Monday, March 31, 2008

This Can't Be Happening Again!

The LA Times is reporting that, on "Meet the Press" yesterday CIA Director Michael Hayden is saying he believes that Iran is developing a nuclear bomb.

Last year his agency concluded that Iran halted development of nuclear weapons in 2003.

Hayden's statement comes less than a week after the Frontline documentary "Bush's War" exposed how neo-conservatives in the Bush administration used fabricated intelligence to lead us to war in Iraq.

Someone please wake me up and tell me that this nightmare is over. This can't be happening again. Surely I'm only dreaming that the left-wing blogosphere is abuzz with rumors that Saudia Arabia is preparing for nuclear fallout from possible bombing raids on nuclear facilities in Iran.

If I am already awake and find a reputable news source confirming that Saudi Newspapers are in fact preparing people to protect themselves from nuclear fallout, it might incline me to believe that Christian Zionists intent on "Forcing God's Hand" have truly infused this administration with deluded pretensions of Messianic grandeur.

Canadians Correct Frank Page

Frank Page has promoted an urban myth about preachers being jailed in Canada for preaching against homosexuality.

Ethics Daily interviewed the leaders of a couple Canadian Baptist Conventions who corrected Page's misperceptions.

Bene D at the Bene Diction weblog addresses what really happened in Canada in the 2002 Boissoin Case. Here's a quote:

Stephen Boissoin was not facing jail, he was never facing jail, he is not going to be jailed for his 2002 screed. Boissoin may have to donate to a charity, he will pay legal fees, and tolerance training may be requested.

The distinction between criminal and civil cases and tribunals is not on the radar screen of US citizens, and therein lies the problem with Dr. Page’s remark.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Ten Days that Changed the World Economy

Rob Johnson and Robert Borosage have posted an introduction to a recent Wall Street Journal Article that deserves wide circulation and thoughtful consideration. The WSJ article by David Wessel is entitled "Ten Days that Changed Capitalism". It explains the significance of recent Federal Reserves actions and indicates how close the economy is to a precipice. Here's a quote from Wessel:

The past 10 days will be remembered as the time the U.S. government discarded a half-century of rules to save American financial capitalism from collapse.

On the Richter scale of government activism, the government's recent actions don't (yet) register at FDR levels. They are shrouded in technicalities and buried in a pile of new acronyms.

But something big just happened. It happened without an explicit vote by Congress. And, though the Treasury hasn't cut any checks for housing or Wall Street rescues, billions of dollars of taxpayer money were put at risk. A Republican administration, not eager to be viewed as the second coming of the Hoover administration, showed it no longer believes the market can sort out the mess.

"The Government of Last Resort is working with the Lender of Last Resort to shore up the housing and credit markets to avoid Great Depression II," economist Ed Yardeni wrote to clients.

$16.59 an Hour Jobs That No One Wants

Fred Eckels Sons Farms, the largest producer of fresh-to market tomatoes in Pennsylvania, has stopped planting tomatoes and pumpkins and will only plant half as much corn. Here's why:
Though Eckel's tomato pickers made an average of $16.59 per hour last year, he said the relatively high wage is not enough to attract local labor to work the fields.

"A lot of people think with immigration that we're talking about immigrants taking jobs from others. Let me tell you, there is no local labor that is going to go out and harvest those tomatoes in 90-degree temperatures except our immigrant labor," Eckel said. "They come here to do a job that no one else will do in this country."

Unfiltered News about the War in Iraq

Glenn Greenwald has posted a report on Salon that quotes a couple TV interviews where Iraqi's were unexpectedly candid in their assessments of what America has done for Iraq. Here's a quote:
ALI FADHIL: That's a big question, assessment. Well, basically, probably, I'll kind of sum it in a few words.

It's -- we have a country where the government is not functioning after five years. We have too many internal problems. And we have the violence increasing day after day.

We have a huge crisis of refugees inside and outside Iraq. We have a total failure of the -- of the civilian -- the civilian structure and what's happening inside. We have the sectarian divisions increasing. We didn't have that before. Now we have it. So, basically, my assessment is we have a whole nation called Iraq, now it's wiped out.
That's just the beginning of what this "grateful" Iraqi has to say.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Civil Religion or Civility?

Sara Robinson has posted an essay on the Campaign for America's Future website about "Born-Again Americans and that Old Time (Civil) Religion." She thinks some updated version of an old civil religion will help unify our nation. Here's a quote:

But now, that long era of cynical detachment is finally coming to an end. The rousing conversations we've had the past few years about the appropriate role of religion in civic and political life are a cardinal sign of the coming change. Should a politician's religion matter? How firm should that church/state wall be? Don't religionists have a right to make their case in the public square? And especially: How can we be a moral society if we don't give a privileged role to religion?

Ask your over-65 elders how they answer these questions. Odds are good that they'll regard them as simply preposterous. Even the old Goldwater Republicans likely remember the way that old-time civil religion provided a universal framework that allowed the GI generation to discuss morality, spirituality, and meaning without resorting to the specific viewpoint of any one religion. They valued the common ground it provided -- and the shared vision of a common future that rose from it -- because it allowed them to come together and do what needed to be done in their time.

The fact that we entertain these questions at all now reveals a deep and damaging ignorance at work. We're so far detached from the historical language of that creed that we can no longer talk about morals or values in anything but specifically religious terms -- terms that often do far more to separate us than they do to bring us together. Worse: I've had heated discussions with well-meaning religious progressives who've thoroughly bought into the conservative assertion that you can only discuss morality in religious terms, because is no morality apart from God. (They simply don't believe any other kind of moral discourse is even possible, because they've never seen it done.) If we continue to affirm that dangerous idea, we can kiss our future as a secular society good-bye.

We've entirely forgotten (because two entire generations have grown up having never heard it) that we once had a shared set of American narratives and cultural values that gave us the space to have deeply moral, value-laden conversations that weren't rooted in our ideas about God or our individual identities as Protestants or Catholics or Jews or Muslims, but in our shared dreams as Americans. When we lost the language and narratives of that creed, we lost the glue that bound us together across religious and cultural lines, and allowed us to work together as one national community.
I get nauseated whenever the political left starts talking about using religion to unify the nation. It's obvious that they don't take religion any more seriously than do the neo-conservatives who have long used religion as a tool to garner votes.

