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"Disorder in the house. . . reptile wisdom . . . zombies on the lawn, staggering around; Disorder in the house, there's a flaw in the system, a fly in the ointment's gonna bring the whole thing down."
Warren Zevon

Monday, February 28, 2005

U.S. Sabotages Treaty On Women's Equality 

Why am I not surprised? At a U.N. conference designed to mark the 10 year anniversary of the Beijing conference on equality for women, the Bush administration announced that it would withhold support for the accord unless the U.N. publicly renounced support for abortion rights. Not satisfied with previous efforts to undermine support for global population initiatives by re-directing funds to "abstinence only" programs, Bush now takes aim at his real target, the broader concept of global women's equality. From the Guardian:

The chief of the US delegation, Sichan Siv, went on to tell his counterparts that Washington opposed the ratification of the international treaty on women's equality, as well as resolutions that would "place emphasis on 'rights' that not all member states accept, such as so-called 'sexual rights'."

Mr Siv also told diplomats that Washington opposed any move to seek funds from industrialised countries to implement the reforms called for under the Beijing declaration.

The stand left America almost entirely isolated at the pre-conference sessions. According to officials who were at the meetings, only the Vatican observer supported Washington's hard line.


"Not all member states"? Well, "not all" meaning everyone but the U.S. and the Vatican observer. Great, another fearsome and united "coalition of the willing:" Us and some guy from the Vatican. Only a man as morally bankrupt as George W. Bush would object a global treaty on women's equality just to score political points with the Christian Right.

I'm not surprised. Disgusted and embarrassed, yeah, but not surprised.


Update: Much more on this topic can be found at Mahablog.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Deplorable 

Continuing the theme of the post below, I note via Barbara O'Brien of Mahablog, the Washington Post editorial entitled "Deadly Ignorance," which details the Bush administration's extension of a policy which undermines the fight against global HIV/AIDS. "Deadly" is certainly right, but "ignorance?" Not a chance; on this issue, Bush's minions know exactly what they're doing.

As the editorial notes, "A large body of scientific evidence suggests that the free provision of clean needles curbs the spread of AIDS among drug users without increasing rates of addiction. Given that addicts are at the center of many of the AIDS epidemics in Eastern Europe and Asia, ignoring this science could cost millions of lives. In Russia, as of 2004, 80 percent of all HIV cases involved drug injectors, and many of these infections occurred because addicts share contaminated needles. In Malaysia, China, Vietnam and Ukraine, drug injectors also account for more than half of all HIV cases. Once a critical mass of drug users carries the virus, the epidemic spreads via unprotected sex to non-drug users."

In spite of such evidence, not only does the administration refuse to "spend federal dollars on needle exchange, but the administration also is waging a campaign to persuade the United Nations to toe its misguided line. The U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime, which is heavily reliant on U.S. funding, has been made to expunge references to needle exchange from its literature, and the administration is expected to continue its pressure on the United Nations at a meeting that starts March 7."

Even worse, when questioned on a policy so clearly contrary to scientific evidence, the State Department spokesmen do what this administration does so well: They lie. What's more, they lie blatantly and stupidly, by citing three studies which purportedly document the ineffectiveness of needle exchange programs, when in fact, the studies cited show just the opposite.

"One of [the researchers cited] is Steffanie A. Strathdee of the University of California at San Diego; when we contacted her, she responded that her research "supports the expansion of needle exchange programs, not the opposite." Another researcher cited by the administration is Martin T. Schechter of the University of British Columbia; he wrote us that "Our research here in Vancouver has been repeatedly used to cast doubt on needle exchange programs. I believe this is a clear misinterpretation of the facts." Yet a third researcher cited by the administration is Julie Bruneau at the University of Montreal; she told us that "in the vast majority of cases needle exchange programs drive HIV incidence lower." We asked Dr. Bruneau whether she favored needle exchanges in countries such as Russia or Thailand. "Yes, sure," she responded."

On the other hand, "Evidence that the administration does not cite leaves little doubt about the case for needle exchange. A study of 81 cities published in 1997 in the Lancet, a medical journal, found that in cities without needle-exchange programs, HIV infection rates among injection drug users rose by nearly 6 percent per year; by contrast, cities that had introduced free-needle programs witnessed a decrease in infection rates of about the same magnitude."

