Wednesday, August 31, 2005

All we are saying is....

When asked about my religious tradition, I never know exactly what to say: born into a Presbyterian family, I've spent time as a Southern Baptist (yes, really), sang in an Episcopal choir in high school, became a professional United Methodist in my forties when I worked for the denomination, and now float somewhere between Lutheran (ELCA) and Catholic. My Catholic home is St. Boniface Church, in San Francisco's Tenderloin, and the congregation looks something like what I imagine the heavenly banquet to be: everyone's invited and no one is left out.

I mention all this because our prophetic Franciscan priest, Fr. Louis Vitale, is moving on after 13 years in this parish. Louie is one of those pastors who's been everywhere (including a three-month stint in federal prison for crossing the line at the School of the Americas) and done everything (including serving in the U.S. Air Force and being named Pax Christi's Teacher of Peace along with the Berrigan brothers). He is an extraordinary human being, and I am a better person for having had the privilege of knowing him. At age 73, he doesn't know what the next part of his journey will be, but you can bet that peace and nonviolence will be the focus.

Peace is much on my mind these days, mainly because of its absence from our troubled world. Many of us have been encouraged, though, by the witness of Cindy Sheehan and all those who have joined her at Camp Casey. A member of Pax Christi forwarded the following message from Patricia Kane, who was in Crawford last week. It's a powerful testimony and worth your reflection (see especially point 3 -- 7,000 people came through, not the mere hundreds you've heard about on CNN!):
People keep asking me what was the strongest impression that I took away from Crawford, and I think there are three things:

1)What I witnessed is a PEACE movement, not an anti-war movement, and it is a very inspiring thing to have seen. I left Crawford with a feeling of just wanting to be nicer to everyone, including my ex-husband. I suddenly felt a great deal of compassion for him, and I believe that this was in part due to what I witnessed at Camp Casey: kindness, gentleness, sincere love for those in opposition. Amazing.

2)I saw a gentleness of spirit combined with a focus - "For what noble cause?" - in all the people at Camp Casey, that leaves me feeling very hopeful, for the first time since the lead-up to the war. And

3) Something is terribly wrong in our country - what's happened in Crawford IS NOT BEING REPORTED. Did you know that over 7,000 people have passed through Camp Casey since August 6? That's not what's on TV, is it? I've thought and thought about why this is so, and I believe that if Americans saw the truth at Crawford - the crowds, the gentleness, the integrity, the desire for dialogue, the determination - more and more of us would feel empowered to speak out - and that's not what our current crop of media moguls want. So, I will talk until my throat gives out about what I saw in Crawford! Just point me at an audience and I'll do the rest.

I heard Medea Benjamin say last week that being in Crawford was a religious experience. That was my exact thought the day I left and drove to the airport in Austin. I heard Cindy today say that it has been the most transformative experience of her life. I thought that, too. Our job now is to keep things going, and part of that is for people to be able to see and hear what happened.

"Our job now is to keep things going...." That's true whether we are in Crawford or anywhere else. We have to keep up the passion for peace that I learned from Louie Vitale, and we have to do all we can to see that this invasion/occupation comes to an end. We can't do everything, but everyone can do something, just one thing, to bring true peace. Let's just give it a chance!


From Editor and Publisher, which I'm reading more and more:
On June 8, 2004, Walter Maestri, emergency management chief for Jefferson Parish, Louisiana; told the Times-Picayune: 'It appears that the money has been moved in the president's budget to handle homeland security and the war in Iraq, and I suppose that's the price we pay. Nobody locally is happy that the levees can't be finished, and we are doing everything we can to make the case that this is a security issue for us.'
The 2004 hurricane season was the worst in decades. In spite of that, the federal government came back this spring with the steepest reduction in hurricane and flood-control funding for New Orleans in history. Because of the proposed cuts, the Corps office there imposed a hiring freeze. Officials said that money targeted for the SELA project -- $10.4 million, down from $36.5 million -- was not enough to start any new jobs.
Meanwhile, much of Louisiana's National Guard is in Iraq... and FEMA has been all but dismantled, with no immediate replacement. Truly a visionary administration. Ready for anything.

Meanwhile, the news just gets worse.

I know we all think of donating to the Red Cross in times of disaster, but two other effective agencies are Lutheran World Relief and Church World Service.

Finally. Bush admits the war really was about oil.

Here. You'll find the rationale tucked along with his more customary hubris.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

"Fewer See Dems As Religion-Friendly"

It's hard to believe the right wing noise machine is still working this well, but there it is:
Fewer people see Democrats as friendly to religion now than felt that way a year ago, according to a poll released Tuesday by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press.

That number has dropped from 40 percent in August 2004 who thought the Democrats were friendly to religion to 29 percent now.

Says it all

From the Times:
Even as the economy grew, incomes stagnated last year and the poverty rate rose, the Census Bureau reported Tuesday. It was the first time on record that household incomes failed to increase for five straight years.
(Emphases mine.)

This explains a lot

You could wonder, like Helen Thomas, why so many Democrats are "still backing (a) senseless war," OR you could just read Fafblog's hilarious "interview" with those Democrats (if you haven't already read it here, here or here, where I've seen it) and experience a singular "a-ha" moment. (I was at a church retreat this weekend... I'm a little late passing these things along!)

"Statistics are numbers with the tears washed off"

If you ever get a chance to watch "Coming to Say Goodbye: Stories of AIDS in Africa," I hope you'll take it. The stories are of those who are suffering and those who are caring for them and trying to stem the epidemic, but the DVD also includes a discussion guide, fact sheets, and links to various resources (a leader guide is available at The quote above came from Dr. Brigid Corrigan, a physician working in Kenya, who remarked - of trying to put a "figure" on the magnitude of the crisis - "someone said statistics are numbers with the tears washed off... We're dealing with the tears."

I ordered the DVD months ago through some lay leader resource, but hadn't yet watched it. I was compelled to by this story, documenting the completely unsurprising effect of Bush's insistence that money for global AIDS-prevention favor those programs emphasizing abstinence over condom use: That policy is threatening the continued success of one of the few countries making headway in the crisis.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Another Republican for Sanity

Russ Feingold to the contrary notwithstanding, it's pretty frustrating to be a Democrat (as I am) these days. How come it's Republicans like this one that are talking common sense about Iraq? Where is any kind of moral leadership in my own party? With 57% (and rising) of the country now thinking that invading Iraq was a really bad idea, you don't even need courage to take a stand. Come on, folks, we're waiting for you to claim what the majority already has figured out. (Or, as Jim Wallis quotes in God's Politics, it might be that "we [emphasis added] are the ones we have been waiting for." Not that I want to run for office, but I need to do more to light a fire under our so-called leaders.)

No particular reason for this post

I just found this entertaining.