For some reason Sara does not realize that we are already dealing with an updated version of civil religion. It's called Christian Nationalism. The Religious Right is permeated with it and it packs a more powerful punch than any mythologizing that the left will ever be able to offer.

Mainstream Baptists are "born-again" Americans who take religion seriously. That's why we refuse to dilute it with patriotism, nationalism, or sentimental "dreams." Genuine faith will not be used as a tool by either the right or the left.

We don't need an updated civil religion. We need to keep church and state separate and re-affirm some basic civility toward people whose faith is different from our own.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Who Killed Bobby Kennedy?

An NBC affiliate in Connecticut is reporting that independent experts have concluded that Sirhan Sirhan could not have killed Bobby Kennedy.    Here's a quote:
Dr. Robert Joling, a forensics investigator who has studied the Robert Kennedy assassination for almost 40 years, determined that the fatal shots must have come from behind the senator.

Sirhan, however, was 4 to 6 feet in front of Kennedy and never got close enough to shoot Kennedy from behind, the investigator said.

The other evidence was the Pruszynski recording. This is the only audio recording of the assassination. Another scientist analyzed it and concluded that at least 13 shots were fired from two different guns.

Paige Patterson Keeps Ears to the Ground

Ben Cole has been posting excerpts from Paige Patterson's deposition in the Sherri Klouda lawsuit on the SBC Outpost weblog. A number of the excerpts are noteworthy. One in particular stands out. It is testimony in which Patterson talks about keeping his ears "to the ground." Klouda's attorney caricaturized this as listening to "gossip," but Patterson insisted that he was listening to "student discussions."

Patterson took these "discussions" so seriously that they led to Klouda's dismissal. He neglected, however, to make any notes of the "discussions" and the participants and he also failed to discuss the "discussions" with Klouda before dismissing her.

Klouda's lawsuit may have been rightfully dismissed under U.S. laws, but the final verdict will not be rendered by any human judge. I doubt that many will want to be in Patterson's shoes on that day.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Keep on Trunking!

What kind of pictures would you get if you put a camera on an elephant's trunk?  British film maker John Downer tried it and above is one of the amazing pictures that he got.  Click here to view some more.

On Wrecking Our System of Government

Former Vice President Walter Mondale has accused current Vice President Dick Cheney of wrecking the American system of government.  Here's a quote:
Former Vice President Walter Mondale today accused the current vice president, Dick Cheney, of a wholesale assault on the Constitution, the balance of powers, and the system that evolved since World War II to coordinate intelligence and defense policy.

"They wrecked that system," Mondale said this morning at a University of Minnesota scholarly conference on the vice presidency.

This isn't some academic difference of opinion over the proper balance between branches of the federal government, Mondale said, during a question and answer session after his prepared remarks:

"I think this was a brutal, deliberate policy to ignore a wide range of written laws and constitutional principles and the legitimate powers of Congress…It's different than anything we've seen in American history and I think it ought to be seen not as two responsible positions, but ought to be seen as a dramatic challenge to American's system of government."
Anyone who had an opportunity to watch "Bush's War" on PBS's Frontline last night (to be continued this evening) has ample documentary evidence to support Mondale's assertion.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Breakdown on Democratic Religious Voters

CQ Politics Poll Tracker has posted a note about the breakdown of the religious vote between Clinton and Obama in the Democratic Party.    

Hilary leads by a wide margin among Catholics and a small margin among Jewish voters.  Obama leads slightly in the Protestant vote.

Will Wall Street Be Regulated After This Bail Out?

Paul Krugman has written a worrisome essay about whether Wall Street will be regulated after the Federal Reserve bails it out.  He quotes former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin saying, "If Wall Street companies can count on being rescued like banks, then they need to be regulated like banks."  Krugman doesn't offer much hope that that will be the case:   
In retrospect, it's clear that the Clinton administration went along too easily with moves to deregulate the financial industry. And it's hard to avoid the suspicion that big contributions from Wall Street helped grease the rails.
   Last year, there was no question at all about the way Wall Street's financial contributions to the new Democratic majority in Congress helped preserve, at least for now, the tax loophole that lets hedge fund managers pay a lower tax rate than their secretaries.

Now, the securities and investment industry is pouring money into both Mr. Obama's and Mrs. Clinton's coffers. And these donors surely believe that they're buying something in return.

Let's hope they're wrong.

Church-State Simulcast Wednesday

A theaters across the country Americans United for Separation of Church and State is hosting a free High Definition Simulcast of "Everything You Wanted to Know about Separation of Church and State but were Afraid to Ask."

Barry Lynn and Welton Gaddy will be headlining an all-star cast including:

The Bacon Brothers Band (Kevin and Michael Bacon).

Messages and performances by:

Jack Klugman,Wendie Malick

, James Whitmore, Catherine Dent,

Dan Lauria,Marc Maron Catie Curtis, with a personal message from MichaelJ. Fox .

Click here to find a theater near you.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Another White House Cover-Up

The White House is reportedly telling a Federal Court that it did more than illegally erase e-mails on White House computers for the period between 2003 and 2005. Now they say they destroyed the hard disks that were on their computers during that period.

It is possible, but not probable, that e-mails could be inadvertently erased. Destroying hard disks is an act of a deliberate cover-up in defiance of both federal law and a federal court order.

What happened to the tongues of all the law and order conservatives in this country?

Friday, March 21, 2008

Uncovering the Generation Divide

Listening to the Diane Rehm show on NPR as I drove to work this morning I could not help but note again how different the world of broadcasting is from the world online.

For the third day in a row, the world of broadcasting is consumed with statements that Jeremiah Wright made seven years ago. The world online has moved way past what Jeremiah Wright said to focus on what Barak Obama said in his speech on race and religion. The online world isn't filtered by the media to assure that only certain positions get heard and reinforced.

