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December 31, 2004


The media so rarely picks up the huge protests that happen, so one can't help butwonder if they're an effective means for change. The reason I like to go to protest marches is to stand surrounded by those that share my politics and feel that I am not alone.

December 10, 2004

Help "the most vile, despicable human beings in the country"

According to Field Marshall O'Reilly, that would beMedia Matters for America, the watchdog group founded by thoroughly repentant gay ex-Repthuglican David Brock. They need some help with their big year-end fundraising drive--with an endorsement like O'Reilly's, how could you say no?

For those of you who "circled the wagons" with us the Sunday after the election, this is where we sent the cash you donated. I figured that whatever your top issue is, it is severely impacted by the free pass the wing nuts get in the national media. MMFA takes the media to task and laboriously rights their many wrongs.

It's hard work. Hard. Pony up some Christmas cash, friends.

December 09, 2004

If the good Lord smites this nation will not be because of Janet Jackson's titties or David's and my wedding rings. It will be because we are a nation that allows things like this to happen:

U.S. veterans from the war in Iraq are beginning to show up at homeless shelters around the country, and advocates fear they are the leading edge of a new generation of homeless vets not seen since the Vietnam era.

"When we already have people from Iraq on the streets, my God," said Linda Boone, executive director of the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans. "I have talked to enough (shelters) to know we are getting them. It is happening and this nation is not prepared for that."

"I drove off in my truck. I packed my stuff. I lived out of my truck for a while," Seabees Petty Officer Luis Arellano, 34, said in a telephone interview from a homeless shelter near March Air Force Base in California run by U.S.VETS, the largest organization in the country dedicated to helping homeless veterans.

Arellano said he lived out of his truck on and off for three months after returning from Iraq in September 2003. "One day you have a home and the next day you are on the streets," he said.

In Iraq, shrapnel nearly severed his left thumb. He still has trouble moving it and shrapnel "still comes out once in a while," Arellano said. He is left handed.

Arellano said he felt pushed out of the military too quickly after getting back from Iraq without medical attention he needed for his hand -- and as he would later learn, his mind.

"It was more of a rush. They put us in a warehouse for a while. They treated us like cattle," Arellano said about how the military treated him on his return to the United States.

Bush says he wants a "culture of life," but that really only means paying obeisance at the radical right's Temple of the Fetus. But does this culture value the lives of innocent Iraqis? Nah. The lives of the American kids sent to die wastefully in Samarra and Fallujah? Nope. The life of an honorable veteran who expects a modicum of physical and mental health care when he returns home from a place that closely resembles hell? Of course not.

No, the Republicans can only offer him an "ownership society" free of a social safety net, affordable health care, and of course "flip-flops." Thank goodness this soldier doesn't have to suffer under the spongy sole of a windsurfing war hero as Commander-in-Chief! Bless Jesus indeed. Amen and pass the tax cuts, brother!

And hey, did Petty Officer Arellano really exhaust the options available to him in this great Republican ownership society? Because in their America, if you surive the war and your medical bills but still can't make ends meet, there's always a 700% interest payday loan to help you back on your feet. (Jesus did say something about the moneychangers, didn't he? The Bible is quite a bit more explicit on the subject of usury than gay marriage!)

In my darker moods, I say: let the smiting begin. But it's Christmas, the time of year for Baby Jesus more than the Fire and Brimestone, "by these wounds," Jesus-is-coming-and-he's-pissed Jesus. But at this time of year when Christians symbolically invite Jesus to "be born in us today," one does worry about how such an Arrival would go down. All I can think of is my favorite latter-day Christmas carols by the band Low. From their song "If You were born today":

If you were born today We'd kill you by age eight Never get the chance to say:

Joy to the world and
Peace on the earth
Forgive them for they know not what they do

They really don't know, do they? Could the GOP really understand what they are doing to this country, its people, and its ideals? It is hard for me to muster forgiveness this season--altogether impossible, in fact, if I attribute their actions to malice rather than ignorance. So let us call it ignorance, and pray for them, and for wisdom.

I don't have all the answers, or frankly even much hope that there are answers. (Perhaps that explains the addiction to a blunted faith that has a pat response to every question.) But I do know that when I pray for joy to the world and peace on earth this season, I know that I have never wanted these things more in my life, or felt them to be farther away. Perhaps the smiting has already begun.

December 08, 2004

Will "sane republicans" ever introduce their money to their mouth?