So, ignorance or dishonesty? This one isn't even close. As the editorial notes, the administration's attempt to influence the U.N. to follow misguided U.S. policy amounts to "bullying flat-earthism. It won't help President Bush's current effort to relaunch his image among allies. And it's almost certain to kill people."

Tough Call 

Father Andrew Greeley is not one to mince words:

"As the criminal, sinful war in Iraq enters its third year, the president goes to Europe to heal the wounds between the United States and its former allies, on his own terms of course. The White House propaganda mill will hail it as another victory for the president and ignore the fact that most Europeans still consider the war dangerous folly and the president a dangerous fool.

One hears new rationalizations for the war on this side of the Atlantic. After the hearings on Secretary of State Rice, a Republican senator, with all the self-righteous anger that characterizes many such, proclaimed, "The Democrats just have to understand that the president really believed there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq." This justification is not unlike the one heard frequently at the White House, "The president believed the intelligence agencies of the world."

Would it not be much better to have a president who deliberately lied to the people because he thought a war was essential than to have one who was so dumb as to be taken in by intelligence agencies, especially those who told him what he wanted to hear?"


Tough call, that one. Ultimately, I don't think we have to choose, as we clearly have both scenarios: a president who is undeniably dumb, and an administration ready and willing to lie.

Father Greeley would likely agree, although his most recent essay puts more emphasis on the outright lies of the administration, notably the idea that the 2004 election produced a clear mandate, the fictionalized Social Security "crisis," and the idea that Iraqi elections somehow validate all Bush's Iraq policy. There's nothing novel in Father Greeley's comments, but it's gratifying to see a religious leader who's not afraid to plainly state that the president of our country is both a fool and a liar.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Bye and Bye 

Right now, I've got nothing to say that someone else hasn't already said.
But nobody else is playing this tune. So I'm just gonna close my eyes and listen. . .

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

The Warnings of History 

Reading Avedon Carol, I note this Common Dreams essay by Thom Hartmann, who reminds us that those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it. All quotes are from "When Democracy Failed":

This weekend - February 27th - is the 72nd anniversary, but the corporate media most likely won't cover it. The generation that experienced this history firsthand is now largely dead, and only a few of us dare hear their ghosts.

. . .

It started when the government, in the midst of an economic crisis, received reports of an imminent terrorist attack. A foreign ideologue had launched feeble attacks on a few famous buildings, but the media largely ignored his relatively small efforts.

. . .

But the warnings of investigators were ignored at the highest levels, in part because the government was distracted; the man who claimed to be the nation's leader had not been elected by a majority vote and the majority of citizens claimed he had no right to the powers he coveted.

He was a simpleton, some said, a cartoon character of a man who saw things in black-and-white terms and didn't have the intellect to understand the subtleties of running a nation in a complex and internationalist world.

His coarse use of language - reflecting his political roots in a southernmost state - and his simplistic and often-inflammatory nationalistic rhetoric offended the aristocrats, foreign leaders, and the well-educated elite in the government and media. And, as a young man, he'd joined a secret society with an occult-sounding name and bizarre initiation rituals that involved skulls and human bones.

. . .

"You are now witnessing the beginning of a great epoch in history," he proclaimed, standing in front of the burned-out building, surrounded by national media. "This fire," he said, his voice trembling with emotion, "is the beginning." He used the occasion - "a sign from God," he called it - to declare an all-out war on terrorism and its ideological sponsors, a people, he said, who traced their origins to the Middle East and found motivation for their evil deeds in their religion.

. . .

Within four weeks of the terrorist attack, the nation's now-popular leader had pushed through legislation - in the name of combating terrorism and fighting the philosophy he said spawned it - that suspended constitutional guarantees of free speech, privacy, and habeas corpus. Police could now intercept mail and wiretap phones; suspected terrorists could be imprisoned without specific charges and without access to their lawyers; police could sneak into people's homes without warrants if the cases involved terrorism.

. . .

His propaganda minister orchestrated a campaign to ensure the people that he was a deeply religious man and that his motivations were rooted in Christianity. He even proclaimed the need for a revival of the Christian faith across his nation, what he called a "New Christianity." Every man in his rapidly growing army wore a belt buckle that declared "Gott Mit Uns" - God Is With Us - and most of them fervently believed it was true.

. . .

He appointed one of his most trusted associates to be leader of this new agency, the Central Security Office for the homeland, and gave it a role in the government equal to the other major departments.

. . .