What is becoming obvious to many in the internet connected younger generation is that their parents and grandparents are afficted with an irrational, racist paranoia. Like Obama when he talks about his white grandmother, they are ashamed of their grandparents attitudes while they refuse to disown them (their grandparents). Few and far between are young people who are not ashamed of things that they heard their preachers say in the pulpit. Some of them have left their church. Some have just dropped out. Most remain members of their church and have no intention of disowning it.

Many of the young people that I talk to around the University of Oklahoma campus are absolutely stunned and shocked at how the broadcast media have caricaturized and distorted the meaning and intention of the greatest speech on race and religion that they have heard in their lifetimes.

It reminds me of how I felt in the days of Martin Luther King.

The Dollar as Collateral Victim

Truthout has posted an essay from the French Contre Info that describes how the Federal Reserves' move to save Wall Street is producing inflation around the world. It warns that the dollar is losing its' place as a global reserve currency. Here's an excerpt:

The massive and repeated rate reductions Bernanke has chosen -- we expect another one tomorrow -- directly challenge the status of the American currency.

As his predecessor did at every slowdown of activity, the new Fed chairman tries to relaunch the credit machine, hence monetary creation, to prop up the economy and prices and to break the deflationary spiral.

Without much success. The gears in the transmission have jammed and the confidence of already-overextended households and companies is faltering.

But as he acts this way, he reinforces the already well-anchored sentiment that the dollar - weighted down by the United States' $9,000 billion debt that cannot be reimbursed - is overvalued, which amplifies the American currency's slide.

The inflows of foreign capital that have allowed deficits to grow and the currency to maintain its value for twenty years (the Clinton episode aside) are in the process of drying up. During the last three months of 2007, the influx of foreign investments went from $113 billion to $56 billion.

Just recently, US Treasury bonds have been evaluated as less reliable than Germany's.

This drop in the dollar Bernanke has accepted and precipitated to save Wall Street looks like a runaway train that will export the American crisis to the rest of the world, and do so at an exorbitant cost.

Since most raw materials markets, including most obviously oil, are denominated in dollars, the slide in the US currency mechanically entails a revaluation of raw materials' prices and provokes significant global inflation.

This phenomenon is further reinforced by the flight of capital abandoning dollar-denominated securities, the value of which is melting like snow in the sun, and seeking refuge in raw materials markets.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Frontline to Broadcast Documentary on "Bush's War"

Frontline will be broadcasting a two-part documentary on "Bush's War" next week.

I suspect it will cover everything except the cheerleading by Richard Land and Southern Baptists.

New Baptist Covenant Fellowship to Meet Triennially

Leaders from the participating organizations within the New Baptist Covenant fellowship have agreed to meet triennially and host regional group meeting in years between NBC Celebrations. Here's a link to the press release from the March 12 meeting of leaders for the New Baptist Covenant.

The next national meeting for the New Baptist Covenant will be in 2011.

How the Internet Changed Politics

Four years ago the internet, specifically the blogosphere, propelled Howard Dean from obscurity to a viable candidacy for the democratic presidential nomination.

In the past year the internet, specifically the ability to generate huge numbers of small online contributions, helped make Barak Obama a viable candidate for the democratic presidential nomination.

Nothing, however, may be as significant as what has happened this week, specifically the ability of Youtube to permit millions of people to view Barak Obama's speech on race and religion in its entirety -- without editing and commentary. In less than two days, the video has been downloaded by more than 1.6 million people and more are viewing it every hour.

The day when politics was dominated by media sound bites and bumper sticker slogans is over. The corporate media and the right-wing noise machine no longer have a monopoly over public political discussion.

Henceforth, all politicians are going to have to learn to articulate thoughtful positions addressing the issues that concern people.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Is it Time to Abide By the Bible's Usury Laws?

The Bible has pretty stringent prohibitions against loaning money for interest (usury). Here'a link to a Wikipedia article that discusses the manifold interpretations of those laws. The varied interpretations became necessary because, unlike ancient economies which were based on agriculture, modern economies are based on credit.

In a modern economy, people with no credit or with limited lines of credit are the hapless victims of their lenders. Without regulation, their lenders can ruin their lives and destroy their families at will.

It is beginning to look like our economic system has been rigged (i.e., deregulated) to the advantage of the wealthiest among us. While the Federal Reserve pulls out all the stops to save the monied con-artists and crooks who created subprime loans and packaged them with risky hedge fund derivatives to create obscene profits for themselves, a certain wing of congressional leaders are gagging witnesses who came to congress to testify about credit card lenders raising their interest rates to exorbitant levels.

Maybe its time to return to the biblical injunctions about usury. That and following common sense maxims like, "Neither a borrower nor a lender be" may be the only way for the common man to survive in America today.

Are Foxes Guarding the Chickens at the EPA?

Last Week, The Washington Post reported that budget cuts by the EPA at 26 research libraries succeeded in curbing access by researchers to key environmental data. Here's a quote about the significance of the libraries:

The libraries provide technical information and documentation for enforcement cases and help EPA staff members track new environmental technologies and the health risks associated with dangerous chemicals.

They also are repositories of scientific information that is used to back up the agency's positions on new regulations and environmental reports and data that are tapped by people such as developers and state and local officials. The collections include hard-to-find copies of documents on federal Superfund hazardous waste sites, water-quality data and the health of regional ecosystems.
Yesterday, Associated Press reported that key advisors for the EPA worked for companies with chemicals under EPA scrutiny. Here's a quote:
A House committee opened an investigation Monday into potential conflicts of interest in scientific panels that advise the Environmental Protection Agency.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee cited the case of eight scientists who were consultants or members of EPA science advisory panels assessing the human health effects of toxic chemicals while getting research support from the chemical industry on the same chemicals they were examining.

In two cases, EPA advisers were employed by companies that made or worked with manufacturers of the chemicals being evaluated. the committee said.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Obama's Speech on Race, Class and Religion

I heard Obama's speech on the radio today. Here's a link to the text. It is being hailed as a speech on race, but it was also a speech about class and religion. Here's an excerpt:

In the end, then, what is called for is nothing more, and nothing less, than what all the world's great religions demand -- that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us. Let us be our brother's keeper, Scripture tells us. Let us be our sister's keeper. Let us find that common stake we all have in one another, and let our politics reflect that spirit as well.

