Monday, October 31, 2005

So much for "Open Hearts, etc"

The United Methodist Church is about to fulfill the typographical prediction to become the Untied Methodist Church. The Judicial Council (a Supreme Court analog in this denomination whose polity emulates the political structure of the United States) handed down two rulings on the weekend that ought to give pause for thought to any UM's who are still exercising that faculty. In a split decision, the Council overturned a lower court ruling and stripped out lesbian Beth Stroud of her ministerial orders. Actually, this should not have come as a surprise. The UMC is so boxed into its own legalisms these days that the Judicial Council could hardly do anything else.

Much more disturbing is the second decision, also thankfully split. In essence, the Council in its wisdom determined that the pastor of a local congregation could legally refuse to admit into membership gay and lesbian people. It's nothing less than license for a new witch hunt in the denomination. Unfortunately, nothing in current UM process permits a change until the 2008 General Conference, and given the sorry state of Methodism, that change seems very unlikely to happen.

The decision certainly puts the lie to the denomination's PR campaign called (disingenuously) "Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors." I was an active United Methodist and denominational employee for more than 10 years, but I clearly am now explicitly unwelcome there. I'm angry and saddened, and I also believe that God is certainly weeping just now.

The only bright note here is the courageous dissent of Susan Henry-Crowe, dean of the chapel and religious life at Emory University:

I dissent with my colleagues on Decision 1032. This decision compromises the historic understanding that the Church is open to all. The Judicial Council cannot interpret something that is not stated in the Discipline [the denominational book of statutes and ordinances]. Nothing in the Discipline gives pastors discretion to exclude persons presenting themselves for membership in the Church.

Saturday, October 29, 2005


I'm supposed to be writing a paper, but I decided to take a few minutes' break and scan some of my favorite non-political, non-news blogs.

We can discuss Fitzmas/Fitznukkah later. For now, please go watch this terrific Sarah McLachlan music video. I just spotted it on Dylan's Grace Notes, and have to agree with her: "best. music video. ever."

Thursday, October 27, 2005

"Forrest Gump from the Dark Side"

That's how Stephen Pizzo describes George Bush in "The Real George W. Bush". I think this is my favorite part:
Either way, Bush is finished as a force in American politics.
But this is good, too:
It's a moment new to America -- a leader who needs to be led, and now unled. And the world is watching. It's as if the police had come and dragged Edgar Bergin offstage in the middle of a show, leaving Charlie McCarthy, wide-eyed, mouth agape and slumped alone on his stool.
Enjoy. Newswise, you've got nothing better to do: we already knew Harriet Miers was a goner, and Fitzmas has been delayed at least another day.

But speaking of Fitzmas, Paul Begala has some sharp insights into the life of a White House staff under fire, at TPMCafe:
Mr. Bush would do well to augment his current staff, a C-Team if ever there was one, with some stronger characters. But to read the Bush-Miers correspondence is to gain a disturbing insight into Mr. Bush's personality: he likes having his ass kissed. Ms. Miers' cards and letters to the then-Governor of Texas belong in the Brown-Nosers Hall of Fame. You can be sure the younger and less experienced Bush White House aides are even more obsequious. The last thing this President wants is the first thing he needs: someone to slap his spoiled, pampered, trust-funded, plutocratic, never-worked-a-day-in-his-life cheek and make him face the reality of his foul-ups.

And so they wait. And they sniff the royal throne. They tell the Beloved Leader he's the victim of a partisan plot (although how the Bush CIA, which referred the Plame case for prosecution, became ground zero of Democratic liberalism escapes me). They assure him all is well. But all is not well. People are looking over their shoulders. The smart ones have stopped taking notes in meetings. The very smart ones have stopped using email for all but the most pedestrian communications. And the smartest ones have already obtained outside counsel.
Now, to veer completely off-topic -- Back in August that "Mars Spectacular" email from 2003 started circulating again. Fact is, the closest passage that will occur in our lifetime took place in 2003, but this weekend will be the next closest opposition until 2018.

Speaking of emails that never die, do all of your friends' friends a favor: when they send you the warning about how Swiffer Wet Jet cleaning fluid killed a neighbor's 5-year old German Shepherd, send them this link.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Yellow cake

Back in early 2003, Seymour Hersh reported on the deep suspicions raised by the forged "yellow cake documents" that led to the infamous "16 words" that found their way into Bush's State of the Union address. That story ended with these words:
On March 14th, Senator Jay Rockefeller, of West Virginia, the senior Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, formally asked Robert Mueller, the F.B.I. director, to investigate the forged documents. Rockefeller had voted for the resolution authorizing force last fall. Now he wrote to Mueller, “There is a possibility that the fabrication of these documents may be part of a larger deception campaign aimed at manipulating public opinion and foreign policy regarding Iraq.” He urged the F.B.I. to ascertain the source of the documents, the skill-level of the forgery, the motives of those responsible, and “why the intelligence community did not recognize the documents were fabricated.” A Rockefeller aide told me that the F.B.I. had promised to look into it.
The Italian La Republicca has virtually confirmed Rockefeller's suspicions; read Laura Rozen's summary of the scoop. (And, as usual, see Josh Marshall, too.)


