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Wednesday, January 02, 2075
(12:21 PM) | Stephen:
Sheesh, The Things I Forget To Do

Where to begin? Firstly, sorry it's been so long. Secondly, the big news is that I'm one of the contributors to Cogitamus, a new group blog composed of Ezra alumni and a few other folks we managed to fool into thinking that it would be a good idea to join us.

So in addition to the end of year nuttiness, I've also been working on design stuff, setting up accounts and domain names and even working to ban a particularly persistent troll whose specialty is harassing female bloggers.

I will keep the Thinkery, at least for a while, but I won't be regularly updating it. I will use it to post the occasional item that doesn't really fit the model of a group blog that focuses on politics. Posts such as one dealing with the ramifications of the filioque in the Nicene Creed, and why that matters to every Christian in the world even if you don't know it.

So please, please update your bookmarks and change your browsing habits to head over to Cogitamus (that's www.cogitamusblog.com, folks!) instead of here. I'll keep this post on the top of the screen. Whenever I write something that I post back over here, I'll put up a note and link to it at Cogitamus, so there's no need to worry about missing anything if you don't regularly come back here.


Sunday, March 23, 2008
(12:16 AM) | Stephen:

You know what Easter is? It's a father looking at those who murdered his son and saying, "I forgive you."

You know what Easter is? It's a God looking at the mess we've made of our world and ourselves and saying, "I'm going to give you a way to make it right."

You know what Easter is? It's the Creator looking at Death and saying, "I think I've changed my mind about you."

You know what Easter is? It's the whisper in the darkness, in the midst of fear saying, "I am here. . . .with you."

And all of Creation trembles in wonder, and delight.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007
(3:19 PM) | Stephen:
Oh, For

Crying out loud.

This video reminds me of how a theology professor at my alma mater got in trouble for telling his class that the 12 Disciples weren't Christians. That they were all Jews just went right over some of his students' heads. And yes, it does matter a great deal that all of them were Jews, especially since 3 of the Gospels claim to be from Apostolic sources as well as the Petrine Epistles.

On a completely different note, I'm really tired of being sick. I've had chest, sinus and multiple ear infections for about a month now. I'm used to a chest or sinus infection once, maybe twice a year. Blech.

Friday, November 30, 2007
(1:38 PM) | Stephen:
It's So Hard To Be A Member Of The Majority

Remember when I wrote this a few days ago?
What is wrong, however, is spending 365 days a year in a righteous little snit over the utter gall of some people to not only refuse to address one's every whim, but their failure to anticipate what whim currently occupies one's attention this afternoon.
Today's idiot in a righteous little snit because they aren't getting preferential treatment comes to us from WorldNetDaily:
Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air have announced a new program that will charge heterosexuals 10 percent extra for their air travel to specific locations during the Christmas season.
Can you believe that? If you don't prove to them that you're gay, they'll add 10% to your ticket price!

Oh, wait:
The company actually offers the 10 percent as a discount but only if the purchaser obtains the ticket through a "gay" page of the company's website, a location not typically patronized by families seeking travel arrangements, according to an Idaho activist who was distressed by the offering.
Well, this falls under the "gum in class" rule, doesn't it? If you don't bring enough for everyone, then you can't chew your gum. Obviously companies never, ever offer discounts to particular groups.

I'll just wait a few moments as you purge your memories of all the "Christian" nights at amusement parks and baseball games, and the family meal nights at restaurants where kids eat free in order to get the parents to come too, and the family vacation packages that are always sold, and well, you get the idea.

The problem is clearly not the issue of a discount, but that Alaskan Airlines considers those homosexuals to be real people deserving of the same treatment as everyone else.

Consider this little gem:
"They are giving preferences to male passengers who want to wear dresses on the planes, and giving them preference over married couples," Fischer said, noting families typically buy more tickets than individuals or pairs traveling together.
I guess I missed the part where the discount is only for cross-dressers. And families buy more tickets at one time than a person traveling alone, but that doesn't mean they buy more tickets overall.

Go ahead and read the rest of the article if you have the stomach for it. It's the pure, quadruple-distilled essence of the culture of entitlement and victimization that infuses modern American conservatism. "If I'm not getting a benefit, then I'm getting a penalty!" "If a business reaches out to people other than me me me and people just like me me me then they aren't worthy of my patronage!"

It's disgusting.

Thursday, November 29, 2007
(1:43 PM) | Stephen:
At Least It's Interesting

Rudy Giuliani has not only been married three times, and he not only was forced out of the Mayor's Residence by his then-wife because of his affair with his now-wife, apparently used New York City funds to pay for his romantic getaways with his then-mistress/now-wife in the Hamptons. He used his security detail to help cover things up and tried to hide the public financing of his private affair by using the budgets of fairly obscure city departments like the Office for People with Disabilities.