For we have a choice in this country. We can accept a politics that breeds division, and conflict, and cynicism. We can tackle race only as spectacle -- as we did in the OJ trial -- or in the wake of tragedy, as we did in the aftermath of Katrina -- or as fodder for the nightly news. We can play Reverend Wright's sermons on every channel, every day and talk about them from now until the election, and make the only question in this campaign whether or not the American people think that I somehow believe or sympathize with his most offensive words. We can pounce on some gaffe by a Hillary supporter as evidence that she's playing the race card, or we can speculate on whether white men will all flock to John McCain in the general election regardless of his policies.

We can do that.

But if we do, I can tell you that in the next election, we'll be talking about some other distraction. And then another one. And then another one. And nothing will change.

On Marriage in Israel

Gershom Gorenberg has posted an interesting article about the "Burden of Proof" of Jewish ancestry needed for Jews to marry in Israel.

The article surprised me. I didn't realize that marriages were governed by the Rabbi's in Israel.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Frank Schaeffer Likens Jeremiah Wright to His Dad

Frank Schaeffer, son of the late Francis Schaeffer, has posted an essay on the Huffington Post that likens Jeremiah Wright's statements denouncing America to statements that his dad once made. Reaction to the elder Schaeffer's statements was considerably different. Here's a quote:

When Senator Obama's preacher thundered about racism and injustice Obama suffered smear-by-association. But when my late father -- Religious Right leader Francis Schaeffer -- denounced America and even called for the violent overthrow of the US government, he was invited to lunch with presidents Ford, Reagan and Bush, Sr.

Every Sunday thousands of right wing white preachers (following in my father's footsteps) rail against America's sins from tens of thousands of pulpits. They tell us that America is complicit in the "murder of the unborn," has become "Sodom" by coddling gays, and that our public schools are sinful places full of evolutionists and sex educators hell-bent on corrupting children. They say, as my dad often did, that we are, "under the judgment of God." They call America evil and warn of immanent destruction. By comparison Obama's minister's shouted "controversial" comments were mild. All he said was that God should damn America for our racism and violence and that no one had ever used the N-word about Hillary Clinton.

Liberal Media Bias?

The Columbia Journalism Review has posted a story about "Rod Parsley's Free Pass" as Jeremiah Wright is still being skewered.

Another example to file under "The myth of liberal media."

Here and here are a couple more entries to compare with the media frenzy over Eliot Spitzer's infidelity. Both the media and Richard Land have given conservatives in this administration and in the federal judiciary an inordinately free ride.

For the record, I happen to agree with Richard Land that hiring prostitutes is NOT a victimless crime. I also believe that it is wrong whether your politics is liberal or conservative.

Baptist History & Heritage Group on Facebook

Dr. Jim West has started a new Facebook Group for the Baptist History and Heritage Society.

Readers are invited to participate.

At the Brink

Economist Paul Krugman clearly identifies what got our economy into this mess:

Between 2002 and 2007, false beliefs in the private sector — the belief that home prices only go up, that financial innovation had made risk go away, that a triple-A rating really meant that an investment was safe — led to an epidemic of bad lending. Meanwhile, false beliefs in the political arena — the belief of Alan Greenspan and his friends in the Bush administration that the market is always right and regulation always a bad thing — led Washington to ignore the warning signs.

By the way, Mr. Greenspan is still at it: accepting no blame, he continues to insist that “market flexibility and open competition” are the “most reliable safeguards against cumulative economic failure.”

The result of all that bad lending was an unholy financial mess that will cause trillions of dollars in losses. A large chunk of these losses will fall on financial institutions: commercial banks, investment banks, hedge funds and so on.
He also has a suggested solution:

Looking ahead, we probably need something similar to the Resolution Trust Corporation, which took over bankrupt savings and loan institutions and sold off their assets to reimburse taxpayers. And we need it quickly: things are falling apart as you read this.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Another Step Toward the Brink

Over the weekend, J.P. Morgan Chase agreed to buy the once mighty Bear Stearns for $2.00 a share. Also over the weekend, the Federal Reserve cut interests rates and created a new lending facility to bail out the bankers who gambled big-time with other people's money -- certain that they were too big for the government to let fail.

In an earlier day, American newspapers would be reporting that there is panic on Wall Street. Today, that's unlikely to be reported until most of the unregulated "free market" tycoons who concocted this disaster have safely pulled the cords on their golden parachutes (note: Bear Stearns execs reportedly forgot their parachutes).

The rest of us are going to have a hard landing. (One UK paper is comparing it to the "great depression." The Agonist also uses the word "depression" and gives an analysis of what is happening.)

Saturday, March 15, 2008

An Economy on the Brink of Disaster

Economist Paul Krugman says the Federal Reserve is "Betting the Bank" in an attempt to prop up our economy. He writes, "To my knowledge, no advanced-country's central bank has ever exposed itself to this much market risk." He's worried that it won't work. Here's a quote:

I used to think that the major issues facing the next president would be how to get out of Iraq and what to do about health care. At this point, however, I suspect that the biggest problem for the next administration will be figuring out which parts of the financial system to bail out, how to pay the cleanup bills and how to explain what it's doing to an angry public.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Oklahoma Baptists Support Hate Speech

Anthony Jordan, Executive Director of Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma (BGCO), has contacted all of the Directors of Missions (DOM) in Oklahoma urging them to get the pastors and people in their areas to support Sally Kern in her allegation that homosexuality is more threatening than terrorism. Sally's husband is a Southern Baptist pastor. Here's a copy of the e-mail from Jordan's office that Oklahoma Southern Baptist DOM's are sending to pastors all over the state:

-----Original Message-----
From: Leininger, Lisa [mailto:lleininger@BGCO.ORG]
Sent: Thursday, March 13, 2008 4:23 PM
To: DOMs
Subject: Representative Sally Kern

Good afternoon,

Dr. Jordan has asked me to pass along the contact information for Representative Sally Kern. As most of you know she has been under some very tight scrutiny lately about standing up against homosexuality. Many requests have been made to Dr. Jordan regarding what we can do for her as a fellow believer and southern Baptist. He would like you to share this information with all your churches inviting them to contact Rep. Kern via e-mail or a phone call to encourage her and offer support during this trying time. If you have any questions or if I can help you in any way please let me know.