He also reached out to the churches, declaring that the nation had clear Christian roots, that any nation that didn't openly support religion was morally bankrupt, and that his administration would openly and proudly provide both moral and financial support to initiatives based on faith to provide social services.


And it continues, with the undeniable parallels almost painful to read. Read the entire article.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Gannon's Unfinished Business 

Steve Young, of American Politics Journal, has uncovered a list of questions that Jeff "Gannon" intended to ask, but never got the chance. (via onegoodmove)

QUESTIONS JEFF GANNON NEVER GOT TO ASK:

"In the early 1940's, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and turncoat Jim Jeffries murdered six million Jews and untold numbers of homosexuals. How do you work with these obviously insane assassins to pass laws that will only help the American people? And could you also address why misguided Jews, Negroes and Gays blindly support the Democratic party."

"Senator Ted Kennedy said the 3,000 innocents who died on September 11 were little Eichmanns, and probably were all having secret affairs that would make their spouses crap their pants if they knew about them. With this Hate America First crowd, how can you ever successfully deliver democracy and freedom to those being tortured by tyrants around the world who are supported by liberal college professors in an academic community that teaches the blessings of Marxism and Christ-killing?"

"People say you said the reason you went in to Iraq was because of the WMD, Iraq's dangerous ties to Al Qaeda, and impending nuclear attacks from Iraq, obviously applaud the rape rooms of Saddam, when we all know you went in to bring freedom to the forsaken Iraqi people. Comment?"

"There are rumblings that Hillary Clinton may run for President in 2008. Will your administration bring out the fact that she slept with the entire membership of every Harvard fraternity AND sorority? And is there room in the budget to resurrect the Whitewater scandal to find out why she killed Vince Foster? I mean, if she did. Could you also comment on the size of her calves?"

"Your administration is the greatest thing that's ever been placed on God's green earth. Could you expand on that?"

"Liberals believe that murdering innocent unborn children is cool. Does that have anything to do with the good your Social Security reform will do?"

"If I just saw Wolf Blitzer take an extra croissant from the press breakfast buffet, but don't want to say so on camera, who do I report that to?"

"Why does Helen Thomas even bother to show up?"

"Democrats hate religion and urinate on God. Do you have any idea why?"

"Jon Stewart continues to trash Robert Novak for just adhering to his God-given, constitutional right to keep his sources private. Can you or Attorney General Gonzales figure out some way to shut down Comedy Central under the Patriot Act?"

"Where can I get one of those Mission Accomplished Bomber Jackets?"

"Democrats hate that minorities like Colin Powell, Alberto Gonzales and Condi Rice have gained influential posts under your administration. That's not a question but if you can make one out of it I think it would make for a freakin' dynamite opportunity to slam Jesse Jackson good."

"Could you tell us again how much you won the last election by? And which 'war hero' who gave hope to the North Vietnamese to carry on the war way longer and endangers the lives of POWs lost?"

"What the hell is it with Hollywood not nominating 'The Passion of the Christ' for a Best Picture Oscar? Are Michael Moore and Tim Robbins so out of touch with mainstream America that they believe that a film like 'Million Dollar Baby' that glorifies euthanasia is what our children need to see? And speaking of the good of our children, why do Democrats want to teach our children that premarital sex is best tried prior to entering middle school?"

"Gosh, you look really ripped today. What time do you get off? And I have a follow up."

"How do you know if you don't try it?"

Monday, February 21, 2005

When The Going Gets Weird, The Weird Turn Pro 

Hunter S. Thompson left us the same way he did everything else: on his own terms. His "gonzo journalism" provided the vehicle for, and was in some ways inseparable from, one of America's truly original voices. Respected, revered, feared and loathed, Hunter Thompson wrote about and exposed American culture through his own unique filter, even while his acerbic pen relentlessly skewered those whose viewpoints and politics he opposed.

Not surprisingly, today has seen the publication of many superb, heartfelt tributes, with a few of my favorites to be found here, here, and here. And, with the notable exception of a petty, "I-told-you-so" piece by pundit Ed Driscoll which positively reeks of poorly disguised jealousy, even conservatives expressed respect for a man with whom they viciously disagreed, but whose genius was undeniable.

With writings that I'm convinced will be remembered more as literature than journalism, Hunter Thompson was the voice of his generation in a way that few will ever be able to emulate. His life was simply a longer version of his books, and as with any compelling work, I'm sad to reach the last chapter.

