Sunday, September 30, 2007

Iran: The Neo-Cons Last Stand

The UK Telegraph has published a story that fully reveals the desperation of the neo-conservative architects of American foreign policy. Here's a quote:

Opponents of military action were further alarmed last week when it emerged that Norman Podhoretz, one of the godfathers of neo-conservatism, used a 45-minute meeting with Mr Bush at the White House to lobby for the bombing of Iran's nuclear plants.

Mr Podhoretz disclosed that, when he said Mr Bush was just "giving futility its chance" by pursuing diplomacy, the president and his former aide Karl Rove had burst out laughing. "It struck me," Mr Podhoretz added, "that if they really believed that there was a chance for these negotiations and sanctions to work, they would not have laughed. They would have got their backs up and said, 'No, no, it's not futile, there's a very good chance'." He said he believed "Bush is going to hit" Iran before his presidency ends.

Mr Podhoretz is highly influential. His son-in-law is Elliott Abrams, Mr Bush's deputy national security adviser, who is regarded by US officials as a key advocate of bombing Iran. He was found guilty of withholding evidence from Congress over the Iran-Contra scandal in the 1980s.

Concern is also growing in the CIA and the Pentagon that the White House exaggerated intelligence used to justify an Israeli air raid on a suspected nuclear facility in Syria earlier this month, which some neo-conservatives hope is a precursor to war with Iran.

Bruce Reidel, a former CIA Middle East desk officer, said the neo-conservatives realised their influence would wane rapidly when Mr Bush left office in just over 15 months. "Whatever crazy idea they have to try to transform the Middle East, they have to push now. The real hardline neo-conservatives are getting desperate that the door of history is about to close on them with an epitaph of total failure."
How many American soldiers must die to salve the bruised ego's of those who led us into the war in Iraq?

Friday, September 28, 2007

The Color of American Justice

Aidsand Wright-Riggins, Executive Director of National Ministries of the American Baptist Churches, has issued a challenge for New Covenant Baptists to examine the statistics on the ethnicity of the people incarcerated in American prisons in light of the Nazareth Manifesto (Luke 4:18-19). Here's a quote from his appeal:

I realized that I personally know more young African-American men who have been imprisoned than those who are members of college fraternities. An entire lucrative industry has grown up around the incarceration of African American men.

Some two million United States citizens are now in federal and state prisons, and the vast majority of these prisoners are nonwhite. Mother Jones' exhaustive analysis of U.S. incarceration rates shows a locked-down nation--with African-Americans, who make up only 13 percent of the general population, comprising an extremely disproportionate number of prisoners.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Is Fascism a Danger in America?

Chris Rowthorn, an American Journalist based in Kyoto, Japan, has a disturbing essay published on the left-wing "Smirking Chimp" website. He realizes that "for most Americans, it seems absurd or even hysterical to declare that we are living in a fascist state." Nevertheless, he proceeds to assert that,

At this point, it is clear that America is in the early stages of fascism; it hasn't yet metastasized into the outright jackbooted fascism of Nazi Germany. But the country is poised like a boulder at the top of a slope, ready to roll into the abyss. In fact, it will take a miracle to keep this from happening. Consider the factors that could easily unleash outright fascism in the United States: the accelerating collapse of the US dollar; the follow-on effects from the subprime loan debacle; soaring energy prices (peak oil); catastrophic weather events caused by global warming; and, of course, the one thing that Bush's entire foreign policy seems almost guaranteed to bring about: another large-scale terrorist attack on American soil. Any one of these by itself could trigger outright fascism. Combine two or more, and American fascism is 100% certain.
Rowthorn is not alone in raising the specter of fascism. Chris Hedges brought it up in his book American Fascists and Naomi Wolf makes a readable and succinct case for it in her latest book The End of America.

Others, more cautious about using the word fascist, are issuing warnings that are equally alarming. Naomi Klein chronicles the rise of "disaster capitalism" in an outstanding new book entitled The Shock Doctrine. Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the Pentagon Papers during the Vietnam War Era, recently gave a speech that says "a coup has occurred" and warns about the possibility of a "police state."

