Tuesday, July 31, 2007

On Voting Records in the Banana Republic of Ohio

Alternet has posted a story about the illegal destruction of the 2004 presidential election records in Ohio. The records were necessary to settle claims over whether the results from the 2004 presidential election were accurate.

In times past, I used to shake my head as fraud and corruption was uncovered in the elections of the "Banana Republics" in Central and South America. Now, I'm shaking my head in disbelief as evidence mounts day-by-day demonstrating that throughout the twenty-first century the United States has been reduced to the status of a banana republic.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Barak Obama on Separation of Church and State

David Brody at the right-wing Christian Broadcasting Network interviewed Barak Obama and asked him about his views regarding separation of church and state. Obama gave a surprisingly forthright answer:

For my friends on the right, I think it would be helpful to remember the critical role that the separation of church and state has played in preserving not only our democracy but also our religious practice. Folks tend to forget that during our founding, it wasn't the atheists or the civil libertarians who were the most effective champions of the First Amendment. It was the persecuted minorities, it was Baptists like John Leland who didn't want the established churches to impose their views on folks who were getting happy out in the fields and teaching the scripture to slaves.

It was the forbearers of Evangelicals who were the most adamant about not mingling government with religious, because they didn't want state-sponsored religion hindering their ability to practice their faith as they understood it. Given this fact, I think that the right might worry a bit more about the dangers of sectarianism.

Whatever we once were, we're no longer just a Christian nation; we are also a Jewish nation, a Muslim nation, a Buddhist nation, a Hindu nation, and a nation of non-believers. We should acknowledge this and realize that when we're formulating policies from the state house to the Senate floor to the White House, we've got to work to translate our reasoning into values that are accessible to every one of our citizens, not just members of our own faith community.
Unfortunately, Obama states his case in an ambiguous way that could give the impression that he was wrongfully slurring the reputation of the very Baptist who was the foremost opponent of slavery in colonial Virginia. As a matter of fact, once the first amendment had been adopted (1789) and at the very moment when evangelist John Leland was enjoying his greatest popularity in Virginia, he pressed Baptists on the issue of slavery and then had difficulty finding a pulpit in which to preach in Virginia. He left Virginia and spent the rest of his life in Massachusetts.

For the record, here are some facts about John Leland:
John Leland opposed slavery because it destroyed the slaves family life, it undermined the character of both master and slave, and it deprived the slave of religious liberty. Concerning the morality of slavery, he argued:

"The whole scene of slavery is pregnant with enormous evils. On the master's side, pride, haughtiness, domination, cruelty, deceit, and indolence and on the side of the slave, ignorance, servility, fraud, perfidy, and despair. If these, and many other evils, attend it, why not liberate them at once? Would to Heaven this were done! The sweets of rural and social life will never be well enjoyed, until it is the case." (The Writings of John Leland, ed. L. F. Greene, New York: Arno Press, 1969, pp. 96-97)
He thought slavery was worse for the master than for the slave, saying, "The state of slaves is truly pitiable, and that of the master, in some things, more so." (p. 96)

Leland opposed federal laws that counted slaves as "three-fifths of a man, and two-fifths of a brute." (p. 96) He insisted that:

"Slavery, in its best appearance, is a violent deprivation of the rights of nature, inconsistent with republican government, destructive of every humane and benevolent passion of the soul, and subversive to the liberty absolutely necessary to ennoble the human mind." (p. 174)

In 1790 the Baptist General Committee of Virginia passed a resolution against slavery that was proposed by Leland. The resolution read:

"Resolved, That slavery is a violent deprivation of the rights of nature and inconsistent with a republican government, and therefore recommend it to our brethren to use every legal measure to extirpate this horrid evil from the land; and pray Almighty God that our honorable Legislature may have it in their power to proclaim the great Jubilee consistent with the principles of good policy."
The Roanoke Baptist Association took immediate exception to Leland's resolution, saying it was not "unanimously clear" whether or not slavery opposed the gospel. As opposition to his resolution was being mobilized and as preaching invitations for the evangelist ended, Leland left Virginia in 1791 and returned to his home in New England. In 1792 the General Committee rescinded Leland's resolution and passed a resolution declaring the issue of slavery "belonged to the Legislative Body" -- thereby advising abolitionists to focus their energies in the political arena outside the church.

