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"It is better to be drunk with loss and to beat the ground, than to let the deeper things gradually escape."

- I. Compton-Burnett, letter to Francis King (1969)

"Cynical realism – it is the intelligent man’s best excuse for doing nothing in an intolerable situation."

- Aldous Huxley, "Time Must Have a Stop"

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Saturday, 23 April 2005

Topic: The Media

Media Notes: The Grownups Will Tell You What You Need to Know

This is what our president said in Washington on April 14, 2005 -
We look forward to analyzing and working with legislation that will make - it would hope - put a free press's mind at ease that you're not being denied information you shouldn't see."
Fine ? but whatever is he talking about?

We won?t be denied information we SHOULD NOT see ? we?ll see it all ? and will NOT BE SHOWN information we should see? And this is supposed to ?put a free press's mind at ease??

Ah, you get the general idea. He?s not good with words. It?s a Texas thing. Grammar is for sissies ? and in a participatory democracy YOU get to decide what he meant. This keeps citizens involved in how things are run. He presents puzzles. We solve them. It?s kind of fun.

Elsewhere in these pages - in The End of Outage - we find a fellow quoting our president saying that "in a society that is a free society, there will be transparency." And we take that to mean that we have a government where the public gets to see as much information as possible about its government.

But then there?s the puzzle.

Think about this previously cited -
- Knight-Ridder reports today [April 16] that the Bush administration announced yesterday that it has ?decided to stop publishing an annual report on international terrorism after the government's top terrorism center concluded that there were more terrorist attacks in 2004 than in any year since 1985, the first year the publication covered."

- When unemployment was peaking in Bush's first term, the White House tried to stop publishing the Labor Department's regular report on mass layoffs.

- In 2003, when the nation's governors came to Washington to complain about inadequate federal funding for the states, the Bush administration decided to stop publishing the budget report that states use to see what money they are, or aren't, getting.

- In 2003, the National Council for Research on Women found that information about discrimination against women has gone missing from government Web sites, including 25 reports from the U.S. Department of Labor's Women's Bureau.

- In 2002, Democrats uncovered evidence that the Bush administration was removing health information from government websites. Specifically, the administration deleted data showing that abortion does not increase the risk of breast cancer from government websites. That scientific data was seen by the White House as a direct affront to the pro-life movement.
So the words spoken by our president above may just be to assure us none of that happened, or if it did, it was for our own good. Or something.

We are NOT being not being denied information we shouldn't see.

No, wait. He obviously meant we would never be denied information we SHOULD see. He?s not good with words, but you get the idea.

This is all very puzzling. But he does want put a free press's mind at ease. Or maybe not. You have to guess ? kind of like high school English class where you had to explain what some dumb poem really ?meant.? It keeps you on your toes.

Ah, and this free press is so? pesky?

Eric Alterman has the cover story in the new issue of The Nation and he?s got a different take on things. His title - Bush's War on the Press - says it all. Eric is not happy.

The opening?
Journalists, George Bernard Shaw once said, "are unable, seemingly, to discriminate between a bicycle accident and the collapse of civilization." How odd, given the profession's un-equaled reputation for narcissism, that Shaw's observation holds true even when the collapsing "civilization" is their own.

Make no mistake: The Bush Administration and its ideological allies are employing every means available to undermine journalists' ability to exercise their First Amendment function to hold power accountable. In fact, the Administration recognizes no such constitutional role for the press. White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card has insisted that the media "don't represent the public any more than other people do.... I don't believe you have a check-and-balance function."
George Bernard Shaw aside, Alterman does lay out the evidence, from Bush himself, more than once, telling reporters he does not read their work and, as Alterman puts it prefers to live inside the information bubble blown by his loyal minions.
And yes, Vice President Cheney said a nasty thing about a New York Times reporter and tosses reporters he don?t like off his press plane, although not literally. And John Ashcroft did refuse to speak with any print reporters during his You?ll-Just-Love-the-Patriot-Act travels ? and only spoke to the local television folks. And finally
As an unnamed Bush official told reporter Ron Suskind, "We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality--judiciously, as you will--we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors...and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do." For those who didn't like it, another Bush adviser explained, "Let me clue you in. We don't care. You see, you're outnumbered two to one by folks in the big, wide middle of America, busy working people who don't read the New York Times or Washington Post or the LA Times."
Trash talk? Alterman thinks it is more than that.