A dangerous man

Juan Gonzales' latest column explains why Hugo Chavez is so threatening to Pat Robertson and his ilk: "Unlike Exxon/Mobil and the Big Oil fat cats, who wallow in their record profits while the rest of us pay, Chavez is spreading the wealth around." (I recently mentioned Greg Palast's The Best Democracy Money Can Buy; coincidentally, he also has an entertaining chapter on Robertson's appetite for gold and diamonds and the African mines his company runs.)

More on exit strategies

Here's Tom Hayden (another blast from the past) on getting out of Iraq.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Spam comments

We're still getting the occasional spam comment. Traffic on this blog is certainly not so heavy that we're inundated, so maybe I'll just keep pulling them off when I see them. But Blogger has a new feature - a word verification thingie - that will ask commenters to type in a quick, random confirmation word before posting. It will (for the moment) thwart the auto-spammers. It could also irritate the legimate commenters. What do you think?

Just wondering

Do you see the word "most" in Bush's remarks, which are bad enough without CNN's misleading lede? In fact, look how many papers ran the story this way. In any event, why might "a lot of families" he meets with happen to share his point of view? Could it have anything to do with the advance screening and invitation? And just think, the press wrote this stuff before they were threatened by the American Legion.

Any means necessary...

Without specifically drawing those historical comparisons that give the Far Right conniptions (you know - the folks who turn scarlet with outrage when torture procedures are called Hitleresque, but who trip over themselves to be the first to label an angry, grieving mother "treasonous"), does this kind of thing frighten you like it frightens me?
(Excerpt) The American Legion, which has 2.7 million members, has declared war on antiwar protestors, and the media could be next. Speaking at its national convention in Honolulu, the group's national commander called for an end to all “public protests” and “media events” against the war, constitutional protections be damned.

"The American Legion will stand against anyone and any group that would demoralize our troops, or worse, endanger their lives by encouraging terrorists to continue their cowardly attacks against freedom-loving peoples," Thomas Cadmus, national commander, told delegates at the group's national convention in Honolulu.

The delegates vowed to use whatever means necessary to "ensure the united backing of the American people to support our troops and the global war on terrorism."
Yes, it CAN happen here. In fact...

Robertson says his comments were taken out of context...

I was so stupified by Robertson's words Monday that I couldn't even write a decent tagline. By Tuesday afternoon, the press was finally starting to gather reactions. My co-blogger had the decency to wonder if Robertson has a brain disorder, but I thought his words were otherwise too "rational" and calculated. The man has clearly been giving this some thought. Anyway, today he says
"I didn't say 'assassination.' I said our special forces should 'take him out.' And 'take him out' can be a number of things, including kidnapping; there are a number of ways to take out a dictator from power besides killing him. I was misinterpreted by the AP [Associated Press], but that happens all the time"...
Except that Monday he also said
"If he thinks we're trying to assassinate him, I think we really ought to go ahead and do it... It's a whole lot cheaper than starting a war."

Congress demanding something from Bush? Lots of luck there....

Juan Cole has joined Andrew Bacevich in laying out a specific and detailed program for US disengagement from the hideous mess that we have made in Iraq. He calls it "Ten Things Congress Could Demand from Bush on Iraq," and it's worth a look (scroll down in his post for August 22). Some enterprising organization, say MoveOn or Democracy for America, could get this bandwagon rolling.

All this is reminiscent of the developing antiwar movement in the 60s, when there was a growing commitment to getting out of Vietnam and the only question was how to make it happen. As support staff for a Boston-based ad hoc group back then -- we called ourselves "Health Professionals for Peace in Vietnam" -- I'm proud of the small part we played in getting Congress to wake up about the war. So I salute Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey (D-CA) for her announcement of hearings on an exit strategy on September 15. You go, girl!

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Joke of the Day, and Pat Robertson: One and the Same?

When I was working years ago in the communications structure of a denomination that shall remain nameless, a colleague and I had the custom of the "joke of the day" -- something to help us handle the stress of having to be a professional Christian. I was reminded of that custom when another friend sent this along:


Pope John Paul II gets to heaven.

St. Peter says, "Frankly, you're lucky to be here."

Pope John Paul II says, "Why? What did I do wrong on earth?"

St. Peter says, "God was very angry with your stance on women becoming priests."

Pope John Paul says, "He's mad about THAT?"

St. Peter says, "SHE'S furious."

That same friend, my former colleague now works at the National Council of Churches. Earlier today she sent me the NCC's rapid and articulate response to the breathtaking remarks of Pat Robertson (as reported by my co-blogger below):

Subject: NCC appalled by Robertson call to kill Chavez

Edgar: Robertson's call for the murder of Chavezis 'appalling to the point of disbelief.'

New York, August 23, 2005 -- Pat Robertson's televised call for the U.S. government to murder Venezuela President Hugo Chavez "is appalling to the point of disbelief," National Council of Churches USA General Secretary Bob Edgar said today. Robertson said Monday on his 700 Club broadcast, "We have the ability to take (Chavez) out, and I think the time has come to exercise that ability."

Edgar said most of the 45-million persons in the NCC's member communions will "resolutely condemn" Robertson's statement. "It defies logic that a clergyman could so casually dismiss thousands of years of Judaeo-Christian law, including the commandment that we are not to kill," Edgar said. "It defies logic that this so-called evangelist is using his media power not to win people to faith but to encourage them to support the murder of a foreign leader."

Edgar, who was one of 12 members of the House Select Committee on Assassinations from 1976 to 1979, said, "I am convinced of the immorality of political violence and know its unpredictable and devastating effects on millions of people." Chavez has accused the U.S. government of seeking to overthrow him -- a charge the Bush administration denies -- and has threatened to cut off supplies of oil to the United States. Killing Chavez, Robertson said, would be cheaper than war and would prevent Venezuela from becoming "a launching pad for communist infiltration and Muslim extremism."

The full text of Edgar's response:

Pat Robertson's call for the assassination of Venezuela President Hugo Chavez is appalling to the point of disbelief. As a former member of the House Select Committee on Assassinations, I am convinced of the immorality of political violence and know its unpredictable and devastating effects on millions of people. One wonders if Robertson's premise would one day be applied to opposition candidates in this country who might be a threat to an incumbent's re-election.

It defies logic that a clergyman could so casually dismiss thousands of years of Judaeo-Christian law, including the commandment that we are not to kill. It defies logic that this self-proclaimed Christian leader could so blithely abandon the teachings of Jesus to love our enemies and turn our cheeks against violence. It defies logic that a former candidate for the presidency could skirt the brink of international law to call for the assassination of a foreign leader on the grounds that he might some day be a danger to us. It defies logic that this so-called evangelist is using his media power not to win people to faith but to encourage them to support the murder of a foreign leader.