Can a Mormon Be President?

Associated Press is reporting that "Religion Looms Large Over 2008 Race." Mitt Romney's Mormon faith, however, is hurting him as he runs for the GOP nomination.

Article VI of the U.S. Constitution explicitly prohibits using religion as a test for political office. Romney's faith should not be an issue in his run for president. Hilary's gender and Obama's race shouldn't be an issue either.

Ironically, while the constitution originally did not grant women nor African-Americans the right to vote, the odds are higher for Clinton or Obama to be elected president than for Romney.

How can "conservative" voters affirm allegiance to the "original intentions" of the founding fathers while disregarding their clear intentions regarding the prohibition against establishing a national religion and against religious tests for holding public office?

Sunday, July 29, 2007

David Iglesias on the Reason for White House Stonewalling

NOW with David Brancaccio interviewed David Iglesias, fired U.S. Attorney from New Mexico, for his opinion about the import of the dispute between the White House and Congress over whether White House aides will testify about attorneygate. Iglesias did not mince words:

NOW: Do you think the problems surrounding the U.S. attorneys' firings, as well as what we're learning about some of these voter suppression efforts has tainted the party?

DI: It's tainted the party and it's tainted the Justice Department, which is a real shame. It's a tragedy because, for many years, the only agency that really had a standing as the untouchable agency from partisan politics was the Justice Department. And unfortunately, what's happened over the passed couple of years has tarred it with a very, very ugly brush ... It's a serious problem. The American people have the right to believe that "prosecutive" decisions are made on the basis of evidence alone. And right now, that's called into question.

Every president has the right to set their priorities. But they have to stay within the rules. I mean, this entire scandal in one sense is about the rule of law. And this sordid affair was an attempt to use the power of the Justice Department in an unethical and unlawful way.

NOW: Trying to use the office of a U.S. Attorney for partisan political purposes is unethical. But you're saying it is actually illegal?

DI: Right. That's why there has been such a circling of the wagons around Karl Rove and Harriet Miers and Sarah Taylor. I believe there to be incriminating, possibly criminally incriminating evidence contained in those e-mails and other memoranda. That's why the White House doesn't want to produce it to Congress.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

A Master Scurrilous Propaganda

John Yeats, director of communications for the Louisiana Baptist Convention and recording secretary for the Southern Baptist Convention, has long been a master of the scurrilous propaganda that passes for journalism at Baptist Press.

Today's juvenile attack on Barry Lynn and Americans United is a classic example. Here's a quote:

Looking at its track record, the Americans United organization is not as interested in separation of church and state as it is in using its influence to silence the voices of American pulpits and organizations that disagree with a leftist vision of religious liberty. With its letter in 2000, AU attempted to intimidate pastors into thinking they must become homiletic wimps or lose their church's tax exemption.
For the record, Americans United's position on politics in the pulpit is identical to that of the Supreme Court of the United States and of the Baptist Joint Committee on Religious Liberty.

Tom Delay, Israel, and Christ's Second Coming

Journalist Max Blumenthal has branched into video journalism. Recently, he interviewed Tom Delay on camera at the Christians United for Israel Summit in Washington, D.C.

Here's a quote from Raw Story about the Delay interview:

Blumenthal opens the video by interviewing Tom Delay, who when asked how much the "Second Coming" plays into his support for Israel, says, "obviously, it's what I live for, I hope it comes tomorrow."

Delay closed by saying, "we have to be connected to Israel to enjoy the second coming."
Considering the grave implications involved when politicians base their foreign policy on the eschatological charting of right-wing evangelical Christians, voters might find it important to discover what future political candidates believe regarding Armageddon theology. It could literally be a matter of life and death for people living in Israel and the Middle East.

On Transcendental Meditation in the Schools

The LA Times has published a story about the teaching of Transcendental Meditation in public schools.