He says these guys are taking ?aggressive action? ? and he has a list!
- preventing journalists from doing their job by withholding routine information; deliberately releasing deceptive information on a regular basis

- bribing friendly journalists to report the news in a favorable context

- producing their own "news reports" and distributing these free of charge to resource-starved broadcasters

- creating and crediting their own political activists as "journalists" working for partisan operations masquerading as news organizations.
Okay, and then we have an Administration-appointed special prosecutor, US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, now ?threatening two journalists with jail for refusing to disclose the nature of conversations they had regarding stories they never wrote, opening up a new frontier of potential prosecution.?

It is pretty obvious that there is the obvious labeling Alterman notes ? attaching the label "liberal bias" to even the most routine forms of information gathering and reportage (for a transparent example in today's papers, see under "DeLay, Tom").

So what? They can handle it.

But Alterman says there is a system problem here.
The right wing's media "decertification" effort, as the journalism scholar and blogger Jay Rosen calls it, has its roots in forty years of conservative fury at the consistent condescension it experienced from the once-liberal elite media and the cosmopolitan establishment for whom its members have spoken. Fueled by this sense of outrage, the right launched a multifaceted effort to fight back with institutions of its own, including think tanks, advocacy organizations, media pressure groups, church groups, big-business lobbies and, eventually, its own television, talk-radio, cable and radio networks (to be augmented, later, by a vast array of Internet sites). Today this triumphant movement has captured not only much of the media and the public discourse on ideas but both the presidency and Congress (and soon, undoubtedly, the Supreme Court as well); it can wage its war on so many fronts simultaneously that it becomes nearly impossible to see that almost all these efforts are aimed at a single goal: the destruction of democratic accountability and the media's role in insuring it.
Well, I guess we shouldn?t have been so condescending. The chickens are coming home to roost.

You can click on the link and see the discussion, with evidence, of the three primary components of all - Secrecy, Lies and Fake News. It?s long ? and it?s not cheery.

And the press is losing.
The net result of this one-sided battle is the de jure destruction of the balance that has characterized the American political system since the modern, nonpartisan media began to emerge a century ago. And unless journalists find a way to fight back for the honor, dignity and, ultimately, effectiveness of their profession, the press's role in American democracy and society will continue to diminish accordingly, to the disadvantage of all our citizens. Bush adviser Karen Hughes has explained, "We don't see there being any penalty from the voters for ignoring the mainstream press." And there's been none to date. Speaking to Salon's Eric Boehlert, Ron Suskind outlined what he sees as the ultimate aim of the Administration upon which he has reported so effectively. "Republicans have a clear, agreed-upon plan how to diminish the mainstream press," he warns. "For them, essentially the way to handle the press is the same as how to handle the federal government; you starve the beast. When it's in a weakened and undernourished condition, then you're able to effect a variety of subtle partisan and political attacks."

"Two cheers for democracy," wrote E.M. Forster, "one because it admits variety and two because it permits criticism." But the aim of the Bush offensive against the press is to do just the opposite; to insure, as far as possible, that only one voice is heard and that no criticism is sanctioned. The press may be the battleground, but the target is democracy itself.
Really? Most folks don?t much care for it, it seems. They like the guy.

So this NYU professor with his fancy PhD and many books, quoting George Bernard Shaw and E. M. Forster, is worried. Bush is ? perhaps a tad condescendingly - telling him not to worry. Just the words of a parent to an overly sensitive child who feels he?s being left out of things: Don?t worry ? The grownups will tell you what you need to know, so don?t worry about the rest.

Bubba ain?t worried.

Posted by Alan at 19:17 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Saturday, 23 April 2005 19:24 PDT home

Friday, 22 April 2005

Topic: In these times...

Earth Day: Number Thirty-Five with Baked Alaska

A nod to Earth Day ? and as no one much noticed, the thirty-fifth annual Earth Day was April 22, this last Friday. Thank you, Wisconsin ? as in 1970, former Wisconsin governor and United States Senator Gaylord Nelson founded the first Earth Day.

There?s too much hot political news for this to get much coverage. But Mother Nature knows what?s up. See this ?

Thundery Earth Day Keeps Bush Out of Park
Michael A. Fletcher, The Washington Post, Saturday, April 23, 2005; Page A06

Ah ha!
KNOXVILLE, Tenn., April 22 -- President Bush was to have celebrated Earth Day in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park on Friday, pitching in on a trail restoration project and giving a speech touting his environmental record with the park's majestic peaks serving as a compelling backdrop. But Mother Nature did not cooperate.

Severe thundershowers posed a danger for the president's visit to a grassy meadow deep in the park, where an audience had gathered earlier, so Bush delivered his remarks from an airport hangar here in Knoxville.

Bush said that since he took office, the environment has improved in many areas: more wetlands are protected; and water quality is slowly improving; as is air quality, including the oft-smoggy air that blankets many of the nation's national parks.

