Tuesday, March 27, 2007

How to Be An American

I suppose I could be as stupid as Pat Robertson, and say that someones illness is a result of their moral and political corruption.

But I'm not that stupid.

I was saddened to hear that White House Press Secretary Tony Snow's cancer had returned. Not because I deem him a friend, or even a patriot. I don't. I disagree completely with his politics. But I wouldn't wish cancer on anyone. Suffering hurts people.

Which segues into what I originally wanted to write. I was listening the other day to Thom Hartmann on the radio, and he was interviewing co-author Chriss Winston. I heard Ms. Winston state that there were teachers in America who were blaming America for 9/11. She presented no examples, no proof. Anyone listening knew she was hedging on probability. And there probably are a few fringe teachers who are doing just that. The discussion was moving toward the reason why 9/11 happened, and Mr. hartmann asked Ms. Wilson to try and see it from the perspective of the perpetrators. Oh no, she cut him off. "No can do." She wouldn't go there. She in fact stated that she as much thought that Tom was blaming America for 9/11, despite him clearly stating he was reiterating the reasons the perpetraotrs of 9/11 used for the attack.

Which lead me to hear two things. First, the inability of people to hear the truth, or even facts, when they cling to their dogmatic points of view. But I heard something even more disturbing. And that was this woman's inability to connect to compassion.

Almost every one knows that the Latin root of the word means to suffer together with. It basically means that one can see anothers pain, and a wish to remove the suffering. Inherent in this idea is the thought of walking a mile in someone else's shoes.

Now we can read the Declaration of Independence, "
all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." Now, are we to assume that this phrase "all men" only means white American men? Or just all Americans? Would we not instead say that this phrase is intended to mean all mankind, which includes Muslims?

And if that is true, what is a better way to understand their rationale that 9/11 was their pursuit of anything? By further bombing them? By subjugating them by force? Or by trying to reason and understand their perspective?

I venture to you that America, if nothing else, was founded on the concept of political and religious compassion. That for too long the bonds of both had held men in slavery, and that there is a better way. And that better way recognized the suffering of others, and created a political solution that allowed for the freedom and liberty we all want.

So how is it that an author of a book entitled How To Raise An American completely misses the point? In fact, she refused to go there. Or when was the last time you heard a televangelist preaching love for our enemies Saddam Hussein, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, or Kim Jong Il? What's missing from this picture?

It is sadly this kind of dogmatic ideology that will not produce patriots, but rather nationalists that will continue to propagate wars. It will also lead to the ignoring of, and ignorance of, our founding values.

Mr. Snow may be a political rival. He may be fascist. He displays an ignorance of the Constitution in saying there are no checks and balances, and despite his, what I consider jingoism, I still know he is American; and has the right to pursue Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.

Having seen friends die of cancer, and seen the suffering of families caused by disease, I know first hand what pain it produces. Because of that, I wish he and his family good health. And I know many more people feel the same way I do, regardless of their political persuasions.

And in this land of Constitutional liberty, that's what it means to BE an American.

Teach that to your kids.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Big Eyes and Small Camels!

Last night on 20/20, I watched a Christian ministry state that there are certain ministries that are less than forthcoming about their finances. As that was no shock to me, I watched it anyway. And I learned that the major names in evangelicalism are living very questionable lives in regards to their finances.

Now, lest any one think I am an ignoramus about the religious right, let me assure you that I am not. I spent thirteen years in that camp, finally walking away when it became apparent to me that I had been deceived, or lied to, or at least led along in the same delusion that so many "believers" lived in.

I attended, and taught in, a ministry training school. I was an up-and-comer in our local apostolic church system. Along the way I read the Bible cover to cover 5 times. I also memorized, with a good friend, the Pauline epistles of Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians. We could recite them verbatim back to back. I still own my Zondervan Comparative Study Bible, which includes the King James version, the New American Standard, Amplified, and New International version. And I now refer to them as charis-maniac funny-mentalists.

Two things struck me last night watching that show. The first was the list on the Ministry Watch list that stated which organizations had absolutely secretive finances, and the major folk that were written about in The Sinner's Guide to the Evangelical Right. My guess is that it was coincidental.

Ministry Watch is a group that was started by a Christian who worked on Wall Street. He devotes his energy now to developing integrity among these large evangelical organizations that have budgets in the hundreds of millions, and no accountability for it. I'm glad to see that it is getting exposure, and so far those on the Ministry watch list have responded to his efforts as "attacks from Satan" as Trinity Broadcast Network's Jan and Paul Crouch say it.