I'm sure everyone reading this blog already knows about this. You knew about it yesterday. The question is, what about the rest of the country? My recent Google News search for "Giuliani" brought up over 1,000 articles relating to the debate last night and how Rudy and Mitt went after each other. There were approximately 250 articles on Giuliani's misappropriation of city funds.

Drudge led with the story for a while, and even Fox News has paid some attention to it, although "Special Report with Brit Hume," for example, spent most of their time blathering about Bill Clinton and managed to squeeze in only a hurried reference to the Giuliani story at the end.

That, I think, is the real problem with the story: it's not about Bill Clinton. Or to put it another way, it doesn't fit established storylines and narratives. It has the potential to be treated as a Big Deal, but there's no guarantee at this point that it'll really go anywhere in the press. Giuliani was a pretty rotten mayor. When he left most New Yorkers hated him, none more than the FDNY because of how Giuliani's decisions regarding their radio system led to many of the Fire Department's losses on 9/11. His BFF Bernie Kerik is a complete crook. Almost everything he's said about his record in NYC has been not only false but easily demonstrated as such.

Yet he still has managed to sit atop polls and receive good press, not only from Roger Ailes but other media outlets as well. They've crafted a narrative around him, one that a bunch of the country seems to accept, and that's what will make it hard for the news media to turn on him now rather than just dismiss this story.

Nothing shows the news media's dysfunction more than how loyal they are to the myths they construct. It's why everything is good news for Republicans, why people are concerned about Bill Clinton's potential for infidelity in the White House and not Giuliani's, why it keeps getting reported that the Democrats' FISA bill would have required court approval for President Bush's bathroom breaks (as opposed to Condi's) or whatever it is Joe Klein made up.

The danger we face in trying to pressure the media to report stories like the US Attorney purge or Giuliani's criminal misuse of NYC money is that we'll only be able to change the prevailing narrative rather than actual journalistic practice. Broder is mythologically committed to his perverted "centrism" rather than ideologically committed, and the same is true for the rest of them. We can change the myth; the GOP has the route all mapped out, and that destination is easier to reach with all of the technological tools available to us now. But all that means is someday the tide will turn against us again. I want a media that reports facts, that doesn't consider the horserace to be the only side of a campaign that exists, that doesn't mistake he said/she said articles with false equivalence as balance. If we can get them to report on the Giuliani story because it's about criminal activity and breach of the public's trust and not because Giuliani was having The Sex, then we'll have a real accomplishment under our belt.

I'm not holding my breath for either the possibility that the press will really run with it or, if they do, that they'll put the focus where it belongs.

(11:27 AM) | Stephen:
Cherry Chocolate Zonday

It's hard to categorize Tay Zonday. He's the genius(?) behind "Chocolate Rain," which was this incredibly weird yet, to me, compelling song. His voice is. . .unique. Yes, let's go with unique. Very unique.

Anyway, apparently Dr. Pepper has decided to release a cherry and chocolate flavored version of Diet Dr. Pepper. Think of it as the Jones Sodafication of the industry. What person could embody the rather unique appeal of something like Cherry Chocolate Diet Dr. Pepper?

That's right: Tay Zonday.

It's a wonderful time to be alive, folks. Never forget that.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007
(11:25 AM) | Stephen:
Reality Check: Illegal Immigrant Edition

Via Ezra, here's another study showing that illegal immigrants not only don't go to the emergency room more than hardworking & law-abiding citizens from America's Heartland, they actually utilize emergency care far less than we do.

Hospitals have been complaining about the costs of treating the uninsured for quite some time, and nativist politicians and groups like the Minutemen have been quick to place the blame squarely upon the shoulders of illegal immigrants. Somehow it actually makes sense to some people to believe that these poorly-educated migrant workers are able to know and understand far more about the American welfare system than US citizens and are sophisticated enough to continually, excessively and fraudulently take advantage of it.

The reality about hospitals' costs for treating the uninsured is that there are 45 million American citizens with no health insurance, and an estimated 11 million illegal immigrants. Even if these two groups use emergency rooms at exactly the same rate it means that American citizens account for 80% of those costs. If the situation is so bad that emergency rooms need to close - or entire hospitals go out of business - then making so that no illegal immigrant ever goes to the hospital won't solve the problem. This is especially true since multiple studies, such as the one linked above, show that illegal immigrants use emergency services less than the rest of us.