I have no doubt that most of Pat Robertson's viewers have already rejected this idea, and that the 45-million people represented by the member communions of the National Council of Churches resolutely condemn it.

Personally, I found Robertson's comments so off the wall that I wonder if he is suffering from some kind of brain disorder.


(Excerpt) What I am suggesting here is that Pat Robertson and individuals of his ilk are not practicing or preaching Christ but have become adherents of a political movement in this nation that attempts to use Christianity towards their own narrow political ends. I believe that there is a role for Christianity in the events of the world, but the teachings of Christ leads us to love one another, strain and stretch to understand each other, and dare to know each other enough that we come to an understanding of one another and from that create a world that is not built on might and winning but on understanding and unity. Clearly the comments of Robertson defy the framework we find in the gospels of Jesus Christ.
Therefore, it is impossible to justify the comments of Pat Robertson. His comments are not of the gospel he claims to preach, nor of the teachings of Christ that any Christian claims to love. Instead what Robertson has to say is based on a paradigm from the most conservative voices in this country, and those voices have no God except themselves and no soul except their selfish point of view!

Monday, August 22, 2005

The 'W' Stands For Women (pt 2)

James Wolcott has an unbelievably good post on why women like Cindy Sheehan are so threatening. Here's a great part of it:
But I think there's something else festering in the mind of Sheehan's slimers: our old friends Rampant Sexism and Snobbish Classism. Men in authority, and those opinonmakers who polish that authority to a fine shine with their diligent tongues, resent being questioned by women. They consider it nagging, and nagging reminds them of their mother or wife, or a wife that reminds them of their mother.

"Bush's self-deprecating humor was evident throughout the lengthy interview. 'Why would you want to marry a weak woman?' he asks rhetorically, at one point. 'I was attracted to Laura because of her strength -- her beauty and her strength. And my mother? I didn't have any choice with her.'"

A very double-edged comment from Bush, lending credence to the suspicion that men who take public pride in declaring they're comfortable around strong women are blowing smoke. They may be conning themselves as much as they're trying to con us, but the truth is that the strong women they respect are those who play by men's rules. Who know just how far to "push it" before they back off.

Many men respect strong women in a professional capacity, and have no problem with being part of a power couple. But "power" is the operative word.

Men in positions of authority are less threatened by a Condi Rice or Hillary Clinton or Lynne Cheney or Ann Coulter or Michelle Malkin than they are by--well, we'll get to that. Point is, women who play by power rules and fit into the power grid are granted starring roles in political theater. The others are extras and should stay on the sidelines where they belong.

It's women who aren't on the power grid and refuse to stay on the sidelines who get mocked and derided as nags, scolds, and "emotional predators" (to use the disgusting Edmund Morris's sneer phrase). Who, having made their point, should stifle themselves, as Archie Bunker so often told Edith.

Consider how many of the corporate whistleblowers were women trying to be heard above the clubbish din of male executives and who had the courage to go up against the .* Or Coleen Rowley, the FBI whistleblower who sounded the alarm about Zacarias Moussaui, and for her audacity to write a follow-up memo about anti-terrorist strategy and tactics was called "a fool" by National Review Online's Ramesh Ponnuru.

In fact, pause here and read Ponnuru's entire post from March, 2003. Knowing what we know now about Iraq, WMDs, and the efficacy of the Bush doctrine of preemptive war, who's the fool?

Or consider the 9/11 widows, particularly the "Jersey Girls." At first the support and sympathy for their campaign for a 9/11 commission to investigate the unanswered questions and security failures of that day were near universal. But when they kept pushing and prodding, refusing to go away and take no for an answer, the attack poodles turned on them for being publicity gluttons "awash in their sense of victim entitlement." How dare they use their mourning to make demands? How dare they mobilize their grief and frustration into a truth campaign?

So, too, is Cindy Sheehan accused of exploiting her own victim mentality--found guilty of refusing to take the hint and get lost. Of being a public nuisance. It's bad manners for her to hang around longer than Edmund Morris and Bill O'Reilly deem appropriate. Bad manners for her to be so unslick and unschooled in soundbite banter. Bad manners for a mere lowly citizen to question the decisions of the country's leaders, and to insist on a personal accounting, a meeting that would require the president to respond as a responsible leader and not as a swaggering war president showing off his big belt buckle as he moseys up to the mike. Cindy Sheehan's sin is asking Bush to stop playacting, step out of his stilted role, and speak to her like an honest human being.
(*there's a word missing in Wolcott's post! Actually, it's probably just the letter 'm': "them")

A whole new meaning to "fuzzy math"

A couple weeks ago, a judge declared Bush's Leave No Tree Behind initiative illegal. This week, two judges rejected his efforts to reduce endangered species protections by adding together separate and distinct populations of protected animals in order to prove they are recovering!

Have I mentioned that I like David Sirota's thinking?

Yes, I suppose I have. (But, hmm, I just tried to use that new Blogdigger box to find the entries where I've carried on about him, and it didn't work. I'll try to get back to that later.) Here is another good piece. (Click through for the linked-up version.)
The Philadelphia Inquirer has a great piece today on how many of the highest-profile 2008 Democratic presidential contenders - other than the courageous Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) - are still unwilling to take a serious position on the Iraq War. I must say, there are very troubling signs in the article in terms of Democrats continuing to regurgitate dishonest right wing lies (a phenomenon I have written a lot about before), and continuing to listen to the professional election losers (aka. "The Consulting Class") and the club of foreign policy elitists (aka. the "The Strategic Class") in Washington, D.C. But there are also some very encouraging signals this insulated Beltway Establishment is being shaken to its core.

First the very bad news. The article notes that the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) is once again undermining the Democratic Party. This time, it has "accused war critics of 'anti-American bias'" (wonder if that includes Vietnam War hero and Republican Senator Chuck Hagel?). This is a pristine example of self-proclaimed Democrats literally regurgitating the most offensive and dishonest right-wing spin out there. There is nothing "anti-American" about wanting to bring our troops home. (Frankly, it's the other way around: there is something "anti-American soldier" about wanting to indefinitely leave our troops in a shooting gallery without an exit strategy, without proper body armor, and without any semblance of a plan). The DLC's rhetoric is reminiscent of Attorney General John Ashcroft's now-famous statement that critics of the Bush administration "only aid terrorists for they erode our national unity and diminish our resolve." It is also frighteningly reminiscent of the 9/8/03 Washington Post story that noted Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said that "critics of the Bush administration's Iraq policy are encouraging terrorists and complicating the ongoing U.S. war on terrorism."