Another shameful "landmark" in the war on Iraq.

By all means, read Sen. Patrick Leahy's eloquent words from the Senate floor today.
We know today that President Bush decided to invade Iraq without evidence to support the use of force and well before Congress passed the resolution giving him the authority to do so - authority he did not even believe he needed - despite the Constitution which invests in the Congress the power to declare war. Twenty-three Senators voted against that resolution, and I was proud to be one of them.

We know today that the motivation for a plan to attack Iraq, hatched by a handful of political operatives, had taken hold within the White House even before 9/11, and without any connection to the war on terrorism that came later.

We know that the key public justifications for the war - to stop Saddam Hussein from developing nuclear weapons and supporting al Qaeda - were based on faulty intelligence and outright distortions and have been thoroughly discredited. United Nations weapons inspectors, who were dismissed by the White House as naïve and ineffective, turned out to have gathered far better information with a tiny fraction of the budget than our own intelligence agencies.

And we know that the insurgency is continuing to grow along with American casualties - 1,999 killed and at least 15,220 wounded, as of yesterday - despite the same old light at the end of the tunnel assertions and clichés by the White House and top officials in the Pentagon.

The sad but inescapable truth, which the President either does not see or refuses to believe or admit, is that the Iraqi insurgency has steadily grown, in part because of our presence there.

Is it Fitzmas Eve?

I've just started scanning the Washington Note on my daily blog "rounds" and, today, find two very tantalizing items. See this one and this one. (I don't want to ruin the suspense.)

Monday, October 24, 2005

Get your pricey NYT columnists for free at

You just have to wait a day or so... Kristof has a good one on the tragic consequences of Bush's UN Population Fund "policy" (and yes, call Kristof "naive" when he suggests it at the end of the column). And Frank Rich ---
We don't yet know whether Lewis (Scooter) Libby or Karl Rove has committed a crime, but the more we learn about their desperate efforts to take down a bit player like Joseph Wilson, the more we learn about the real secret they wanted to protect: the "why" of the war.
--- makes a nice companion piece to the NYT feature on the rationale for the war:
The dispute over the rationale for the war has led to upheaval in the intelligence agencies, left Democrats divided about how aggressively to break with the White House and exposed deep rifts in the administration and among Republicans.

The combatants' intensity was underscored this week in a speech by Lawrence Wilkerson, former chief of staff to Colin L. Powell while he was secretary of state, who complained of a "cabal" between Mr. Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld when it came to Iraq and other national security issues and of a "real dysfunctionality" in the administration's foreign policy team.

The intensity could be further inflamed by comments from Brent Scowcroft, national security adviser during the administration of Mr. Bush's father, in the coming edition of The New Yorker that are a reminder of how the breach over Iraq had its roots in competing views of foreign policy that extend well back into the last century.

Mr. Scowcroft, a self-described realist who prides himself on seeing what could go wrong in any course of action, argues against what he characterizes as the utopian view of neoconservatives within the administration that toppling Saddam Hussein would open the door to democracy throughout the Middle East. He also suggests that Mr. Cheney is a man much changed, and not for the better, from the policy maker he worked with closely during the Persian Gulf war in 1991.

Mr. Scowcroft has long expressed reservations about the current White House's foreign policy approach and about the Iraq war in particular, but his comments could further exacerbate divisions among Republicans, especially to the degree that they are seen as reflecting the views of his close friend, the first President Bush.

"The real anomaly in the administration is Cheney," Mr. Scowcroft told Jeffrey Goldberg of The New Yorker. "I consider Cheney a good friend - I've known him for 30 years. But Dick Cheney I don't know anymore."
I picked up the New Yorker today and will share more of that interview when I finish it.

The NY Daily News has a story on Mr. Congeniality's celebrated and worsening temper. The stress of fabricating the case for an unjust war is really taking a toll on him.

(Meanwhile, another blogging soldier trying to make sense of the war has been officially silenced.)

Middle class relative to what?

I clicked on the link for this interview because the teaser mentioned Jon Katz and dogs, and I like both subjects. Yes, I was a little startled to see that the interviewer was Tucker Carlson - a man I really can't bear - but I soldiered on. And good ol' Tucker didn't disappoint:
CARLSON: I think most Americans like middle class people hate telling the housekeeper what to do, right, I mean, famously? I think a lot of Americans feel bad about training a dog or being too harsh with the dog. It seems so old-fashioned and kind of mean.
Setting aside the silver-tongued syntax for now, I'm just curious: how many middle class families do you know that have a housekeeper?

