Wednesday, November 29, 2006

You Say Tancredo, I Say Bigot

I hadn't really felt like blogging much since getting back from Thanksgiving. And then Tom Tancredo opened his mouth. Tom Tancredo, Republican representative from Colorado, anti-immigration activist, bigot.

Tancredo was in South Florida joining the likes of media giants Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Ann Coulter at a four-day event called "Restoration Weekend" which concluded today. All of that conservative, nationalist testosterone (yes, you, Ann...) must have gone right to his head when he compared Miami to a "third world country" when using the city as an example of immigration run rampant.

"Look at what has happened to Miami. It has become a Third World country," he said. "You just pick it up and take it and move it someplace. You would never know you're in the United States of America. You would certainly say you're in a Third World country."

Colorado is 94% white, so it's no wonder Tancredo gets a little nervous about immigration. To him Chicago must seem like Canada, Maimi is the third world, and Hawaii must be another planet altogether. I'm surprised he even went to Florida for the conservative conference, he was practically in South America!

Tucker Carson, though not invited to the weekend dirge, was nice enough to give Tancredo the equivalent of a reporter's hand-job by vacating the floor on his show to gave Tancredo a chance to clarify himself.

Tancredo explained that "third world" is actually a compliment. He also reasoned that anyone who thinks "third world" is a racist term must be a racist. And then went on to describe Miami as a city riddled with poverty, corruption, violence, and poor education. So, I think what he's trying to say is that "third world" is really more like a back-handed compliment. It's a sly move to call someone a racist with logic that insults their intelligence. "Third World" means exactly what we all think it means, and exactly like it sounds: something less than our world; at best: developing; at worst: backwards. It is in itself a value statement on our status and "theirs".

Tucker Carson ate it all up with a spoon as the man love filled the studio. Atta boy.

The only problem is Tancredo is a notorious xenophobe and a staunch believer in tougher immigration laws. He's so far right on this issue he question's Bush's patriotism on the matter. Right before granting Miami third-world status, he lashed out at the White House's lack of action in securing U.S. borders, and said efforts to merge the U.S. with both Mexico and Canada is not a fantasy. So, you can see his view of Miami is out of fear that America is being taken over by latin-Americans, and, to a somewhat lesser degree, those goddamn Canadians!

Miami looks like a third world country, which essentially means it resembles New York City in the mid-19th century, except that city's criminals and immigrants were mostly white. Miami's are mostly Hispanic. Are you scared too?

But have no fear, my friends, the case that America needs to be "restored" is being made by the same people who brought you the war on Christmas
. Anything which is fundamentally a personal belief cannot be under attack. You see? It's like declaring war on the fact that your favorite blog is Thought Alarm. How can anyone steal that from you? Sure, your Wal Mart greeter might not wish you Merry Christmas, but that wont erase your belief if you have it? Will it?

The Christmas season is alive and well in all forms: religious and secular. Did you notice that holiday decorations were up by mid-November this year? Thanksgiving is now essentially a speed-bump as we fire up for our Christmas season.

Man, I'd love to be a fly on the wall at David Horowitz's "Freedom Center" as people like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Tom Tancredo stoke each others fires and lift the human spirit into a roaring frenzy of bigotry and fear. It almost makes me want to break out the eggnog and chestnuts. But while they were making merry I was spending time with my family, and now I have to buy Christmas presents. Funny how their war is a war on people like me.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Bush Botches Turkey Pardon

The President was scheduled to pardon a turkey today, an annual rite dating back to Abraham Lincoln. Instead, Bush brandished a knife and slit the bird's throat wide open. Reporters responded with a mild applause. As the turkey bled to death Bush declared "mission accomplished" and wiped the knife down with a towel.

"That's how we do things in West Texas," he explained, with a trademark smirk.

One reporter finally broke ranks and explained that the Turkey was supposed to be pardoned.

Bush admitted he hadn't reviewed the plan ahead of time. "Who ever heard of pardoning a turkey on Thanksgiving?" he reasoned. "Thanksgiving is about killing and eating turkeys....and being thankful."

In other news, due to increased consumer demand retailers are fearing a toy shortage this Christmas in what could be one of the biggest threats to child happiness since the great North Pole snowstorm of 1908. Chinese toy factories have also experienced labor shortages as workers abandon their jobs for better-paying positions at higher-tech manufacturing companies.

The Chinese government has taken swift action, rounding up deviants and the homeless to toil in their massive toy factories which will belch out toys 24/7 in an attempt to make all the giggle-me Elmo dolls and Disney products necessary for good little boys and girls from the West.

"We will do everything possible," Ming Cho Ling, Chinese Prime Chancellor of Production and Labor Relations said in a statement. "When a worker falls, another will rise up to take his place. The one who falls will be swept aside, down massive metal drains, never to be seen again, so his failure will not infect the other workers. We promise to rise to meet Western demand. We wish to see no American children cry on Jesus day."