The terms of political debate in this country are clearly shifting.

Blackwater "Out of Control" in Iraq

The Washington Post has published an article about Blackwater that describes the recent debacle in Iraq as "worse than Abu Ghraib." Here's a quote:

"Many of my peers think Blackwater is oftentimes out of control," said a senior U.S. commander serving in Iraq. "They often act like cowboys over here . . . not seeming to play by the same rules everyone else tries to play by."

"Many of us feel that when Blackwater and other groups conduct military missions, they should be subject to the same controls under which the Army operates," said Marc Lindemann, who served in Iraq with the 4th Infantry Division and is now an officer in the New York National Guard and a state prosecutor.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

On America's Corrupt Education Policies

President Bush was in New York today pushing for reauthorization of his "No Child Left Behind" legislation. He said,
"The No Child Left Behind Act is working. I say that because the Nation's Report Card says it's working."
That's a fairly corrupt interpretation of the Nation's Report Card. A better analysis is offered by a Time Magazine report:

NCLB's big push to close the achievement gap between ethnic and racial groups shows mixed results. While the gap in math scores narrowed a bit between blacks and whites, the gap persisted for Hispanics and whites. The same was true with the results in reading. Another possible sign of trouble: average math scores for all students have been rising more slowly over the past two years than they did between 2000 and 2003 — before NCLB went into full effect.

In reading, 4th grade scores have been rising gradually since 1996 and were up two points on this year's test. But progress in 8th grade remains elusive: the average 8th grade score (263) was the same in 2007 as it was in 2003 and 1998.
The truth is, there is very little evidence that this administration's "No Child Left Behind" policy is working better than the policies of previous administrations. There is a lot of evidence that it is corrupting more and more students, teachers, administrators and politicians as the program's ill-advised and unreasonable pressures to demonstrate progress increase.

For a thorough discussion of the devastating effects of high stakes testing on our educational system see Collateral Damage: How High Stakes Testing Corrupts America's Schools by Sharon Nichols and David Berliner.

Click here to listen to a podcast (27MB MP3) of my 9-16-07 "Religious Talk" radio interview about "No Child Left Behind" legislation with Dr. David Berliner, Regents Professor of Education at Arizona State University.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Whatever Became of Paul Debusman

Jerry Grace at the SBC Outhouse Weblog sent me an e-mail last week that compared and contrasted Paige Patterson's firing of Sheri Klouda with Al Mohler's firing of Paul Debusman.

Paul Debusman was reference librarian at Southern Seminary for 35 years.

He was terminated 10 months prior to his retirement for the "harm" he supposedly did to the Seminary in writing a personal letter to SBC President Tom Elliff. The letter advised Elliff that he erred in proclaiming that before the takeover Fundamentalists were not invited to speak at the Seminary Chapel. Debusman wrote: "Chapel as I remembered it from the '50s, '60s, '70s and '80s was a time when we heard everyone. There was a deliberate strategy to bring in different points of view. That is no longer true." Eliff, then president of the Southern Baptist Convention, registered a complaint with Southern Seminary President Al Mohler that resulted in the dismissal of Debusman.

The fundamentalist leaders of the SBC have had very thin skin for a long time.

Whatever became of Paul Debusman?

Jerry Grace has an answer. He wrote about the effect that termination had on Debusman in the e-mail that he sent to me. Here's what he says,
He is a man who is regularly on my heart and about whom I have done a lot of research.

If there is any situation in our history where someone more innocent was assassinated without any reason other than pure power politics, I do not know who or when. I cannot allow the passage of time to dim the brutal nature of what happened to this gentle and innocent man. Friends of his have told me that if you were in a room of people including ten clones of him, you would never notice one of them. I grieve for him and his family and I grieve for a seminary board who could have condoned this. Were the three high officials involved in this sad act, Mohler, Eliff, and Akin on my payroll, I would have fired all three of them. All of them have gone on to bigger and better things but have left this situation ignored and unrepented. Paul Debusman however has suffered enormously.