Still, I won't even try to feign surprise at the ending; Hunter S. Thompson was not the kind of man who fades away gracefully. To borrow a line from a joke I read just yesterday, Thompson looked at God and said, "You can't fire me, I quit." I really wish he'd just made the announcement, then worked a long notice; it'll take forever to find someone to replace him.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Faith Without Works 

To the extent that Christian fundamentalism requires one to hold beliefs which conflict with reality, it makes sense that religious conservatives would feel at home putting their "faith" in George W. Bush. And, if "faith" is defined as "a firm belief in something for which there is no proof," then the belief that this man is a moral, Christian President certainly meets that definition.

To be sure, most of Bush's Christian supporters look no further than his words; Michael Gerson drenches his speeches with evangelical catch phrases, Bush says he's born again, and that's enough for his Christian flock to maintain their comfortable, yet myopic worldview. Some of his more conscientious Christian supporters, however, have begun to acknowledge the fact that Bush's policies invariably belie his words. Still, even when his policies are criticized, these individuals often maintain their "faith" in Bush. Such continued "faith" constitutes not only certainty in the absence of proof, but certainty in the presence of overwhelming proof to the contrary.

Earlier this week, David Kuo, a former aide to President Bush, wrote a brutally honest essay for BeliefNet, openly acknowledging the fact that Bush's "pro-poor," "compassionate conservative" agenda turned out to be nothing more than empty promises and unfunded mandates. But even while admitting that Bush delivered "only a whisper of what was promised," Kuo nonetheless affirms Bush's "sincerity and compassion," which he says was evident from the way in which he was treated during his illness. Mr. Kuo might be reminded that kindness to one's close friends and political allies, a sentiment only slightly above cronyism, is hardly the hallmark of a broader compassion for the condition of the less fortunate. In that context, Mr. Bush's actions speak louder than either his words or his convenient gestures of kindness to a trusted employee.

Similarly, on the eve of the signing of the Kyoto Treaty, Rev. Jim Ball, PhD., executive director of the Evangelical Environmental Network, published "A Christian Perspective on the Kyoto Protocol," in which he writes, "While I believe President Bush cares about the plight of the poor, this is not reflected in his climate policy. As a country, and as the world's No. 1 source of greenhouse gases, America needs to do much more." Again, "faith" in its purest form: belief in the absence of proof.

And, for those still inclined to give Mr. Bush the benefit of the doubt on this issue, consider the very personal experience of Jim Wallis, author, evangelical pastor and director of the Soujourners, a progressive orgainization devoted to concerns of social justice. As Ron Suskind relates in his seminal New York Times article, "Without a Doubt," in 2000, then governor Bush met with Wallis and a group of other clergy members to discuss the state of the country, and asked the group "How do I speak to the soul of the nation"? When Wallis answered that Mr. Bush needed to listen to the poor and those who live and work with poor people," Bush's response is telling: He called for his speechwriter, Michael Gerson to come over and listen. As Suskind reports, a line almost identical to Wallis' response appeared in Bush's inaugural address.

Unfortunately, that line, and similar rhetoric, is all the poor ever got from that conference. Even more unfortunately, Jim Wallis had the temerity to bring that fact to Bush's attention, and as a direct result, is no longer welcome in the White House.

As Wallis tells Ron Suskind, in February of 2002, Wallis was present in the Roosevelt Room ceremony announcing Jim Towery as the head of Bush's faith-based initiatives. John DiIulio had previously left that position for health reasons, and amid suspiscions that ''compassionate conservatism'' might be nothing more than a crass political ploy to mobilize the Christian right. From here, I quote directly from Suskind:

Moments after the ceremony, Bush saw Wallis. He bounded over and grabbed the cheeks of his face, one in each hand, and squeezed. ''Jim, how ya doin', how ya doin'!'' he exclaimed. . . . Wallis recalls telling Bush he was doing fine, '''but in the State of the Union address a few days before, you said that unless we devote all our energies, our focus, our resources on this war on terrorism, we're going to lose.' I said, 'Mr. President, if we don't devote our energy, our focus and our time on also overcoming global poverty and desperation, we will lose not only the war on poverty, but we'll lose the war on terrorism.'''

Bush replied that that was why America needed the leadership of Wallis and other members of the clergy.

''No, Mr. President,'' Wallis says he told Bush, ''We need your leadership on this question, and all of us will then commit to support you. Unless we drain the swamp of injustice in which the mosquitoes of terrorism breed, we'll never defeat the threat of terrorism.''