"I'm proud to report since 2000, the ozone levels have dropped -- but there is more to be done to make sure the Smoky Mountains and the Smoky Mountain national park is as beautiful as possible," said Bush, who was joined by other officials, including Interior Secretary Gale A. Norton and Steve Johnson, acting administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.

It is a record seen far differently by environmental activists, who believe Bush is too cozy with industry and that some of his proposals would undermine environmental enforcement. "The job is far from complete," said Michael Shore, a senior air policy analyst with Environmental Defense, an advocacy group. "We need President Bush to commit his administration to clean up mountain haze, to deal with global warming and to create cleaner air for our children and children's children." ?
Well, there is some disagreement about what our leader is up to.

As mentioned elsewhere in these pages the National Council of Churches is going after Bush and Cheney and the evangelical Republican right over the theological issues regarding the environment and drilling for oil and all that stuff. Really. There does seem to be a theological issue. Read all about it in this: Theologians Warn of 'False Gospel' on the Environment.

Katrina vanden Heuvel, editor of The Nation, gives us a sense of the mixed nature of where things stand, if you will forgive the pun -
In many ways, this Earth Day is a particularly somber occasion. After all, in the past year, we've seen repeated environmental debacles - most notably, the decision to open the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve (ANWR) to drilling for oil. But, with the determination of environmental activists and state legislatures that refuse to bow down to Bush, there are, as always, reasons for hope. Here are five of our top environmental victories in the last year.
And she lists a few.
- Clear Skies Initiative Dropped: Thanks to a 9-to-9 vote by the Environment and Public Works Committee, Bush's Orwellian-labeled bill - which would have loosened air pollution restrictions for power plants, factories and refineries - did not advance to the Senate. Without Clear Skies, we'll be much more likely to see, well, clear skies.

- Colorado Passes Renewable Energy Initiative: Colorado's Amendment 37, a precedent-setting victory for renewable energy, requires the state's largest electric companies to increase their use of renewable sources such as wind, solar, biomass, geothermal, and small hydro from less than two percent today to 10 percent by 2015. Amendment 37 is expected to save Coloradans $236 million by 2025, create 2,000 jobs, and significantly reduce gas prices in the state.

- Cleaner Cars: Clean Car legislation - requiring the reduction of harmful auto emissions - is being adopted in California and seven other states, and is gaining traction in five more states. With Canada adopting a similar program, a third of North America's automobile market will require clean cars. Meanwhile, heavy-hitters on the right, including former CIA head R. James Woolsey and uber-hawk Frank J. Gaffney Jr., have been lobbying congress to implement policies promoting hybrid cars, hoping to cut oil consumption in half by 2025.

- Challenging Mercury: In March, the EPA issued a loophole-laden policy that, in effect, deregulates controls on mercury emissions from power plants. In response, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New Jersey have implemented stronger controls on mercury--which is linked to nerve damage and birth defects--than the EPA, Meanwhile, nine state attorney generals have filed lawsuits against the agency, arguing that the lax rules jeopardize public health. ?
Okay, not entirely bad.

But appearing in Grist magazine, and republished in SALON.COM and elsewhere, is the dismally titled Dearth Day. Well, it?s not that bad. And we learn lots of things actually happened on Earth day this year.

You see, the League of Conservation Voters (LCV) announced they are sponsoring a campaign with the slogan "Plant Trees, Stop Bush." This is a fund-raising effort asking people to send in forty dollars (and who knows why that particular amount) "in honor of Earth Day and to protest the Bush administration's abysmal record on the environment." What do you get for forty bucks? A white oak sapling. And we are also told this - "Please bring your family and friends together and plant it in your yard," LCV President Deb Callahan exhorts in her outreach letter. "Tell everyone who asks that you're 'planting trees to stop Bush.'"

Yeah, and they?ll slash the tires on your car.

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) has big plans. They have launched what they call their "Re-energize America" campaign ? and their aim is to meld steelworkers, evangelicals, national-security leaders, ranchers, and others to advocate for clean-energy investments and conservation practices.

And good luck to them. And don?t think those groups are talking to each other.

And this too - television producer Laurie David this weekend is launching a "virtual march on Washington" on, hoping to rally a million Americans over the next year to demand action on climate change. It?s a Hollywood thing.

But my favorite is this -
? Well, then, for a certain crowd-pleasing diversion, we'll turn away from environmental groups to everyone's favorite lefty ice-cream company, Ben & Jerry's. On Earth Day, in front of the Capitol in Washington, D.C., B&J will unveil a massive Baked Alaska (touche), four feet by eight feet and filled with 75 gallons of Fossil Fuel-flavor ice cream, part of the company's "Lick Global Warming" campaign and its efforts to protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
Baked Alaska? Fossil Fuel ice cream? "Lick" Global Warming? Oh, those wags in Vermont!