Here's a quote from my friend and colleague on the Board of Americans United for Separation of Church and State:

"It's not the business of schools to lead kids to inner peace through a spiritual process," says Edward Tabash, chairman of the national legal committee for Americans United for the Separation of Church and State. Tabash, a self-described secular humanist, predicts an imminent court battle. "I can quite frankly see a coalition between religious fundamentalists and atheists challenging this."
Imagine that! Secular humanists and fundamentalist Christians working together again to promote separation of church and state.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Oil at $100 at Barrel Looming, $200 a Barrel Possible

The International Herald Tribune has published a story with the headline: "$100-a-barrel oil may be only a few months away." The price of oil is around $75.00-a-barrel today.

If that is not sufficiently alarming, this should be -- Matthew Simmons, one of the most widely respected researchers on worldwide petroleum supplies issued this warning:

Oil prices could triple in three months to more than $200 a barrel, given the right circumstances, according to Matthew Simmons, chairman of Simmons, a Houston investment bank.

"Oil is still cheap," Simmons said. "In the 20th century, with a few exceptions, oil was almost free. The only exceptions were during 1973, 1979 and when Iraq invaded Kuwait."
No, this is not oil companies gouging consumers for profits. Worldwide demand for oil has increased to an unsustainable level and the supply of available oil has peaked.

Specter Calls for Special Prosecutor

Arlen Specter, the Senate Judiciary Committee's senior Republican, has advised Attorney General Alberto Gonzales that he needs to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the firings of federal prosecutors.

On this and on a variety of other issues, the world is waiting to see if the United States of America is ruled by law or whether we are governed by leaders who rule as they will.

Costly Preaching

Baptists around the world are protesting the arrest of pastor Zaur Belayev who was arrested during a preaching service at his "unregistered house church" in Aliabad, Azerbaijan on May 20th.

Ethics Daily has posted a story about the Protests being registered by International Baptists. Here's a link to a letter from Tony Peck, Executive Secretary of the European Baptist Federation demanding the release of Belayev.

Four hundred years ago today, English Separatists -- forerunners of the earliest English Baptists -- were facing this same form of persecution for forming unauthorized conventicles in England.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Business As Usual?

Associated Baptist Press and Ethics Daily have posted stories about Coy Privette, a SBC fundamentalist takeover leader in North Carolina, being arrested for hiring a prostitute. He was also a leader in an organization with a mission to publicly denounce sexual immorality.

Incidents like this have long been commonplace among America's morality police. It's just business as usual for the sex industry.

Instead of manning megaphones to publicly denounce immorality, conservative Christians would do more good if they would devote themselves to promoting fidelity in their churches and to discreet and compassionate counselling of those whose relationships are being shattered by their infidelities.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Is the President Assuming Dictatorial Powers?

Raw Story has posted some alarming quotations from Paul Craig Robert's interview on Thom Hartmann's radio program this morning. Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury during the Reagan Administration. Roberts warns that a new executive order issued by the White House allowing the government to seize the assets of anyone interfering with its Iraq policies gives dictatorial powers to the President. Here's a quote:

"Americans think their danger is terrorists," said Roberts. "They don't understand the terrorists cannot take away habeas corpus, the Bill of Rights, the Constitution. ... The terrorists are not anything like the threat that we face to the Bill of Rights and the Constitution from our own government in the name of fighting terrorism. Americans just aren't able to perceive that."

Roberts pointed out that it's old-line Republicans like himself, former Reagan associate deputy attorney general Bruce Fein, and Pat Buchanan who are the diehards in warning of the danger. "It's so obvious to people like us who have long been associated in the corridors of power," he said. "There's no belief in the people or anything like that. They have agendas. The people are in the way. The Constitution is in the way. ... Americans need to comprehend and look at how ruthless Cheney is. ... A person like that would do anything."

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Immigration Debate Resurrecting the KKK

The History News Network has posted a helpful and informative essay regarding "What's Scary About the Immigration Debate." The author, Jean Pfaelzer, professor of English and American Studies at the University of Delaware and the author of Driven Out: The Forgotten War Against Chinese Americans, gives a brief history of anti-immigrant sentiment in America that leads the recent spat of anti-immigrant legislation and current events in Pennsylvania. Here's a quote:

Hazleton's mayor told Sixty Minutes about a 70% rise in violent crime since Latinos came to town in 2001 (the correct number is 20 of 8,500 crimes). Farmers Branch, Texas said that the code would prevent terrorist attacks by purging its Latinos. One third of towns that passed the code are in unemployed areas of Pennsylvania--railroad towns that once sold anthracite coal, steel tubes, and carpets. Now they export Latinos.