Al Mohler this past week called for a circling of the wagons in the SBC leadership for the character assassinations going so far to say that none of them will tolerate an individual attack on any of them. If that doesn't sound like someone drunk with power, and fearful of personal exposure I don't know what does.

My question to Al as he decries the criticism and character assassination of SBC leaders this question. What about the assassination of Paul Debusman? Who stood to defend him as you humiliated him and took his career away with only months to go?

What about Paul Debusman? For me he is the embodiment of the millions of humble men and women who have served God, their churches, and their denomination without need of recognition or any aspect of vainglory so evident in the good Dr. Mohler and those who assisted him. He is the man or woman who brings life to our churches in thousands of unnoticed ways. He's the guy who comes down to light the heater, or fill the baptistery, or mow the lawn, or paint the ceiling in the nursery. The one who is always there to serve as a greeter, always taking out the garbage at a social event without being asked, the one who brings his pressure cleaner down to clean the portico just because it was dirty. He's the lady who faithfully says yes everytime she is asked to fix something for a funeral, or decorate the sanctuary, or clean the kitchen, the toilets, scrub the floors till they shine, and never expect anyone to notice. Paul Debusman is my beginner teacher, my sword drill leader, my VBS superintendent, the man who cried for me when my father died and said he wished it had been him and meant it. he's my mother, my grandmother, my father, my aunts, my uncles and countless pastors just getting by. That's who Paul Debusman is and in allowing that decision to happen and stand is just as much an attack on every last one of the terrific, ordinary, invisible, unselfish, loyal, and committed men and women that breathe life and meaning into what the word Baptist means as it was to him. If we can't stand against what happened to Paul Debusman then we have a hard time standing for anything.

. . . Mohler, Eliff, and Akin need to make this right with a public apology to Debusman, an apology to the people of the Southern Baptist Convention, and the payment personally of sufficient damages to in some way acknowledge this very bad act. Until they do, the criticism Mohler says the leaders won't tolerate, will not end. And until they do their integrity deserves the questions that they have brought on themselves.
I agree.

Monday, September 24, 2007

NorthHaven Profile

The "Religious Talk" radio program added a new feature Sunday.

My son, Will Prescott, a graduate student in the professional writing program at the University of Oklahoma and an intern for KGOU (the local NPR affiliate), started doing a segment on "Profiles of Courageous Churches."

Yesterday he did a profile of NorthHaven Church in Norman, Oklahoma where Mitch Randall is pastor. Here's a link to a seven minute podcast (6.5 MB MP3) of his interview with Mitch.

Is War a Family Value?

Bill Berkowitz has published some valuable insights from contributors to the Talk to Action weblog.

The insights are about how the Religious Right is working to "sell" the Iraq war to "values voters."

Nothing could be more abominable than to invoke Jesus' name in support of an unjust war.

Cheney Establishes Iran Strike Force

Raw Story has published a report that Vice President Cheney has reestablished an elite Air Force strike wing in preparations for war with Iran.

CNN is reporting that former National Security Advisor Zbiegniew Brzezinski is warning that the U.S. is being stampeded into war with Iran.

Generals Against the War

An unprecedented number of U.S. Generals have spoken out against continuing the war in Iraq.

Is anybody listening?

Friday, September 21, 2007

Almighty Dollar?

Wall Street celebrated when Ben Bernanke and the Federal Reserve lowered the interest rate a couple days ago. It looked to them like the government was signaling that it would bail out the hedge fund speculators and bankers that helped create a housing bubble in the U.S.

Now, investors around the world that have helped prop up the value of the dollar (while we simultaneously cut taxes and mortgaged the future to start wars) are beginning to shift their money to other currencies.

The shell game that this administration has played with our economy is almost over.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Turkey Should Lift the Ban on Headscarves

Turkey's new prime minister wants the ban on women wearing headscarves removed.

Secularists in Turkey are alarmed. They see any relaxing of the ban on headscarves as a move toward theocracy.

The Turkish ban on headscarves reveals the difference between the secularist form of government that has been imposed on Muslims in Turkey and the separation of church and state that prevails in the United States.