Earlier today a man was mangled at the Peking Giggle-me Elmo factory when he collapsed from fatigue and was swept away on conveyor belt. Another rose to take his place.

Ask Baker - Hamilton...anything?

It seems like I'm not the only one annoyed with the Baker - Hamilton fever gripping the Beltway. There's even a new faux search tool called Ask Baker Hamilton that lets you ask Baker - Hamilton...anything!

Yes, those gnostic lovers of wisdom are now available in search form so anyone can plumb the depths of their knowledge. With the incredible amount of buzz they've generated why shouldn't they have a web presence, right?

So, are you mired on a hard decision? Got yourself stuck in an unwinable situation? Cut the crap and ask Baker - Hamilton. I've added it to my side bar so you can check it out.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Packer's "Dreaming of Democracy"

Of my favorite journalists is George Packer. His ongoing commentary on the Bush administration and the war in Iraq has the rare quality of being insightful and stinging at the same time. An absolutely fascinating read is his article "Dreaming of Democracy" from March 2, 2003. I've become enthralled with articles written before we went into Iraq, and this one is a survey of predictions about what will happen after Saddam was removed.

They range from Professor Kanan Makiya, who fed the White House a delicious morsel by saying we would be greated with "sweets and flowers" to the Peter Galbraith's, "'A unified and democratic Iraq is an oxymoron."

Even Abu Ghraib gets mentioned, years before it made world-wide news as a place of shame for the coalition, in an allegory about what liberation may be like. When Saddam ordered the release of thousands of prisoners from Abu Ghraib in 2002 the surge of inmates caused many to be crushed and killed in the rush for freedom.

"Reporters who ventured into the bowels of the prison were struck by the appalling odors of long human confinement," Packer writes. "When the seal on Iraq is broken, the surge will be just as intense, and the smell of decades of repression just as rank."

Packer's prediction proved to be correct.

All of the questions are here: should Iraq be de-Bathified? Should Iraq be divided into separate regions? And I had no idea so many books were written on Iraq regime change prior to our invasion. It's an entire sub culture almost in the same way some people build model trains or collect stamps. Some people write books on ripping out and rebuilding entire governmental structures. What isn't in the article is any mention of WMDs. No one "in the know" believed in that. This was purely an attempt at democratic reform--or perhaps anti-terrorism reform--in the Middle East.

"Iraqi Exceptionalism" had taken over, 9/11 just became the lever large enough to move it onto the main stage. This was the belief that Iraq has suffered for so long that it is different from other Arab countries in that it would not view Israel or America as the enemy as much as it sees the enemy within itself. Supporters of this idea included the aforementioned Makiya, and neo-conservatives in the Bush administration like Donald Rumsfeld, UN Ambassador John Bolton, ex-Bush adherent Richard Perle.

"It's called magical realism, Middle East-style,'' says Thomas Carothers of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. To which Packer adds, "The war, which is vastly unpopular in the Arab world, is far more likely to improve the fortunes of the Islamists, he says, and provoke governments to tighten their grip, than to ventilate the region with an Arab spring."

And from there Packer essentially brings it home by saying that a unilateral war has never created a democracy in an environment like Iraq, foreign to democratic ideas. it would take a long commitment that would look like colonialism.

Without a doubt the most painful paragraph is the following:

More than anything, the president hasn't readied Americans psychologically to commit themselves to a project of such magnitude, nor has he made them understand why they should. He has maintained his spirit of hostility to nation-building while reversing his policy against it. Bush is a man who has never shown much curiosity about the world. When he met with Makiya and two other Iraqis in January, I was told by someone not present, the exiles spent a good portion of the time explaining to the president that there are two kinds of Arabs in Iraq, Sunnis and Shiites. The very notion of an Iraqi opposition appeared to be new to him. War has turned Bush into a foreign-policy president, but democratizing an Arab country will require a subtlety and sophistication that have been less in evidence than the resolve to fight.

Packer's title "Dreaming of Democracy" was right on. It's fascinating to look at in the cold reality of hindsight but sickening when placed against reality. We trusted people like President Bush and we followed him down into the current nightmare.

Read the whole article here

Read his latest article in the New Yorker, here

Michael Richards: Is this thing on?

Where's Michael Richards been since playing Kramer on Seinfeld? Oh, there he is now, doing stand-up!

[Caution: this *is* offensive and not work friendly]

The only question now is: will he blame alcoholism? this thing on?

Monday, November 20, 2006

Talking About the Draft

A senior House Democrat said Sunday he will introduce legislation to reinstate the military draft, asserting that current troop levels are insufficient to sustain possible challenges against Iran, North Korea and Iraq.

"There's no question in my mind that this president and this administration would never have invaded Iraq, especially on the flimsy evidence that was presented to the Congress, if indeed we had a draft and members of Congress and the administration thought that their kids from their communities would be placed in harm's way," said Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y.