These gentlemen prefer blondes. The mayor wants Hazleton to remain 94.7% white. Last week in front of a burning cross the Ku Klux Klan and the American Nazi Party, recently defunct, announced to ABC Evening News that since they began assaulting, torching, and "bleaching" Latinos, membership has risen 40%.

"Pack your bags…It's over, go home" shouted local Minutemen after Escondido's city council voted 3-2 for the Hazleton code. With nearly half the town born outside the US, anyone who looked or sounded "foreign" stood to be evicted. In Altoona, which is 99.9 % white, a city councilman declared "We just want to stay ahead of the curve."

On President Bush's God of War

Robert Parham has posted an outstanding essay about "Bush Makes God an Argument for Iraq War." Here's a quote:

Bush apparently believes that he is doing God's will. If so, then God's will is spreading democracy in Iraq through a preemptive war in its fifth summer using violence for righteousness' sake.

If this is Bush's theological perspective, then our nation is being lead by a Christian crusader, not a commander in chief. And that is a very dangerous place to be. Good democracies go bad when governed by theocrats.

If the president is theologically right that God wills the war in Iraq, what does that say about the moral reflection of the broad sweep of Catholic bishops, Methodist bishops, mainline Protestant clergy and other Christian leaders who hold the view that the war is morally wrong?
In my opinion, Bush has been listening to the wrong theologians. He's listening to megalomaniac televangelists, lapdog GOP loyalists who will provide a theological rationale for whatever a Republican President wants to do, and a host of "Christian Zionist" ideologues instead of genuine theologians.

A Commander-in-Chief who follows the foreign policy guidance of "Armageddonists" and "Left-Behind pop theologians" only serves to guarantee that their fanciful interpretations of apocalyptic literature become reality.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Religious Leaders Challenge Corporate Farms

Ethics Daily has posted a story about "Religious Leaders Call for Just Farm Bill." Here's a quote:

In prepared remarks, (Earl) Trent said the Progressive National Baptist Convention, founded in 1961, the convention of Martin Luther King, has in its "organizational DNA" a central concern for "the least, the lost and the left out of our society."

Current farm policies, Trent said, are inequitable. Commodity subsidies to black farmers are "abysmally low," he said. Out of every $100,000 given for subsidies, black farmers receive three dollars.

Those policies endanger African-American farms, Trent said. In 1910, there were 215,000 African-American farmers owning 15 million acres of land. By 1992 those numbers had declined to 18,000 African-American farmers and 2 million acres.
African-American farmers are not alone in being neglected by farm subsidies. Small farmers of every race have been neglected for decades. The effects of policies that have long been skewed to the advantage of large corporate farms is being felt around the world.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Testing my iphone

If this works, the days of lugging a laptop on plane trips are over.

Sent from my iPhone

On Assertive Liberalism (Updated)

Theo Hobson has written an interesting essay about the need for an "assertive liberalism." He overstates his case a bit with his use of the language of "salvation," but he addresses a valid concern. Here's a quote:

The problem with liberalism is that it gravitates towards being a merely negative position; it seems to mean little more than "live and let live". If you don't bother me, I won't bother you. It's really just a mask for selfish individualism, isn't it? No: this is a slur put about by the enemies of liberalism. In reality it is a positive social vision: of shared freedom forming the basis of the best possible form of society. Liberalism is not just the least worst thing: it is the best thing. We need to renew the idea that liberalism is a form of salvation.

Salvation? Yes. Consider the case of the young woman forced into an arranged marriage, who is threatened with death if she disobeys her father. Our political culture defends her right to defy her father; it defends this right absolutely and unequivocally. It saves her from patriarchal tyranny. Where is our pride in this? If we do not learn to feel proper pride in this, we are in trouble.

We need a new sense of pride in the liberal state, as the highest form of political and cultural life. And we need a new spirit of hostility to those who denigrate it. Those who scorn the liberal ideal, on Islamist or other grounds, must be answered more sharply than they presently are. It must be strongly asserted that their idea of the good society is inferior to ours. Theirs is less civilised. This will cause offence but the offence is very necessary.
(Hat tip to Robert Cunningham for calling my attention to Hobson's essay.)