In our current healthcare system, the only people getting rich are the top executives and shareholders of insurance and pharmaceutical companies. Everyone else is seeing their income stagnate. Illegal immigrants, obviously, are not the problem.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007
(10:50 PM) | Stephen:
It's About Time

We finally managed to get some real journalists on Phill Kline's case regarding the time he spends out of the office and where exactly he lives. Kudos to KCTV5, Kansas City's CBS station, for investigating when Kline actually shows up for his job as Johnson County, KS, District Attorney and when he doesn't. They also apparently staked out the apartment Kline is renting for $400/month down in Stilwell, KS from some of his ardent supporters.

Kline makes $143,000 a year and has kids, and we're supposed to believe that this family chooses to still live in an upstairs apartment at a storage facility in Stilwell, KS, almost a year after getting installed at Johnson County DA.

It's been blatantly obvious to everyone that Kline signed a quickie deal with a pair of his followers right before the election in order to secure eligibility for the vote and has never intended on living there. It'd be fun to get a peek inside that apartment to see if there is anything at all inside.

You can get all these details and more at the link. It's all just a big "DUH" to me. I will say that I've long thought that Kline never had any intention of doing the Johnson County DA gig long-term, but the fact that he's a vindictive son of a bitch managed to overcome his limitless ambition, so he took the job as a way to get back at all those Johnson County voters that wanted to be rid of him.

I also suspect that certain senior members of the DA's office have been willing to keep silent over Kline's absences and obvious heavy involvement in abortion politics because they know that he isn't really a lawyer and would be a disaster in the courtroom. If this investigation causes Kline to start actually running the DA's office, we're in trouble around here.

If I'm right about an arrangement, then it might be best to just continue paying the guy to stay away from Johnson County as much as possible. Further, since Kline is already the DA and has managed to not completely destroy the office so far, I wouldn't mind it too much if he were still around next November to remind everyone in Johnson County that it was the Republicans who foisted this loser on us for another two years.

If he does resign - don't count on it - or is removed - slightly more likely - from office, then perhaps this time around more than half the GOP Precinct Leaders can be bothered to show up for the vote instead of just handing their proxies to their friends. Of course, they might just view this as a liberal media hit job and put some other dangerously right-wing schmuck in office.

Man, January 2009 is going to be a good month on so many levels.

(11:21 AM) | Stephen:
Really Big Moose

This will be awesome:
Officials in northern Sweden have just given the all-clear for the construction of the world's largest elk, or moose as the animal is known in North America.

Perched on top of a mountain, the 45-metre (148-foot) elk will double as a restaurant and concert hall that can seat up to 350 guests. From its antlers, more than 500 metres above sea level, visitors will be able to enjoy the spectacular view over the valleys below.
There's even a very helpful video showing us what this Wonder of the World is going to look like:

I just added this to my "must-see" list.

Monday, November 26, 2007
(8:32 PM) | Stephen:
Life Tip: Don't Get Born Poor

Concerned that your rights are being taken away by warrantless wiretapping and other "security" measures? You apparently aren't poor:
The Supreme Court rejected a challenge today to San Diego County's practice of routinely searching welfare applicants' homes without warrants and ruling out assistance for those who refuse to let them in.

The justices refused, without comment, to intervene in the case from San Diego County, where investigators from the District Attorney's Office show up unannounced at applicants' homes and conduct searches that include peeking into closets and cabinets. The visits do not require any suspicion of fraud and are intended to confirm that people are eligible for government aid.

Failure to submit to the searches, which can last an hour, disqualifies applicants from assistance.

The Fourth Amendment should supersede any desire to make sure that every damn nano-penny of government assistance is spent in exactly the correct, morally upright way. If the DA suspects a crime - even welfare fraud - then the DA should go get a warrant just like for any other crime.

There was some buzz recently - I'm too lazy to link it, so too bad - about why conservatives favor private charity over government assistance. One possible reason that was put forth is that they want to be able to control not only what their beneficiaries use the assistance for but also what they do or don't do in the other parts of their lives as well. So you get the soup kitchens that require hungry people to sit through a church service before they get to eat, for example. Having done that type of thing - and I'm profoundly regretful for it* - it now seems to me that if you can't get people to stick around after they've eaten, you're doing it wrong.

There's nothing wrong with governmental or private assistance requiring certain qualifications and even some behavior standards. But enforcing the regulations associated with welfare assistance needs to happen within the established laws of the USA. It is a sign of profound societal decay that a lousy couple hundred bucks a month justifies a violation of our constitutional rights.

*I don't regret trying to help; the meals served, the time spent in conversation, the nights spent out on the streets in Ocean Beach. I regret following the pattern of making hungry men and women act like they wanted to have a church service before they could eat a hot meal. And I freely admit that very few people would have bothered to stick around to listen to me preach after the meal, at least after hearing me once or twice. No college sophomore is a good preacher.