Et tu, Tar-zhay?

Sorry, little bro'. If Target is going to keep activist pharmacists in their employ, the Christmas gift card will have to come from elsewhere.

Double the standards, double the fun!

I had the misfortune of passing by the telly when Kay Hutchinson was taking the newest leak spin - that perjury is a mere technicality - for a test drive on one of the Sunday morning yak-fests. I was exposed to a toxic dose of hypocri-trons. Fortunately, Think Progress and the DSCC have concocted an antidote: scads of entertaining quotes from the days when Hutchinson and her ilk were outraged by perjury. (I have yet to see a single news story refer to these flip-flops.) It must just kill these folks to see Fitzgerald repeatedly portrayed as fair, honest, thorough, and non-partisan.

Update: Kay Hutchinson now says she was "misconstrued" and that perjury is indeed a terrible crime. Let's review what she says was "misconstrued":
I certainly hope that if there is going to be an indictment that says something happened, that it is an indictment on a crime and not some perjury technicality where they couldn't indict on the crime and so they go to something just to show that their two years of investigation was not a waste of time and taxpayer dollars.
That's not just a flip-flop; that's a full gainer!
Piggybacking onto last Saturday's post by MizM's, I refer you to James Carroll's latest column. I don't know anybody else writing for a general-circulation newspaper who understands the politics of meaning, or the search for the spiritual (if not religious -- I'm never sure the two are or should be all that separate, but that's a subject for another time), better than he. Most of the time I read his work and think, "Why should I ever bother to try to write anything at all? He's given words to what I know deep down is true." Read and ponder, for example, this:

''What's going on with this world?" If something new is happening, it probably has less to do with the tragic occurrences that have befallen the human population this year, from the tsunami to Hurricane Wilma (although the quickened pace and ferocity of hurricanes seems a special warning), than with our recently acquired knowledge of the universal character of jeopardy. We used to speak of innovations in information flow as if they were only technical, but to have instantaneous knowledge of far off events is also to be vulnerable to them. If all politics is local, Tip O'Neill might be telling us today, all local politics is global now.

Avian flu makes the point. A disease that incubates among the world's most impoverished people can threaten the most privileged. The melting permafrost makes the point, too. We humans are all downriver from the same coming flood. We need a new politics, one which reflects this unprecedented fact of our existence. No one is safe unless everyone is. [italics added]

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Extreme Makeover

Her increasingly desperate backers have launched a new "sales" campaign, and her detractors are exploring her withdrawal options. But finally, someone has sunk to my level and addressed Harriet Miers' eyeliner issues. Who else but the inimitable Donald Asmussen?

Tidying up

Well, it's happened again. It's Saturday morning, and I've been storing up links all week, hoping to integrate them in meaningful ways. But since they're getting stale, I'm going to post them all right here.

  • While we all await what many are calling "Fitzmas", here are a few interesting speculations about successions, big boo-boos that implicate the president, the prospect of presidential pardons, and genuine anxiety at the White House. Oh, and the prosecutor's office has suddenly launched a web site, often a convenient way of posting indictments, etc., but we're not supposed to read anything into that.

  • "Pro-life" Republicans grant sweeping immunity to gun manufacturers.

  • Judy Miller's editor suddenly has regrets.

  • Great Eric Alterman piece, here. It begins:
    Here is the liberals' problem in a nutshell: More than 30 percent of Americans happily answer to the appellation "conservative," while 18 percent call themselves "liberal." And yet when questioned by pollsters, a super-majority of more than 60 percent take positions liberal in everything but name. Indeed, on many if not most issues, Americans hold views well to the left of those espoused by almost any national Democratic politician.
    Read it and see what you think. And as long as you're contemplating the future of the left, chew on David Sirota's thoughtful discussion of the left's lack of an overarching ideology. I'll just quote the conclusion here, but it's really worth plowing through the whole article:
    This, in part, explains why the Democratic Party emanates such an image today: It is not only the spineless politicians in Washington who have no compass, but also a large and vocal swath of the base that lacks ideological cohesion as well. The politicians are, in a sense, just a public representation of that deeply-rooted lack of conviction. Put another way, looking at the typical evasive, jellyfish-like Democratic politician on the nightly news is like putting a mirror up to a growing swath of the grassroots left itself.

    Why should this be troubling to the average progressive? First, it is both soulless and aimless. Partisanship is not ideology, and movements are not political parties - they are bigger than political parties, and shape those parties accordingly through pressure. As much as paid party hacks would argue otherwise, the most significant movements in American history did not emanate from the innards of the Democratic or Republican Party headquarters, and they did not come from groups of activists who put labels before substance: They spawned from millions of people committed to grassroots movements organized around ideas - movements which pushed both parties’ establishments to deal with given issues. Without those movements transcending exclusively partisan concerns, American history would be a one-page tale of status quo.