Here's the rest of the article.

I think what he's saying is that if this country is so militaristic then let's bring back the draft so everyone can have a chance send their kids into service. And if that idea sounds sour then maybe we should sober up a little bit. I think, maybe, Rangel was being facetious like that. And if he wasn't then I just did it for him.

It's a novel idea to consider that the draft increases peace. But that's as polite as I'll be about it. Our own draft during the Cold War helped enhance a militaristic fantasy that we needed the extra security and extra suspicion. That draft only led to two unwinable wars before it was dismantled. Not a very good track record.

So, what deters baseless wars? Is it true that to have peace you must prepare for war? If the draft were in place in this country how would our society be different? If everyone had a common foundation in an organization that relies on conformity and power would we be more or less likely to rush off to a war?

One needs only to look around the world that those countries that do prepare for war often become intoxicated with that power. They often rely heavily on the military and aggressive methods. Peace is a matter of using an array of skills at your disposal, not simply creating a nation that views every problem as a nail. The military has a place in any nation that values its survival. But it should be a sober necessity, not an empowering pleasure.

In a Democratic society peace is enhanced by education and cooperation with other countries. Europe learned that lesson after continuous bloodshed. Perhaps we are learning that lesson too. If people are easily swayed they can be talked into just about any war, whether the draft exists or not. A more open and sincere dialog on war, and the need for certain wars is needed.

Rangel's goal to deter war and share the sacrifice is admirable, but we don't believe the answer lies in introducing even more people to the harsh tools of statehood. If you want to prepare for peace increase education spending.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

McCain Defending the Sanctity of Republican Principles

Peter Baker has written an article in the Washington Post about loyalists turning on President Bush. That puts an official stamp on what I've been saying since the elections.

There's a long list of former believers renouncing their faith in the President. I've gleaned some choice quotes.

"People expect a level of performance they are not getting." - Newt Gingrich

"There are a lot of lives that are lost. A country's at stake. A region's at stake. This is a gigantic situation. . . . This didn't have to be managed this bad. It's just awful." - Neoconservative Kennith Adelman who in 2002 described the task of liberating Iraq as "a cakewalk."

"If I had known that the U.S. was going to essentially establish an occupation, then I'd say, 'Let's not do it." - Richard Perle who once said, "The first time I met Bush 43 … two things became clear. One, he didn't know very much. The other was that he had the confidence to ask questions that revealed he didn't know very much," about George W. Bush, leader of the war in Iraq.

And last week John McCain found new religion too. He announced his intentions to run for president in 2008 by saying, "We lost our principles and our majority. There is no way to recover our majority without recovering our principles first."

Now, I'm trying to figure out what these principles are. Spending is up, the debt is up, the government is bigger than ever. All of these principles were slain at the alter by Republican adherents. And all of these things are, of course, the result of an illicit affair with the seductress from Babylon--Iraq.

But let's backtrack for a second. In 2000 these believers in principles nominated Bush, who had almost zero government experience. He won the election and surrounded himself with people like Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld. Everyone seemed pleased. 12 months after 9/11 the rush was on to invade Iraq. Still, no worries. Iraq was invaded and the mission was announced as accomplished two months later. Three years later we are still there and a few weeks ago you'd be hard pressed to find any Republicans who thought their principles were violated.

But McCain is now doing what is politically prudent, employing the Rush Limbaugh defense that he will no longer carry Bush's water. So, I suppose we will hear no more rhetoric like this:

I believe that this conflict is still going to be relatively short.” - McCain on March 23, 2003

"They fight to express a hatred for all that is good in humanity. We fight for love of freedom and justice, a love that is invincible. Keep that faith. Keep your courage. Stick together. Stay strong. Do not yield. Do not flinch. Stand up. Stand up with our President and fight." - McCain's 2004 RNC speech.

“Overall, I think a year from now, we will have a fair amount of progress [in Iraq] if we stay the course.” - McCain in December 8, 2005

Call me crazy but I feel like the Republicans are only sorry that they lost their principles because they got caught. People had finally had enough of corruption, lies, aggression, thoughtlessness, conceit, and contempt. It was like being married to a cheating spouse who also pathologically lies about while promisesing the moon. You're a good person, you want to believe in people, and that trust got abused. After six years we finally threw the bums out. Now people like McCain are tired of selling their services?

Don't get me wrong, I'm sure Senator McCain is a good man. I once heard him on NPR talking about Ernest Hemingway and he was thoughtful and pleasant. But I do have to question his sincerity and judgment, the way I must question anyone who still has a Bush / Cheney bumper stiker on their car. Are they insane? Are they blind? Do they just not care?