(10:40 AM) | Stephen:
The Real Silly Season

Liberty Counsel's "Naughty or Nice" list of businesses is absurd on so many levels it's hard to get through them all. The naughty/nice concept is of course part of the secular Santa myth, and presumably Liberty Counsel would hope to keep the focus of CHRISTmas on CHRIST and not a contextually flexible secular icon of spending on credit.

The list itself was last updated a year ago. I do hope they not only update the business listing but the reasons for including particular businesses on either list. A sampling:
Cabela’s ~ Web site has a “Christmas Shoppe” and one customer reported a sales associated greeted him with “Merry Christmas.”

Dollar Tree - Customer reports store is avoiding the “C” word: Everything is “holiday”, although “it’s pretty obvious which ‘holiday’ they will not discuss.”
I don't think it's at all clear what holiday they won't discuss. They're not discussing Bodhi Day (Dec. 8), Eid al Adha (Dec. 20), Yule/Litha in the southern hemisphere (Dec. 22) or Zarathosht Diso (Dec. 26). There's all sorts of religious holidays that never get discussed, never completely take over the airwaves, never become the focus of countless news stories and never morph into the only hope that our nation's economy has to look like it's growing.

Some holidays are incredibly important in other parts of the world. Lunar New Year is pretty big in Asia. I spent one in Singapore and our group had to physically hold on to each other in order to not get separated in the crush of people. Buddha's Birthday is another significant holiday, but for some reason it's never mentioned over here. It's not like Americans aren't able to appropriate holidays when it suits them; Cinco de Mayo and St. Patrick's Day are good examples. Though I suppose that Americans have so missed the point on both those days that Asian cultures should be happy to be ignored.

People like those at Liberty Counsel who insist upon fighting a War against Christmas are wrong. Wrong about their ability to celebrate any holiday they see fit, wrong about how much Christmas is pushed on everyone in this country all the time, starting 2 weeks before Halloween, wrong about the idea that belligerence and jingoism are appropriate for celebrating any religion's holiday. The current American Christian way of celebrating Christmas has nothing to do with ancient Church tradition. It's completely backwards, actually; traditionally Advent - the month before Christmas day - has been a time of solemn reflection and penitence, not 30 days of parties, eating to the point of nausea, lying about our families' accomplishments for the year, sending cards to people we can't really remember and racking up even more consumer debt after 12 months of spending too much.

I have some friends who celebrate Christmas the ancient way; I think it's weird and my family won't do it. It's not like having a month of joyous anticipation and celebration which culminates on Christmas day is wrong. What is wrong, however, is spending 365 days a year in a righteous little snit over the utter gall of some people to not only refuse to address one's every whim, but their failure to anticipate what whim currently occupies one's attention this afternoon.

When God sent his only Son to the world, he considered it good enough for his Son to be born a bastard reeking of donkey piss and ox shit. Somehow it was just fine for the Messiah, the King of kings, the Alpha, Omega and Big Man on our campus to show himself first to some men whose primary notoriety, up to that point, was the persistent rumor that they diddled with the sheep under their care.

Good enough for our Heavenly Father I guess, but not good enough for us. We expect extra discounts on our useless consumer crap, obsequious clerks who bow and scrape for our pleasure, inane songs about reindeer and chestnuts on our radios and garish lights everywhere we look.

Behold how we honor the birth of Jesus, and despair.

Friday, November 23, 2007
(11:54 AM) | Stephen:
Not Much, How About You?

So I'm in New Mexico for the holiday. It's been surprisingly cloudy, and yesterday it even snowed a bit. It's just a warmup for tomorrow when we start to head back to Kansas City; last year was so bad we headed due east into Texas and went through Wichita Falls to get to Oklahoma City. Normally we head northeast to Amarillo and the panhandle. So we'll see what tomorrow brings.

Word around here is that Udall will win Domenici's Senate seat against Pearce, though he and Wilson will bloody each other up quite a bit in the primary. And no one is taking Marty Chavez very seriously. I'm with Kos on this, I hope he trashes Udall to heaven, hell and back, loses in a landslide and never gets to run for elected office again. I'm sick of bad Democrats.

Oh yeah, I'm in Plateau Espresso again, and it's still the best coffee shop in the world, bar none. I just wish I could pick the whole place up and take it back to Kansas City with me.

I'll get back to regular posting after a while. And there's some fun stuff happening in the background right now that I'll be able to write about further soon.

Friday, November 16, 2007
(12:50 PM) | Stephen:
Working The Refs

If a Presidential campaign - especially that of a Democrat, and Oh God Yes! if it's that woman Democrat - plants a question in an audience, then it's NEWS.