I didn?t see that on the Friday news shows.

The environment is no small issue. And this got a little play a few weeks ago.

Two-thirds of world's resources 'used up'
Tim Radford, science editor, The Guardian (UK), Wednesday March 30, 2005
The human race is living beyond its means. A report backed by 1,360 scientists from 95 countries - some of them world leaders in their fields - today warns that the almost two-thirds of the natural machinery that supports life on Earth is being degraded by human pressure.

The study contains what its authors call "a stark warning" for the entire world. The wetlands, forests, savannahs, estuaries, coastal fisheries and other habitats that recycle air, water and nutrients for all living creatures are being irretrievably damaged. In effect, one species is now a hazard to the other 10 million or so on the planet, and to itself. ?
Ah but there was the Pope business to worry about, and Michael Jackson, and Tom DeLay and John Bolton, and?

I guess it?s all a matter of priorities.

Thank God men cannot fly, and lay waste the sky as well as the earth. - Henry David Thoreau

Nope. Done that.

The sun, the moon and the stars would have disappeared long ago... had they happened to be within the reach of predatory human hands. - Havelock Ellis, The Dance of Life, 1923

Working in it.

It is horrifying that we have to fight our own government to save the environment. - Ansel Adams

The old Lakota was wise. He knew that man's heart away from nature becomes hard; he knew that lack of respect for growing, living things soon led to lack of respect for humans too. - Chief Luther Standing Bear

Posted by Alan at 22:24 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Friday, 22 April 2005 22:31 PDT home

Topic: Photos

Venice and its Canals ? 21 April 2005

Yesterday the editor of Just Above Sunset and the staff ? and that is just me and Bob Patterson - did a photo shoot in Venice, California. But not at Venice Beach. We explored the Venice Canals.

You will find a photo album with sixty the one hundred thirty-nine of the pictures we took at Venice and its Canals - 21 April 2005

This year in the centenary ? these canals were built one hundred years ago and opened to the public on July 4, 1905. Bob and I beat the July rush and took our shots this week.

For some background (with historic photographs) see this -
Venice California originally was to be a copy of Venice, Italy, canals and all. Few of the original canals remain today.

The original sixteen miles of canals were dug in 1904 under the direction of Abbot Kinney. Man and mule worked around the clock to dig the canals in time for the grand opening of Venice on July 4, 1905. Kinney was displeased with the progress so he deployed steam dredging equipment to complete the canals on time.

When Venice of America was first conceived by Kinney, life was literately in the horse and buggy age. By the twenties, the automobile had made its mark and was here to stay. The canals were not practical for the horseless carriage. In 1929 the majority of the canals were filled in and converted to roads.

In the sixties the canals were home to beatniks and artists which soon gave way to the hippies. Rock bands and pot parties were the norm. Jim Morrison of The Doors called the canals home during the 60s. ?

As real estate prices sky-rocketed in the late seventies, the houses along the canals were remodeled and homes were built on the numerous vacant lots. Soon the affluent home owners replaced the artists and Bohemians. In 1994 after nearly thirty years of talks, Los Angeles refurbished the six remaining canals for $6,000,000. Some of the most beautiful homes on Los Angeles? West Side line the canals maintaining a unique community atmosphere. The canals today provide a sense of serenity that Venetians and tourists alike greatly appreciate.
You decide?

Abbot Kinney was a local tobacco magnate who honeymooned in Venice and never got over it.

Oh, and by the way, a list of movies using this and the surrounding area can be found here.

Posted by Alan at 16:32 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Friday, 22 April 2005 16:37 PDT home

Thursday, 21 April 2005

Topic: God and US

Religious War: The Christians are going after the Christians as to who are the real Christians?

Oh my! The National Council of Churches goes after Bush and Cheney and the evangelical Republican right over the theological issues regarding the environment and drilling for oil and all that stuff.

Really. There does seem to be a theological issue.

See this: Theologians Warn of 'False Gospel' on the Environment -
WASHINGTON, D.C., February 14, 2005 - In an effort to refute what they call a ?false gospel? and to change destructive attitudes and actions concerning the environment, a group of theologians, convened by the National Council of Churches USA, today released an open letter calling on Christians to repent of ?our social and ecological sins? and to reject teachings that suggest humans are ?called? to exploit the Earth without care for how our behavior impacts the rest of God?s creation.