Monday, July 16, 2007

The Texas Observer on the SBC Renegade Bloggers

The Texas Observer has published a valuable report discussing "Regengade Bloggers Beseige the Southern Baptist Convention." Here's a quote:

To wage their battle, they have taken up the newest tool for loudmouths and deep-thinking outsiders of all stripes and faiths—blogs. Much of Cole's visibility to ordinary Southern Baptist preachers (the "bubba-pastors," he calls them) has been through his blog, baptistblog.wordpress.com, one of a handful written by reform-minded pastors that have sprung up in the past two years. The missives are widely read by many SBC leaders and are linked to by countless other bloggers, probably thousands, who add to the discussion. All this blogging energy has created a new power base within the SBC that circumvents the establishment, particularly the traditional Baptist media, and attracts fellow travelers. "You and I may have met at the coffee shop and talked about how frustrated we were with the Southern Baptist structure, but with blogs the conversation happens so that thousands of people can see they’re not the only ones who thought that way," says Marty Duren, a pastor in Georgia who ran an influential blog, www.sbcoutpost.com, until recently.

Bloggers have become the new Baptist bogeymen. For non-Baptists, their ascendance may well mean that the voice of the Southern Baptist Convention, a potent political force for decades, will become more diffuse, less able to coordinate its attacks on secular culture, and less powerful in national politics.

Cheney Pushing Bush to Strike Iran

The Guardian UK is reporting that Vice President "Cheney Pushes Bush to Act on Iran" and, as usual, Bush is inclined to follow Cheney's lead. Here's a quote:

The vice-president, Dick Cheney, has long favoured upping the threat of military action against Iran. He is being resisted by the secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, and the defence secretary, Robert Gates.

Last year Mr Bush came down in favour of Ms Rice, who along with Britain, France and Germany has been putting a diplomatic squeeze on Iran. But at a meeting of the White House, Pentagon and state department last month, Mr Cheney expressed frustration at the lack of progress and Mr Bush sided with him. "The balance has tilted. There is cause for concern," the source said this week.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Pope Benedict and the Death of Ecumenism

Pope Benedict declared this week that Christians in communions outside Roman Catholicism are not in churches. John Hooper has written an Op-Ed about "The Churches that Aren't" for the Guardian which describes the implications of the Vatican's "clarification" for ecumenism. Here's a quote:

After the Vatican's latest "clarification" -- to the effect that Protestant religious communities do not even merit being described as churches - you cannot help but marvel at the tenacity of other denominations in pursuing talks with Rome on Christian unity. Especially since -- let us not forget -- those discussions were launched, back in the 1960s, largely at the prompting of Catholic leaders following the Second Vatican Council.

Is there any point in other Christians continuing to discuss unification with a church whose leadership goes out of its way to say that it is not just the sole custodian of eternal truth, but the only sure path to salvation from that hell the pope said recently is real?
(Hat tip to Robert Cunningham for calling my attention to Hooper's essay.)

Friday, July 13, 2007

A Defining Moment (Updated)

I just watched Bill Moyers Journal on "Tough Talk About Impeachment."

Without a doubt, it is the most important, timely and memorable news report that I have ever seen.

Moyers has clearly identified why we are living at a defining moment in both American history and world history.

Every American needs to watch this report.

Here's a link to the video. Here's a link to the transcript.

Deregulated Cuisine Could Make You Lean

Rick Perlstein of the Tom Paine website has posted an alarming essay about the quality of America's food supply in a time of government deregulation. Here's his conclusion:

In the six years since 9/11, food-borne pathogens and toxins have quietly killed ten times the number of Americans who died in the terrorist attacks. How many more Americans must conservatism kill before our leaders embrace a more responsible ideology?

Washing Out Bad News

Williams Rivers Pitt has posted an essay with an interesting metaphor for the penchant this administration has for issuing terrorist alerts after every significant release of news that is damaging to the current leadership of the executive branch of government. Here's a quote:

The recipe is simple, like the directions on the back of a shampoo bottle. Damaging reports of Bush administration malfeasance emerge. Warnings of imminent terrorist-borne doom immediately follow, all spread far and wide by said Bush administration. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Support our Troops

The Atlanta Journal Constitution is reporting that "Free Calls Home to End for Soldiers." The Freedom Call Foundation, which provides troops with free phone calls home, is running out of money.