    Second, even for those concerned more about electoral victories than ideology, this Partisan War Syndrome that subverts ideological movements ultimately hurts electoral prospects. Today’s Republican Party, for instance, could not win without the corresponding conservative ideological movement that gets that party its committed donors, fervent foot soldiers and loyal activists. That base certainly operates as an arm of the GOP’s party infrastructure - but few doubt it is fueled less by hollow partisanship, and more by their grassroots’ commitment to social, economic and religious conservatism.

    This is why resisting Partisan War Syndrome and doing the hard work of rebuilding an ideological movement is both a moral imperative and a political necessity for the left. A grassroots base that is organized around hollow partisan labels rather than an overarching belief system - no matter how seemingly energized - will never defeat an opponent that puts ideological warriors ready to walk through fire on the political battlefield. If we do not rekindle that same fervor about actual issues on the left, we will continue living in a one-party country, losing elections into the distant future, and most disturbing of all, watching as our government serves only to protect those in power.

  • Did I link to this before? A majority of Americans favor impeachment if it turns out that Bush lied about the reasons for invading Iraq. (It's really hard to type that with a straight face.) In fact, support for Clinton's impeachment (over lying about a blow job) was much lower.

  • Here's a great interview with one of my favorite writer/thinkers, Barbara Ehrenreich.

  • The Amazonian rain forest is shrinking much faster than anyone thought. Also, read this George Monbiot piece about the devastation caused by Brazilian beef production. You'd think you were reading about the diamond industry, but no... Beef.

  • Winning hearts and minds... By starving and dehydrating Iraqi civilians.

  • Here's a wonderful James Carroll column:
    (Excerpt)Who is this ''God" in whose name so many diverse and troubling things take place? Why is it assumed to be good to affirm one's faith in such an entity? Why is it thought to be wicked to deny its existence? Most striking about so much talk of ''God," both to affirm and to deny, is the way in which many who use this language seem to know exactly to what and/or whom it refers. God is spoken of as if God is the Wizard of Oz or the great CEO in the sky or Grampa or the Grand Inquisitor. God is the clock-maker, the puppeteer, the author. God is the light, the mother, the wind across the sea, the breath in every set of lungs. God is the horizon. God is all of these things.

    But what if God is none of them? What if every possible affirmation that can be made of God, even by the so-called religions of revelation, falls so far short of the truth of God as to be false? Who is the atheist then? The glib God-talk that infuses public discourse in contemporary America descends from an anthropomorphic habit of mind, dating to the Bible and beyond, that treats God like an intimate friend or well-known enemy, depending on the weather and the outcome of battles. But there is another strain in the Biblical tradition that insists on the radical otherness of God, an otherness so complete that even the use of the word ''God" as a name for this Other One is forbidden. According to this understanding, God is God precisely in escaping and transcending comprehension by human beings. This can seem to mean that God is simply unknowable. If so, humans are better off not bothering about it. Atheism, agnosticism, or childish anthropomorphism -- all the same.

    But here is where it gets tricky. What if God's unknowability is the most illuminating profundity humans can know about God? That would mean that religious language, instead of opening into the absolute certitude on which all forms of triumphal superiority are based, would open into true modesty. The closed creation, in which every question has an answer, would be replaced by an infinite cosmos where every answer sparks a new question. If what we mean by ''God" is the living pulse of such open-endedness, then God is of no use in systems of dominance, censorship, power. God is everywhere, yes. But, also, God is nowhere. And that, too, shows in America, especially in its fake religiosity.

  • Bob of I am a Christian Too, puts this nicely, and with more generosity than I can muster:
    The founding meme of this blog is a response to conservative Christians that imply, or even baldly assert, that given my political views I am not a Christian. I refuse to commit this same sin in return. I disagree strongly with conservative Christians on politics, and I differ from them on many theological grounds. But we are saved by God’s grace, not by our works, and justification by politics is just another form of works-righteousness. We are all saved, and not by our own doing, or our political beliefs.

    Conservative Christians are my political enemies, but are still my brothers and sisters in Christ.
  • Friday, October 21, 2005

    "Senators on the committee were dismayed."

    I just love understatement. "Senators on the committee were dismayed" by an exchange of emails between the office of Michael Brown (slightly disgraced former FEMA director) and the desperate agency officials already on the ground in New Orleans:
    On Aug. 31, Bahamonde e-mailed Brown to tell him that thousands of evacuees were gathering in the streets with no food or water and that "estimates are many will die within hours."