I saw McCain on "This Week" and George Stephanopoulos asked if we should continue the Bush tax cuts. McCain believes we should. Then Stephanopoulos pointed out that McCain voted against the tax cuts. McCain admitted he did, for good reason--you can't cut taxes during war, and there was no curb on spending. Stephanopoulos then wanted to know how those two principles are consistent--voting against tax cuts for good reason but then wanting the tax cuts extended. And McCain said that's how things currently are and they should stay the same.

Sound familiar?

I suppose when you get down to it, that is what conservativism is all about--fear of change. And in that sense McCain may be staking out bold new ground, years behind any potential Republican candidate. Top that, Giuliani!

What Republicans don't get is that it's their lack of hindsight that people find dangerous. Their lack of an ability to take a complex and changing world and formulate a pragmatic position for tomorrow, is a dangerous framework to formulate policy from. This is all evident by their inability to see the principles behind the war in Iraq as the real problem. Illogical is the desire to cut taxes while fighting a war. Impudent is the belief that we can nation build and disregard the very root of terrorism. And irreconcilable is the notion that smaller government is better but the government should also be spawning new governments.

The Republicans can be likened to the new Bond in Casino Royale. You can't stop them. They churn forward, through walls, over barriers, past explosions, never looking back. But when the goals themselves are so easily betrayed by their own adherents, what does that tell you? When the resulting action is a mismatch of fundamentalism, stubbornness, and failure, the machine must be terminated.

Don't believe the hype, all this talk about defending principles. While they were busy defending marriage, they traded their own true love for a charlatan from Texas.

Any other thoughts?

Friday, November 17, 2006

"Prove to me you are not working with our enemies"


Media Matters

Minneapolis City Pages

Huffington Post

Griper Blade

Keith Olbermann awarded Beck his "worst person in the world" award last night for his conduct during the interview.

All of this attention for bigotry and fear mongering will no doubt equal financial security for Beck. His next book should be an even bigger hit.

I find it funny that later in the interview Black says Ellison is an example to European Muslims on how to integrate properly. This, then, is how to be a good immigrant, right? You work hard and rise to one of the top positions in the country so that people like Glenn Beck can view you only by your religion or race. Beck only considers Ellison a citizen in the strictest sense, he does not view Ellison as anywhere near equal. And isn't that why European Muslims feel disenfranchised? Sure, ok, you can live here, but every step of the way we're going to remind you what your place is.

And Beck thinks he's doing this country a favor by asking such probing questions? As if they're the product of some deep insight or original thought? He's never lived a day in his life, has he? His line of thinking is nothing new. Show me every great human injustice and I'll show you bigotry.

And why does CNN put this guy on the air? "Prove to me you are not working with our enemies"? Are you kidding me? Hey man, you can't prove a negative. At best, if you strip the bigotry out of that question, it's an illogical question. It's like asking someone to prove they don't believe in UFOs. And he's on CNN? I've lost a lot of respect for that network. I can rant and rave and stereotype and spew bile and prejudice, where's my TV show? The ratings would be wonderful.

Why don't you write in and tell CNN what you think. Or tell me what you think by leaving a comment.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Stem Cells Ease Muscle Disease in Dogs

In promising new research, adult stem cells worked remarkably well at easing symptoms of muscular dystrophy in dogs, an experiment that experts call a significant step toward treating people.

This is how smart scientists are, people. They're going to use stem cell research to help dogs first, thereby reducing objections among humans. Even though the less controversial adult stem cells were used in this case, I predict resistance to the all stem cell research should begin to fall if more dogs are healed. I mean look at how cute that dog is! What a good puppy!

Listen, let's be frank, people love dogs. Who couldn't love a dog? A godless communist! Thus, if dogs can be helped by stem cell research what type of person wouldn't be in favor of it? I would like to meet the heartless bastard who would rather see a dog suffer than helped. How can you be for saving embryos if you yourself lack a soul? How can you be against helping puppy dogs and little kittens? Gee, mister, what did that puppy ever do to you? What a cute puppy!

You see, ignoring human suffering is part of the human condition and the movies have desensitized us even further. But one area even the movies fear to tread is the shadowy realm of animal abuse. One sure way to establish a villain's defilement is to have him harm a helpless animal. All bets are off if that happens and you know you're dealing with a tough son of a bitch. Even in Borat there's a scene where it looks like he's going to slit a chicken's throat, and, after all of the other insane things he'd done in the movie, I thought, he can't slit that chicken's throat! That's going too far! He can fool people into thinking he's a journalist and then humiliate them on film, but I'll be damned if I'll see a chicken get harmed.*

If I have this weakness then surely you must have it. You may not care about humans suffering and dying from would-be treatable diseases but what if your little Fluffy could be helped? What about Mr. Biggles or Fu-fu? What if they could be renewed by the power of the blood? Ahh, now that *is* something indeed. After all, what has that dog ever asked of you? That dog has shown you love even when you got fired from your job. That dog was there when you broke up with your boyfriend. What a good dog! Sit. Stay! Good puppy!