But if a news organization, such as CNN, decided to plant a question at a Presidential campaign debate, that's apparently just business as usual.

This is just another example of the utterly exquisite ways in which the GOP has been working the system to their advantage. Think of it like this:

I was a Resident Director at a small Christian college in the KC area. We had some really good sports teams, and since athletes actually lived in the dorms and took an active role in campus life - one of the basketball team captains was an RA for me - they were quite popular. We had a small gymnasium at that time, with the space between the basketball court boundaries and the bottom bleachers being very narrow, just a couple of feet. It was a terrible place for other teams to play, a hard place to be a referee, though our students did keep it clean. They were just loud.

I had one kid in my dorms who was really good at working both the refs and the other team. He realized that everyone expects yelling and screaming, lots of noise. AH would yell and scream, of course, since that is a big part of the fun of a basketball game. But when he really wanted to work people over, he would get quiet. He would stand at the sidelines next to a player trying to inbound the ball or next to the ref and just keep up a low-volume but very steady stream of patter. Commentary on what the other team was doing in terms of fouls, faking out the other player as to who was open, stuff like that.

I started watching him do this, and it was amazing. He really did get into the refs' and other players' heads. I watched the refs get distracted and miss calls, I saw the other players get confused and irritated. AH was, more than anyone else, our 6th player.

The shrieking about a "liberal media" is only one aspect of the GOP's plan to work the refs and the other side. As this strategy has aged it's become less and less important. The rank-and-file still believe it and will engage in loud, obnoxious yelling and screaming about it. But in DC they've been working on other ways to work the refs.

When you were a ref at one of our basketball games and you got anywhere near AH, you got a constant barrage about the other team. He didn't really go after the ref, not when he got quiet. His whole strategy was to get the ref on our side, to make him laugh, to turn him into a friend. And to point out, constantly, every little thing that the other team was doing. Since the other team didn't have anyone doing that, it was pretty effective.

That, of course, is where we are in the media's political coverage. They've been under constant pressure from millions of people to stop showing a "liberal bias," while powerful politicians and wealthy business people have been very busy making friends, being pleasant at all the right events and in all the right ways. They've flattered and flirted and made them laugh, all the while keeping up a very quiet yet steady - and reasonable sounding - patter about the Democrats, about every little thing those Democrats have done.

The GOP has included the media in their inner circles. They've invited them to not only witness decisions and events, but to participate in making those decisions and events happen. And because of all this, the pundits identify personally with the people of the GOP even if they don't support any of their politics.

That's how we get utter nonsense like this from Andrew Sullivan:
I have always found it very hard to actually hate George W. Bush. He maddens me, his policies have shaken my political allegiances and identity to the core, but I've always found him pretty congenial as a person from a distance. I'm glad I've never met him because I'd probably be totally suckered. Even on some of the deepest betrayals - spending and torture - I think his main crime has been criminal negligence and shallowness, not evil. But I do despise what he has done to this country, the wreckage in Iraq, and the dishonor of the torture/interrogation policies. I despise what he has done to conservatism, and the economic and environmental debt he will pass to the next generation. But I really, honestly don't hate him personally. Certainly not in the same league as my visceral dislike for the Clintons.
The GOP spent years working on media figures for exactly this result. Report after report has come from people who know Bush personally that he's arrogant, crude (he likes fart jokes), proud of his ignorance and in possession of a truly terrifying temper. He's condescending, especially to women, and generally acts unprofessionally all the time. By contrast, George H.W. Bush would apparently have the company of Bill Clinton than his own son and Senators from both parties have expressed admiration and affection for Hillary Clinton as a fellow Senator.

Cinton didn't set aside the Constitution, didn't ignore our laws and our rights, didn't lie to the entire world in order to start a vanity war. He was impeached for lying about a sexual escapade during a grand jury investigation. Here's a question, without Googling for it, do you remember what that grand jury investigation was even about? Did Clinton lie about anything else, especially anything that had to do with the ostensible purpose of the investigation? Of course, everyone - especially that execrable Ken Starr - knew that there wasn't anything to investigate. That's why he veered so far off course, why he spent over $50 million and never managed to do anything of value.

Clinton regularly reached across to the GOP to pass legislation, even to the point that progressives now feel like we got a bad deal. Certainly he didn't just issue edict after edict from the White House and expect them to be obeyed. Nor did he ignore the GOP completely and use White House influence with the press to keep GOP politicians and officials off the air. All of these things Bush has done and more, but he's the "genial" one. He's the scion of one of our nation's wealthiest, most powerful families, he's the one that grew up with friends that have titles like "Prince" and "King" in front of their names, he's the legacy admission to Yale, and somehow he's also the "regular guy."