More bad news: the Democratic Party's Senate and House campaign apparatus is telling Democrats to keep their mouths shut on Iraq, for fear they will look weak on national security. Most recently, these pathetic souls desperately tried to divert attention from how the Iraq War played an instrumental role in Iraq War Veteran Paul Hackett's congressional race in Ohio. Apparently, the class of professional election losers in Washington, D.C. thinks Democrats can win by saying almost nothing on Iraq (like the party often says nothing on lots of issues, thus perpetuating the perception that Democrats stand for nothing). As one "Democratic strategist" told the Inquirer, "Let's not refight the origins of the war, who was right or wrong. That discussion has run its course." The strategist then said "Let's keep hitting Bush when he's not being straight with the people."

That's all well and good - except, it assumes that Americans are stupid. The fact is, doing what these strategists suggest will reinforce the idea that Democrats stand for nothing, because refusing to address the Iraq war is the equivalent of Democrats "not being straight with people" in the same way Bush isn't being straight with people. It's the reason why we can drive up Bush and the GOP's negatives all we want - but that doesn't mean it is going to help us. The fact is, Democrats will not capitalize on any of this until they start speaking clearly about where they actually stand on the war, and whether they actually have the guts to say what polls show most Americans believe: that the Bush administration deliberately lied to us about why we were going to war, that the war has made our country less safe/secure, and that it's time for a serious exit strategy.

Finally, there is some good news: the Inquirer story reminds us that there is a growing outrage outside the class of professional election losers in Washington who are starting to flex their political muscle. That is, the millions of ordinary, hard-working citizens who actually make up the ranks of the Democratic Party are getting sick and tired of the split-the-difference politics that has led Democrats to loss after loss after loss. People like Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) and Paul Hackett are showing that there are talented and effective champions who are listening to us, and are ready to take up the fight. And others like top-tier Senate candidate Bob Casey (D-PA) are rejecting the Iraq advice from the all-too-comfortable consultants in Washington.

It is up to us to support these and other courageous leaders in their noble cause, because they are fighting not only for the future of the Democratic Party, but more importantly, for the future of this country.

Pat Robertson really, really dislikes Hugo Chavez

The occasionally wacky Greg Palast has a fascinating chapter in The Best Democracy Money Can Buy on Hugo Chavez and the US role in supporting the "popular coup" that tried to force him out of office (here's the BBC story on which it is based). No surprise that Donald Rumsfeld is once again stalking squinty-eyed through Latin America trying "to stitch together support for isolating Chávez" (to the consternation of Arlen Specter). But to hear Pat Robertson - of, you may recall, the 700 Club and the Christian Coalition for America - openly calling for Chavez' assassination?! (via Atrios)

Dead Wrong

If you missed it last night, you'll get another chance next Saturday and Sunday to see CNN Present's "Dead Wrong: Inside an Intelligence Meltdown." From the title and the promo, you might think it entirely blames the CIA for the "dead wrong" intelligence on Iraq's WMD, but it also supports the Downing Street Memo impression that the administration wanted "facts" to fit their story, and further implies that anyone who failed to toe the president's line found their convivial relationships with the Administration getting frosty. It does, however, almost completely ignore the role of the media in selling the administration's bamboozle - aside from a brief mention about the press presenting Powell's speech to the UN as a resounding success story. (Editor and Publisher makes this point much better than I can.)

Friday, August 19, 2005

A new toy

I've added a search tool provided by Blogdigger over on the sidebar. It gives you the option of searching this blog in particular - or "all blogs" - for specific words/names, etc. Let's give it a test drive. If you have feedback about it, post a comment below or email me: mizm_sf at hotmail dot com. (Update: already found a problem and, hopefully, corrected it!)

Which reminds me - we're starting to get spam-comments advertising products and UNBELIEVABLE BUSINESS OPPORTUNITIES, and I will delete them as I catch them. They're just obnoxious.

Savor these

Kos dug up pearls of wisdom uttered by some of our favorite "patriots" when Clinton sent troops to Bosnia:
"You can support the troops but not the president."
--Rep Tom Delay (R-TX)

"Well, I just think it's a bad idea. What's going to happen is they're going to be over there for 10, 15, maybe 20 years."
--Joe Scarborough (R-FL)

"Explain to the mothers and fathers of American servicemen that may come home in body bags why their son or daughter have to give up their life?"
--Sean Hannity, Fox News, 4/6/99

"[The] President . . . is once again releasing American military might on a foreign country with an ill-defined objective and no exit strategy. He has yet to tell the Congress how much this operation will cost. And he has not informed our nation's armed forces about how long they will be away from home. These strikes do not make for a sound foreign policy."
--Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA)

"American foreign policy is now one huge big mystery. Simply put, the administration is trying to lead the world with a feel-good foreign policy."
--Rep Tom Delay (R-TX)

"If we are going to commit American troops, we must be certain they have a clear mission, an achievable goal and an exit strategy."
--Karen Hughes, speaking on behalf of George W Bush

"I had doubts about the bombing campaign from the beginning . . I didn't think we had done enough in the diplomatic area."
--Senator Trent Lott (R-MS)

"I cannot support a failed foreign policy. History teaches us that it is often easier to make war than peace. This administration is just learning that lesson right now. The President began this mission with very vague objectives and lots of unanswered questions. A month later, these questions are still unanswered. There are no clarified rules of engagement. There is no timetable. There is no legitimate definition of victory. There is no contingency plan for mission creep. There is no clear funding program. There is no agenda to bolster our over-extended military. There is no explanation defining what vital national interests are at stake. There was no strategic plan for war when the President started this thing, and there still is no plan today"
--Rep Tom Delay (R-TX)

"Victory means exit strategy, and it's important for the President to explain to us what the exit strategy is."
--Governor George W. Bush (R-TX)

"The 'W' stands for Women."

Remember that ridiculous sticker from the GOP convention? Would that explain why Bush is replacing the first woman on the Supreme Court with someone who thinks like this:
Supreme Court nominee John G. Roberts Jr. consistently opposed legal and legislative attempts to strengthen women's rights during his years as a legal adviser in the Reagan White House, disparaging what he called "the purported gender gap" and, at one point, questioning "whether encouraging homemakers to become lawyers contributes to the common good."

In internal memos, Roberts urged President Ronald Reagan to refrain from embracing any form of the proposed Equal Rights Amendment pending in Congress; he concluded that some state initiatives to curb workplace discrimination against women relied on legal tools that were "highly objectionable"; and he said that a controversial legal theory then in vogue -- of directing employers to pay women the same as men for jobs of "comparable worth" -- was "staggeringly pernicious" and "anti-capitalist."
And this...
As a lawyer in the Reagan White House, John Roberts scoffed at the notion of elevating Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor to chief justice as a way to close a political gender gap, calling it a "crass political consideration."
So wouldn't you just love to know what's in those files that went missing?


Another good one that ends:
Our current political leaders would suffer greatly if either house of Congress changed hands in 2006, or if the presidency changed hands in 2008.