Thank you for all you do! Have a great weekend!

Representative Sally Kern
(405) 557-7348

I made an attempt in a previous blog to help Sally Kern understand how incendiary her rhetoric is toward homosexuals and Muslims. Here's an additional exercise in word replacement to help Baptists grasp how their rhetoric is perceived by others. What if the words "homosexuality" and "Islam" in Kern's speech were replaced with the words "Baptists" and "anarchy" This is what she would be saying:

Matter of fact, studies show that no society that has totally embraced Baptists has lasted more than, you know, a few decades. So it's the death nell to this country. I honestly think it's the biggest threat that our nation has -- even more so than terrorism, or anarchy, which I think is a big threat, OK? Because what's happening now, they're going after, in schools, two year olds!
Actually, there was a time when statements similar to this were being made in this country. If Kern and Jordan have read anything about Baptists' struggle for religious liberty, they ought to know better than to speak like this about others.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Steeplejacking Underway in Lawton

Some of the lay people at First Baptist Church in Lawton, Oklahoma are dismayed at the fundamentalist takeover tactics they observed as their church recently elected a pulpit committee. Fundamentalists within the church organized and campaigned to elect a select slate of persons to place on the pulpit committee. When the votes were cast, persons who have not attended the church in years showed up to vote for the fundamentalists' slate.

Result -- the pulpit committee of this moderate church is overwhelmingly dominated by fundamentalists and every member is over the age of fifty.

There's a reason why fundamentalists in the Southern Baptist Convention are facing increasing dissension among young pastors and lay people. When they get their hands on the jugular, they keep on choking until they die. There are Southern Baptist churches dying on every hill in America.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

On Tom Cole's Defective Conscience

Tom Cole, the member of the U.S. House of Representatives for the district in which I live, voted to sustain President Bush's veto of the bill that would have prohibited the CIA from torturing suspects by waterboarding.

If ever there was a time when a congress person needed to put politics aside and cast a vote according to conscience, this was it.

If Tom Cole can cast a vote to violate the Geneva Conventions and authorize torture in good conscience, then his conscience is defective.

Eliot Spitzer and American Ethical Perversity

Consortium News has published a rambling essay by Rabbi Michael Lerner about "Spitzer and America's Perverse Ethics." Lerner makes some insightful observations about the dramatic difference in response to the immorality of the former Governor of New York in comparison with reactions to the more egregious moral failings of the President and Vice President of the United States. Here's a quote:

The intensity of the critique of the New York governor, tied with the demand that he resign, shows more about American society's ethical perversity than about Spitzer.

The President of the United States and the Vice President, working in concert with several other high-ranking officers of our government, lied and distorted to get us involved in a war that has led to the death of over a million Iraqis, the displacement of three million more, the death of 4,000 Americans and the wounding of tens of thousands more. . . .

Meanwhile, our government has overtly engaged in torture, wiretapping of our phones, and violation of our human rights and the rights of people around the world. Senator Dianne Feinstein and Senator Charles Schumer voted to confirm as Attorney General a right-wing judge who refused to repudiate these crimes.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

One Step Closer to War with Iran

Bush and Cheney have long been moving inexorably to lead this country to war with Iran.

Admiral Fallon, top American commander in the Middle East, has been working tirelessly for the past year to create an environment for a diplomatic solution to our differences with Iran.

Fallon's efforts are over. He resigned today.

It appears that Bush and Cheney are determined to lead the world to the brink of Armageddon.

John Hagee and his army of Christian Zionists must be jumping for joy.

Something Must Be Wrong With Me

Since I posted my last blog I've had a number of commenters overlook the analogies I made about Christianity and criticize me for comparing homosexuality to being a Jew. They say homosexuality is a choice while being Jewish is not a choice, it is a matter of birth.

Something must be wrong with me. I've always thought I was born heterosexual. For the life of me, I can't think of a single moment when I was sexually attracted to a man or a boy. I have no recollection of ever choosing my sexual orientation. Heterosexuality just came natural to me.

Evidence has been piling up for quite some time that, for some, homosexuality comes naturally. I can't speak definitively, because I have no experience to draw upon. The evidence is so strong, however, that the mitreless Southern Baptist pope, Al Mohler, has suggested that evangelical parents may want genetic engineering to help assure that their babies grow up straight.

Perhaps there is something wrong with me. Perhaps it is normal for males to struggle over their sexual orientation and choose whether they are going to be straight or gay. Until now, I've rejected all the comments that have suggested that sexual orientation is a choice. In the future, I'll accept comments to that effect when they are signed with a full, genuine name and the commenter describes the struggle he/she had choosing his/her sexual orientation. Should such comments be forthcoming, don't expect me to respond to them. I've got no experience from which to measure their veracity.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Kern Refuses Apology

Oklahoma State Representative Sally Kern has refused to apologize for incendiary remarks she made against homosexuals. She claims only be engaged in a "vigorous debate" on the issue and not engaging in hate speech. Here's a quote from Kern's speech:
Matter of fact, studies show that no society that has totally embraced homosexuality has lasted more than, you know, a few decades. So it's the death nell to this country. I honestly think it's the biggest threat that our nation has -- even more so than terrorism, or Islam, which I think is a big threat, OK? Because what's happening now, they're going after, in schools, two year olds!
Let's just make a few changes to her speech and see what she thinks. What if politically powerful politicians were saying:

Matter of fact, studies show that no society that has totally embraced the Jews has lasted more than, you know, a few decades. So it's the death nell to this country. I honestly think it's the biggest threat that our nation has -- even more so than terrorism, or communism, which I think is a big threat, OK? Because what's happening now, they're going after, in schools, two year olds!
Maybe that's not strong enough for her to get the message. Truth is, there were plenty of evangelical Christians in Nazi Germany who didn't think statements like that were hate speech. So, what if politically powerful politicians were saying:

Matter of fact, studies show that no society that has totally embraced Christianity has lasted more than, you know, a few decades. So it's the death nell to this country. I honestly think it's the biggest threat that our nation has -- even more so than terrorism, or Islam, which I think is a big threat, OK? Because what's happening now, they're going after, in schools, two year olds!
Can anyone imagine a right-wing evangelical, sensitive to even the slightest hint of persecution, sitting still for that?