The statement, God?s Earth is Sacred: An Open Letter to Church and Society in the United States, points out that there is both an environmental and a theological crisis that must be addressed.

?We have listened to a false gospel that we continue to live out in our daily habits - a gospel that proclaims that God cares for the salvation of humans only and that our human calling is to exploit Earth for our own ends alone,? says the statement. ?This false gospel still finds its proud preachers and continues to capture its adherents among emboldened political leaders and policy makers.?

The statement calls on Christians to take two important steps to enable socially just and ecologically sustainable communities for future generations: first, to ?repent of our sins, in the presence of God and one another,? and, second, to pursue, ?with God?s help, a path different from our present course.? ?
Well, as reported in these pages last December, a previous Secretary of the Interior ? 1981, the Reagan years ? had a born-again view of how to be a responsible steward of our forests and parks and all that.
James Watt told the U.S. Congress that protecting natural resources was unimportant in light of the imminent return of Jesus Christ. In public testimony he said, 'after the last tree is felled, Christ will come back.' - as reported on The Bill Moyers Show
Chop down a tree for Jesus?

Well, a John Hornbuckle sent me a quick email saying the problem is there seems to be no proof that that Watt actually said this. One book by one author reports this quote, but no other sources confirm that the book is accurate. And neither I nor Rick, The News Guy in Atlanta, could actually find a way to confirm it. So let?s assume Watt didn?t say it.

But the point is what we have. Remember Genesis 1:28 and this, in the King James wording? - And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.

We?re working on the subdue it part of the passage -
If early decisions reveal deeply held values, it would appear that George W. Bush has taken Genesis 1:28 as providing the principle that will govern his conscience with respect to environmental policy. From the beginning he made it clear that he favors opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling. More recently, he stated that "all public lands" everywhere should be considered as targets of opportunity for oil and gas producers. Further, he reversed a campaign promise to impose controls on carbon dioxide emissions, even though carbon dioxide is the single most important global warming gas. Bush wrote in a letter to four Republican Senators that carbon dioxide it was "off the table" as far as federal regulation is concerned. This is an astonishing statement given his earlier recognition of the necessity for such regulation. Thus far, it appears that the Bush policy is to talk about preserving and protecting the environment, but at the same time to act so as to encourage and enable corporations to exploit the environment free of government interference. The policy may be summed up in a phrase: "Praise God, but pass the pollution."
One supposes this a matter of theology ? and the current theology is clear.

So who has their theology right?

See this from the Boston Globe -
WASHINGTON - Sen. John F. Kerry yesterday attacked Republicans for having an "orthodoxy of view" and overly inserting religion into politics, accusing them of using God as a justification for appointing conservative judges.

"I am sick and tired of a bunch of people trying to tell me that God wants a bunch of conservative judges on the court and that's why we have to change the rules of the United States Senate," Kerry told a group of Bay State residents who traveled to Capitol Hill for U.S. Rep. Martin Meehan's annual legislative seminar. ?
Well, John is still grumpy about Ohio last November, no doubt.

The environment, what judges decide about what?.

We are being told God obviously is on one side and certainly not on the other.

But there is something curious here ? an open discussion of the contention that the Republicans have God on their side, and no one else does.

Well, they have the new Pope on their side ? and we have been told that he is infallible. The Pope can speak only the truth. You could look it up.

Is the Pope on the Republican side? Yep.

Holy warriors
Cardinal Ratzinger handed Bush the presidency by tipping the Catholic vote. Can American democracy survive their shared medieval vision?
Sidney Blumenthal, April 21, 2005 ? SALON.COM

Here is Blumenthal?s reasoning -
President Bush treated his final visit with Pope John Paul II in Vatican City on June 4, 2004, as a campaign stop. After enduring a public rebuke from the pope about the Iraq war, Bush lobbied Vatican officials to help him win the election. "Not all the American bishops are with me," he complained, according to the National Catholic Reporter. He pleaded with the Vatican to pressure the bishops to step up their activism against abortion and gay marriage in the states during the campaign season.

About a week later, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger sent a letter to the U.S. bishops, pronouncing that those Catholics who were pro-choice on abortion were committing a "grave sin" and must be denied Communion. He pointedly mentioned "the case of a Catholic politician consistently campaigning and voting for permissive abortion and euthanasia laws" -- an obvious reference to John Kerry, the Democratic candidate and a Roman Catholic. If such a Catholic politician sought Communion, Ratzinger wrote, priests must be ordered to "refuse to distribute it." Any Catholic who voted for this "Catholic politician," he continued, "would be guilty of formal cooperation in evil and so unworthy to present himself for Holy Communion." During the closing weeks of the campaign, a pastoral letter was read from pulpits in Catholic churches repeating the ominous suggestion of excommunication. Voting for the Democrat was nothing less than consorting with the forces of Satan, collaboration with "evil."