The lids would come off all the simmering scandals, from the selling of the Iraq war to profiteering by politically connected companies. The Republicans will be strongly tempted to make sure that they win those elections by any means necessary. And everything we've seen suggests that they will give in to that temptation.
And Americablog asks a good follow-up question:
Why is no one from either party pushing for very reasonable, common sense reforms like these and numerous others that have been bandied about in the press? Why don't voters care?

Sowing and reaping

I hadn't yet started this blog when I read that the Bush administration was using what this story euphemistically describes as "heavy-handed diplomacy" (do those words ever go together?) to gain immunity for Americans from the International Criminal Court, but I remember forwarding the news to many folks to find out if they were as disgusted as I was. Now the tactics are indeed coming back to haunt us.
...More than that, some U.S. officials are also beginning to question the policy as political and military leaders in the region complain that the aid cuts are squandering goodwill and hurting their ability to cooperate in other important areas, such as the campaigns against drugs and terrorism.

In testimony before Congress in March, Gen. Bantz Craddock, the commander of U.S. military forces in Latin America, said the sanctions had excluded Latin American officers from U.S. training programs and could allow China, which has been seeking military ties to Latin America, to fill the void.

"We now risk losing contact and interoperability with a generation of military classmates in many nations of the region, including several leading countries," Craddock told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Death squads in Iraq

Via Body and Soul, I hope you will read this Robert Fisk column:
July was the bloodiest month in Baghdad’s modern history - in all, 1,100 bodies were brought to the city’s mortuary; executed for the most part, eviscerated, stabbed, bludgeoned, tortured to death. The figure is secret.

We are not supposed to know that the Iraqi capital’s death toll last month was only 700 short of the total American fatalities in Iraq since April of 2003. Of the dead, 963 were men - many with their hands bound, their eyes taped and bullets in their heads - and 137 women. The statistics are as shameful as they are horrifying. For these are the men and women we supposedly came to "liberate" - and about whose fate we do not care.

The figures for this month cannot, of course, yet be calculated. But last Sunday, the mortuary received the bodies of 36 men and women, all killed by violence. By 8am on Monday, nine more human remains had been received. By midday, the figure had reached 25.
It is clear that death squads are roaming the streets of a city which is supposed to be under the control of the US military and the American-supported, elected government of Ibrahim al-Jaafari. Never in recent history has such anarchy been let loose on the civilians of this city - yet the Western and Iraqi authorities show no interest in disclosing the details. The writing of the new constitution - or the failure to complete it - now occupies the time of Western diplomats and journalists. The dead, it seems, do not count.

Inconvenient facts

"For the last two presidential elections it has been the Democratic Party whose nominee was a Vietnam War veteran, while the Republicans have sputtered out spurious defenses of their candidate's deceitful draft-dodging." If there's one thing that bugs me about this piece by Paul Begala, it's the way it implies that the left used to do the hateful things he sees the right doing today (starting at "my how the optical worm has turned"). Otherwise, nicely said:
...For me, one of the most incendiary moments of the entire Bush war in Iraq occurred when a right-wing thug ran his pickup truck over hundreds of crosses bearing the names of heroic Americans killed in Iraq. He also took out scores of American flags in the process. Police say the perp is Larry Chad Northern, a Waco real estate agent and gun nut. Mr Northern is, of course, entitled to the presumption of innocence, despite the fact that the local sheriff's office says Ol' Larry was spotted at 9:30 Monday night hanging a tire on his pickup truck. Citing sheriff's office reports, the Waco Tribune-Herald, reported that, "Small white crosses were found stuck in the truck's undercarriage."

Nice, Larry. Real Nice.

I don't think they taught Larry Chad to desecrate crosses at the Columbus Avenue Baptist Church. And I doubt his Army buddies from Vietnam are proud to see him running over American flags and disrespecting a memorial for the war dead.

So what could drive a true-blue - or should I say Bush red? - American patriot to commit such a heinous act?

Such is the hatred of the far right at the dawn of the 21st Century. And my how the optical worm has turned. Today it is the left invoking faith, flag and family, while the right destroys crosses. Today it is the left that honors the war dead, raises up a Gold Star Mother and publicly prays for our troops, while the right viciously attacks a woman who gave her country everything. Today it is the left that patiently and peacefully respects the Office of the Presidency, while the right diminishes the office by claiming it's more important for the President to go bike-riding with a sports hero than comfort the mother of a war hero.

For the last two presidential elections it has been the Democratic Party whose nominee was a Vietnam War veteran, while the Republicans have sputtered out spurious defenses of their candidate's deceitful draft-dodging.

On Thursday, Dick Cheney, who said he had "other priorities" in the Vietnam era, and so helped himself to five draft deferments, will address the 73rd Convention of the Military Order of the Purple Heart. I do not think he will express remorse for the callousness with which he explained his cowardice. Nor do I expect him to apologize for the shocking, mocking Republicans who, at their New York Convention a year ago, sported Band-Aids with tiny purple hearts to mock the blood shed by John Kerry and so many other heroes in that misbegotten war.

No, Mr. Cheney, surrounded by body guards who would gladly give their life for him, will no doubt wrap himself in the flag.

A flag Larry Chad Northern wrapped around his axle on Prairie Chapel Road.

It's hard work being president

In less than five years in office, Bush has surpassed previous record-holder Ronald Reagan (who took 8 years to accomplish this feat) in number of vacation days.

Frist tries to win back the Christian Right

After provoking their wrath by endorsing stem cell research, he advocates teaching intelligent design.

Brother Roger

I heard the terrible news that Brother Roger, founder of the Taize movement, had been stabbed to death as I drove back from a lovely long hike near Lake Tahoe. The Daily Dig has a lovely tribute to Brother Roger today.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

3rd Grade Geography Test?

Suffice it to say, I ran out of time doing this little exercise, provided courtesy of a friend. Thanks a lot, J! I begin my second year in a masters program in two weeks, will apply to the doctoral program this fall, and have been asked to teach a psych course at a local college this semester. I needed this little crisis of confidence like a hole in the head...

Monday, August 15, 2005

Gone Termite Fishing

  • A friend's grandfather used to delight in making me use utensils with my right hand (I'm a lefty). If he were still with us, I'd probably never hear the end of this. (Photo from here.)

  • Wow. Who knew we even needed a "urine-powered paper battery"?

  • Tom Engelhardt has a good piece on what Cindy Sheehan is accomplishing:
    ...However the media deals with her, she embodies every bind the administration is in. As with Iraq (as well as Iran), the administration can't either make its will felt or sweep her off the landscape. Bush and his pfficials blinked at a moment when they would certainly have liked to whack her, fearing the power of the mother of a dead son from their war. And then, completely uncharacteristically, they vacillated and flip-flopped. They ignored her, then negotiated. They sent out their attack dogs to flail at her, then expressed sympathy. Officials, who have always known what to do before, had no idea what to do with Cindy Sheehan.