Rohrabacher Cites Cover-up of Oklahoma City Bombing

Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher of California has charged the Bush administration with a criminal cover-up of evidence linking the Oklahoma City bombing to Al Queda. Rohrabacher, chairman and ranking member of the investigative subcommittee of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, accused the Bush administration of obstruction of justice for impeding his subcommittee's investigation. Here are some excerpts from a speech that Rohrabacher recently gave in the House chamber:

In the last Congress, I was chairman of the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. In that capacity, I learned that in the time immediately leading up to the bombing of the Federal Building in Oklahoma City, convicted Oklahoma City bomber and murderer Terry Nichols had been in Cebu City in the Philippines. His stay in Cebu City coincided with another visitor to that city, al Qaeda's terrorist leader Ramsey Yousef. Interestingly, both Nichols and Yousef used similar bombs and methods just 2 years apart to blow up two American targets. Yousef was the mastermind of the first attack on the World Trade Center in 1993. Nichols was a coconspirator in the bombing of the Oklahoma City Federal Building in 1995.

By the way, I would like to acknowledge that today [Feb. 26, 2008] happens to be the 15-year anniversary of that first devastating attack on the World Trade Center.

These individuals, one American and one Arab, were responsible for planning two of the most lethal terrorist attacks on our countrymen in our history. We are to believe that by coincidence they ended up in an off-the-beaten-track city in the Southern Philippines? One doesn't have to be a conspiracy nut to understand that this coincidence is certainly worth looking into.

I started an official congressional investigation sanctioned by Henry Hyde, then the chairman of the International Relations Committee, to see whether Terry Nichols or his accomplice, Timothy McVeigh, had foreign help in their murderous terrorist bombing of the Alfred Murrah Building in Oklahoma City.

In light of the fact that Terry Nichols and Ramsey Yousef were both in Cebu City at the same time prior to hauntingly similar terrorist attacks, it was no stretch for a congressional investigative committee to be looking into this matter. However, the Bush administration felt quite differently. To those I had to deal with, it was "case closed, don't bother us.'' They had looked into the matter, and Congress should simply and blindly accept their conclusion that there was no Nichols-Yousef connection. "Don't bother us.'' This was at times bureaucratic laziness, and at other times it was clearly based on a disdain for congressional investigations and authority.

During my investigation, I secured Ramsey Yousef's cell phone records. The records were part of the phone calls that he made when he was in that New York City area in the months just prior to the bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993.

The phone records show that Ramsey Yousef made at least two phone calls to a row house in Queens, New York.

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That row house was occupied by the cousin of Terry Nichols' Filipina wife. Let me repeat that. The terrorist bomber of the first World Trade Center attack, the nephew of al Qaeda 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, made phone calls to the same row house that was occupied by Terry Nichols' cousins-in-law just 2 months before he exploded the bomb in the garage of the World Trade Center 15 years ago. Another coincidence?

The Federal Reserve as Wall Street's Pawn Broker

Truthout has posted an essay by Paul Krugman explaining the latest round of turmoil in our financial markets. Here's a quote:

A report released last Friday by JPMorgan Chase was even blunter. It described what's happening as a "systemic margin call," in which the whole financial system is facing demands to come up with cash it doesn't have. (A financial joke making the rounds, via the blog Calculated Risk: "Who is this guy Margin that keeps calling me?")

The Fed's latest plan to break this vicious circle is -- as the financial Web site cruelly but accurately describes it -- to turn itself into Wall Street's pawnbroker. Banks that might have raised cash by selling assets will be encouraged, instead, to borrow money from the Fed, using the assets as collateral. In a worst-case scenario, the Federal Reserve would find itself owning around $200 billion worth of mortgage-backed securities.

Some observers worry that the Fed is taking over the banks' financial risk. But what worries me more is that the move seems trivial compared with the size of the problem: $200 billion may sound like a lot of money, but when you compare it with the size of the markets that are melting down -- there are $11 trillion in U.S. mortgages outstanding -- it's a drop in the bucket.

Balmer Rips Land for his Pseudo-Apology

Randall Balmer has deconstructed Richard Land's pseudo-apology for sluring Senators Schumer and Clinton and found it wanting. Here's an excerpt:

Land, apparently feeling the pressure, has issued what he characterized as an apology. "In reviewing these criticisms I have learned some consider the word crude, if not obscene," he wrote. "I apologize for my ignorance of that fact."

But he's not done. In Land's twisted logic, it is he who is owed an apology: "I am deeply offended that anyone would interpret my remarks as anti-Semitic."

Huh? Let's see if I got this straight. Land directs a slur at an elected official who is a Jew, and when called on it, he apologizes--not for the remark itself--but for his own ignorance. Then he declares himself "deeply offended" that anyone would interpret his comments as anti-Semitic!

You can't make this up.

And, notice something else. Land's "apology" was for his own ignorance, not for his comment. Nor was the "apology" addressed to Senator Schumer, the target of his insult.

Land has been in Washington far too long. This is the kind of stunt that politicians pull with some regularly. They will make an offensive statement and then, when the pressure builds, they will apologize "if anyone was offended by my remarks." Notice that, as with Land, this is only the illusion of an apology, because when you deconstruct it the politician is not apologizing for his remarks. Not at all. The apology is conditional and puts the onus on the offended individual: "I apologize if anyone was offended by my remarks."

Similarly, Land's "apology" was no apology at all. It was sleight-of-hand. If he were an honorable man, he would take responsibility for his crudeness and insensitivity and address his apology directly to Senator Schumer, the man he insulted. Instead, Land pretends that it is he, the person who made the obscene remarks, who is owed an apology.

Podcast: Sarah Posner Interview

Dr. Bruce Prescott's 3-9-08 "Religious Talk" radio interview with investigative journalist Sarah Posner (28 MB MP3) who writes the weekly column "The FundamentaList" for the American Prospect Online. We talk about her new book "God's Profits: Faith, Fraud and the Republican Crusade for Values Voters."