As one in favor of stem cell research I can tell you that knowing puppies are being helped warmed my heart much more than, say, Michael J. Fox. Call me crazy, but if my prior existence as a ministry student and Republican has taught me anything it's that the human element can be so easily discarded. But what science and puppies have taught me is that there's more to life than not caring about people. Pets matter! I suppose then that even people matter! Life, my matters!

I'll bet even Rush Limbaugh, who so easily attacked the afflicted Fox, had a pet when he was a kid. Maybe he didn't and that is why he is the way he is. But even if he grew into one of those teenagers abusing animals, I'm willing to bet there's still a cold spot in his heart that longs for the warm, unconditional love that only a dog can give. What a good puppy!

Let celebrities die if you must, Mr. Limbaugh, all you who hate science and progress, but I dare you to let dogs suffer. What a good dog! Give us a kiss! Good puppy!

*no chickens were harmed

Read the original story here.

The Swedish Dream

You'd probably have to think pretty hard to see how welfare and freedom go hand in hand. But the Swedes think they have it figured out, which is akin to splitting the social services atom. In-fact the authors of a new book "Is the Swede a Human Being" argue that love and independence make good bed fellows. Intriguing, but how?

For the last fifty years the Swedes have established a state-run system of benefits, while forking over over 50% of their income to taxes. These independent types do so willingly because, well, it makes them more independent. This is the expression of a fundamental longing for individual autonomy and a desire not to depend on or be indebted to anyone, particularly not in intimate relationships - what the authors call "the Swedish theory of love."

"The main purpose of the Swedish system has been to maximize the individual's independence,"said author Lars Tragardh, who has spent most of his life in the United States. "The picture of a collectivist animal is completely wrong; the modern Swede is a hyperindividualist."

All this individuality is territory firmly claimed by Americans. Doubtless, a definition of the "American Dream" would include financial security and the ability to pursue your dreams with autonomy. This seems to be what the Swedes have in mind too, but their conclusion is to have social safety nets, and programs designed to free people from pitfalls. It's interesting to hear that love is best expressed free from debt. Life probably is too. It's food for thought anyway.

If you want to read more here's the whole article from Ivar Ekman of the International Herald Tribune.

The New "Democrat" Party

Last Wednesday President Bush announced mid-term election defeat by congratulating the Democrat leaders. I'm guessing most people didn't even notice this carefully calculated bit of smear. Bush mispronouncing words is common play, right? I would have missed it if it hadn't been for Hendrick Hertzberg's timely article on Republicans' newfound use of the term "Democrat Party" rather than "Democratic Party." What's in a word you might ask? Well, actually, quite a bit. Like congratulating Steve on his new promotion but calling him Stan, getting your opponent's name wrong at the right time can be a swift backhanded slap. Read on and learn how language, as Newt Gingrich says, can be a "key element of control."

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The Power of Transferrance

Why do some products rise and some fall? The idea behind the free market is that consumers determine the demand of items. But are people really making the decision based solely on need? Or are far deeper forces motivating us? Welcome to the power of transferrance. Never heard of it? Well, it rules you. It's with you when you're buying groceries, it's with you when you pick out shoes, it's with you while you write out your Christmas list. With Black Friday coming up it might be time to get acquainted with one of marketing's most powerful allies.

Here's a great article from Ross Gittins of the Sydney Morning Herald explaining why we buy the things we do and how what we see influences our decisions in subconscious ways.

Iraq Study Group Reveals Missing Ingredient: Love

Monday, November 13, 2006

Seven Sad Things About Church

A frustrated church leader sent me this list. Hopefully some lessons can be gleaned.

I was a former ministry student and adherent to organized religion. After about ten years of working in churches I decided to call it quits. I've boiled it down to seven reasons. I want to stress that I am still a Christian. I make a distinction between Christianity, spirituality, and the product of organized religion.

Seven sad things about church.

1. Low expectations. Every church I've worked in, save one, was hit by a severe bout of low expectations. A minister is someone who believes in a living God, who believes that he is doing that God's work, that he is God's worker on earth; a minister is someone who believes all of these things and then you see how they conduct themselves in church. It just fails to add up.

I'm not talking about a full-blown scandal that any normal person would know not to do (there are enough of those), I'm talking about boring ministers, apathetic ministers, ministers who do the same thing week in and week out and continually wait for something to happen. It's enough to just get people to come to church. Whether or not they actually grow is an entirely different thing.

2. No hindsight. I can't remember the last time I worked in a church where they actually had meeting to review what they were doing, or how effective they were. It never ceases to amaze me when churches fail to equip their members against even the most basic temptations. I don't expect the membership to notice, I do expect the leadership to care. Yet very little changes, no matter how much sin circulates inside the church. It's an equation that continually does not balance and no one cares to even ask why.