The other thing that struck me was the lavish life style that the leaders of the fundie right live. Not one, but two or more multi-million dollar mansions. Private jets. Luxury automobiles. The clothes to match their trappings. vacations worthy of such opulence. In fact, Ministry watch chose to expose Kenneth Copeland, who beseeched followers to fund a new jet to be used exclusively for the gospel. That exclusive use included a trip to Australia for a conference. The flight plan though included not one, not two, but three multi-day layovers in tropical paradises along the way. And not for evangelical business. One layover was needed for "food and rest."

Remember, these huge organizations operate tax free. The rest of us subsidize the land they sit on and don't pay taxes for. And whatever other loopholes they have for tax free church business is something that has made several of these people multi-millionaires. Benny Hinn for example, gets paid a half to a million a year as a salary. I have a problem with this. And so do they.

To quote their leader, " And again I say to you (note the emphasis), it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." Some guy named Matthew allegedly recorded these words that these evangelicals claim are the inerrant word of God.

So do these people a favor, contact your state and national representatives in Congress, and ask that all tax subsidizing of all religions be immediately revoked, that these men may stand a chance of entering the kingdom of their God.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

More Bullpuckey From The Right

Two items here. The first is the resistance to Bush's minions being put under oath in regards to the firing of 8 US attorneys from the Justice Department. I find it interesting that this so-called traditional values camp, one of those values being honesty, is so afraid of going under oath. It's almost as if they have something to hide. And were this a petty issue like a blow-job, maybe I could understand that.

But this issue is about the rule of law. Something that Republicnas apparently only like as a catch phrase. The rule of law is the people's business Mr. Bush. Your resistance to it flies in the face of your own Constitutional oath. Your efforts to control what the Senate learns, or how it learns it is obstruction of justice. But I don't suppose that's anything new as we can venture back to the deliberate lies that came forth in the 2003 State of the Union address as I have mentioned in another post.

Ah yes, the criminalization of politics. The Republicans are becoming masters at it.

The second issue is the bill introduced by John Shadegg(R) of Arizona, a "rule of law" bill, wants to make sure that Congress attaches a Constitutional validation to every bill. This will supposedly make Congress accountable. I wonder where John Shadegg was when the Patriot Act was passed. Or the Military Commissions Act of 2006. Both of those flat out contradict the Constitution. Both were penned and presented by a Republican Congress. And Mr. Shadegg voted for Passage of both of them. So where was the rule of law then?

This posturing by the Republicans is a vain attempt to cover their butts in what is widely and quickly becoming obvious to all as a n administration that doesn't care a whit about the law. They are using their positions to not only line their own pockets (ala Tom Delay, Duke Cunningham, and Bob Ney), but to abuse the law in the efforts to promote their own ideology (ala Scooter Libby and the two recent apologies by Alberto Gonzalez).

An ideology that Americans rejected last November. So let the subpoenas fly. Americans want justice, and expect if from those who ostensibly rule. It is after all, one of the primary reasons we established the Constitution.

Monday, March 19, 2007

The New Slogan

Rule of law is a favorite buzz phrase of the righties when it comes to immigration. They like to point out that illegal immigration is just that: illegal. These people broke the law and should be deported.

Never mind the illegal act of the employer hiring them. That doesn't count. It's only the act of crossing the border that counts. In other words, it's a selective rule of law that is important. And the same is true of the new buzz phrase of the righties.

"The criminalization of politics." I read Tom Delays rant which appeared in Townhouse.com's recent e-mail. I had to laugh because it came from a book titled, No Retreat, No Surrender: One American's Fight. Of course, we all know now that Mr. Delay is still facing criminal charges and that he did retreat, and he did surrender, at least his seat in Congress.