    "Sir, I know that you know the situation is past critical," Bahamonde wrote. "The sooner we can get the medical patients out, the sooner we can get them out."

    A short time later, Brown's press secretary, Sharon Worthy, wrote colleagues to complain that the FEMA director needed more time to eat dinner at a Baton Rouge restaurant that evening. "He needs much more that (sic) 20 or 30 minutes," Worthy wrote.

    "Restaurants are getting busy," she said. "We now have traffic to encounter to go to and from a location of his choise (sic), followed by wait service from the restaurant staff, eating, etc. Thank you."

    In an Aug. 29 phone call to Brown informing him that the first levee had failed, Bahamonde said he asked for guidance but did not get a response.

    "He just said, 'Thank you,' and that he was going to call the White House," Bahamonde said.

    Senators on the committee were dismayed.

    "We will examine further why critical information provided by Mr. Bahamonde was either discounted, misunderstood, or simply not acted upon," said GOP Sen. Susan Collins (news, bio, voting record) of Maine, who heads the committee. She decried the "complete disconnect between senior officials and the reality of the situation."
    OK, I know I'm piling on, but let's just savor part of that again:
    "Restaurants are getting busy," she said. "We now have traffic to encounter to go to and from a location of his choise (sic), followed by wait service from the restaurant staff, eating, etc. Thank you."

    Wednesday, October 19, 2005

    Bush knew

    Ok, just this one little item, then more later. According to this NY Daily News story, Bush knew Rove leaked Valerie Plame's name and was angry -- not that he'd done it, but that he'd been sloppy about it.
    Other sources confirmed, however, that Bush was initially furious with Rove in 2003 when his deputy chief of staff conceded he had talked to the press about the Plame leak.

    Bush has always known that Rove often talks with reporters anonymously and he generally approved of such contacts, one source said.

    But the President felt Rove and other members of the White House damage-control team did a clumsy job in their campaign to discredit Plame's husband, Joseph Wilson, the ex-diplomat who criticized Bush's claim that Saddam Hussen tried to buy weapons-grade uranium in Niger.

    A second well-placed source said some recently published reports implying Rove had deceived Bush about his involvement in the Wilson counterattack were incorrect and were leaked by White House aides trying to protect the President.
    Josh Marshall is providing the best ongoing commentary on the story... e.g., here, here, here, and here. But AmericaBlog gets right to the point.

    Things that make you go "hmmmm"

    I turned 43 on Monday. My mother wonders how she could have a 43 year-old kid; I got a card from a friend who reflected with amusement that we've known each other over 25 years, now; and a younger colleague who asked me what living in Phoenix was like - when I stipulated that I was there in 1989-1991 - scoffed "oh, that's so long ago!"

    And now I learn that it's been 12 years since the last Kate Bush album - which I still enjoy?! Is that really possible? A new one is (finally) due out November 8!

    (Yes, there are probably more important things to blog about. Thank heaven for my sensible co-blogger abc. And I'll get some more stuff up here later tonight.)

    Juan Cole says, "We have no idea why we're in Iraq"

    This, from one of the leading experts on the Middle East, as he began a talk last night in Palo Alto sponsored by the Peninsula Peace and Justice Center. Before the usual audience for this sort of thing (bunch of graying ex-Vietnam protesters like myself), Cole offered his analysis of why the Bush administration has taken us into "this mess" and what he thinks should now be done. He sees the decision to invade as having been influenced by a number of forces:

    1. The Defense Department's drive to create and control "the architecture of oil security" (policing the Gulf region so that oil will continue to flow to the US)

    2. Cheney's tenure at Halliburton, leading him and others to contemplate the appealing possibility of direct ownership of oil fields in the Middle East (something that has not been possible since all such fields were nationalized in the early 1970s)

    3. The desire of evangelicals to open the Middle East as a mission field, leading to (as they imagined) massive numbers of religious conversions

    4. The desire of the neocons and "rightwing American Jews who are close to Likud and Ariel Sharon" to create alliances with the Sunnis that would somehow stabilize Israel's position.

    Since all of this has gone massively wrong, says Cole, the question is, what next? His proposal is to withdraw foreign (mostly US) ground troops, but carefully so as not to create a sort of vacuum in which a real civil war ensues. He would have the US pursue a counter-insurgency strategy and keep "Special Ops" and the air force in the country. He thinks we cannot leave until the Iraqi army is ready, which he acknowledges would take 5-8 years.

    There was lots of discussion about how to get out. In this audience, there was nobody speaking up for "staying the course," and there was a lot of hostility to his proposals. One man challenged Cole to show how his proposals differ from Nixon's "Vietnamization" course in that conflict. Cole responded that the two situations are quite different, and he courteously held his ground in the face of the questioner's increasing agitation. I was struck, as I am so often in these situations, by the inability of "liberals" of my generation to listen to any argument with which we do not already agree. This is a serious defect that I recognize in myself with almost as much regret as that which I feel when I see it in others.