    The most powerful people in the world, they surely feel trapped and helpless. Somehow, she's taken that magical presidential something out of Bush and cut him down to size. It's been a remarkable performance so far...
  • Now, about that "magical presidential something"...

  • As Eric Alterman wrote, "Ooops, Sorry..." The Bush administration is lowering expectations of what can be accomplished in Iraq. That should go a long way toward answering the concerns of families like Cindy Sheehan's. (If it's any consolation, he feels really bad about all the deaths. But he has priorities: "'s important for me to go on with my life, to keep a balanced life.")

  • Justice Sunday II, like so many sequels, didn't generate quite the same buzz as the original. But we really have to admire the chutzpah of a party that keeps trotting the cherubic Tom DeLay out to religious fundraisers and morale boosters.

  • In fact, last week was a big one for DeLay and the other members of God's Own Party. DeLay's PAC was found to have broken election laws, his close associate Jack Abramoff was finally indicted, Ohio governor Bob Taft edged closer to an indictment of his very own, and it was revealed that the GOP has been paying the legal bills for the man who coordinated a suppress-the-Democratic-vote scheme in New England in 2002 (he was so effective that he went on to work for Bush's 2004 re-election campaign). These are dazzlingly tangled webs: Abramoff might have trouble striking a plea deal because of his far-reaching associations with an already-troubled White House. (DeLay has been trying to put some distance between Abramoff and himself, to comical effect.)

  • "This bill is not going to solve our energy challenges overnight." Or even "ever," for that matter. However, it will provide billions in tax breaks to energy companies, and that is, after all, the important thing.

  • I agree with reader "Duff" in the comments below that Dems have no charismatic leader at present. But we're starting to get some clear thinkers, and that gives me hope. (Now, for some real entertainment, read the comments from "trolls" at the end of that second Nation article. What is it with wingnuts and their CAP keys? Do they speak the way they write? Sign me, an "angry chiwawa.")

  • While Bush considers opening yet another front, the Army has finally admitted that it won't meet recruitment goals this year (despite the much bally-hooed announcement that it met its targets this month), and is so increasingly desperate that it has raised the maximum age for recruits; there is even a bill pending in the House of Representatives - the Military Readiness Enhancement Act - to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell!"

  • A digression (but related) from the Department of 'Says It All': a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette story detailed the tribulations facing military recruiters today, and included this gem:
    Staff Sgt. Jason Rivera, 26, a Marine recruiter in Pittsburgh, went to the home of a high school student who had expressed interest in joining the Marine Reserve to talk to his parents.

    It was a large home in a well-to-do suburb north of the city. Two American flags adorned the yard. The prospect's mom greeted him wearing an American flag T-shirt.

    "I want you to know we support you," she gushed.

    Rivera soon reached the limits of her support.

    "Military service isn't for our son. It isn't for our kind of people," she told him...
  • At its national churchwide assembly last week, my own denomination, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, voted on several resolutions concerning the church's treatment of gay and lesbian members and clergy. To the surprise of probably no one, the two key proposals -- allowing ministers to bless gay/lesbian unions, and allowing gays and lesbians in committed (and, specifically, non-"chaste") relationships to be ordained as clergy, fell far short of the 2/3 majority required to pass. There are those who see cause for hope in the nearly even 49%/51% vote split, and I might occasionally count myself among them. But I will also occasionally count myself among the disgusted. Tonight, for example. So let me steer you back to Father Jake's more constructive thoughts. (And I wouldn't be surprised if my co-blogger 'abc' has her own to add when she returns.)
  • Thursday, August 11, 2005

    I believe...

    The Velveteen Rabbi has a thoughtful post on Credo today that reminded me of this old favorite (by Teresa at Making Light).

    Where's my sidebar?

    It's way down the page... Hopefully it will join us again when I figure out the problem.
    Here is what always happens when I post sporadically. In between posts, I accumulate dozens of links to all kinds of stories, and then I can't figure out how to present them in a tidy fashion. I read through them all again, get thoroughly depressed, and set them all aside for yet another day.

    But there's some good and timely stuff in my link list, and so I shall buck up and pin them below. And I'll also post a cute new kitten picture, like one of these this one (update: the second picture has been moved to the end of this post to see if it fixes the format problem!)...

    and we can all feel warm and fuzzy for a moment. Then we'll get back to the infuriating business at hand.

  • Keith Olbermann wrote a really classy tribute to Peter Jennings.

  • The UK Guardian reprinted an excerpt from an incredible speech by Robin Cook, who died last weekend.

  • Here is a riveting profile of a "changed man." (It's a WaPo story, so [free] registration is required.)

  • Here is disturbing evidence of the prevalence of female circumcision in Iraq.

  • Here is further proof (if you really needed it) that chickenhawks are every bit as shameless and slimey as you thought. Nothing is beneath them - except maybe the sticky trail of ooze they leave everywhere they pass. (And here is a link to Moveon.Org's statement of support to Cindy Sheehan. Please "sign" it.)

  • Joseph Galloway ponders the no-doubt-purely-coincidental-connection between the proposed date for a draw-down of American forces in Iraq, and the upcoming midterm elections.

  • A judge has ruled that Bush's No Tree Left Behind plan is illegal.

  • The space shuttle astronauts described widespread environmental damage visible even from their rather lofty perspective.

  • "Unusual weather patterns" are blamed for alarming disruptions and deaths in the ecosystems of the Pacific coast this year.

  • Global warming could also be making hurricanes stronger...

  • ...And it's melting a peat bog the size of France and Germany combined in western Siberia.

  • But (be still my heart), even the toughest holdouts are convinced that at least a pair of Ivory Billed Woodpeckers is alive and (hopefully) well in Arkansas! (Shoot; that link is already archived. Try this one.)

    Dark Days:
  • Here is a very candid interview with Rep. Pete Stark (D-CA).

  • I suppose it really explains a lot about Bush supporters, if this is really "the kind of guy you'd like to have a beer with"?
    Asked about continued political challenges such as Iraq and Social Security, Bush said he doesn't care about the polls.

    "Q But power is perception.

    "THE PRESIDENT: Power is being the President."
  • The energy bill Bush just signed makes it easier for commercial interests to buy and transport weapons-grade uranium. (Via TLC.)

  • Where Bush gets his silver-tongued way with words. Funny! Via Air America.

  • I'm sure you've heard. It's already having repercussions. And now the White House is holding up the other documents they promised -- so that they can see what other surprises are in there. Don't they usually do this kind of thing before announcing the nominee? They must be a little short-staffed right now.