What Mr. Delay does is blame this "criminalization" on the left. Which is perfectly absurd, but will go unnoticed by the majority of right wingers who will latch onto the persecuted victim/martyr role while conveniently ignoring the fact that Mr. Delay was brought up on charges during a time in which his own party ruled Congress. They will forget that Duke Cunningham was convicted of corruption during that same Congressional period, and by a prosecutor that was appointed by George H.W. Bush. Bob Ney was also convicted during this same Congressional period of corruption by Mary K. Butler, who went to work in the Justice Department during Reagan's presidency. And Scooter Libby was found guilty by a jury, and prosecuted by a Republican appointed attorney. And just coincidentally, a majority of the eight attorney's with glowing records that were summarily fired recently, were Republican appointed attorneys. Including the one that prosecuted Duke Cunningham, and one who was "too slow" in prosecuting Democrats before the election. His name was Dave Iglesisas, and the Republicans that put pressure on him to secure these convictions were Pete Dominici and Heather Wilson. Both of who denied it, later admitted it, and have hired lawyers.

Ah, the looks of innocence....

Of course, Alberto Gonzalez has apologized for these firings, because now that subpoenas are being issued into the validity of those firings, he's feeling the heat which is being added to the admitted abuse of the Patriot Act by the Gonzalez headed Justice Department. In both situations he thinks an apology is all that is needed to ameliorate the breaking of the law.

What is demonstrated by this though is the true criminalization of politics whereby a political party thinks they can use their political power to justify criminal actions. They just don't like getting caught.

The Rule of Law. That phrase can now join it's cousin, Support the Troops, as true Republican oxymorons.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

The Next Book You Read....

If you read any other book this year, make it this one.

Pretty bold request huh? Especially when you consider the topic. Who would think that a legal scholar discussing the Constitution would make for good reading?

I didn't. I ordered some books from the History Book Club, and this was offered. As my choices were numbered, I chose to check out the questionable selections from the library after I made my order. Hindsight says I should have ordered this one instead of one of the others.

But no biggie now, as the picture you are looking at is my own copy. The bookmark has the logo for the Moonraker bookstore here in Langley, where I purchase most of my books. (Stop in and say hi to Josh, AnnaBet, and Nancy.) I ordered this one before I was done reading the library copy! That's how good it is.

It's particularly better when you have a companion pocket copy of the Constitution right with you, such as the ones available at the American Bar Association.

Shameless advertising huh? Well, I've never had a problem promoting things I thing are worth promoting. And please note, I am promoting a product they sell, not necessarily them. Back to the book.

This is not a dry book. Mr. Reed covers his history of the document well, and brings out many facts that existed in the early days that most people are unaware of. One being the property qualifications that existed to become a politician, and hence the Constitutional qualifications eliminating that aspect entirely, and why. Another being the electoral system, starting on page 148, and what I found a bit humorous, the executive title. A Senate Committee proposed that the President be called "His Highness, the President of the United States of America, and Protector of their Liberties."

Gag me with a spoon or what?!

This book reveals a lot of information about the Articles of Confederation under which America operated before the Constitution, as well as a comparison to British law under which America existed until the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution; a great handling of the three fifths clause, and since I haven't finished reading it, a whole lot more.

So for a while forget the books by the pundits. Forget the books by the journalists, and about the mess in Iraq, and put the fiction back on the shelf. Pull out a copy of the Constitution, this book by Akhil Reed Amar, some good coffee, and learn the history that really matters to Americans.

And if you live in near Yale, stop by Mr. Amar's law class and tell him I sent you along as my proxy to sit in on his class.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

The Crappie Floppin' Ryties Get It Wrong Again.

Just like a crappie in the bottom of the boat: you can never tell which side will be up next! That of course makes them harder to grab a hold of. But oops, there's the tell-tale black spot, which means they are parasitic. Throw it back into the water...

In my in-box I got the news today that Tom Tancredeo, another far right nut job who suggested we should take out Muslim holy sites if terrorists used a nuke in America, is going to run for president. (Flip) He then denied making the statement. (Flop) His strong issue is ignoring the 14th Amendment, because he thinks all immigrants should be shipped home. Not that I think illegals should be given carte blanche. We do need a better immigration effort, and his is spot on on saying that we need to go after the employers, and that the problem is the employers are a Republican constituency. And he once said that we should never reward law breakers. (Flip) So where is Tancredo on pardoning Libby? (Flop)

For President?

In other news, it seems that the efforts to establish some transparency in Washington are considered Big Brotherism by the fundies. Never mind (Flip) the acknowledged illegal eavesdropping, and the recent illegal activities of the FBI as admitted by US Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez, the effort to make sure that folk like Mr. Abramoff don't have veiled access anymore (Flop) are being considered Big Brother actions ala 1984. These same folk are the hypocrites who cried about the lobby reform bill that required of them the same transparency of their funding as did the right wing requirements established for the unions years ago. The right wing spin on it is that it would effectively cut off their ability to "redress the government" as allowed in the First Amendment. Is that a black spot I see?