Bill Clinton earned every damned thing he's ever gotten. He came from the little town and grew up poor, he stood up to his abusive stepfather, he's the one who had to accomplish things by being the best and the smartest and the hardest worker. Bill Clinton personifies the American Dream - which of course is another reason for those privileged, cocooned elitist snobs in the national media to sneer at him and despise him.

All of this to say that I don't believe there is a "conservative bias" in the media. I do, however, believe that there is a GOP bias, a clear practice of favoritism, of double standards, of ignoring the very real corruption and lawbreaking that's currently happening in every level of the Republican party while focusing on stupid things like wondering if Hillary Clinton prefers "pearls or diamonds" or if Barack Obama wears an acceptably jingoistic lapel pin.

The refs have been played to a degree I wouldn't think possible if I couldn't see it with my own eyes. It helps to have shallow, unintelligent clowns like Russert, Matthews and Broder as your refs, of course, but they couldn't have come all this way on their own. They lack the imagination for it.

We need to fight back, of course, work the refs harder than the other side. But the goal needs to be fairness, not to merely twist the system so it favors our players. And the continued development of commentary and news sites - from TPM to DailyKos - will help as the stranglehold those few elitist snobs have on our national discourse is weakened.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007
(10:30 AM) | Stephen:
North And South

The Prime Ministers of North and South Korea are meeting in Seoul right now. It's a huge step, a sign of progress. I'd love to be back in South Korea just to experience the feeling that I know is permeating the entire country.

This is the type of thing that can only happen when the USA actually engages North Korea, since Pyongyang tends to view the South as puppets of a sort - even though the US isn't involved in these talks at all. So I'm glad that DC has opened talks with North Korea and cooperated with the other involved nations in granting concessions to them.

Here's hoping nothing mucks it up for the next 15 months.

Friday, November 09, 2007
(4:53 PM) | Stephen:
Two Senators Udall

Rep. Tom Udall (D-NM) will be joining his cousin in the US Senate in 2009, now that he's finally decided to run for Pete Domenici's seat. This is excellent news, since Marty Chavez seems to be one of those wonderful combinations of able executive and personal asshole that we get from time to time.

Chavez should drop out, honestly. But since he decided to start slinging mud around before Udall even entered the race, it looks like there will be a pretty ugly primary campaign the end of which will probably coincided with Chavez's political career, the dummy.

The two important things are that Udall will of course win this easily, and Richardson isn't going to run for the Senate. He probably figures he's got good chances for high position in the next President's cabinet no matter who it is.

Thursday, November 08, 2007
(10:36 AM) | Stephen:
Time To Worry About Giuliani

David Kurtz at TPM points us to this insight on Pat Robertson's Giuliani endorsement from Walter Shapiro:

The Washington press conference announcing the Robertson endorsement was carefully constructed to make it all look like an alliance of strict-constructionist legal philosophers. Introducing the televangelist was not the campaign's director of evangelical outreach, or a political figure known for sharing Robertson's literal reading of the Book of Revelation. Instead the task fell to Ted Olson, the former solicitor general in the Bush Justice Department, a leading conservative legal thinker. The message was clear: This melding of minds was about putting more Antonin Scalias on the Supreme Court, not about Giuliani's personal life and beliefs.

I've been saying this for a while now. Giuliani isn't trying to win over the Religious Right by acting as if he's had a coming to Jesus moment on abortion or homosexuality. He's going to appeal to them through the judiciary. He's saying that a Giuliani Administration, whatever the personal beliefs and/or actions of Giuliani himself, will result in "strict-constructionist," anti-choice, anti-equal rights judges appointed to every available judgeship in the nation.

Liberals – at least those of the ‘netroots’ - have pretty much laughed off this endorsement because Robertson is supposedly so crazy that even the Religious Right won't have anything to do with him. That is a dangerous mistake and clear evidence of how little they know about America’s Evangelical subculture. Robertson still has his media empire, still has followers, and what he said on 9/13/2001 isn't any different than what has been said from countless pulpits, in countless small groups and Sunday School classes, in countless fellowship halls throughout the USA for the last 6 years. Most Evangelicals only criticize Robertson for not having enough tact.

There has always been a strain in American Christianity that understands the USA to be the spiritual successor to the Israel of the Hebrew Bible (not that this is unusual; most European and European-descended cultures have done this at one time or another). There are millions of people in this country who still believe that their Old Testament is a guide and warning, that the threats and promises God made to Israel have been made, in the same way, to the United States. And they believe that they currently live in the decisive moment, the crisis point at which the USA can either remain God's Chosen or can be destroyed and its people sent into exile. That's why 2 Chronicles 7:14 is now found everywhere in conservative American churches:

If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.