    Much of what Cole had to say is contained in a two-part interview he did with Tom Engelhardt, and for these you may visit here. Still, if you have a chance to see him in person, do so. He has a very low-key style and a dry wit that made the evening entertaining if not enjoyable because of the gravity of the subject.

    Tuesday, October 18, 2005

    Give this man a prize...

    ...for a pretty clear-eyed look into the future from back when. One of the more dubious privileges of retirement is that I get to clean off my desk at home, where reside the unread articles printed from the internet and tosed into ever-growing stacks. The other day I came across the piece linked above, a series of predictions by Robert Reich in the spring of 2004 about what might happen in a second term of the Bush administration. Apart from a misstep that has Rumsfeld as national security advisor and Wolfowitz as defense secretary, it's pretty much on target -- except that we have, in addition to the woes Reich enumerates, the unexpected surprise of all these indictments, issued and still to come. "The moral arc of the universe is long," said Dr. King, "but it bends toward justice," and we can all hope for that.

    All this just goes to show that karma still operates, that "what goes around comes around": or, in the formulation that has been coming to my mind lately, "God is not mocked." For more along these lines, there's a nice old essay from The Christian Century that ends with these words:

    Maybe the only comfort we the comfortable can legitimately embrace lies in the realization that God cannot be forever mocked -- that his [sic] grace will not forever endure ridicule, that the mockery of easy American Christianity will not endure forever. Perhaps our deliverance will come when we can hear those very different words of Paul, "God is not mocked, for whatever a man sows, that will he reap" (Gal. 6:7), and find in them incredibly good news.

    Friday, October 14, 2005

    Is George Will feeling betrayed?

    Really, I almost feel sorry for the guy. But I'm sure he'll write something next week to shake me out of it.
    [Excerpt] DeLay is exhibit A for the proposition that many Republicans have gone native in Washington. Indiana Rep. Mike Pence, leader of the more than 100 conservative members of the Republican Study Committee, charges that some Republicans think "big government is good government if it's our government." DeLay's troubles, and his party's, may multiply with coming revelations about the seamy career of uber-lobbyist Jack Abramoff. He is emblematic of DeLay's faux conservatism—K Street conservatism. That is Republican power in the service of lobbyists who, in their K Street habitat, are in the service of rent seekers—interests eager to bend public power for their private advantage.

    Since 2000 the number of registered lobbyists in Washington has more than doubled, from 16,342 to 34,785. They have not been attracted to the seat of government, like flies to honey, for the purpose of limiting government.

    Conservatives are not supposed to be cuddly, or even particularly nice. They are, however, supposed to be competent. And to know that scarcity—of money, virtue, wisdom, competence, everything—forces choices. Furthermore, they are supposed to have an unsentimental commitment to meritocracy and excellence. The fact that none of those responsible for the postwar planning, or lack thereof, in Iraq have been sacked suggests—no, shouts—that in Washington today there is no serious penalty for serious failure. Hence the multiplication of failures.

    "Financial Friendly Fire"

    Incredible. The soldiers are sent to Iraq without proper body armor, and then they can be billed for their treatments and and missing equipment after they are medically evacuated?!

    Potemkin Press Conferences, too?

    What a surprise. Criminy, where's that crack team of slick and manipulative presidential advisors these days? Oh, that's right.

    Actually, that link is just too good to bury in another item. In fact, when a version broke a couple days ago, John at Americablog became incontinent - and not in the Aristotelian sense.

    Read this too.

    Monday, October 10, 2005


    Yes, it's a glorious and well-deserved number, but who are those people?!

    Need some more good news?
    Weekly Standard Editor Bill Kristol on Fox News Sunday:

    "Criminal defense lawyers I’ve spoken to who are friendly to the administration are very worried that there will be one or more indictments in the next three weeks of senior administration officials, just looking at what Fitzgerald is doing and taking him at his word, you know, being a serious prosecutor here. And I think it’s going to be bad for the Bush administration."
    (Let's review where that came from: "Weekly Standard Editor Bill Kristol on Fox News Sunday.")

    Supreme Courtship

    The White House plans to woo conservatives to Harriet Miers' side by focusing attention on her "born again" status. From Terry Neal's column:
    A Republican strategist involved in the front lines of the battle for the Miers nomination, who asked to not be named because he is not authorized to speak publicly, said the White House plans to regain the upper hand by focusing on the nominee's conversion to evangelical Christianity.

    "Conservatives love a fight with liberals," the strategist said. "And one of the things liberals are scared to death of is organized religion. And Harriet Miers is a born-again Christian. When liberal groups and others begin to read about her affirming the Texas sodomy law, contributing to pro-life groups and her religious faith, they're going to go crazy. It's already happening now."