There's a belief that sincerity will win the day. That if you facilitate worship lives will be transformed. This is just lazy thinking. Members should not be asked to do more for their church than their church is willing to do for them. After all, Jesus himself did not come to be served, but to serve. Man was not made for the Sabbath, the Sabbath was made for man.

3. Lack of seriousness. If you really believed that you were serving God, and that your actions could influence whether or not someone accepts Christ and spends an eternity in heaven or an eternity in hell would you really stand up in front of people and give that boring old sermon? Would you really argue over whether or not you could have contemporary music in the church? Would you really argue over whether or not women can be leaders in a church? Or whether or not kids can trick or treat on Halloween? Wouldn't your mission of extreme eternal importance imbue you with a sense of clarity and seriousness?

I once worked in a church that pestered one woman to get baptized. Every week she was harassed to immerse herself. She felt that she was a believer whether or not she had ever been immersed. The week after she took the plunge it turned out a key leader in the church admitted he hadn't been baptized. This woman asked one question, "How serious are you guys? I turn my spiritual well being over to you and your own members don't even know what is important to you and what isn't?" I never forgot that.

4. Emphasis on the wrong things. Church is supposed to help people. All a church has to do is figure out how it wants to help people. And with the long list of issues people face every week, the complexities of life, the questions everyone asks, there is certainly a need to be served. So, pick one. Is it introducing people to Christ? Is it preparing people for a full Christian life? Pick one. Pick something. Please. People keep showing up because they want to live better lives through a closer relationship with God, that is very noble, so work on that with people.

Anyone who walks out of a church and believes that two men should not have a legal right to be married is operating from a flawed set of principles and is emphasizing the wrong things. The emphasis shouldn't be what is legal or illegal. The emphasis should be on changing hearts and values. Christianity is first and foremost a movement in the heart. "From the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks," Jesus said. If as much time was spent educating Christians on Biblical principles as it was making sure they legislated it to others things would take care of themselves.

If Christians want to defend marriage they should work on having great marriages. That seems to make sense. If Christians want to defend the 10 Commandments then learn the 10 Commandments and practice them. Give it a try. God wants you, above all else, to be a good person--to love God and love your neighbors. That attribute is like a spring that never runs dry. It bears fruit at work and in your personal lives. It takes care of every other detail you think is so important.

5. Lack of empathy. I believe Jesus had a tremendous amount of empathy. When he talked to the woman at the well he put himself in her shoes. He showed mercy to the thief on the cross. He rescued an adulterous woman from being stoned. He helped out as much as he could with precious little self promotion. He took the despised to social gatherings at his own risk. You can tell he really felt sorry for people who were struggling to be closer to God. He described them as "sheep without a shepherd." I wish an ounce of that was present in our churches.

It's not about simply "curing" people or saving people. It should be about facilitating a healthy spiritual relationship with God. Each church should remove the man-made stumbling blocks that prevent that from happening. Why did Jesus get so upset with the Pharisees? Because they bound people spiritually, they hindered them and filled them with guilt and controlled them through fear. Matthew 23 is a powerful rebuke of the religious leaders of Jesus' day. It is no stretch to apply those principles to our own churches.

6. No accountability. Ministry is like politics minus accountability. When I suggested that church leaders come up with a quarterly plan for the church, including some goals established by the minister, I was almost laughed out of the room. Their thinking is that you don't want to hinder the Holy Spirit. There's no need for a plan. But what they fail to realize is that lack of accountability often becomes a temptation to do as little as possible.

If you were going to start a business you would take it 100x as seriously as the average church does when it comes to saving souls. When your task is that important the least you can do is have a plan and hold people accountable to it. There is a belief that ministers operate on the same level as the members sitting in the pews, that it is all one journey everyone is taking together. The minister has no plan. The church has no plan. But somehow we'll all get to where we are headed. But Jesus said the blind should not lead the blind. Ministers area leaders, appointed by God. They are there to "equip the saints" as Ephesians says. It's a serious task, one that requires accountability.

7. A simplistic outlook. There's a belief that if you do certain things, God will bless your church. All you have to do is sing some songs, give a sermon, and have an invitation time. And, if you're really feeling daring you can have the sermon before the songs! Usually there is little deviation. Again, it's the unchanging equation that leads to poor results.

If a member is caught in sin, or struggling with sin, sin is blamed. It's a convenient catch 22. Prayer circles will be formed but there will be no examination of the church environment itself. There's the belief that sin is a human condition, it's in all of us, we're all growing, so when it happens it's just a happy exercise in Christ's grace. But Romans 6 says that we should not continue to "live" in sin anymore. It's one thing if a Christian makes a mistake and sins, but the Bible also says no real Christian continues to actively live in sin.