Bush looked quizzically at the minister, Wallis recalls. They never spoke again after that.


According to Wallis, he is no longer invited to the White House, and no longer has the opportunity to converse with Mr. Bush. Based on Mr. Bush's many comments containing his now familiar messianic tone, perhaps he believes he no longer needs help in discerning the word of God.

Nor is Jim Wallis reticent about speaking out against the Bush administration from a Christian perspective. In his February 15, 2005 article for The Capital Times, entitled "Bush Budget Lacks Moral Vision," Wallis writes, "The cost of the deficit is increasingly borne by the poor. The budget projects a record $427 billion deficit and promises to make tax cuts benefiting the wealthiest permanent.

Religious communities spoke clearly in the past years about the perils of a domestic policy based primarily on tax cuts for the rich, program cuts for low-income people and an expectation of faith-based charity.

We must speak clearly now about a budget lacking moral vision. A budget that scapegoats the poor and fattens the rich, that asks for sacrifice mostly from those who can least afford it, is a moral outrage."


And while Jim Wallis doesn't footnote his criticisms of Bush administration policy with professions of personal faith in Bush, many, like David Kuo and Jim Ball still do. What will it take before evangelicals with a conscience admit that this president is Christian in name only? Possibly the realization that blind faith is a concept best reserved for God, not self-professed messengers of God.

As that day will likely not be soon in coming, in the meantime, Bush's Christian supporters would be well served to consult the book they so often quote for guidance on "faith-based" matters. In a passage addressing the requirement that Christians meet the needs of those less fortunate, the New Testament author of the Book of James asks, "What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? The answer, of course, is "nothing." As James so poignantly states, "Faith, without works, is dead."

Liars and Shills 

If you read nothing else today, read Frank Rich's New York Times column, "The White House Stages It's 'Daily Show.'" I read this piece yesterday, but didn't have time to link to it until now.

While reasonable minds may differ on substantive policy issues, the efforts of this White House to manipulate the media, and to withhold and distort the truth, are indefensible. Ideological differences simply cannot justify this administration's overt actions to prevent Americans from learning the truth about their own government. And while Rich's op-ed is comprehensive from a media perspective, ranging from Karen Ryan and Alberto Garcia, to Armstrong Williams, Jeff "Gannon" and Bush's scripted "Town Hall" meetings, other egregious examples come quickly to mind, including the post-9-11 doctored EPA report, and the pre-election withholding of the most damning portions of the 9-11 Commission Report.

At least now the media side of the issue is drawing some attention. Here's an excerpt from Frank Rich:

Even now, we know that the fake news generated by the six known shills is only a small piece of the administration's overall propaganda effort. President Bush wasn't entirely joking when he called the notoriously meek March 6, 2003, White House press conference on the eve of the Iraq invasion "scripted" while it was still going on. (And "Jeff Gannon" apparently wasn't even at that one). Everything is scripted.

The pre-fab "Ask President Bush" town hall-style meetings held during last year's campaign (typical question: "Mr. President, as a child, how can I help you get votes?") were carefully designed for television so that, as Kenneth R. Bazinet wrote last summer in New York's Daily News, "unsuspecting viewers" tuning in their local news might get the false impression they were "watching a completely open forum." A Pentagon Office of Strategic Influence, intended to provide propagandistic news items, some of them possibly false, to foreign news media was shut down in 2002 when it became an embarrassing political liability. But much more quietly, another Pentagon propaganda arm, the Pentagon Channel, has recently been added as a free channel for American viewers of the Dish Network. Can a Social Security Channel be far behind?

It is a brilliant strategy. When the Bush administration isn't using taxpayers' money to buy its own fake news, it does everything it can to shut out and pillory real reporters who might tell Americans what is happening in what is, at least in theory, their own government.


Read the rest.

Monday, February 14, 2005

I'm Not the Only One. . . 

. . . who follows the Rapture Index. MyDD also takes notice of the Grist article to which I've previously linked, and specifically, the fact that some evangelicals are actually taking steps to hasten the apocalypse. And on that note, take a look at "Forcing the End," an account of one man's quest to bring about the apocalypse by breeding a red heifer, thus fulfilling a Biblical end times prophecy. Unfortunately for this country and the world at large, these people are for real.