    In other words, for the president to regain his political capital, he'll recast the debate as a traditional one between left and right. But it will work only if he can get his own party to play along.
    Of course, Democrats weren't supposed to ask about John Robert's religious beliefs, but this is different. And Dems were pilloried for wanting to know more about Roberts' positions, but conservatives want the goods on Miers. Not that there's a litmus test or anything. Anyway, what more do they need to know?

    Looking out for the top one percent!

    Maybe I've missed some coverage, because the work/school schedule is reducing my news/blog-surfing time, but this story didn't seem to attract much attention:
    After falling for two years, the share of income going to the richest slice of Americans - the top tenth of 1 percent - grew significantly in 2003 while the share going to 99 percent of Americans fell, tax data released yesterday showed.

    At the same time, the effective income tax rates paid by the top tenth of 1 percent fell sharply, declining at more than 10 times the rate reduction for middle-class taxpayers, the new report, by the Internal Revenue Service, showed.

    Frank Rich at Truthout

    Since the NY Times instituted a subscription plan to limit online access to its opinion columnists, you're probably seeing fewer of the columns quoted or reproduced on blogs. But somehow, Truthout has his Sunday column, and it's a great one! Do read it.

    Sunday, October 09, 2005

    Blessing of the Animals

    The cute fellow to the left is Baxter, our 12-ish year old who-knows-what-kind-of-dog, socializing at coffee hour today. Our smallish congregation held an Animal Blessing service in honor of St. Francis and St. Claire (the Feast of St. Francis was this past Tuesday). We had 6 dogs and a rat, a number of cats-in-absentia (represented by photos), and several memorial photos of departed companions. Baxter sang a bit during the hymns - and also during the Gospel reading. He settled under the pew and spoke softly to the pug two rows in front of him during the sermon. He refused communion, but accepted a few bites of a donut from a teenaged girl during coffee hour. All in all, a special day for him. Which is why he wore the tie.

    We used this lovely "creed" Andrew Linzey wrote in his introduction to Animal Gospel. Linzey's text follows (our version was modified for group use and inclusive language):
    I affirm the One Creator God from whom all existence flows. I celebrate the common origin of all life in God. I undertake to cherish and love all creatures whose life belongs to God and exists for God's glory.

    I affirm the life of Jesus as the true pattern of service to the weak. I promise my solidarity with all suffering creatures. I join hands with Jesus in his ministry to the least of all, knowing that it is the vocation of the strong to be gentle.

    I see in the face of the Crucified the faces of all innocent, suffering creatures. I hear their cries for a new creation.

    I thank God for the grace to feel their suffering and give voice to their pain.

    I affirm the Word made flesh as the new covenant between God and all sentient creatures. I seek to live out that covenant in acts of moral generosity, kindness and gentleness to all those creatures that God has gathered together into unity.

    I affirm the life-giving Spirit, source of all that is wonderful, who animates every creature. I pledge myself to honor life because of the Lord of life.

    I affirm the hope of the world to come for all God's creatures. I believe in the Cross as the symbol of liberation for every creature suffering from bondage. I will daily trust in the redeeming power of God to transform the universe.

    I pray that the community of Christ may be blessed with a new vision of God's creation. I will turn away from my hardness of heart and seek to become a living sign of the Gospel for which all creatures long.

    I rejoice in animals as fellow-creatures: loved by the Father, redeemed by the Son, and enlivened by the Holy Spirit.

    May God the Holy Trinity give me strength to live out my commitment this day.

    --Andrew Linzey
    Mansfield College, Oxford

    Saturday, October 08, 2005

    Saturday Cat Blogging

    The "kittens" this afternoon.

    Jack and Shirley this evening.

    Thursday, October 06, 2005

    About that sidebar...

    Once again, the photo layout below has caused the sidebar full of goodies to plummet to the bottom of the page. Just scroll down the right hand side and you'll find it. I've tried changing the size of the photos, etc., and it just makes things uglier. With a couple more posts, we'll knock the kitties off the page and the sidebar will reappear.

    One of those days

    I came home early from class today, not feeling well, and decided to use the unexpected free time to update the blog. Then I discovered that during a computer home network fiasco that kept me up far too late last night, I had apparently lost my "notepad" list of a dozen or so good links I wanted to blog! (Maybe this would be the perfect time to try Blogger's audio blog feature and put a nice long "scream" here?)

    So I'm trying to reconstruct a small part of the list from memory, but I'm coming up way short:

  • The first thing I wanted to point to was this really nice story about an illiterate, unemployed Brazilian man who has turned his home into a free library for the poor community in which he lives.