The goal should be a creating a sincere relationship with Christ among church members. The goal should not be doing things that way you've done them for the last 20 years because tradition is good. The goal should not be a fear to try new things or examine your process.

Christianity does not have to exclude common sense or wisdom. The most compelling element is its pragmatic nature. If you really believe it has the power to change people's lives then you should exhibit that transformation in your own life and call for your church environment to do the same. In light of recent events in the news it has become painfully obvious that the standard operating procedure in most churches is not facilitating the deep connection with Christ and principles that it should be. That leads to empathy and understanding, which leads to further truth which sets you free to live a full life for God.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Years of Church Failed Haggard

Ah, the short, happy, influential and homo-erotic ministry of Ted Haggard, it just keeps getting better.

Breaking news from Daily Kos reports that "a lot" of other evangelical leaders knew about Haggard's "sexual problem" for "awhile." The report quotes an article in Talk to Action which says:

Then, as if things could not get worse, there was the disgrace of Sheldon's own friend and colleague, Rev. Ted Haggard, the Colorado mega-church leader and president of the National Association of Evangelicals, an even bigger pillar of Republican support on the Christian right. Sheldon disclosed that he and "a lot" of others knew about Haggard's homosexuality "for awhile ... but we weren't sure just how to deal with it."

Months before a male prostitute publicly revealed Haggard's secret relationship with him, and the reverend's drug use as well, "Ted and I had a discussion," explained Sheldon, who said Haggard gave him a telltale signal then: "He said homosexuality is genetic. I said, no it isn't. But I just knew he was covering up. They need to say that."

Wow, that sucks. Dr. James Dobson should have tried to de-gay Haggard a long time ago.

I don't really understand how they couldn't know what to do. I mean isn't THIS what they've been training their whole lives for? These guys foam at the mouth about gays and when they meet one they're not sure what to do? Come on, you have one right in your midst, fooled by your own religion. The fish jumped right into the boat!

I mean, sure, the guy was a cash cow. Sure, the guy was on the verge of getting the all-important gay marriage ban passed in Colorado. But come on, his actions were endangering his wife. I mean if ever there was an attack on marriage isn't this it? And these pillars of faith, defenders of marriage, didn't know what to do? It just blows me away that none of these great Christians seemed too worried about the well-being of Haggard's wife.

What's with all of this newfound tolerance? Haggard has a large church ready to forgive him and a team of people ready to exorcise his flaming gay demon. Listen, I'm sure I speak for millions of hyped up bigots when I say: people aren't tithing every week so their ministers can suddenly learn to embrace tolerance. They're not giving up their NFL pregame show so Ted Haggard can be anointed with tears. They do not want you to go and learn what this means: God desires mercy and not sacrifice. Haggard is gay. He's a gay man. He's steeped in gayness. You guys hate gays. Connect the dots and get him out...right?

I suggest a very strict, one strike policy. Yes. Every Bible believing minister caught having gay sex, cheating on his wife, and/or doing meth, should be sent to toil in the right-wing's underground sugar caves.

And as for you people who follow them down, I'm going to start begging. Yes, I'm begging you people who hate gays so much because of what you hear in church to stop wasting your lives, please. They're having gay sex or covering it up while you do the real dirty work. Please, seek help. Leave people alone. Take the beam out of your own eye. Hold your ministers accountable. Better yet, stop going to church and detox for a while. Clear the air. The first step is to admit you have a problem.

I'm going to start a detox clinic for people wishing to reform from organized religion...right after I stop throwing up about this.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Bush? I Never Knew Him!

According to a recent Newsweek poll Bush's ratings have tumbled to a new low. Only 31% of people asked believe he is doing a good job. At this point it's like beating a dead horse, or picking on the slow kid at school. Sad, really. But it's music to my ears, and gives me faith that we are moving in the right direction.

To give this some perspective the lowest ratings for previous presidents were:

36% for Clinton*
35% for Reagan
29% for Bush 41
28% for Carter
23% for Nixon


Rounding out the cadre, Dick Cheney, who is probably insane or, at best, an out of control cyborg high on its own power, has an approval rating of 31%; Donald Rumsfeld, who might be the most hated man in America, resigned with 24% approval.

All indicators show that the mid-term elections were lost by the Republicans rather than won by the Democrats. Reasons cited for the Democrats' success include the botched war in Iraq, Bush's crappy Presidential skills, out of control spending, and poor Republican leadership in congress.

The blog Agnoiologist (which is an excellent name by the way) notes correctly that this election was not a rejection of Republican principles as much as it was a rejection of Bush himself.

"This election wasn't a rejection or approval of any set of principles," it says. "This election was a rejection of incompetence. The people were angry at Bush. He had failed with Katrina and failed with Iraq. The Republican party was corrupt, as evidenced symbolically by the Foley scandal. It wasn't a rejection of any of the principles of family values, etc -- it was the corruption of the principles."