Torture as a Policy Issue 

Avedon Carol can't believe she's actually typing the phrase "torture debate." It's a valid point: Are there no "givens" any more? When we're actually carrying on serious, structured debates about something as universally reviled as torture, you know our government is in the hands of extremists. As William H. Taft, IV notes in his letter to Deputy Assistant Attorney General John C. Yoo, "as John Marshall was fond of saying, to ask the question is to answer it."

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Lie and Lie Again 

Counterpunch has another great essay from Paul Craig Roberts, Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration, former Associate Editor of the Wall Street Journal editorial page and Contributing Editor of National Review, this one entitled, Nothing to Fear But Bush Himself:

"Suppose you are the party responsible for invading a country under totally false pretenses. Suppose you had totally unrealistic expectations about the consequences of your gratuitous aggression.

What do you do when, instead of being greeted with flowers, you find your army is tied down by insurgents and you have no face-saving way to get out of the morass? If you are the moronic Bush administration, you blame someone else.

Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Rice, Cheney and Bush blame Syria and Iran for the troubles that they brought upon themselves. The Iraqi insurgency, say the Five Morons, is the fault of Syria and Iran.

Here is Rumsfeld excusing himself for his dismal failures in Iraq: "Partly it's [the insurgency] a function of what the Syrians and the Iranians are doing."

You see, the facts that the US invaded Iraq on false pretenses, killed and maimed tens of thousands of Iraqis, shot down women and children in the streets, blew up Iraqis' homes, hospitals and mosques, cut Iraqis off from vital services such as water and electricity, destroyed the institutions of civil society, left half the population without means of livelihood, filled up prisons with people picked up off the streets and then tortured and humiliated them for fun and games are not facts that explain why there is an insurgency. These facts are just descriptions of collateral damage associated with America 'bringing democracy to Iraq.'"


Read the rest.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

On Earth, As It Is In Heaven 

Paul Krugman realizes he may sound shrill when he says that Bush's new budget "takes food from the mouths of babes and gives the proceeds to his millionaire friends," but he says it anyway, because it's true. Public Theologian, referring to Krugman's column entitled "Bush's Class-War Budget," calls Krugman a "latter-day prophet," and asks "How can a bunch of people who rail on and on about how this nation was founded on the Christian faith vote for someone whose budget would slash food stamp recipients while at the same time cutting taxes for millionaires---again?"

A good question, and one which highlights two of the big lies of the religious right. First, as I'm sure Public Theologian knows, this nation wasn't "founded on the Christian faith," despite what the "strict constructionists" might argue. As Susan Jacoby points out in her book, "Freethinkers, A History of American Secularism," the framework of this nation was a purposefully secular reaction against governmental religious oppression, and was specifically crafted "to allow religious thought and practice, not to endorse a single form of it."

From her interview with Buzzflash: "In fact, leaving God out of the Preamble to the Constitution – it was revolutionary. There had never been a government that legally separated church and state before, and it was very deliberate. The omission of God from the Constitution was debated at all of the state ratifying conventions about the Constitution before and when it was finally ratified."

Indeed. The central irony in the argument advanced by those who argue to dissolve the wall between Church and State, is that it is the secular character of our government that has allowed religion to flourish to the extent it has.

The second problem highlighted by Public Theologian's rhetorical question is that Christians who support this administration clearly don't take the teachings of Jesus seriously. If they did, they would focus on feeding the poor, and caring for children, the sick, and the elderly, subjects about which Jesus frequently spoke, rather than on homosexuality, a subject about which Jesus said not a word.

Why do fundamentalists miss Jesus' focus on social justice? Some suggest that we blame the author of Matthew's gospel, who, rather than use the hallowed name of God, translated Jesus' many references to "the Kingdom of God," as "the Kingdom of Heaven." In the opinions of theologians Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan, among others, this subtle shift in lexicon obscured Jesus' directives to bring about God's Kingdom here, on earth, and allowed religious leaders to teach that the blessings offered by The Beatitudes would be conferred only in the afterlife. This idea has been famously and perniciously used by both clergy and political leaders throughout the centuries to justify all manner of oppression, including economic deprivation, slavery, racial and gender discrimination, and far, far worse.

Regardless of its origins, the belief that Christianity is not concerned with temporal social justice is the deliberate lie that allows the religious right to support the policies which are destroying this country. I'm convinced that those folks wouldn't recognize true Christianity if it walked up and crucified itself right in front of them. After all, they missed it the first time.