They are fighting for the very existence of America and for its status as God's Most Favored Nation. And when your goals are that big, when your cause is that righteous, then you'll accept a thrice-divorced, cross-dressing, kissed-Trump-on-the-lips, homosexual-rights-supporting former mayor of a liberal East Coast city, as long as he gets the job done. The job is to appoint judges, appoint judges appoint judges. If we will remember the lessons that David Niewart has been teaching for years now, we will understand that the rightwing complaints about “judicial activism” have been yet another smoke screen thrown up to disguise a concerted effort to twist the judiciary to their own goals. The talk among GOP Congressional members about passing laws to limit judicial oversight was an anomaly brought on by the now-discredited belief that Karl “Moses” Rove was bringing the GOP into the Permanent Majority Promised Land.

When Robertson endorsed Giuliani, then, he made it clear that Giuliani is exactly the man to get the job done. And I don’t think Giuliani is finished with this. He's going to start making clearer promises about judges, and through that he's going to get some more support. Coupling this strategy with his constant 9/11 rhetoric means that Giuliani doesn't care one bit about Democrats, Independents or even the shrinking contingent of moderate Republicans. He's not going to try and convince anyone that he's not a far-right authoritarian whackjob who will seek to undo every advance in civil rights of the last 144 years. Giuliani's strategy is to resurrect the Religious Right as the potent force in American politics and to ride their frenzied support through the GOP nomination to the White House.

I don't know if he can do it or not. But that's where this is heading, and those of us on the other side need to stop dismissing the Religious Right and Giuliani just because we think they're silly. They're dedicated to a degree that would shock the most hardened liberal activists, and we can only beat them if we're alert.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007
(7:21 PM) | Stephen:
Oh Jeez, Not This Crap Again

Here is our President. This man holds the highest elected office in the land, a position he has held for almost 7 years now. Before that he was a Governor of Texas. You'd think that he would have at least a basic understanding of how our government works.

Especially because he talks about being "Commander-in-Chief" all the time.

Here's the Commander-in-Chief of the US Armed Forces speaking today about the situation in Pakistan and his conversation with Perez Musharraf:

"You can't be President and head of the military at the same time." This, my friends, is why I contend that Bush's incompetence and stupidity - let alone the way he has trampled upon the Constitution and broken scores of laws while in office - are such that I owe him absolutely no respect whatsoever, even if he is President. I'm willing to respect a President for whom I did not vote, but this guy is a joke, a sad little man put into office by the GOP's kingmakers, motivated only by his delusions of grandeur.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007
(5:00 PM) | Stephen:
It's The B-I-B-L-E

In honor of Revs. Reps. Mike McIntyre (D-NC), Nancy Boyda (D-KS), Bobby Rush (D-IL) and James Clyburn (D-SC), who decided to take to the floor of the House of Representatives to laud, praise, edify, lift up, bless and otherwise speak well of the Christian Bible a full week before National Kiss-up to Fundamentalists Week - or whatever it's called - I thought I'd post some of my favorite verses from it:

First up is Psalm 137:
7 O Lord, remember what the Edomites did
on the day the armies of Babylon captured Jerusalem.
“Destroy it!” they yelled.
“Level it to the ground!”
8 O Babylon, you will be destroyed.
Happy is the one who pays you back
for what you have done to us.
9 Happy is the one who takes your babies
and smashes them against the rocks!
Brings a tear, doesn't it? Then there's this uplifting story that comes to us from 1 Kings 12, in which King Solomon's son, Rehoboam, is being asked just what type of king he will be:
4 “Your father was a hard master,” they said. “Lighten the harsh labor demands and heavy taxes that your father imposed on us. Then we will be your loyal subjects.”

5 Rehoboam replied, “Give me three days to think this over. Then come back for my answer.” So the people went away. . . .King Rehoboam. . .asked the opinion of the young men who had grown up with him and were now his advisers. 9 “What is your advice?” he asked them. “How should I answer these people who want me to lighten the burdens imposed by my father?”

10 The young men replied, “This is what you should tell those complainers who want a lighter burden: ‘My cock is thicker than my father’s waist! 11 Yes, my father laid heavy burdens on you, but I’m going to make them even heavier! My father beat you with whips, but I will beat you with scorpions!’”

Yes, he really did say that. Oddly, though, you won't find it in any English translation and pretty much need to study ancient Hebrew - which I have done - to find it out.

And it goes on and one. Absalom rapes his father's concubines in full view of Jerusalem, King David, of course, murders one of his best generals in order to marry his wife and cover up how he raped her, and it goes on and on.