  • I recall that I also wanted to toast the feast of corruption and scandal we're being treated to by BushCo this month: DeLay's indictments, Larry Franklin's guilty plea, the indictment of the former chief procurement officer and Abramoff accomplice David Safavian, and the rumors of up to 22 indictments in the Valerie Plame leak case - the tendrils of which may reach as high as the president and vice president (on that matter, Rove has suddenly agreed to testify to the grand jury again, but under no guarantee that he won't still be prosecuted). A lot of us have said, ever since the first year of the first term of this administration, that historians would one day show it to be the most corrupt ever. But we thought they were diabolical enough to pull it off largely undetected in the short term. Who among us dared hope that the great unraveling would take place while Bush was still in office!

  • I also remember that I was going to comment about watching the few torturous minutes that I could bear of Bush's press conference yesterday, and that I couldn't take my eyes off his strange repetitive jaw thrust. It reminded me of the threat expression made by monkeys I used to take care of, except that Bush's jaw kept jutting sideways. Anyway, I wasn't alone in my fascination.

  • I remember that I was going to point to two very useful posts about Harriet Miers, Bush's mystifying nominee to the Supreme Court. Of course, a leaked George Will column, and very vocal conservative opposition (even Dobson is now giving himself wiggle room for backing off his early endorsement), is making this all very messy for Mr. Bush. Which probably explains the aforementioned jaw-thrusts. At least, in part. (I'm only going to indulge myself this once, because it's very catty and backward of me, but can someone please help Ms. Miers with her eyeliner?)

  • There's a very good article here about the lack of congressional oversight during these Bush years.

  • I confess that I haven't been paying much attention to the whole pandemic flu thing, but now that Commander-in-Chief Hubris is talking about invoking martial law to contain outbreaks, I suspect we'd better get ourselves up to speed.

  • Here is a great cartoon my friend CW spotted.

  • ...and also a smart column on the Dover, PA evolution trial: "It is clear to me that what is on display this week in Harrisburg is not evolution. What is on display is America's spectacular failure to produce citizens with the ability to reason." (Thanks, BB.)

  • A Toledo Blade reporter with ties to the state Republicans appears to have deliberately delayed breaking the Coingate story -- enough to throw the election? (That's a Salon link; you'll have to sit through a short ad, unless you're a subscriber.)

  • Ugh. Fleet Week in San Francisco.* What a wise and important use of dwindling fuel supplies.

    (*Update: Link fixed.) (Also, I just noticed that this makes about a dozen items. Maybe I reconstructed the missing list afterall?)
  • Straight from the BBC...

    ...comes this revelation of the messianic fantasies that inhabit the imagination of our president.

    I guess I'm just slow, because I never fail to be astonished at the hubris. Example:
    'I'm driven with a mission from God. God would tell me, "George, go and fight those terrorists in Afghanistan." And I did, and then God would tell me, "George, go and end the tyranny in Iraq …" And I did. '

    And this is the God who is supposed to have told Moses, "No killing"?? Aarrrgggghhhhh!!

    Monday, October 03, 2005

    Delay gets a twofer!

    I just happened to check in on TPM and see that Tom Delay has received a second indictment, for money laundering!

    Saturday, October 01, 2005

    Belated cat blogging

    I just downloaded photos I took the other night. This was quite an action sequence.

    A few other things...

    ... and then I really must hit the books.

  • John at Americablog highlights the shamefully under-publicized fact that US soldiers and their families are still having to buy the body armor that the government should provide them - and are not being reimbursed for their costs. And he has a really good suggestion for getting hapless Democratic "leaders" on top of this.

  • David Sirota shows just how much "cleaner" DeLay's temporary placement is (is there anyone in Republican leadership who is not corrupt?!).

  • Cronyism "surged" by 15 percent in the Bush administration, after actually falling during the Clinton years. (Of course the headline misleadingly implies that Clinton's cronyism was high, and Bush's even higher, but the story proves otherwise.)

  • The GAO found that the Bushies' fake news stories amount to "covert propaganda" and violated the law. Shocking, I know. But see this fabulous ad for a perfectly rational explanation.

  • One wonders if the administration would have "condemned" Bill Bennett's absurd remarks if Katrina hadn't just revealed - to disasterous effect - the full extent of their disregard for the poor and the not white? After all, this is more their style.

  • And why, oh, why, did Judith Miller march stoically off to jail this summer if her source actually gave her a waiver of confidentiality a year ago?
  • Shoot First

    What a fine day in Florida, where a "shoot first" law takes effect today. Now residents have a legal shield to "shoot first, ask questions never" if they feel threatened in public places. Still thinking of Christmas or spring break in Miami? The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence is launching a campaign to educate tourists about ways to avoid appearing, you know, threatening. Their flier is posted above. (By the way, Michigan is considering a shoot first law, too.)