True Christian ethics survive, nonetheless, albeit in some unlikely places. Susan Jacoby's book, for example, ends by reminding us that "the essence of the secularist and humanist state. . . must be offered not as a defensive response to the religiously correct, but as a robust creed worthy of the world’s first secular government . . . a nation founded not on dreams of justice in heaven but on the best human hopes for a more just earth."

Knowingly or not, Ms. Jacoby finds the common ground. How ironic it is that, in defending secular government and contrasting its ideals with those of the "religiously correct," Ms. Jacoby summarizes her argument with a paraphrase of the world's best known Christian prayer. How much more ironic that many of today's Christians never really hear the words they so often recite: "Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth, as it is in Heaven."

Friday, February 11, 2005

Stand By Your Man 

Gen. JC Christian stands by his man Bush, who stands by his man, Guckert/Gannon.

Seriously, though, photo-shopping aside, most everyone is framing the issue in terms of White House sanctioned propaganda, which Gannon's presence in the White House press room most certainly was, but hell, that's not even surprising. What stands out to me is the sheer incompetence of the effort. Surely, there was a better choice of shill than this guy. No journalistic credentials, a shady business background, and connections to gay escort services. I guess the flip side of that is that it took two years for anybody on the left to notice. If the guy hadn't tried to "gild the lily" with a question premised on the fact that Democrats had "divorced themselves from reality," he'd probably still be there, lobbing his usual softballs.

And what do we make of his apparent connection to Karl Rove, given the context of the Plame CIA memo? Sloppy work, guys. You can count on the hapless mainstream media not to catch this stuff, but now you've got to contend with the bloggers, who, of course, operate on both sides; just ask Dan Rather.

But, wait. . . male prostitution. . . access to the White House. . . this actually sounds familiar. Anybody remember Craig Spence? Rigorous Intuition does, and as I remember it, that guy ended up dead. Guckert/Gannon claims the "liberals" are stalking him, but if he ever actually did anything with those domain names, he should probably be more worried about the other side of the aisle.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Jimmy Smith, 1925 - 2005 

I used to own a bar. I booked mostly blues bands, so I bought an old Hammond B-2 from this shyster down in Mississippi, had it shipped up here to North Carolina, and set it up with a leslie at the back of the stage. I figured that the keyboard players with the bands I booked would appreciate it, but more often than not, I ended up sitting in myself.

There's something organic about playing a tone wheel Hammond with a rotating speaker; the tones are warmer than electronically generated sounds, and the effect of a leslie's rotating speaker, well, that just can't be duplicated with some effects loop or sampling keyboard. And, chances are, neither you nor I would have ever heard the B-3 in blues or jazz had it not been for Jimmy Smith, who absolutely ruled the instrument in the 50's and 60's. There's nothing I can say about the man that hasn't already been said, and given the fact that almost every jazz and blues luminary of the past four decades has sung his praises at one time or another, I'd feel silly even trying. So, I'll just shut up and listen. Preach on, Jimmy.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Here I Go Again 

If the attention the blogosphere has recently given to the religious right is any indication, the left is finally beginning to wake up to the fact that fundamentalism is now "mainstream" Christianity. I've said as much for years, only to be told by my colleagues that the religious right is merely the most vocal and visible faction of Christianity, and that mainstream American protestantism doesn't embrace the dogmatic but selective literalism of the fundamentalists. I beg to differ, and my obsession with ranting against the "Christian" right is one of the primary reasons I write this blog, as I'm sure my fellow bloggers here grow weary of my sometimes caustic posts on the subject.

I've often lamented the demise of The Right Christians, as Allen Brill doesn't seem to post as often on that blog's successor-in-interest, The Village Gate. The Faithful Progressive, though, addresses much the same subject matter, and does so with much more charity toward the religious right than I can usually muster. If my previous links to Jesus General and The Rude Pundit's treatment of the topic were a bit much for anyone, try Faithful Progressive. In a recent post, FP promises us a series on the rise of the religious right. I'll read it, but like Apostropher and his mom, hey, I've lived it.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Hiatus 

If anyone is actually interested, a ridiculously complicated jury trial has me completely unable to post anything this week. Read Avedon Carol; she always has great observations, and clearly provides the best overall survey of the leftward side of the blogosphere. I'm sure I'll find the time to rant about something next week, and I'll have some new tunes up in a day or so.
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