, Bush and Cheney vs. the CIA and the national security of the United States of America. Period.
    Our national security was compromised because a couple of Bush aides had it out for Wilson - who had single-handedly undermined their fabricated case for war. Kevin Drum has a thoughtful post on this.

  • If you didn't hear Bob Schiffer Sunday morning, listen now. (Via Crooks and Liars.)

  • That even 50% once saw personal credibility in Bush is astonishing to me, but here is some encouraging news for those who value critical thinking and evaluation skills.

  • Horrifying. And brought to you by the Pro-Life Party.

  • “Did we have eleven hundred Americans die so (Iraq) could have a rigged election?” - Seymour Hersh paraphrases Nancy Pelosi thusly, in this New Yorker feature on Iraq's "democratic" elections.

  • Matt Bai had a long and ultimately not terribly enlightening feature on framing in the New York Times Magazine. The last paragraph is probably the most important:
    What all these middling generalities suggest, perhaps, is that Democrats are still unwilling to put their more concrete convictions about the country into words, either because they don't know what those convictions are or because they lack confidence in the notion that voters can be persuaded to embrace them. Either way, this is where the power of language meets its outer limit. The right words can frame an argument, but they will never stand in its place.
  • Jerry Falwell says the Christian Alliance for Progress is "hardly Christian." Do read Father Jake's thoughtful reply. And while we're at it, see Marilyn Chandler McEntyre's Common Dreams feature, A Voice From the Christian Left:
    ...Many on the “Christian Right” are fond of posing the question “WWJD?-- What would Jesus do?” I’d like to remind them what Jesus DID do: he cared for the poor. He did not condemn the woman caught in adultery. He prayed alone. He commanded us to love our enemies. He preached peace. He ate, drank, and lived with “tax collectors and sinners”—the lowlifes and outcasts of his day—while reserving his condemnation for the religious leaders who from a place of privilege imposed their legalism and literalism on the people they were responsible for leading. He told his disciples not to oppose the healing work of those outside the ranks of his followers. And again and again he reminded us to care for the poor. (That moral issue gets more air time than any other in the gospels: 1 verse in 9.) If Christians concerned about how to respond to the grave global issues facing us all were to reread the Gospels for guidance, I think we’d find some pretty clear indications there about what Jesus would do. And what he wouldn’t...
  • See how far the Rev. Doctor Janet Edwards' apple fell from her family tree. (Thank heaven...)
  • Monday, July 11, 2005

    "Your blog is 5 days old!"

    My mother emailed me this morning to point out that my blog "is 5 days old." I know! And now I'm getting ready to visit friends and family in the east - but I'll be posting from there. And hoping for a hassle free flight tonight. (Read that link. It's appalling.)

  • Great Frank Rich this weekend:
    ...That the Bush administration would risk breaking the law with an act as self-destructive to American interests as revealing a C.I.A. officer's identity smacks of desperation. It makes you wonder just what else might have been done to suppress embarrassing election-season questions about the war that has mired us in Iraq even as the true perpetrators of 9/11 resurface in Madrid, London and who knows where else...
  • Taking a page from the Robertson and Falwell playbooks...

  • Days before the London bombings showed us how the world is safer without Saddam in power, the National Counterterrorism Center more than quadrupled its original count of the number of attacks occurring in 2004. Check out this graph (scroll to the bottom of the page) and let yourself marvel over Bush's high "war on terror" ratings. Robin Cook reminds us how we got here:
    ...Bin Laden was, though, a product of a monumental miscalculation by western security agencies. Throughout the 80s he was armed by the CIA and funded by the Saudis to wage jihad against the Russian occupation of Afghanistan.

    Al-Qaida, literally "the database", was originally the computer file of the thousands of mujahideen who were recruited and trained with help from the CIA to defeat the Russians. Inexplicably, and with disastrous consequences, it never appears to have occurred to Washington that once Russia was out of the way, Bin Laden's organisation would turn its attention to the west.

    The danger now is that the west's current response to the terrorist threat compounds that original error. So long as the struggle against terrorism is conceived as a war that can be won by military means, it is doomed to fail. The more the west emphasises confrontation, the more it silences moderate voices in the Muslim world who want to speak up for cooperation.