In 2004 Bush increased his margin of Catholic support by 6 points from the 2000 election, rising from 46 to 52 percent. Without this shift, Kerry would have had a popular majority of a million votes. Three states -- Ohio, Iowa and New Mexico -- moved into Bush's column on the votes of the Catholic "faithful." Even with his atmospherics of terrorism and Sept. 11, Bush required the benediction of the Holy See as his saving grace. The key to his kingdom was turned by Cardinal Ratzinger.
Hey, it worked!

So now the core of the Republican Party ? the ?values coalition? who accept huge deficits and a disintegrating economy, fewer jobs, reduced benefits, healthcare insurance only for the lucky few, heavy taxes on the working folks and light taxes on the rich, and all the rest - know that they are on the side of God, and no gay couple will get married, nor will any woman?s nipple be bared for all to see at any halftime show anywhere. And that crackpot theory, evolution, will not be taught to THEIR children. On much of this the ?values coalition? ? neither rich nor safe from the gyrations of the economy ? votes against their own interests. But that doesn?t matter. Their own sons and daughters die in the dusty wastes of Iraq, or return maimed or mad. No matter. Voting for any Democrat is nothing less than consorting with the forces of Satan, collaboration with "evil."

The Pope says so. And for those who don?t want to have anything to do with that Cult of Mary, well, they?ll hear from James Dobson or Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell on the evangelical side. On they?ll hear from the leader of the Senate, Bill Frist. Coming up? Dobson?s Family Research Council?s ?Justice Sunday? - where Frist will speak and work on aligning all ?people of faith? against Democrats and liberals. The immediate issue is judges who care more about the constitution than they care about God.

Cool. Should be fun.

But the Presbyterian Church doesn?t think it will be fun at all -

Frist Draws Criticism From Some Church Leaders
David D. Kirkpatrick and Sheryl Gay Stolberg, The New York Times, April 22, 2005
As the Senate battle over judicial confirmations became increasingly entwined with religious themes, officials of several major Protestant denominations on Thursday accused the Senate Republican leader, Bill Frist, of violating the principles of his own Presbyterian church and urged him to drop out of a Sunday telecast that depicts Democrats as "against people of faith."

[Rev. Clifton Kirkpatrick, a top official of the Presbyterian Church U.S.A.,] said Dr. Frist's participation in the telecast undermined "the historical commitment in our nation and our church to an understanding of the First Amendment that elected officials should not be portraying public policies as being for or against people of faith."

? Religious groups, including the National Council of Churches and the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, plan to conduct a conference call with journalists on Friday to criticize Senator Frist's participation in the telecast.

The National Council of Churches is asking members to organize news conferences denouncing Dr. Frist.
And a little more -
Tony Perkins, organizer of the telecast, claims that ?people of faith ? see a connection between the filibuster and judicial activism.? But polls show that more Americans support than oppose the filibuster, and Republican senators may be starting to realize that ?extremists of faith? aren?t supported by mainstream ?people of faith.?

? Republicans are beginning to notice that the arrogant attempts of religious extremists to impose their will on the country aren't sitting well with religious people who don't share those extreme views.

In addition, 406 clergy members signed a petition prepared by the Interfaith Alliance urging Frist ?to defend the nation from efforts utilizing deception and fear-mongering to manipulate Americans of faith.?
Yeah, yeah. It seems what used to be called, shall we say, ?the religious mainstream? is NOT the mainstream any longer.

But what is Blumenthal taking about when he says Bush and the Pope, and by extension the evangelical right, have shared medieval vision? Say what?

After a long discussion of the new Pope?s life, he gives us this -
? The new pope's burning passion is to resurrect medieval authority. He equates the Western liberal tradition, that is, the Enlightenment, with Nazism, and denigrates it as "moral relativism." He suppresses all dissent, discussion and debate within the church and concentrates power within the Vatican bureaucracy. His abhorrence of change runs past 1968 (an abhorrence he shares with George W. Bush) to the revolutions of 1848, the "springtime of nations," and 1789, the French Revolution. But, even more momentously, the alignment of the pope's Kulturkampf with the U.S. president's culture war has also set up a conflict with the American Revolution.

For the first time, an American president is politically allied with the Vatican in its doctrinal mission (except, of course, on capital punishment). In the messages and papers of the presidents from George Washington until well into those of the 20th century, there was not a single mention of the pope, except in one minor footnote. Bush's lobbying trip last year to the Vatican reflects an utterly novel turn, and Ratzinger's direct political intervention in American electoral politics ratified it.