In the United States, the First Amendment prohibits Congress from establishing any law that would establish a religion to undergird and bolster the legitimacy of the government. Our government is secular because it is founded by social contract on the mutual consent of the governed. It is not founded on religion.

The First Amendment of our Constitution also assures that Congress can pass no law that would prohibit the free exercise of religion. Our secular form government of government is not secularist. Our government is not opposed to religious expression. It protects every individual's right to express his or her own faith as long as it does not impose upon the freedom of others.

In the United States, the right of Muslim women to wear headscarves is protected by the free exercise clause of the First Amendment because, for some Muslim women, wearing headscarves is a requirement of their faith.

What would not be permitted in the U.S. would be an insistence by Congress or by any elected official that all women wear headscarves. That would be an establishment of religion and deny the freedom of non-Muslim women to follow the dictates of their own consciences.

The Christian Fundamentalists who complain that God has been kicked out of public schools because children are no longer forced to recite state sponsored prayers have the same mindset as Muslims who would force every woman to wear a headscarf.

My experience with the Turkish Institute for Interfaith Dialog and the followers of Fetulah Gulen convinces me that Turkey has little to fear from Prime Minister Erdogan and his wife.

The specter of theocracy casts a far longer shadow over the Christian Right in America, than it does over moderate Muslims in Turkey. Outside their mosques, I never heard one of them suggest that non-Muslim women should wear head scarves.

American Baptist Pastor Defends Jena 6

Thanks to Ethics Daily for highlighting the role of Alan Bean in calling attention to the racist form of justice being meted out to six African-American teenagers in Jena, Louisiana.

Bean, an American Baptist Pastor in Arlington, Texas, is founder of Friends of Justice.

His efforts to call attention to the inequitable treatment that these students were receiving has attracted international attention to their case.

When the whole world is watching, the scales of justice begin to balance themselves. An appeals court in Louisiana is already reversing some of the decisions of the lower courts in Jena.

The incident in Jena, like a similar incident in Wynnewood, Oklahoma in 2000, reveals how much work remains to rid our society of racism.

Monday, September 17, 2007

One Nation Under Surveillance

I participated in a Constitution Day forum sponsored by the ACLU at the University of Oklahoma school of law this evening. The theme of the forum was "One Nation Under Surveillance." Here is the text of my opening remarks:

Our Nation is under surveillance for fear of terrorists. Terrorists are people who have given up hope of finding justice in this world. Their aim is either to change the world or destroy it. In their eyes, they’ve got nothing to lose.

The fact that some people have nothing to lose, while the rest of us have a lot to lose, is probably what frightens us most. Nihilistic despair in a world with weapons of mass destruction threatens everyone with annihilation. But, rather than doing something to restore the spirit and dignity of those who have no hope, we keep ignoring their grievances, compounding the injustices that lead them to despair, and then we develop ever more sophisticated technology to save ourselves from their murderous wrath.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not opposed to technology. Some technology can help. But better technology is not going to solve the problem of terrorism and it will lull us into a false sense of security.

Technology cannot save us from ourselves. The computers we build to preserve our freedom threaten to enslave us. The information we store in databases, ostensibly to protect us -- threatens us with real harm.

Fallible human being will always be making the decisions about who poses a threat to society, and who has access to information, and how that information will be interpreted and used. After Hurricane Katrina, who needs to be reminded that blind faith in human institutions is always misplaced and the people leading them often prove incompetent, unreliable or simply overwhelmed? And worse, over the last six years we have seen politicians stretch the trust of a freedom-loving people to the breaking point by repeatedly arrogating powers that are devoid of constitutional checks and balances.

We must especially beware that the liberties we have suspended for fear of terrorists could easily be forfeited for generations to come. America will never be the same if we retreat from two and a quarter centuries of hard won civil liberties. Never before have we settled for being the land of the safe and the home of the secure. We’ve always had the courage to strive to be the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Instead of the frightful overreaction we have witnessed since September 11th, our nation would do better if it would respond to terrorism the way the people of Oklahoma responded to domestic terrorism when he Murrah Federal Building was bombed. That bomb did not prompt us to surrender our civil rights or to infringe upon the rights of others. Unlike our federal government:

We did not suspend the constitution.