    Dark Ages:
  • Catholic church officials in Canada are threatening to deny baptism to the children of gay and lesbian couples.

  • Lawyers for the Archdiocese of Portland argued that a priest who fathered a child should not have to pay child support because - ready? - the woman who got pregnant could have used birth control to prevent it.

  • I wish I had seen this.

  • USA Today felt it necessary to publish a counterpoint to an editorial supporting teaching evolution (I can't believe we're even using this kind of terminology - as if this is a cause that must be defended. It's science!), and Chris Mooney took them to task. Here is an excerpt from his upcoming book - a chapter on the "evolution" of Intelligent Design "theory."

    Can't we all just get along?
  • Katrina vanden Heuvel answers Michael Lerner's charge that the left (as represented by her magazine) is, in great part, hostile to religion.

  • Mark Morford discovered that he really is intolerant.

  • Is this study of Democrats believable? If so, I'm speechless:
    The good news for Democrats: All the groups expressed dissatisfaction with the direction of the country and with the leadership of the president and the GOP-controlled Congress.

    Then came the bad news: "As powerful as the concern over these issues is, the introduction of cultural themes -- specifically gay marriage, abortion, the importance of the traditional family unit and the role of religion in public life -- quickly renders them almost irrelevant in terms of electoral politics at the national level," the study said.

    Many of these voters still favor Democrats on economic issues. But they see the Democrats as weak on national security, and on cultural and moral issues, they view Democrats as both inconsistent and hostile to traditional values. "Most referred to Democrats as 'liberal' on issues of morality, but some even go so far as to label them 'immoral,' 'morally bankrupt,' or even 'anti-religious,' " according to the Democracy Corps analysis.
    (Updated with a format change to try to make things fit.)
  • Friday, August 05, 2005

    All I.D. All the Time...

    In my cubicle at work I keep a number of pictures and cartoons of apes and monkeys, including a few gorillas I worked with in a previous life as a primate caregiver and behavior researcher. A very well-educated coworker recently stepped in to look at the pictures, and said "so we're descended from them, huh?" Heavens to Murgatroid (as my grandmother would say, to my eternal mystification), I tire of repeating "Darwin did not say we're descended from apes... He proposed a common ancestor..."

    On The History Channel this Sunday night is a program on the history of evolution, advertised with the ridiculous tagline "has evolution made a monkey out of you?" I'm not sure what to expect, but I will watch it. And how nice for them that in the week leading up to this broadcast, our reality-averse president advocated teaching "intelligent design" in schools, a Jesuit astronomer finally answered Cardinal Schonborn's essay from the dark ages (via Americablog), and Paul Krugman tied ID to the neocon predilection for fake research, and the dangers it poses. A snippet:
    There are several reasons why fake research is so effective. One is that nonscientists sometimes find it hard to tell the difference between research and advocacy - if it's got numbers and charts in it, doesn't that make it science?

    Even when reporters do know the difference, the conventions of he-said-she-said journalism get in the way of conveying that knowledge to readers. I once joked that if President Bush said that the Earth was flat, the headlines of news articles would read, "Opinions Differ on Shape of the Earth." The headlines on many articles about the intelligent design controversy come pretty close.

    Finally, the self-policing nature of science - scientific truth is determined by peer review, not public opinion - can be exploited by skilled purveyors of cultural resentment. Do virtually all biologists agree that Darwin was right? Well, that just shows that they're elitists who think they're smarter than the rest of us.

    Which brings us, finally, to intelligent design. Some of America's most powerful politicians have a deep hatred for Darwinism. Tom DeLay, the House majority leader, blamed the theory of evolution for the Columbine school shootings. But sheer political power hasn't been enough to get creationism into the school curriculum. The theory of evolution has overwhelming scientific support, and the country isn't ready - yet - to teach religious doctrine in public schools.

    But what if creationists do to evolutionary theory what corporate interests did to global warming: create a widespread impression that the scientific consensus has shaky foundations?

    Creationists failed when they pretended to be engaged in science, not religious indoctrination: "creation science" was too crude to fool anyone. But intelligent design, which spreads doubt about evolution without being too overtly religious, may succeed where creation science failed.
    Here is the link to the entire response (not just the newspaper summary) by the Jesuit astronomer, George Coyne. It's worth reading in its entirety (if you can get past the abundance of masculine pronouns), but here's just a taste:
    It is unfortunate that creationism has come to mean some fundamentalistic, literal, scientific interpretation of Genesis. Judaeo-Christian faith is radically creationist, but in a totally different sense. It is rooted in a belief that everything depends upon God, or better, all is a gift from God. The universe is not God and it cannot exist independently of God. Neither pantheism nor naturalism is true. But, if we confront what we know of our origins scientifically with religious faith in God the Creator – if, that is, we take the results of modern science seriously – it is difficult to believe that God is omnipotent and omniscient in the sense of many of the scholastic philosophers. For the believer, science tells us of a God who must be very different from God as seen by them.

    This stress on our scientific knowledge is not to place a limitation upon God. Far from it. It reveals a God who made a universe that has within it a certain dynamism and thus participates in the very creativity of God. Such a view of creation can be found in early Christian writings, especially in those of St Augustine in his comments on Genesis. If they respect the results of modern science and, indeed, the best of modern biblical research, religious believers must move away from the notion of a dictator God or a designer God, a Newtonian God who made the universe as a watch that ticks along regularly. Perhaps God should be seen more as a parent or as one who speaks encouraging and sustaining words. Scripture is very rich in these thoughts. It presents, indeed anthropomorphically, a God who gets angry, who disciplines, a God who nurtures the universe, who empties himself in Christ the incarnate Word. Thus God’s revelation of himself in the Book of Scripture would be reflected in our knowledge of the universe, so that, as Galileo was fond of stating, the Book of Scripture and the Book of Nature speak of the same God.
    (Update: Chris Mooney draws attention to a point I managed to gloss over; Coyne is the Vatican astronomer, making his very public dissent from Shonborn's statement "unprecedented" in the words of the London Independent; Mooney speculates that the new pope will have to issue a clear statement, now.)

    Thursday, August 04, 2005

    Moving toward nonviolence

    One of the things I was reminded of at the conference on spiritual activism (see previous post on that subject) is how extremely daunting it is on a personal level to contemplate a life committed to nonviolence. At our Pax Christi meetings, we read the pledge of nonviolence at the end of the evening, and right at the top the pledge refers to the violence in our own hearts. No kidding! So it is good to be with others who are struggling to follow the way of nonviolence, and that was a great benefit of the conference. Michael Nagler, peace scholar and activist, said that he thinks if we can stop the neocons on the issue of Iraq, it can be a decisive blow. I am challenged by that thought to keep opposing the occupation -- and this testimony from a returning soldier confirms me further on that way. Call me crazy, but Zechariah is more "pro-life" than lots of other people who talk that talk. Read and weep....