The right wing of the Catholic Church is as mobilized as any other part of the religious right. It is seizing control of Catholic universities, exerting influence at other universities, stigmatizing Catholic politicians who fail to adhere to its conservative credo, pressing legislation at the federal and state levels, seeking government funding and sponsorship of the church, and vetting political appointments inside the White House and the administration -- imposing in effect a religious test of office. The Bush White House encourages these developments under the cover of moral uplift as it forges a political machine uniting church and state -- as was done in premodern Europe.

The American Revolution, the Virginia Statute on Religious Liberty, the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights were fought for explicitly to uproot the traces in American soil of ecclesiastical power in government, which the Founders to a man regarded with horror, revulsion and foreboding.

The Founders were the ultimate representatives of the Enlightenment. They were not anti-religious, though few if any of them were orthodox or pious. Washington never took Communion and refused to enter the church, while his wife did so. Benjamin Franklin believed that all organized religion was suspect. James Madison thought that established religion did as much harm to religion as it did to free government, twisting the word of God to fit political expediency, thereby throwing religion into the political cauldron. And Thomas Jefferson, allied with his great collaborator Madison, conducted decades of sustained and intense political warfare against the existing and would-be clerisy. His words, engraved on the Jefferson Memorial, are a direct reference to established religion: "I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man."

But now Republican House Majority Leader Tom DeLay threatens the federal judiciary, saying, "The reason the judiciary has been able to impose a separation of church and state that's nowhere in the Constitution is that Congress didn't stop them." And Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist will participate through a telecast in a rally on April 24 in which he will say that Democrats who refuse to rubber-stamp Bush's judicial nominees and uphold the filibuster are "against people of faith."
Oh, that?s cheery. And moves us from the realm of theology to political theory. Just what is a government supposed to do?

After running down many quotes from Jefferson and Madison and the like ? and making them sound awfully worried about encouraging anything like a theocracy ? Blumenthal quotes John Kennedy, who had to say that, honest, he really could be a good president, even if he was a Catholic.
"I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute -- where no Catholic prelate would tell the President (should he be Catholic) how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote -- where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference ... I believe in an America that is officially neither Catholic, Protestant nor Jewish -- where no public official either requests or accepts instructions on public policy from the Pope, the National Council of Churches or any other ecclesiastical source -- where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its official."

Now Bush is attempting to create what Kennedy warned against. He claims to be conservative, but he seeks a rupture in our system of government. The culture war, which has had many episodes, from the founding of the Moral Majority to the unconstitutional impeachment of President Clinton, is entering a new and far more dangerous phase. In 2004 Bush and Ratzinger used church doctrine to intimidate voters and taint candidates. And through the courts the president is seeking to codify not only conservative ideology but religious doctrine.

It is fairly clear the Republican Party ? for all its history ? is now the evangelical party of God, not the party of business interests and small government and balanced budgets and all that old stuff. And Christianity is now only for the medievalists ? as much as the National Council of Churches protests and the United Church of Christ kicks and screams (in a loving way). Heck, even the Unitarians are learning that what they have isn?t a REAL religion.

It?s a new world. Or if Blumenthal is right, actually an old world, a medieval one.

Well, conservatives value the past.

This past?
The Papal Inquisition was an outgrowth of the Council of Toulouse held in 1229 (not an ecumenical council) where a special ecclesiastical tribunal was established to counter the heresy of Albigensianism. Until 1231 the duty of detecting and repressing heresy had fallen on the bishops but in 1231 Pope Gregory IX appointed a number of Papal Inquisitors. Pope Gregory IX was opposed to torture, but Pope Innocent IV approved its use for the discovery of heresy, and Pope Urban IV confirmed this usage, which like the death penalty for heresy, had its origins in the Roman Law. Although intended for all Christendom, it was active primarily in southern France. This inquisition died out around 1300 with the demise of Albigensianism.