We did not send the police out to round-up, lock-up or expel all the foreigners and immigrants in town.

We did not hold suspects indefinitely without access to the courts or to counsel.

We did not tape conversations between suspects and their lawyers.

We did not suspend the laws requiring probable cause for wiretaps or search warrants.

We did not expand the role of the military or private mercenary armies in domestic law enforcement.

We did not torture suspects to obtain information.

We did not create a military tribunal to try and execute suspects without applying the Constitution or state and federal laws.

We did not endorse assassination as an alternative to capture.

And, we did not create a massive computer system to keep tabs on every aspect of our citizen’s daily lives.

What we did was to rescue survivors, clean-up the wreckage, rebuild our city and bring the criminals to justice. The bombing of the Murrah Federal Building did not destroy the freedom-loving, risk-taking, self-sacrificing spirit of the people of Oklahoma.

Neither should the criminal acts of a few terrorists destroy the freedom-loving, risk-taking, self-sacrificing spirit of our nation.

Here's a link to the KGOU broadcast of the forum. My speech is midway through the first MP3.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Are Public Schools Failing?

Ed Sunday-Winters has posted an ironic list of ten ways that public schools are failing at Ethics Daily.

It is an outstanding list. I agree with all of them. All ten failures make them a success as educators in a pluralistic democracy.

Here's what I think is the best reason he gives:

4. They fail to advocate the beliefs of one particular religion.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Timing the Attack on Iran for Maximum Impact

In his remarks at OU yesterday, former Secretary of State Colin Powell said that he thought our nation's differences with North Korea and Iran could be settled by diplomacy. Today's Jerusalem Post, however, is reporting that the U.S. attack on Iran will be timed for maximum impact on the U.S. presidential election next year. Here's a quote:

Germany's unwillingness to impose further sanctions on Iran has pushed the United States closer towards a decision on a military strike, FOX News reported on Wednesday.

According to the report, Germany's decision has spurred senior US army officials to try and convince US Foreign Secretary Condoleezza Rice to abandon once and for all the diplomatic route of preventing a nuclear Iran. The report further stated that the date of preference for an attack against Iran is in eight to 10 months -- after the US presidential candidates for both the Democrats and the Republicans have been chosen, but before the major presidential campaign kicks off.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Powell Warns About a U.S. "Terror Industrial Complex"

Former Secretary of State, General Colin Powell spoke at the University of Oklahoma this afternoon. My son, Will, interviewed Powell for the OU Daily immediately before he entered the hall to give his speech.

Will asked him to expound on a comment he made to GQ Magazine about a "terror industrial complex." He also asked his opinion of the expanded use of private contractors, like Blackwater, in Iraq and the propriety of paying them more than military personnel.

Here's a link to the video of Will Prescott's interview with Colin Powell. Here's a link to Will's story about Powell's speech.

U.K. Troops Sent to Iran Border

The Independent is reporting that British troops are being sent to the border with Iran at the request of the U.S. The paper cites testimony from Gen. Petraeus before Congress to explain the movement. Here's a quote:

The move came as General David Petraeus, the US commander in Iraq, and Ryan Crocker, the US ambassador to Iraq, made some of the strongest accusations yet by US officials about Iranian activity. General Petraeus spoke on Monday of a "proxy war" in Iraq, while Mr Crocker accused the Iranian government of "providing lethal capabilities to the enemies of the Iraqi state."

In an interview after his appearance before a congressional panel on Monday, General Petraeus strongly implied that it would soon be necessary to obtain authorisation to take action against Iran within its own borders, rather than just inside Iraq. "There is a pretty hard look ongoing at that particular situation" he said.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Paving the Way for War Against Iran

I haven't been able to listen to the testimony by Gen. Petraeus as much as I would like, but I've heard enough to draw at least one conclusion. He's doing his best to blame Iran for the bulk of U.S. and Iraqi failures in Iraq.