Providing free phone calls home is a good way to show support for our troops.

Here's a link to the Freedom Call Foundation.

Support the troops, not the war.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

On the Divisiveness of Civil Religion

A Hindu chaplain was disrupted today as he was opening a Senate hearing in prayer. Three people were arrested for shouting that his prayers were an "abomination."

Genuine prayer is an act of worship. That is why it is not appropriate for it to be sponsored by civil government. The generic ceremonial prayers of civil religion and interfaith prayers are offensive to people of many faiths who take the scriptures of their diverse faiths seriously.

Rather than insisting that persons of any faith should participate in acts of worship led by persons of a different faith, the government should be preserving a strict separation of church and state. Moments of silence are the most that are appropriate for government to sponsor in a pluralistic society.

Rich Men Robbing the Poor

Mitch Randall's blog about Southern Baptists holding up Baptists in Northern Ghana for missionary outposts reminds me of Nathan's parable before King David. Randall was recently on a mission trip to Ghana with His Nets. Here's what Randall learned from a Ghanian Baptist mission pastor serving at a severely impoverished village:

The pastor told us that he and his wife were sitting at their home one day when a Catholic priest came by and asked to see the property. The pastor inquired to the reason why. The priest told him that he was negotiating the purchase of the house from the Southern Baptists.

In fear of losing his home and launching pad for ministry, he quickly called the local Southern Baptist representative in Accra. The Southern Baptist missionary confirmed the sale of the property, but instructed him that if he were interested in purchasing the property he could buy it for $18,000, the same price they were going to sell it to the Catholics. He quickly got on the phone. Between the Ghanian Baptist Convention and this pastor’s strong desire to keep his home and ministry center, they were able to raise the $18,000 for the purchase of the home. Of course, they had to take money away from other ministries that may have fed a village or provided clothing for children. One local pastor said, “Southern Baptist leaders care about our souls, but they do not realize that these souls come in a body.”
After reading about the gross mismanagement of mission money at the North American Mission Board in Mary Branson's Spending God's Money, I'm beginning to wonder whether the IMB is selling real assets at exorbitant prices and posting the proceeds as receipts to cover-up similar mismanagment and/or shortfalls in missions contributions from American churches.

Regarding Cal Thomas' View of Hillary's Faith

Ethics Daily has posted a report entitled "Cal Thomas Questions Hillary Clinton's Christianity." Thomas recently declared that Hillary Clinton "not a person who believes in the central tenets of Christianity." Bob Allen, managing editor of Ethics Daily, accurately records my response to Thomas' Op-Ed:

Bruce Prescott, president of the Oklahoma chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church & State, told EthicsDaily.com he isn't a fan of Hillary Clinton or of politicians giving testimonies while on the campaign trail, but Thomas' attack on her faith is "beyond the pale."

"Thomas apparently equates his own brand of political conservativism with orthodox Christianity and derides those who disagree with him as proponents of 'works salvation,'" Prescott said. "His attack is directed not only against her, but against Christians of every stripe who take the social teachings of Christ seriously."

"It's well past time for conservatives like Thomas, who make claims for the authority of Scripture, to stop shredding those pages that disagree with their personal political views," said Prescott, who also is executive director of Mainstream Oklahoma Baptists.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Gushee's Rules for Christians in Politics

David Gushee, soon to be teaching ethics at Mercer University, provides an outstanding list of seventeen rules for Christians in politics. Here are the boldest rules:

3. Christian leaders must not publicly handicap or comment upon the political horse race.

4. Christian leaders must not provide private or public advice to particular politicians, parties or campaigns concerning how they can strategize in order to win evangelical or Christian votes.

5. Christian leaders must not calibrate their public teachings or writings in order to affect the outcome of political elections or to gain and hold the support of politicians.