That's the question Christopher Rice (Ann's son) asks in an open letter to Republican friends, as quoted on AMERICAblog"

Before gay marriage bans were passed in 11 states, my Republican friends had a simple message for me: "Don't panic. We hate those right-wing nut jobs as much as you do."

Now I have a message for them.

Prove it! Take back your party from the religious extremists who are doing so much to demonize the friends you're always willing to console. Stop posting maudlin, disingenuous e-mails on blogs about your deep regret over having to sacrifice your gay friends for more important issues....

There is one problem with this. It's a big one, so I have saved it for last. If you're successful in rescuing the Republican Party from the religious extremists who have held it hostage for almost two decades, you guys will have to say goodbye to a lot of cold, hard cash. I'll leave it to you folks to come up with a good term for a person who accepts money to betray his friends. (Try the Bible.)


December 06, 2004

Amen, Rich

Pat Tillman was a war hero. The fact that he was killed by friendly fire, and the government lied about it to make him a media hero doesn't change that.

At his funeral, his brother Rich said "Pat isn’t with God. He’s fucking dead. He wasn’t religious. So thank you for your thoughts, but he’s fucking dead." Amen, brother. Give me such heartfelt honesty rather than the faux-piousness of the media any day.

December 01, 2004

National Review dings Bush on medical marijuana

In a first, I'm basing a post on a link from National Review Online that I actually agree with. When the NRO calls the Bush administration on its mad power grabs, you know it's bad.

From the earliest days of the Republic, the Supreme Court has emphasized that the Constitution creates a federal government of "limited and enumerated powers." There is no federal "police power" authorizing Congress to cure every injustice or right every wrong. Rather, the federal government was entrusted with those limited and discrete powers necessary for national cohesion. Matters of truly national import -- matters that cannot be handled by state and local governments acting alone or in concert -- are entrusted to the federal government. As made explicit in the Constitution's texts, all others powers remain in the hands of the states and the people.

Despite its apparent importance to drug warriors, Ashcroft v. Raich is not about medical marijuana or drug prohibition. Nor is it about the wisdom, or lack thereof, of allowing chronically ill individuals to smoke weed for medicinal purposes. Rather, it concerns the limits of federal power under the Constitution. Federalism does not play favorites. It limits the scope of federal power to pursue liberal and conservative ends alike. If a majority of the Court remembers this lesson, Angel Raich will get to keep her medicine. More important, the nation will keep the constitutional limits on federal power.

It's a very good article-- read it if you can avoid looking at the banner ads alongside it. Gads!

November 16, 2004

War Is Hell, As It Should Be.

The latest news from Iraq has a US Marine shooting an unarmed Iraqi prisoner inside a mosque. After instant media disapproval and outrage, the incident is under investigation.

I saw an edited clip on CNN this morning and was neither shocked nor disturbed. I may be wrong on this, but, isn't that war? You kill people. Lots of them. You face death 24 hours a day. Ostensibly within minutes of landing in Baghdad on your tour of duty, you learn to hate the enemy. A seething, animalistic, survivalist kind of mentality takes over. If it doesn't, you're more at risk that the next.

This––I could only imagine, for I have never served in an armed force––is normal behavior. What that soldier did, in my opinion, wasn't wrong. He'd been shot at for days, maybe even lost a few friends along the way, and rather than calculate the possibility that the injured and unarmed man slumped over in front of him wasn't concealing a weapon, he chose to protect himself and his fellow soldiers as efficiently as humanly possible.

What's ultimately wrong is that he, along with every other brave, hungry, and tired US soldier beside him, is in that very position. War is fucked up. But again, that is war. This wasn't the first time something like that happened, nor will it be the last.

The only reason that video is controversial is because it's on video.

November 14, 2004

Why we love The Stranger

Someday soon, you'll be feeling down again. This image will help you. bigcover-1.jpg

So, of course, will that week's issue of The Stranger.

November 09, 2004

soldier as citizen

I have never wanted to serve in the military. However, I have family members and friends that have either served or are serving in one branch or another of our nation's armed forces. While not all of those currently serving are in Iraq, a few are and I worry and pray for them everyday. I have told them and others who serve, past and present, "Thank you for putting your life on the line so that I can enjoy my freedoms."