For a little perspective, perhaps we should listen to the warning that Zbigniew Brzezinski, former National Security Advisor in the Carter Administration, gave to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on February 1, 2007:

If the United States continues to be bogged down in a protracted bloody involvement in Iraq, the final destination on this downhill track is likely to be a head-on conflict with Iran and with much of the world of Islam at large. A plausible scenario for a military collision with Iran involves Iraqi failure to meet the benchmarks; followed by accusations of Iranian responsibility for the failure; then by some provocation in Iraq or a terrorist act in the U.S. blamed on Iran; culminating in a "defensive" U.S. military action against Iran that plunges a lonely America into a spreading and deepening quagmire eventually ranging across Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.
Here's a link to a transcript of Brzezinski's full statement before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Why Wasn't Petraeus Under Oath?

General Petraeus' testimony before congress was supposed to be under oath.

Why was he permitted to testify without swearing to tell the truth?

Why was former CIA Analyst Ray McGovern thrown out of the hearing for insisting that he be sworn in?

Here's a link to Ray McGovern's statement after his expulsion from yesterday's hearing at the Armed Services Committee.

Jimmy Carter Promoting Peace

Appearing at a film festival where a biopic of the "Man from Plains" was being premiered, former President Jimmy Carter offered a stinging criticism of current U.S. foreign policy. Here's a quote:

"I worship Christ who was the prince of peace, not pre-emptive war."

"A superpower like the United States should use all of its resources ... to promote peace," he said.

Monday, September 10, 2007

On the Religious Right's Ultimate Value

Associated Press has published an enlightening story about the handwringing by the Religious Rights' political kingmakers now that Fred Thompson has entered the race for president.

As a recent article in The Daily Mail reveals, Fred Thompson is not exactly a poster boy for the Religious Right's platform for family values.

Despite Thompson's moral limitations, Richard Land, Director of the Southern Baptist Convention's political action arm, has been pushing him while slighting Mike Huckabee -- whose personal morality has been beyond reproach. Ethics Daily has even noticed that Baptist Press, the propaganda arm for the SBC, has also given Huckabee short shrift in the denomination's coverage of presidential politics.

A quote in the AP story discloses the ultimate value that is driving America's self-described "values voters:"

Tim Wildmon, president of the Tupelo, Miss.-based American Family Association, said that while he likes Huckabee, Thompson's better name recognition and fundraising potential is a strong draw for evangelicals.

"This is a dilemma a lot of people have," Wildmon said. "They want to support the candidate that most reflects their values. "But at the same time, you have to balance that against finding someone who can actually win."
Apparently, every value can be sacrificed except one -- winning.

Do You Trust Your Government?

In times past, I used to read stories about how people in the Soviet Union, China and other authoritarian states had learned to ignore the propaganda that was being disseminated as information by their leaders.

Now, as Gen. Petraeus testifies before Congress, I am reading stories about the American public's cynicism in regard to statements being made by our leaders. Here's an example from a recent essay by Glen Greenwald:

The Establishment is so invested in ensuring that the war they created can be painted as a Success, and even more so in the notion that forced withdrawal is something only the Unserious People advocate, that they will never follow their premise (we are doing nothing good in Iraq) to its logical conclusion (therefore we should force Bush to withdraw whether he wants to or not). And the entire leadership strata of our political class, including Congressional Democrats, either shares those premises and/or are far too weak and afraid to defy them. The war thus continues, and the gap between our political class and American public opinion continues to grow.

In one sense, it is quite unhealthy in a democracy for such a large majority of Americans to so distrust the political and media establishment that they even believe in advance that war reports from our leading General will be nothing more than self-serving and misleading propaganda. But in another, more important sense, when a democracy’s political establishment becomes as rotted and deceitful and corrupt as ours has become — enabling the most unpopular President in modern American history to continue what is so blatantly a senseless war for years and years, in complete defiance of what Americans want — the one encouraging sign is that a majority realizes how corrupt our establishment is and has stopped believing anything they say.
Sadly, what Greenwald says rings true -- even in conservative Oklahoma.

On Liberal and Conservative Cognitive Styles

The LA Times is reporting that recent research published in the journal Nature Neuroscience indicates that liberals and conservatives have different cognitive styles.