    Spiritual Activism Conference

    Last week I promised to report on the half of the Spiritual Activism Conference that I managed to attend. On the whole it was a useful experience, with some terrific speakers and lots of music (something you don't always get at a big event like this). Participants were encouraged to join one of about eight different thematic workgroups, and I chose the group on theory and practice of nonviolence. The convenor was Prof. Michael Nagler, emeritus professor of peace studies at UC-Berkeley and author of The Search for a Nonviolent Future. By the time my cold had blossomed into near-pneumonia, the nonviolence group was organizing itself into several subgroups to work on possible group actions, media relations/communications, personal transformation, etc., etc. It seemed like a good process for moving forward, and I'm hoping to hear about follow-up, next steps, and so forth.

    In case you missed it on AlterNet, here's a good essay on the conference by Oakland activist Van Jones. And the Tikkun website is supposed to provide some additional followup info, so check it out. There will be a second conference in Washington, DC next spring that will include visits to Congress -- that is, assuming we still have one by then (will the executive branch try to apply the principle of eminent domain to the legislative branch? Shhhh....don't even mention the idea!).

    Probably the most productive part of the conference was the creation of more than 100 small groups consisting of no more than 10 people, grouped by geographical proximity. (It's a good organizing principle, as the megachurch people have discovered -- in Christian church history, the "ecclesiola in ecclesia"!) Our little group of folks, mostly from San Mateo County, is going to get together later this month to decide if and how we'd like to continue as part of the emerging Network of Spiritual Progressives. If you're interested or know someone who might be, send an email to This is an interfaith effort that also includes the "spiritual but not religious" among us, so everybody's welcome. The broad goals of the network are:

    1. Challenge the misuse of God by the Right to justify miltarism, dismantling of social justice and ecological programs, and assaults on the rights of women, gays and lesbians.

    2. Challenge the anti-spiritual biases in some parts of "the Left."

    3. Support a New Bottom Line of kindness, generosity, ecological sensitivity, and awe and wonder at the grandeur of the universe to replace the dominant ethos of selfishness and materialism.

    (OK, so it's an ambitious program -- but it's never going to happen if we do nothing.) We'll see what happens after what a friend calls "workshop high" wears off. I'm hopeful!

    Wednesday, August 03, 2005

    ...and more tears, and anguish

    Fourteen more military folk killed in Iraq today, plus an interpreter, plus a freelance writer in Basra -- not to mention the unnumbered Iraqi innocents, women and small children. The day ends as it began for me, in grief and in determination to take action in whatever way I can. I am inspired by the example of Cindy Sheehan , mother of the late Casey Sheehan, killed in action a year ago April (thanks to truthout for delivering her messages). Her anguish is for her son, and also and incredibly, for her country. I don't know if I could be so generous.

    Tears and hope

    Every day our local paper publishes the names, ages, and hometowns of the U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq. I make myself read the list and try to imagine who these (mostly) young men were, what their lives were like, where they grew up and why they made the choice to enlist, and what their loved ones are feeling. It's a painful contemplation accompanied by tears of grief and anger. Tom Engelhardt of has posted a letter about one of these children, 19 years old, from Columbus, Texas. It's worth reading for many reasons, including the hope it engenders that people in our country are finally getting it about Iraq. And hope, as the sainted William Sloane Coffin often reminds us, is a state of mind independent of the state of the world.

    Tuesday, August 02, 2005

    What else can Democrats do to get their organic byproducts together?

    Just to follow up on the smart David Sirota words I posted the other day, try to catch this Washington Post piece before it gets archived. (Via EMD.)

    An important alternate view on the death of Sudan's Vice President...

    ...In a tribute to Garang at Vision Forum, a partner organization to the Persecution Project, Vision Forum leader Doug Philips writes of Garang's work with the Persecution Project over the years. "Dr. Garang," he writes, "probably did more than any other person in Southern Sudan to open the country to Christian missions." Given that Southern Sudan was already home to a large Christian population, it's unclear what "opening" needed to be done -- unless you substitute "American" for "Christian."

    The Persecution Project touts its endorsements from some of America's most verbally bellicose Christian conservative leaders James Dobson, D. James Kennedy, and Chuck Colson. It also draws support from the more mainstream conservative movement, including the Institute for Religion and Democracy, an organization dedicated to purging mainline protestantism of liberalism, and the Hudson Institute's Michael Horowitz, who suggests that through the Persecution Project's work on behalf of the "magic of democracy," Sudan will be saved. Unfortunately, the Persecution Project isn't working on behalf democracy -- it's an explicitly evangelical organization created to spread the gospel.

    Nothing wrong with that, but let's not confuse our terms. "Democracy" doesn't depend on the gospel or magic. Regardless, Garang was hardly the man to look to for democratic reform, or Christian leadership, in Sudan. He did, however, do plenty of magic -- according to Amnesty International, his organization "disappeared" thousands of civilians. His movement was anything but democratic -- even his most loyal aides quietly complained of Garang's dictatorial tendencies...

    What else do we need to know

    about John Roberts? Here's a quick summary of his judicial activities, which include not insubstantial help in securing Florida in 2000, and a distaste for voting rights and for traditional checks and balances in government... And yet this New Yorker profile of Harry Reid suggests that the Roberts nomination is a conciliatory gesture! Does this sound conciliatory to you? Moving Ideas is assembling a very rich John Roberts clearing house of background info and resources. Please check it out.

    The only way to enact an extremist agenda in the US... for now...

    Recess appointments and executive orders to ram through any unpopular candidates and legislation that can't be approved by bribing or misleading members of Congress. Is this the kind of democracy Bush is "exporting" to the Middle East? Yes, it's a rhetorical question. (The links are just the most prominent examples that came to mind; I'll gladly accept other suggestions.) Fittingly for a Bush democracy, Iraq's emerging constitution will elevate Islamic law and could erode women's rights to the PRE-Saddam era. Is this what the Bushies had in mind? Actually, it depends.

    Mission Renamed

    You've probably heard by now that the Global War On Terror is "over?" That is to say, it cannot be won and so it will be replaced by - ready? - a Global Struggle Against Violent Extremism. GWOT>GSAVE. At least it can be relayed in less nonsensical acronyms. But I can't help thinking, isn't this what John Kerry was saying all along? See George Lakoff's essay on the framing issues behind the change. Then see Juan Cole. We're redefining "success", too:
    So the insurgency is stronger than ever, killing more people this year than it did last year, killing foreign diplomats with impunity, and generally things have gone to hell in a handbasket in the two years since Bush trumpeted "Mission Accomplished." And now we're saying, well, as long as IT DOESN'T GET ANY WORSE, our job is done? Talk about moving the goalposts.