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Why GLBT's Are Organizing

A couple years ago I wrote a blog "On 'Biblical Morality'" after listening to Rob Abiera explain why he organized "Gay-OKC." He began organizing politically because he literally felt his life was in danger if he remained inactive.

Rob had reason to fear for his life. He still does.

Here's a link to a video from another GLBT group that is organizing politically in order to protect themselves. The audio on the video is from a recent speech by an influential Oklahoma State Representative who is the wife of a Southern Baptist pastor in Oklahoma City. Her speech is not as threatening as the newspaper article that activated Rob Abiera, but it is certainly the kind of speech that can incite indignant acts of violence against homosexuals.

Sally Kern owes the GLBT community an apology.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Our Apathetic President and His Advisors

The Sydney Morning Herald has published a story entitled "They knew, but did nothing" about the 40 Presidential briefings in the nine months leading up to 9/11 that mentioned Osama bin Laden and his plan to attack America. The article is by Philip Shenon, author of a book to be released Monday under the title, The Commission -- The Uncensored History of the 9/11 Investigation. Here's a quote:

[Warren] Bass told colleagues that he gasped when he found a memo written by [Richard] Clarke to [Condolezza] Rice on September 4, 2001, exactly a week before the attacks, in which Clarke seemed to predict what was just about to happen. It was a memo that seemed to spill out all of Clarke's frustration about how slowly the Bush White House had responded to the cascade of terrorist threats that summer. The note was terrifying in its prescience.

"Are we serious about dealing with the al-Qaeda threat?" he asked Rice. "Decision makers should imagine themselves on a future day when the CSG [Counterterrorism Security Group] has not succeeded in stopping al-Qaeda attacks and hundreds of Americans lay dead in several countries, including the US.

Bass's colleagues said he knew instantly that the September 4 email was so sensitive -- and potentially damaging, especially to Rice -- that the White House would never voluntarily release a copy to the commission or allow him to take notes from the room if they came close to reproducing its language. Under a written agreement between the commission and the White House, notes could not "significantly reproduce" the wording of a classified document.

Bass decided he would have to try to memorise it in pieces, several sentences at a time, and then rush back to the commission to bat them out on a computer keyboard.

Our Shameless President

Our shameless President has vetoed a bill that bans the CIA from torturing people during interrogations.

His next official act will be to turn the calendar back to the middle ages.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Bush As Provocateur of Palestinian Civil War

It is hard to imagine how President Bush could muck-up the Middle East more than he did by invading Iraq under false pretences, but he has. Vanity Fair has published a story revealing that Bush provoked the civil war in Palestine that strengthened the hand of Hamas. Here's a quote:

Vanity Fair has obtained confidential documents, since corroborated by sources in the U.S. and Palestine, which lay bare a covert initiative, approved by Bush and implemented by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Deputy National Security Adviser Elliott Abrams, to provoke a Palestinian civil war. The plan was for forces led by Dahlan, and armed with new weapons supplied at America’s behest, to give Fatah the muscle it needed to remove the democratically elected Hamas-led government from power. (The State Department declined to comment.)

But the secret plan backfired, resulting in a further setback for American foreign policy under Bush. Instead of driving its enemies out of power, the U.S.-backed Fatah fighters inadvertently provoked Hamas to seize total control of Gaza.

John McCain Courting Council for National Policy

Right Wing Watch has published a report revealing that GOP Presidential Nominee John McCain will soon be speaking to secure the support of the Council for National Policy (CNP).

The Council for National Policy is a secretive group of religious right politicians and businessmen. Click here and scroll down the page for previous blogs that I've written about the CNP.

Canadian Broadcasting Interview on New Baptist Covenant

Click here for a podcast of Dr. Bruce Prescott being interviewed by Rick MacInnes Rae of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation for his 2-11-08 Dispatches radio program (5 MB MP3). Prescott talks with Rae about the significance of the 2008 Celebration of a New Baptist Covenant.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Calculating the Costs of War

Robert Koehler has posted an essay about "Losing the Future" that quotes Joseph Stiglitz, co-author of "The Three Trillion Dollar War." Here's a quote:

We're not just "losing" this tragic, arrogantly unplanned war in the conventional sense of failing to subdue our enemies -- we're committing slow socioeconomic suicide with its open-ended pursuit, losing, as we plunge recklessly into debt over it, our options, our ability to choose. We're losing the future.

"Because of the war, the national deficit is $2 trillion higher," Stiglitz, who won the Nobel Prize in economics in 2001, told me. "At 5 percent interest, that's $100 billion a year, year after year after year -- forever!"

Plug-In for Good Karma

Scattered across the internet are reports about Fisker Automotive's Karma. A plug-in hybrid that will go from 0 to 60 MPH in 6 seconds, with a top speed of 125 MPH, and able to drive the first 50 miles without a drop of gas. Slated to sell for $80K with delivery around June 2009.

This one sounds literally too good to be true. I'll bet it does suck in a lot of venture capital.

Frank Page Bashes New Baptist Covenant, Again

Representatives from Baptist groups that include 20 million people were at the Celebration of the New Baptist Covenant, yet Frank Page feels that "conservatives" were excluded. Here's a statement he made to a reporter for Christianity Today:

However, SBC president Frank Page said that the covenant seemed intended to unify only one wing of Baptists.

"I have concerns when it seems this is organized and promoted by only those who are from a more moderate theological perspective," Page said. "One has to wonder if there is a true openness to a dialogue and an inclusion of conservatives."
I've got news for Frank. "Southern Baptist" does not define the word "conservative." Genuine dialogue is well nigh impossible with people so arrogant that they think they are the only one with a right to speak.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Posner Challenges Russert

Sarah Posner's latest "FundamentaList" essay questions whether Tim Russert will challenge John McCain to reject John Hagee's endorsement. Here's a quote:
Sen. John McCain's embrace of the endorsement of Texas televangelist, prosperity preacher, and Christian Zionist zealot John Hagee has led many astute and inquiring minds to ask: Will Tim Russert ask McCain to "reject and denounce" Hagee's support, just as he asked Sen. Barack Obama to "reject and denounce" the support of Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan -- even though Obama had never even asked for Farrakhan's support as McCain had solicited Hagee's?