Almost approaching funny, the Traditional Values Coalition almost fainted when Congressman Peter Stark of California stated in a response to a survey that he was a Unitarian that didn't believe in a Supreme Being. Supposedly a first in American history! The tragedy! And the ignorance. Wow.

Maybe the folk over at TVC should consider the fact that there is a Muslim Representative, and at least two Buddhists. The Muslim version of God is a far cry different from their own, as the fundies have reminded us for years. And Buddhists don't believe in a supreme being either. But this is how they describe the import of the event:

"Christian Seniors Association Executive Director James Lafferty notes: 'It is sad but not surprising that the current Congress has produced this historic first – one of its members has denied God. The liberals in Congress want to throttle any school child who bows his or her head in prayer but they want to establish a right for liberals to bash Christians and berate God around the clock.'”

Yessir, Peter Stark stating he didn't believe in a supreme being is God Christian bashing and God berating. Never mind the fact that this sort of stupidity flows forth from their mouths, which their Scriptures claim is the overflow of the heart, and that they, in their own minds, are the sole representatives of God on the planet. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see how then some might bash Christians and their God. But that wasn't what Stark was doing.

And just what is denying God? Denying the existence of God is not the same as believing in a supreme being but refusing to agree to something allegedly stated by a supreme being is also the act of denying. And what would be it be considered when Thomas Jefferson cut all the miracles out of the Bible, and produced something that is still printed today, and was for years handed out to freshman Congresspeople? On the face of it, a refusal to accept something stated as true(deny), and that was done by a sitting president and founder of the country. A historical first?

No, a hysterical first. Ooo, that is a black spot, and here's another one.

Throw it back.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Take 5

And let your Congress people know what you think about

the people in the Justice Department (read Alberto Gonzalez and the FBI) thinking an apology is enough of a consequence for admittedly breaking the law. The Attorney General's Chief of Staff has resigned in the light of this scandal.

the move of military contract giant Haliburton moving to Dubai. Do we want to continue pouring hundreds of billions of tax dollars into this company that wants to set up shop in the country that couldn't catch Pakistan smuggling nuclear technology to North Korea? Wouldn't it be a good time to start defunding Haliburton and bring our troops home?

the army sending wounded troops back to Iraq. About the poor care for troops that are wounded even beyond the walls of Walter Reed. About the troops being sent into an escalation without training. White House talking head Tony Snow said, and it's right there on the White House web site, that they can receive their training in Iraq. About troops being sent without the proper equipment, STILL. About the military being stretched so thin even former commanders are saying it is unsustainable. About the lowering of entrance standards to meet recruitment goals. This is apparently the conservative idea of supporting the troops.

pardoning Scooter Libby. First read a transcript of the proceedings. David Corn followed the trial pretty thoroughly, and covered it in his blog.

sabre rattling with Iran. Wouldn't this be a good time to change the authorization to use force?

Granted, this may all take more than 5 minutes. But even a cursory reading of the Declaration of Independence and Constitution makes one realize that what we have at the helm in our country is no defender, protector, or preserver of the Constitution of the United States.

I called mine, and will do so again.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

The Same Ol' Song

Republicans are getting good at this tune. A good ol' family values song.

The first verse is denial. Like that of Duke Cunningham, Tom Delay, Bob Ney, Mark Foley, paster Ted Haggard and the rest of the band. A couple new members to that group are Congressfolk Pete Domenici and Heather Wilson.

Both apparently contacted a federal prosecutor looking into Democratic corruption. Then when the administration decided they wanted a crony in that position, as well as several others, they fired these prosecutors. None of them were incompetent. Most of them had glowing service records. But many of them were after Republicans.

To contact a federal prosecutor to get results is unethical. Particularly when it involves someone of the opposite party at election time. Which is what Wilson and Domenici allegedly did. And true to the band, when questioned about it, they denied it.

So how does this song go?

The first verse is the denial verse. Wilson and Domenici have already sung that one. Then when they realized that denying it plasuibly was no longer possible, the admit they are liars about denying by acknowledging they had done so.

It's about here we add the same old chorus, which I already posted about.