One of the reasons that I won't serve in the military is that once you are in, you are the property of the US government (for at least 30 years). Now, while this may not be true legally (de jure), it is technically (de facto). And I am growing more and more concerned for the civil liberties of our men and women in uniform. (continued)

Stop-loss measures and the recall of the Individual Ready Reserves are threatening the basic citizenship rights of these people.

While the US military operation in Iraq is generally referred to as a war, it is not a congressionally declared war. The California lawsuit challenging the use of stop-loss by the Bush administration is an action that we should all be paying close attention to as it will challenge the legality of the Iraqi military operation.

So, this is not a declared war. Does it meet the criteria of a national emergency? The current spate of stop-loss orders was initiated by executive order after 9/11. Normally, it is Congress that provides the armed forces with the authorization for this type of action as it did during Vietnam and the Gulf War. Has the Bush administration overstepped its legal authority? Could this be grounds for impeachment?

One can only hope.

November 08, 2004

Gary Hart on faith and politics

The NYT today ran this this Op-Ed by Gary Hart. Lest it vanish into the either, I've posted it below. It's important, and important to me--Gary Hart attended the Christian college where my parents met, and he's a Yalie (Div and Law degrees). As a fellow recovering Nazarene, his take on all this strikes home with me. (For those of you mystified by his admission of being a sinner, I have two words for you: Monkey Business. Because only Republicans get forgiveness in American politics.)

If America has entered one of its periodic eras of religious revival and if that revival is having the profound impact on politics that is now presumed, to participate in a discussion of "faith" one must qualify oneself.

I was raised in the Church of the Nazarene, an evangelical denomination founded a century ago as an offshoot of American Methodism, which, the church founders believed, had become too liberal. I graduated from Bethany Nazarene College, where I met and married my wife, who was also brought up in the church. I then graduated from the Yale Divinity School as preparation for a life of teaching religion and philosophy.

The Nazarene Church abhorred drinking, smoking, dancing, movies and female adornment, believed in salvation through being "born again" and in sanctification as a second act of grace, and resisted most popular culture as the devil's work. In doctrine and practice, it was much more evangelical than fundamentalist.

A neglected thread of church doctrine was the social gospel of John and Charles Wesley, the great reformers of late 18th-century Methodism. The Wesley brothers preached salvation through grace but also preached the duty of Christians, based solidly on Jesus' teachings, to minister to those less fortunate. My political philosophy springs directly from Jesus' teachings and is the reason I became active in the Democratic Party. Finally, in the qualification-to-speak category, I will seek to pre-empt the ad hominem disqualifiers. I am a sinner. I only ask for the same degree of forgiveness from my many critics that they were willing to grant George W. Bush for his transgressions.

As a candidate for public office, I chose not to place my beliefs in the center of my appeal for support because I am also a Jeffersonian; that is to say, I believe that one's religious beliefs - though they will and should affect one's outlook on public policy and life - are personal and that America is a secular, not a theocratic, republic. Because of this, it should concern us that declarations of "faith" are quickly becoming a condition for seeking public office.

Declarations of "faith" are abstractions that permit both voters and candidates to fill in the blanks with their own religious beliefs. There are two dangers here. One is the merging of church and state. The other is rank hypocrisy. Having claimed moral authority to achieve political victory, religious conservatives should be very careful, in their administration of the public trust, to live up to the standards they have claimed for themselves. They should also be called upon to address the teachings of Jesus and the prophets concerning care for the poor, the barriers that wealth presents to entering heaven, the blessings on the peacemakers, and the belief that no person should be left behind.

If we are to insert "faith" into the public dialogue more directly and assertively, let's not be selective. Let's go all the way. Let's not just define "faith" in terms of the law and judgment; let's define it also in terms of love, caring, forgiveness. Compassionate conservatives can believe social ills should be addressed by charity and the private sector; liberals can believe that the government has a role to play in correcting social injustice. But both can agree that human need, poverty, homelessness, illiteracy and sickness must be addressed. Liberals are not against religion. They are against hypocrisy, exclusion and judgmentalism. They resist the notion that one side or the other possesses "the truth" to the exclusion of others. There is a great difference between Cotton Mather and John Wesley.

There is also the disturbing tendency to insert theocratic principles into the vision of America's role in the world. There is evil in the world. Nowhere in our Constitution or founding documents is there support for the proposition that the United States was given a special dispensation to eliminate it. Surely Saddam Hussein was an evil dictator. But there are quite a few of those still around and no one is advocating eliminating them. Neither Washington, Adams, Madison nor Jefferson saw America as the world's avenging angel. Any notion of going abroad seeking demons to destroy concerned them above all else. Mr. Bush's venture into crusaderism frightened not only Muslims, it also frightened a very large number of Americans with a sense of their own history.