6. Christian leaders must not attend political rallies or campaign events of one candidate or party unless they are prepared to attend rallies and events of all candidates and parties.
Someone needs to send Richard Land and Jim Wallis a copy of Gushee's book.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Knotheaded Neo-Cons Never Learn

William Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard and one of America's foremost Neo-conservative intellectuals, is deriding the Republican Senators who are talking about withdrawing troops from Iraq. Here's what Jim Lobe quotes him as saying:

"They are pre-9/11 Republicans," wrote William Kristol, the editor of the Weekly Standard, about Sens. Richard Lugar, George Voinovich, Pete Dominici, and John Warner, the four most-senior Republicans who have called for a change of course in Iraq over the past week.

"They have been followers of conventional opinion (during their 20-plus-year Senate careers), not leaders," he went on. "Now they are following conventional wisdom again, in their stately way, in turning against the Iraq war."
Kristol has been head cheerleader for war in Iraq since the end of the first Gulf war. The fact that neither he, nor the bulk of the neo-conservatives in this country, have the intellect nor integrity to admit that they made a humongous mistake in calling for war with Iraq does not speak well for the annointed intelligensia of the United States.

Kristol is no intellectual. Intellectuals can learn from their mistakes. Only knotheads refuse to admit that they make them.

Scarborough Launches Political Crusade in Baptist Churches

Don Wilkey has posted a story about Rick Scarborough's New Crusade on the Talk to Action website. Scarborough is a key leader among Texas Baptist Fundamentalists who heads Vision America, a theocratic right get-out-the-vote machine. Here's a quote from Wilkey:

Rick Scarborough's new idea of a crusade -- launched in Lufkin, Texas on July 5th -- is a radical departure from his past. His mentor, the late Jerry Falwell claimed in a PBS documentary on the Religious Right, that the old idea that holding revivals and winning converts meant the nation would move in the right direction was flawed. Rick used to hold revival meetings known in those circles often as "crusades," in which unchurched people were called upon to profess faith in Christ and Christians were called to turn from sin and resume following Jesus.

Now Rick's idea of leading a Crusade has more to do with calling people to get involved in politics, specifically the right wing of the GOP. Rick used to give an invitation at the end of his earlier crusades asking people to come forward to respond to Christ. Recently it was reported that Rick uses the same technique to invite people to sign-up for the Republican Party.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Libby Pardon was Last Straw for D.C. Pastor

Ethics Daily has posted Amy Butler's July 4th Letter to President Bush. Butler is pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Washington, D.C. Butler says that the commuting of Scooter Libby was the "last straw" for her. Here's a quote:

This most recent decision of yours, to make sure Scooter Libby escapes a prison term, while not surprising, seems to be the last straw for me. I'm tired of sitting on the sidelines while you destroy our country's international reputation, alienate our neighbors, and slowly chip away at the freedoms that have made our country great.

Maybe you feel you're protected enough to behave in whatever manner you want, to leave democracy and the American people in the dust while you keep your friends happy, but I want you to know I'm tired of it all. For the first time in my adult life I am genuinely alarmed about the kind of country I will be handing off to my kids.

I'm not hoping, of course, that you will see the light, change your ways, fix the damage you've done … it's, frankly, far too extensive by now. I just wanted to say: I am disappointed in you ... disappointed that you don't have the courage to be a visionary leader to a country with such promise. You missed the boat, but I, for one, will not stand by anymore while you leave democracy in the dust.

Washington Post Embraces Blogs

Editor & Publisher has posted the Washington Post's memo to staffers about the ten principles that the nation's premier magazine embraces for the web. The fifth principle demonstrates the status that blogging has achieved in the field of journalism:

5. Post journalism published online has the same value as journalism published in the newspaper. We embrace chats, blogs and multimedia presentations as contributions to our journalism.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

What's the Matter With Kansas? Little Empathy

Five shoppers were recently video taped stepping over a woman who was attacked and dying to complete their purchases at a convenience store in Wichita, Kansas. One even took pictures of her on a cell phone. Here's a quote:

"This is one of the most disgusting examples of disregard for life I've ever seen," (Police Chief) Bassham said of the video. "It is a very, very tragic video to watch. It was revolting to see this lack of humanity."

The video showed the 27-year-old Calloway struggling to her feet and collapsing three times without anyone helping her.

Worse, one woman who stepped over Calloway four times while shopping eventually paused to snap a photo of her with a cell phone.
The name of LaShanda Calloway has joined that of Kitty Genovese as witnesses to the apathy and callous disregard of many Americans.