The third verse is denying they had done anything wrong. Which of course leads one to ask why they denied making the contact in the first place. This is where I tend to think that politicians are stupid. It is so apparent that they are covering their tracks legally, and looking at the track record of the fellow band members, you'd think they would learn.

Stupid of course means unable to learn. What I think is driving these otherwise intelligent people to act so stupidly, is their distorted concept of power and their lack of understanding of what they said when they took their oath of office.

Here we put in some solos from the band memebers, and then head back into the song body.

The next verse will be an admission of guilt, and as Ney, Foley, and Haggard all demonstrated, they blamed it on something other than having made the wrong choices for all the wrong reasons. Blame falls on some form of substance abuse or early childhood abuse. Woe is me.

Another chorus please...

So far we have seen then that the song sometimes ends with a stint in rehab (Foley), plain ol acting like nothing happened(Ney), or complete healing in three weeks of life long demons! (Haggard)

This song is getting as worn out as any radio hit that is grossly overplayed.
But stay tuned America, because the hits will just keep on coming...

Friday, March 02, 2007

The Same Ol' Chorus...

"...a bad hangovers something I can't stand, yet here I am with a jug in my hand.
Whooo, whoo, trouble trouble,
Worries on my mind.
Gonna go down to that cellar, get some of that mellow wine..."

These words of former Foghat front man Lonesome Dave Peverett describe quite well the current conservative penchant for continual bad behavior. Consider the headache of global climate change that won't go away.

You knew that if Gore won an Oscar for the documentary Inconvenient Truth, that the right would be shilling the next day about it. And they still are. Over at NewsMax, they crank out the not only the supposed articles proving Gore wrong (despite the tons of science leaning the other way), but the false report about Gore's personal use of energy. I guess we are expected to think that the vast majority of peer reviewed studies and the recent United Nations reports that emphatically state there is man-made global climate change occurring are all wrong, and the right wing talking heads and profit-from-polluting corporations who deny it are correct.

Well, Keith Olberman set the record straight on his show, and I saw Gore personally explain his carbon imprint on the world. Despite the fact his usage is up, and significantly from renewable sources, his bill is less than one third of one percent of the Vice presidents electric bill at the VP mansion in DC. And taxpayers are footing Cheney's bill. Another intersting fact is that the "think tank" that brought forth this false report is a right leaning arm of a state level group called the State Policy Network. It turns out the Tennessee Center for Policy Reserach hasn't produced any policy briefs since October 2005, or any policy reports for the last 11 months. That's a think tank that has a loud echo in it.

For my part, I look up the people in these groups to make sure of the left claim to be a right wing wank group. Sure enough, the people involved are also in well known right wing "think tanks" like the Heritage Foundation, and in our neck of the woods, groups that are regularly heard on local conservative radio like the Evergreen Freedom Foundation. Further investigation shows that Byron Lamm, the president of State Policy Network, was noted as a director of Grover Norquist's Americans For Tax Reform, and made political contributions in his home state to Mike Pence and Dick Lugar.

So this so-called think tank turns out to be a right wing hack machine. They produce a report that is erroneous, and groups like NewsMax swallow it hook line and sinker because, well, why do you think?

All together on the chorus! "Whooo wooo...."

Consider the nauseating military mismanagement coupled with right wing "support the troops" attitude. As we have seen in the Walter Reed Hospital story that recently broke, they do less supporting of them if they live, though are injured. And when Tony Snow was asked about the report of troops being sent to the escalation in Iraq without desert training, Snow's response was they could get their training in Iraq. With yet another report showing that the National Guard is woefully deficient, and the years old stories of ill-equipped soldiers and equipment being sent to Iraq, one has to question how much substance is actually in the Republican use of the phrase. And with continued upswings in the military budget, where is all the money going?

And last but not least, even though the President himself said we are addicted to oil, the sure fire answer is to drill for more! Do we really want the conservatives managing any kind of addiction?

Perhaps one would have thought that after learning about the troops and their vehicles actually fighting without the necessary armor, that the administration would have jumped all over the mismanagement, and up and down throughout the military. You would have thought that after last November's 2x4 to the collective conservative head they might have learned that the old ways of doing things might not work any more.

We are wrong. Troops go without training, the hospital system and veteran care is failing the veterans, and the right continues to use spin doctors to spread their lies to a shrinking base.

I guess it's time to head to the cellar for another jug...

One more time on the Chorus! "Whoo woo..."