The religions of Abraham all teach a sense of personal and collective humility. It was a note briefly struck very early by Mr. Bush and largely abandoned thereafter. It would be well for those in the second Bush term to ponder that attribute. Whether Bush supporters care or not, people around the world now see America as arrogant, self-righteous and superior. These are not qualities of any traditional faith I am aware of.

If faith now drives our politics, at the very least let's make it a faith of inclusion, genuine compassion, humility, justice and accountability. In the words of the prophet Micah: "He hath shown thee, O man, what is good. What doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?" And, instead of "O man," let's insert "O America."

Gary Hart, the former Democratic senator from Colorado, is the author, most recently, of"The Fourth Power: A Grand Strategy for the United States in the 21st Century.''

Szymborska speaks

My friend Jan in Poland, who is braver every day than most of us are called to be our whole lives, is nonetheless worried about us.

His kind words remind me that we should think always of the people around the world--known to us or complete strangers--who look to America (as a nation and as individual Americans) for inspiration. We should be thankful for them, and thankful that even in a dark time the abiding values of freedom and dedication to liberty still shine out in the world. We must not, cannot fail them.

Jan sent me this note, which I happily share:

"I am sending you two poems by Wislawa Szymborska, a Polish 1996 (I guess) Nobel Laureate. They might have bearing on the elections, Bush, humanity, history or whatever. Hope they help in anything."

They have bearing on all of the above, and more. I'm copying them below. Read them for their lyric beauty and moral insight. But as with so many things these days, they are for when you're ready to fight--not when you're ready to cry.

Thanks, Jan, from all of us.


See how efficient it still is,
how it keeps itself in shape--
our century's hatred.
How easily it vaults the tallest obstacles,
How rapidly it pounces, tracks us down.

It's not like other feelings.
At once both older and younger.
It gives birth itself to the reasons
that give it life.
When it sleeps, it's never eternal rest.
And sleeplessness won't sap its strength; it feeds it.

One religion or another--
whatever gets it ready, in position.
One fatherland or another--
whatever helps it get a running start.
Justice also works well at the outset
until hate gets its own momentum going.
Hatred. Hatred.
Its face twisted in a grimace
of erotic ecstasy.

Oh these other feelings,
listless weaklings.
Since when does brotherhood
draw crowds?
Has compassion
ever finished first?
Does doubt ever really rouse the rabble?
Only hatred has just what it takes.

Gifted, diligent, hardworking.
Need we mention all the songs it has composed?
All the pages it has added to our history books?
All the human carpets it has spread
over countless city squares and football fields?

Let's face it:
it knows how to make beauty.
The splendid fire-glow in midnight skies.
Magnificent bursting bombs in rosy dawns.
You can't deny the inspiring pathos of ruins
and a certain bawdy humor to be found
in the sturdy column jutting from their midst.

Hatred is a matter of contrast--
between explosions and dead quiet,
red blood and white snow.
Above all, it never tires
of its leitmotif--the impeccable executioner
towering over its soiled victim.

It's always ready for new challenges.
If it has to wait awhile, it will.
They say it's blind. Blind?
It has a sniper's keen sight
and gazes unflinchingly at the future
as only it can.

"The Turn of the Century"

It was supposed to be better than the others, our 20th

But it won't have time to prove it.

Its years are numbered,

its step unsteady,

its breath short.

Already too much has happened

that was not supposed to happen.

What was to come about

has not.

Spring was to be on its way,

and happiness, among other things.

Fear was to leave the mountains and valleys.

The truth was supposed to finish before the lie.

Certain misfortunes

were never to happen again

such as war and hunger and so forth.

These were to be respected:

the defenselessness of the defenseless,

trust and the like.

Whoever wanted to enjoy the world

faces an impossible task.

Stupidity is not funny.

Wisdom isn't jolly.


Is no longer the same young girl

et cetera. Alas.

God was the last to believe in man:

good and strong,

but good and strong

are still two different people.

How to live--someone asked me this in a letter,

someone I had wanted

to ask that very thing.

Again and as always,

and as seen above

there are no questions more urgent

than the naive ones.

New category

I'm hoping it's obvious what this is for. If you're still wondering, check out the Tom Paine quote at right.