The answer, of course, is no, and here's why: Hagee is a good, white Christian leader -- controversial, inflammatory, and divisive to many, but a hero to millions of Americans and therefore to Republican candidates who want those millions of votes. But Hagee's influence doesn't end with his audience taken in by his "anointed" preaching or his claim to understand God's biblically-prophesied plan for the end of the world. For the neoconservative punditocracy, the fact that his eschatology aligns so nicely with their real politik objectives is more than a coalition-building convenience. Although someone like Bill Kristol, who is scheduled to speak at this year's Christians United for Israel (CUFI) summit, would probably not openly embrace Hagee's dispensationalism, the fact that marching to war is buttressed by a divine mandate helps build a shield of self-righteousness. How dare you patchouli-scented pacifists question us now?
Posner has done a lot of research into the preaching and politics of prosperity gospel preachers like Hagee. Her new book, "God's Profits," is so thoroughly documented with abuses of the gospel that it should fill any conscientious Christian with shame and horror.

Sarah will be my guest on the "Religious Talk" radio program on Sunday March 9.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

MOB Press Release Opposing OK H.B. 2211

March 4, 2008

Mainstream Oklahoma Baptists Oppose H.B. 2211, Urge its Defeat

Mainstream Oklahoma Baptists believe that H.B. 2211 is inappropriately entitled a “Religious Viewpoints Anti-Discrimination Act.” In reality, it is “An Act Securing a Captive Audience for Public School Prayers and Devotions.” The bill authorizes popularly elected student leaders to express “religious viewpoints” over loudspeakers at public schools on a daily basis.

Mainstream Baptists oppose H.B. 2211 because it is too weak to adequately protect religious liberty and freedom of speech for all people.

Prayer is an act of worship. To suggest otherwise is to trivialize faith and belittle religion. Religious devotions and expressions are also acts of worship.

This nation was founded by people who refused to become a captive audience -- forced to listen to prayers and preaching led by the Church of England. That is why the Pilgrims came to America. That is why our Baptist forefathers came to America.

As written, this bill puts students in the same position as the early Pilgrims, Baptists, Quakers, Jews and others. It makes them a captive audience -- forced listen to the prayers, preaching and devotions of people with whom their own conscience and convictions may forbid them to worship.

To correct this injustice, the legislation needs to have a conscience clause. It needs to be amended to permit anyone -- regardless of their position and status within the school -- to politely leave the room when prayers and other acts of worship are being conducted. It also needs to make it a crime for anyone to belittle, berate, bully or penalize any person who exercises his/her own first amendment right to worship according to the dictates of his/her own conscience by leaving the room when “religious viewpoints” are being expressed during morning announcements, school assemblies, opening exercises at sporting events, etc.

Contact Information:
Dr. Bruce Prescott
Executive Director, Mainstream Oklahoma Baptists

The Mainstream Office is at the United Ministry Center near the University of Oklahoma at 1017 Elm Ave. Norman, OK 73072.

Governor Don Siegelman -- Political Prisoner

Paul Craig Roberts has penned a helpful summary of the facts about the politically motivated conviction and false imprisonment of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman. Roberts also provides a helpful list of links to other reports about this case at the end of his article.

This is the most egregious example of the reign of terror Karl Rove created by politicizing and corrupting the U.S. Justice Department and the judiciary.

No matter who is elected President this fall, many of these corrupt judges and prosecutors will remain in place throughout the country.

Monday, March 03, 2008

From Industrial Capitalism to Financial Capitalism

Tony Wikrent has published an essay with a catchy title: "The Crash is Past. Comes Now Inflation" on the E Pluibus Media website.

I don't have the expertise to determine the credibility of Wikrent's thinking. I have been amazed at how calm the financial markets have been in the face of wave after wave of unprecedentedly negative economic news. Wikrent reviews some of the explanations -- such as "peak credit" as well as "peak oil" -- for what we are witnessing in the U.S. economy. Here's a quote:

So, essentially, what we’ve done over the past 30 years of deregulating banking and finance is create incentives for speculating and arbitrage, while creating disincentives for actual investment of capital in the real economy. We have shifted from industrial capitalism to financial capitalism. Rather than building a new economy of alternative energies and green technologies, Wall Street, U.S. elites, and the oilarchies have dug in to defend what they have. They have dug in to defend the past.

Other than the process of vetting a doctoral dissertation, defending the past is never a winning choice for an extended period of time. For Wall Street and U.S. elites, defending the past has led us into the worst financial crises since the Great Depression. But, worse, they are attempting to continue defending the past by pouring billions of dollars in new liquidity into the rotting financial system each day, creating a classic case of macro-inflation. I.e., wheat prices jumping 46% in just two months.

Richard Land Slurs Senator Schumer

Ethics Daily has posted a report that castigates Richard Land, Director of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, for using a gutter Yiddish slur word to describe Jewish Senator Charles Schumer of New York in a lecture last week at Criswell College in Dallas, Texas.

This is yet another instance of the linguistic double standard that currently exists within the Southern Baptist Convention. Leaders like Land are free and unaccountable for publicly using racial slurs and gutter slang. Underlings, like SBC Outpost Blogger Ben Cole, can be terminated, without appeal, for daring to use mildly offensive slang in their blogs.

I would be interested in hearing Paige Patterson explain the propriety of Richard Land's use of the word "schmuck" to describe a United States Senator in comparison with the impropriety of Ben Cole's use of the word "crap" in a blog to describe something worthless. That, no doubt, would prick a lot of consciences.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Podcast: Interview with Dena Sher

Dr. Bruce Prescott's 3-2-08 "Religious Talk" radio interview (27 MB MP3) with Dena Sher, State Legislative Counsel for Americans United for Separation of Church and State. We talk about the so-called "Religious Viewpoints Anti-Discrimination Act" that was adopted as 2007 Texas House Bill 3678 last year. Last week a nearly identical bill passed the House Education Committee in Oklahoma as the 2008 Oklahoma House Bill 2211. This legislation would more aptly be labelled "An Act Securing a Captive Audience for Public School Prayers and Devotions."