My point is not to try and degrade the Bible or portray it as an evil book. But I hate it when people, especially politicians, wax rhapsodic about their "favorite verses" and then go on to only quote 1/2 or 1/4 of a cherry-picked verse that sounds nice so long as no one remembers the context.

If National Use the Bible as a Masturbatory Aid Week really helped people to learn more about what the Bible actually says and to appreciate it because of all it contains, both positive and negative examples, then I could support that. But so long as it's just another chance for dumb politicians to demagogue and score cheap political points with bigoted, hateful constituents, then I'm going to make fun of it and pray to the very God of that Bible that such fake events become an unfortunate part of our nation's memory.

Monday, November 05, 2007
(10:41 AM) | Stephen:
Bush's Surge: Still Not Working

Perhaps you've noticed that US casualties in Iraq have dropped in recent months, to 38 in October, the lowest month in the last year and a half. And perhaps this news has caused you to wonder - or exult, as it may be - if Bush's idea for a surge of 30,000 troops wasn't such a bad idea after all. Maybe putting 30,000 more troops in a country of over 20 million people that's larger than California can make a huge difference!

Well, not really. This diary at DailyKos spells out the facts, and they are quite sobering:

When someone tells you that the "surge" is working, you must walk them through this chain of events:

On August 7, 2007, near the end of America’s bloodiest summer in Iraq, the New York Times reported the following:

Attacks on American-led forces using a lethal type of roadside bomb said to be supplied by Iran reached a new high in July, according to the American military.

The devices, known as explosively formed penetrators, were used to carry out 99 attacks last month and accounted for a third of the combat deaths suffered by the American-led forces, according to American military officials.

"July was an all-time high," Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, the No. 2 commander in Iraq, said in an interview, referring to strikes with such devices.

Such bombs, which fire a semi-molten copper slug that can penetrate the armor on a Humvee and are among the deadliest weapons used against American forces, are used almost exclusively by Shiite militants.

The "Shiite militants" described by the New York Times were, in fact, members of Muqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army. And, as we all saw this past summer, Muqtada’s fighters were really doing a job on American forces—despite the troop increase which began earlier in the year.

That was on August 7th. And remember, this was during a summer throughout which we were bombarded with news of Iranian/Shia efforts to kill Americans and destabilize the Iraqi government.

Then, barely three weeks after the New York Times article ran, 50 Muslim pilgrims were slaughtered in sectarian fighting in Karbala. In response, Muqtada al-Sadr announced that he had

ordered his militia to suspend offensive operations for six months.

Muqtada al Sadr has been Iraq's kingmaker for the entire occupation, the most powerful man in the country. He has a large, well-trained and well-equipped army, and the decisions to fight him and his soldiers, in terms of utter stupidity, rank right up there with staffing the CPA with Heritage Foundation interns and sending pallets of dollar bills to literally drop over the countryside.

Let me reiterate: this last summer, the most powerful man in Iraq unilaterally declared a cease-fire. With America's most dangerous foes quitting the field, our casualties dropped, as did the number of Iraqi casualties and the level of violence overall.

Of course, the Bush Administration, right-wing pundits and the media members of the cult of the Righteous and Holy General St. Petraeus have all gushed that the improving numbers coming out of Iraq are completely due to the wisdom and foresight of the brilliant tactical team of George Bush and David Petraeus.

At this rate, Bush will soon declare that his new strategy is for American troops to not be so uncomfortably hot while in Iraq. The media will certainly cover this new strategy with optimism and enthusiasm, and will report that, just as Bush said, temperatures are dropping all over Iraq. Right-wingers will celebrate not only the success itself but the way the cooler temperatures are proving the rightness of every conservative talking point. And no politician or journalist will ever bring up the completely irrelevant words "earth's axial tilt."

Saturday, November 03, 2007
(5:58 PM) | Stephen:
Diocesan Conventions Are Fun - Who Knew?

When I was growing up I noticed that the last thing the adults in the church wanted was to be delegate to District Assembly. You had to take time off work, listen to a bunch of boring reports and vote on dumb resolutions.

Well, a few months ago my pastor asked me to be a delegate at our Diocesan Convention, and sometimes it's not really a benefit for your best friend to be your pastor, because it's just that much harder to say no.

But Episcopalians do things differently than Nazarenes. This 2-day convention featured more wine than I've ever drunk in a month. The delegates all pack a couple of bottles, some crackers, cheese and summer sausage and bring it with them so we can sit in one of our rooms and make fun of all the Diocesan leaders. Also, the church pays for the hotel room, for 2 breakfasts, one lunch and one dinner. It's just part of the budget. But there was a cash, not an open bar last night. Oh well.

It was a little hard to focus on the reports of the committees and figure out where we were in the budget, but it was worth it.

Waaaay better than pie.

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