    Success will only come from isolating the terrorists and denying them support, funds and recruits, which means focusing more on our common ground with the Muslim world than on what divides us...
  • Head over to Think Progress and read up on RoboScotty and Karl Rove. There are too many good items to link to individually.

  • And if we needed further proof that we are making a screeching u-turn for the Dark Ages, read what Cardinal Schonborn has to say about evolution. (Thanks for the heads-up, E!)
  • Wednesday, July 06, 2005


    I've been trying to stay away from this "list" format, because I know they're hard to search and link to, but I've got too many odds and ends tonight!

  • A friend working in Kosovo emailed this weekend, following the news of three explosions in Pristina, to assure me and other friends that she is fine. It was a short note in which she also urged us to "fly our colors and show our patriotism" because - to paraphrase - people around the world would give anything for the liberties we have in the U.S. I tried to reflect on that throughout the Independence Day weekend - but found that I was simultaneously contemplating the need for election monitors in the US, the upcoming stacking of the Supreme Court, the re-emergence of McCarthyism, the waging of illegal wars for political gain... Mixed blessings to be sure. See this LA Times editorial.

  • Remember the company that got caught falsifying and destroying Democratic voter registrations in Nevada, Oregon and Arizona (and perhaps other states I'm forgetting)? Via the Daily Kos diaries, the RNC was paying them MILLIONS of dollars for the work.

  • If you need any more reasons to fear Alberto Gonzales as Bush's pick (as more than a few people have observed - the right wing "attacks" on him are suspiciously well-coordinated and are likely designed to make him look "moderate"), see Thom Hartmann.

  • I spotted this on Americablog -- Bush has succeeded in doubling the number of super-rich people paying NO TAXES. Now if he can just get that estate tax permanently repealed. What a proud public service legacy!

  • I've been wanting to compile some links about aid to Africa for a long time, but Body and Soul has done a better job than I will. Read hers, either immediately before or immediately after you sop up Kristof's drivel. See Think Progress, too.

  • Was it Joe Wilson who fantasized about seeing Rove "frog-marched" out of the White House? It may still be too much to hope for, but enjoy Ted Rall's reflections in the meantime.

  • The Republicans are attempting to harass and intimidate individual scientists now.

  • There's a pretty good profile of the Christian Alliance for Progress in last week's American Prospect.

  • First Canada, then Spain, then the UK Methodists, now the US UCC... (Even California at least upheld the provisions of its domestic partner law.) An encouraging couple of weeks in this regard. But I'm not holding my breath about my own denomination, the ELCA.

  • A terrific sermon by All Saints Pasadena's Susan Russell on the real biblical family values. (Go to the archived sermons and select "Biblical Family Values" from June 19.) I'm going to paste an excerpt here, but I hope you'll read the whole thing:
    By far the most common marriage pattern in the Bible is polygamy: not a union of one man and one woman, but a union of one man and as many women as he could afford to keep (see also: Solomon, with his 700 wives and 300 concubines). And in the Christian scriptures, the two primary figures, Jesus and the Apostle Paul, are both unmarried and childless. There is no gospel according to Ozzie – no Letter from Harriet to the church in Rome – framing the early church’s understanding of what it is to be family! Rather – following the model of Jesus and his disciples—the first Christians developed a model of family that broke with ancient kinship patterns in favor of a non-biological family. “Who is my mother and my brothers?” Jesus said to those trying to lay a nuclear- family guilt trip on him. “Whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” It was a radical concept then and it is a radical concept now.

    And today’s Gospel lesson—which never fails to startle with its slash and burn approach to family life—continues that decidedly unsettling vision of God's world, God's agenda: our allegiance is not to even our most beloved human institutions but to a God who is making all things new while continuing to call us beyond our comfort zone – calling us to partner with God in (stop me if you’ve heard this one before) turning the human race into the human family.

    THAT, my brothers and sisters, is the essence of “Biblical Family Values.” And no matter how the Religious Right tries to twist our ancient Biblical texts into the pretzels necessary to prop up their contention that Ozzie-and-Harrietism is God’s only plan for everyone’s life, the “clear truth of scripture” (and I do not use those words unadvisedly or lightly!) is that Biblical Family Values have nothing whatsoever to do with the gender of the partners who make up a family and everything to do with the VALUES lived out in that family. Paul wrote about these values, calling them the "fruit of the spirit": "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control" (Galatians 5:22).