The Spanish Inquisition was a state rather than church inquisition. Established in 1481 by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, the king appointed the Grand Inquisitor and the other officials, and also signed the decrees; the penalties were inflicted in his name. The purpose of this inquisition was to remove any potential traitors (secret Muslims or Jews) who might aid in any Muslim attack or any internal uprising. At that point in history, Spain was the only country which had allowed Muslims and Jews to remain within their boundaries. The inquisition was triggered by a Turkish storming of the Italian city of Otranto in 1480. The Turks put some 12,000 people (half the population of the city) to death, including every priest in the city, and sawed the Archbishop in two. They offered to spare many of their captives lives if they would embrace the Muslim faith. Pope Sixtus IV approved the Spanish Inquisition because he was under the impression that an ecclesiastical inquisition was to be established but when the true state of the case was brought to his knowledge the following year, it was too late. All that he and his successors could do was to protest against its excesses, which they did. The Spanish Inquisition was abolished in 1834. ? Complete records of the Spanish Inquisition do not exist but it is recorded that between 1540 and 1700 a total of 100,000 cases were tried with 10,000 individuals being submitted to torture and 828 individuals being put to death. It should also not be forgotten that John Calvin, the founder of the "Reformed" churches, burned Michael Servetus at the stake for heresy and established his own inquisition in Geneva for the punishment of unmanageable Christians.

The Roman Inquisition began in 1542 and was the least active and most benign of the three inquisitions. This is the inquisition which tried Galileo. The Galileo affair was a matter of science, not religion. It did indirectly concern the Church and spiritual interests because of the circumstances of the time, and Galileo's own diversion into theological speculations. Galileo would not have clashed with religion had he not interjected his own interpretations of Sacred Scripture regarding what he thought to be a contradiction between the Bible and the scientific discoveries. The Church as Church did not digress from spiritual matters in the Galileo case. Some at the time ridiculed Scripture regarding the sun, etc. Because of the spiritual implications, the Church was seriously concerned. ?
The more things change, the more they remain the same, of course.


This column started out on environmental matters. So it ends with this shot - Venice Beach, California, Thursday, April 21, 2005

Posted by Alan at 20:46 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Friday, 22 April 2005 09:47 PDT home

Wednesday, 20 April 2005

Topic: God and US

Religion: Who is YOUR Copilot?

It is always dangerous to visit the award winning legal web site Talk Left because these practicing constitutional lawyers are always pointing out the oddest things about the waves of theocratic domination rolling across America these days.

It seems these folks think there should be a separation of church and state, even if the House leader Tom DeLay says that?s just bull ? "The reason the judiciary has been able to impose a separation of church and state that's nowhere in the Constitution is that Congress didn't stop them." (From a recent interview in the Washington Times.) Ah well.

Now they are pointing out things in the opposite direction ? noting, from and AFP story, that it was Pope Benedict XVI, formerly known as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who inserted the Catholic church into the 2004 election by ordering bishops to deny communion to abortion rights supporters, including candidate John Kerry. Well, we now have a pro-Bush Republican Pope, it seems.

Then they point to an Associated Press item - Religious Intolerance Alleged At Air Force Academy - that also appeared in the Los Angeles Times - regarding complaints by Air Force cadets of religious intolerance at our Air Force Academy out in Colorado.
Less than two years after it was plunged into a rape scandal, the Air Force Academy is scrambling to address complaints that evangelical Christians wield so much influence at the school that anti-Semitism and other forms of religious harassment have become pervasive.

There have been 55 complaints of religious discrimination at the academy in the past four years, including cases in which a Jewish cadet was told the Holocaust was revenge for the death of Jesus and another was called a Christ killer by a fellow cadet. ...
Well, if the shoe fits?. And we don?t want any Christ-killer dropping massive bomb loads from high altitude on the Godless swarthy Muslim folks who hate us for our freedom, do we?

No wait. That doesn?t make sense.

Oh, whatever.

The ?Talk Left? summary of the rest?
- The Air Force is investigating a complaint from an atheist cadet who says the school is "systematically biased against any cadet that does not overtly espouse Christianity."

- The official academy newspaper runs a Christmas ad every year praising Jesus and declaring him the only savior. Some 200 academy staff members, including some department heads, signed it. ?

- The academy commandant, Brig. Gen. Johnny Weida, a born-again Christian, said in a statement to cadets in June 2003 that their first responsibility is to their God. He also strongly endorsed National Prayer Day that year. School spokesman Johnny Whitaker said Weida now runs his messages by several other commanders.

- Some officer commission ceremonies were held at off-campus churches. In a letter dated April 6, Weida said the ceremonies would be held on campus from now on.
Ah, the whole God is My Copilot concept returns to the American Military.

These same ?Talk Left? guys noted last November that our Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs was forced to take down a banner that read - "I am a Christian first and last! I am a member of Team Jesus Christ!" And the Academy then warned staffers against including biblical verses as taglines on Academy e-mail. And the Academy then officially disapproved of cadets using Academy e-mail to urge everyone to see Mel Gibson?s Passion of the Christ. And the superintendent announced the Academy would begin religious tolerance training.

It isn?t working.

Posted by Alan at 19:26 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Thursday, 21 April 2005 17:21 PDT home

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