Here's a quote:

Frank J. Sulloway, a researcher at UC Berkeley's Institute of Personality and Social Research who was not connected to the study, said the results "provided an elegant demonstration that individual differences on a conservative-liberal dimension are strongly related to brain activity."

Analyzing the data, Sulloway said liberals were 4.9 times as likely as conservatives to show activity in the brain circuits that deal with conflicts, and 2.2 times as likely to score in the top half of the distribution for accuracy.
Apparently, this research shows that conservatives have a cognitive style that is error prone when dealing with conflict.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Carrying the Torch for Ovarian Cancer

My sister, Penni Bourque, pictured above with her daughter Michelle, is currently undergoing another round of chemotherapy for the ovarian cancer that she has been battling for the past three years. Her cancer is spreading again and is at a stage beyond surgical treatment.

Penni has also been part of a remarkable ovarian cancer support group at the Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas. The Medical Center recently published a book about her support group under the title "Torch: Tales of Remarkable Hope and Courage, edited by Becky Teter with a forward by Baylor Medical Center Chaplain Jan Aldredge-Clanton.

Here's a link to the website that is under construction for the book. The webmaster is Penni's husband David.

Prayers for Penni would be greatly appreciated.

Evangelicals for Human Rights

Here's a website devoted to what ought to be understood without sayings so, "Evangelicals for Human Rights."

Sadly, the fundamentalists who took over the Southern Baptist Convention have associated the name of evangelicals with justifications for war, rationales for torture and restrictions on human rights.

Friday, September 07, 2007

The Role of Faith in Politics

Above Tim Alexander and William Buchanan, Nashville area pastors, discuss "The Rightful Role of Faith in Politics" in an excerpt from the Baptist Center for Ethics new DVD on "Golden Rule Politics." Here's a quote from Robert Parham, Executive Director of BCE,:

Through Christian representatives from a number of Christian faith traditions, "Golden Rule Politics" explores what is the rightful role of faith in politics. Democratic politicians share their Christian witness, without ever making an exclusive claim to the politics of providence. Clergy caution that political parties are neither thoroughly moral nor completely immoral, that God is neither a Republican nor a Democrat, that sin is a universal reality and that God transcends human finitude.

"Golden Rule Politics" challenges a myth, offers a corrective story and outlines three answers to the question--what is the rightful role of faith in politics?

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Tenet Knew Iraq Had No WMD's

Sidney Blumenthal has published a story on Salon that indicates that CIA Director George Tenet was fully aware that Iraq had no WMD before the U.S. launched its pre-emptive strike against Iran.

Tenet briefed President Bush about that fact, but Bush refused to consider it. Tenet did not share this information with Condolezza Rice or Colin Powell.

Here's Blumenthal's lead:

On Sept. 18, 2002, CIA director George Tenet briefed President Bush in the Oval Office on top-secret intelligence that Saddam Hussein did not have weapons of mass destruction, according to two former senior CIA officers. Bush dismissed as worthless this information from the Iraqi foreign minister, a member of Saddam's inner circle, although it turned out to be accurate in every detail. Tenet never brought it up again.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

On Golden Rule Politics

The Baptist Center for Ethics has just released an outstanding video on religion and politics under the title of "Golden Rule Politics: Reclaiming the Rightful Role of Faith in Politics."

In a nutshell, the DVD says -- in the public square -- faith must be prophetic, not partisan.

SBC Fundamentalists Run Broadcasting Arm Into Ground

The Dallas Morning News is reporting that the Southern Baptist Convention is selling its Radio and Television Commission to Charles Stanley's "In Touch Ministries" and exiting the broadcasting business.

This is just the latest example of the gross mismanagement of Southern Baptist Convention agencies by the fundamentalists who took it over in the 1980's.