Contractors Outnumber Troops in Iraq

The Los Angeles Times has published a report indicating that the number of private contractors outnumber the number of American troops in Iraq. This "coalition of the billing" in place of a "coalition of the willing" has alarmed some military experts. Here's a quote:

Continuing uncertainty over the numbers of armed contractors drew special criticism from military experts.

"We don't have control of all the coalition guns in Iraq. That's dangerous for our country," said William Nash, a retired Army general and reconstruction expert. The Pentagon "is hiring guns. You can rationalize it all you want, but that's obscene."

Olbermann's Accusation

Keith Olbermann provided an astute list of accusations against President Bush and Vice President Cheney. Here's his conclusion:

The twists and turns of Plame-Gate, of your precise and intricate lies that sent us into this bottomless pit of Iraq; your lies upon the lies to discredit Joe Wilson; your lies upon the lies upon the lies to throw the sand at the “referee” of Prosecutor Fitzgerald’s analogy. These are complex and often painful to follow, and too much, perhaps, for the average citizen.

But when other citizens render a verdict against your man, Mr. Bush-and then you spit in the faces of those jurors and that judge and the judges who were yet to hear the appeal-the average citizen understands that, Sir.

It’s the fixed ballgame and the rigged casino and the pre-arranged lottery all rolled into one-and it stinks. And they know it.

Nixon’s mistake, the last and most fatal of them, the firing of Archibald Cox, was enough to cost him the presidency. And in the end, even Richard Nixon could say he could not put this nation through an impeachment.

It was far too late for it to matter then, but as the decades unfold, that single final gesture of non-partisanship, of acknowledged responsibility not to self, not to party, not to “base,” but to country, echoes loudly into history. Even Richard Nixon knew it was time to resign

Would that you could say that, Mr. Bush. And that you could say it for Mr. Cheney. You both crossed the Rubicon yesterday. Which one of you chose the route, no longer matters. Which is the ventriloquist, and which the dummy, is irrelevant.

But that you have twisted the machinery of government into nothing more than a tawdry machine of politics, is the only fact that remains relevant.

It is nearly July 4th, Mr. Bush, the commemoration of the moment we Americans decided that rather than live under a King who made up the laws, or erased them, or ignored them-or commuted the sentences of those rightly convicted under them-we would force our independence, and regain our sacred freedoms.

We of this time-and our leaders in Congress, of both parties-must now live up to those standards which echo through our history: Pressure, negotiate, impeach-get you, Mr. Bush, and Mr. Cheney, two men who are now perilous to our Democracy, away from its helm.

For you, Mr. Bush, and for Mr. Cheney, there is a lesser task. You need merely achieve a very low threshold indeed. Display just that iota of patriotism which Richard Nixon showed, on August 9th, 1974.

My sentiments exactly.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Are We Like Rome?

Richard Gwyn of the Toronto Star has posted an interesting essay about "Is the US Mirroring Rome?" Here's a quote:

There is the same gap between rich and poor. Far wider in Rome, which had almost no middle class, but far more socially destructive in the U.S. because of America’s founding myth as an egalitarian society. Once that belief is lost, can belief in democracy, a contradiction in terms in a wildly unequal society, be sustained?

Monday, July 02, 2007

Shaking the Foundations of Democracy

President Bush has commuted Scooter Libby's conviction for lying under oath and obstructing justice.

This President has demonstrated utter contempt for the principle of equality under the rule of law.

The sliding scale of justice being used by this administration is beyond disgust.

There is little doubt in my mind that George W. Bush refused to commute death sentences for convicts that were more deserving of leniency than Libby.

This is far worse than Watergate. The foundations of American democracy are shaking.

Randall Balmer on Prayer in Public Schools

Randall Balmer, author of Thy Kingdom Come, spoke last Friday at the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty luncheon. He received sustained applause for a statement he made about the impropriety of government mandated prayers in public schools. Here's what he said:

"I, for one, have no interest in having my daughter or my son recite a Shinto prayer at the beginning of school each day. Much less a prayer written by Congress or the state legislature or even a local school board. Baptists, of all people, understand that making prayer rote and obligatory makes prayer into a mockery."
Here's a link to a 30 second podcast of Balmer's statement.