For more detailed information about the mismanagement of the SBC's North American Mission Board, see Mary Kinney Branson's Spending God's Money: Extravagance and Misuse in the Name of Ministry.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Huckabee's Reason for Tithing

Mike Huckabee was a guest on George Stepanopoulous's This Week Sunday Morning. Stephanopolous confronted him with Richard Land's refusal to support Huckabee for the GOP nomination on the basis that Huckabee will be unable to defeat Hillary Clinton in the election. In responding, Huckabee began by saying,

"Well, the first thing I'd like to do is just say, you know, all these years I've been paying my tithes to the Southern Baptist churches I belong to. I'm thinking maybe I ought to get some of my money back if Richard's not going to be a little more supportive."
This is the worst reason for tithing that I've ever heard, but it provides another good reason why denominational leaders should not be handicapping political candidates.

Thanks to Bill Jones for calling my attention to the Huckabee interview.

Monday, September 03, 2007

The World Speaking America's Language

Chris Hedges, author of War is a Force that Gives Us Meaning, has provided a worst-case senario for what might happen in a war with Iran. Here's a quote:

It is not hard to imagine what will happen. Iranian Shabab-3 and Shabab-4 missiles, which cannot reach the United States, will be launched at Israel, as well as American military bases and the Green Zone in Baghdad. Expect massive American casualties, especially in Iraq, where Iranian agents and their Iraqi allies will be able to call in precise coordinates. The Strait of Hormuz, which is the corridor for 20 percent of the world’s oil supply, will be shut down. Chinese-supplied C-801 and C-802 anti-shipping missiles, mines and coastal artillery will target U.S. shipping, along with Saudi oil production and oil export centers. Oil prices will skyrocket to well over $4 a gallon. The dollar will tumble against the euro. Hezbollah forces in southern Lebanon, interpreting the war as an attack on all Shiites, will fire rockets into northern Israel. Israel, already struck by missiles from Tehran, will begin retaliatory raids on Lebanon and Iran. Pakistan, with a huge Shiite minority, will reach greater levels of instability. The unrest could result in the overthrow of the weakened American ally President Pervez Musharraf and usher into power Islamic radicals. Pakistan could become the first radical Islamic state to possess a nuclear weapon. The neat little war with Iran, which few Democrats oppose, has the potential to ignite a regional inferno.

We have rendered the nation deaf and dumb. We no longer have the capacity for empathy. We prefer to amuse ourselves with trivia and gossip that pass for news rather than understand. We are blinded by our military prowess. We believe that huge explosions and death are an effective form of communication. And the rest of the world is learning to speak our language.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Laboring for Peace

As labor day approaches, I am convinced that the most important thing to do on this holiday this year is to use it to labor for peace. Glenn Greenwald at Salon Magazine has written an alarming essay about Bush's escalating rhetoric. Here are the paragraphs that worry me most:

The two most extremist factions when it comes to the Middle East -- Israel-centric neoconservatives and Christian evangelicals -- have long been telling the President that stopping Iran is his most important mission, the ultimate challenge that history will use to judge his strength, character and conviction. And it is beyond question that those are the groups who continue to hold the greatest sway over the decision-making process of the Commander-in-Chief himself.

Who is going to match the zeal and influence of these warmongers in order to stop them? The notion of attacking Iran may be insane, but it is not considered such by our mainstream establishment. Those who muse about it openly -- Lieberman, McCain, Giuliani, Kristol, Max Boot -- are not considered fringe extremists or unserious radicals, even though they are. Their views are comfortably within what is considered to be the realm of serious and responsible foreign policy advocacy.

As we march step by step with barely a debate towards a confrontation with Iran -- one that neoconservatives have long been proclaiming is inevitable -- are there any meaningful efforts to avert this? We frequently hear the slogan from war critics about Iraq that "hope is not a policy." The same is true with regard to preventing an attack on Iran.
Over the last few weeks, every time I mention to someone that I am worried that this administration is about to start a war with Iran, I get the same response -- "That would be crazy! It will never happen."

I hope they are right, but hope is neither a policy nor a plan for action.

Please join me this labor day in doing something to work for peace. Write a letter or send an e-mail to your congressman and ask them to insist that the President get explicit approval from Congress before launching a war with Iran. For more suggestions, here's a link to the Stop the Iran War website led by Ret. General Wesley Clark.