True. One only has to look at traditional Republican fanboys for corroboration to the new belief that Bush may be the worst thing to happen to the Republicans since inception.

And so the debate among ideologies is very much alive in America. The metaphorical witch may be dead, but we still have to figure out how to get home. Most Republicans will now say they only supported Bush as a matter of circumstance. But Bush, to many, represented a wonderful mix of Christianity and politics, heady nationalism and values, and this very mix is why he is able to view the world in such stark blank and white terms, an attribute too intoxicating for most conservatives to deny.

He painted the picture himself--you are either with him or you are against him. Just as Jesus said, "he who does not gather with me scatters."

Bush's good vs evil world view, stoked by a sense of messianic destiny, are what got us into such a deep mess. Bush's actions betrayed his belief that he answers to only Jesus, and those who are with him. Terrorists, Saddam Hussein, liberals...they are all enemies of this country, and therefore enemies of Christ. And so they can all be dealt with harshly and God will sort out the mess in the end.

He had so many followers and now they are falling away. Is it really just a simple matter of disowning him? Weren't they his followers? No? Really? No? Surely they were his followers? No!

Somewhere a rooster crows.

You can't simply divorce yourself from Bush, unless you are also willing to divorce yourself from religious fundamentalist thinking in politics, nationalism, and the neoconservative axiom that we should use our power to promote our values around the world.

Thomas Jefferson was invoked much during this campaign. His is an axiom, that the government which governs least governs best, is one everyone wants to claim. The Republicans have brutally driven this lesson home in a most ironic fashion, by trying to govern as much as they could get their hands on, including other countries, and leaving a trail of wreckage in their path. The hope was, probably, that God would bless the whole endeavor, but people like Ted Haggard, Tom DeLay, and Mark Foley distracted Him.

If we have learned anything it is that what a person uses as a basis of judgment is extremely important. We have also learned that we can not possibly enact the mandates of neoconservativism, no matter how high flung they may sound. So I would like us to try some sober judgment for a while. Some pragmatism. Some empathy. Between the extremes lies the reality you and I live in. Let's govern there too.

Most people think with the Democrats in control of congress Bush will not be able to get much done over the next two years. That, alone, is reason enough to have voted the Democrats back into power. I have no doubt hamstringing Bush will pay unseen dividends at a level even the most gnostic pundit can't divine.

I hope the Democrats will use this chance to prove that other ways are better. We need to invest in education. It should not take six years for people to see fundamental character flaws in a man like George W. Bush. We need to invest in health care and raise the minimum wage. Our rate of poverty is unacceptable. We should employ the traditional Christian principle of working on the plank in our own eye before removing the dust from our neighbors. The answers to terrorism, the environment, poverty, are all found in cooperation, not isolation.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Colbert's Reaction to Loss on Election Night

You've been waiting for it, here it is.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Rush Limbaugh: I Feel Liberated

The Democrats have been in control of Congress for 15 minutes and already two incredible things have occurred. One, Donald Rumsfeld is gone. Two, Rush Limbaugh feels liberated.

I wondered how the GOP ministry of propaganda would proceed in the wake of a stunning defeat at the hands of the Democrats and I didn't have to wait long to find out. Rush Limbaugh posted a message on his web page that said he felt liberated.

"I'm going to tell you as plainly as I can why," he says. "I no longer am going to have to carry water for people who I don't think deserve to have their water carried."

Carrying water implies that Rush was somehow indentured to the Republican party; that they could buy and sell him; that his relentless shilling, mocking and lying were the result of circumstance rather than a flaw in character.

I guess there's nothing compared to the liberating power of a Democratic victory. This, then, is how the conservative talking heads will proceed and attempt to rebuild.

1. The Nazi defense: we were only following orders. Conservative mouth pieces will now say they never really believed in Bush, his ability, his vision, his mandate, they never believed the very words that have been spilling from their mouths these six, dark years. They were compelled to go against their will because serving a twisted Republican party was still far better for America than letting liberalism win. The Hannities, the Coulters, the Ingrams, the whole lot, they were just victims of a faulty Republican party that hijacked their beliefs and distorted it into a type of political terrorism.

2. Bush will be the scapegoat. This ill wind started to blow shortly before the election when top neocons, to a man, placed all blame squarely on the shoulders of Bush and his inept administration. This, after mountains of evidence, years of results. Again, the fault is not an inherit character flaw, but circumstances. The neo-conservative belief in using American power to promote moral values at home and in the world is not itself flawed. In the same way many high-ranking Germans believed Hitler took good ideas and blew them away with his insanity and ineptness.

It's looking like the last days of the Third Reich and we're just getting started, folks. The Democrats came into town and Rumsfeld tried to jump out an open window, while Limbuagh and company are singing a completely different tune. We've turned over a rock and the exposed bugs are scrambling for cover.

The burns !


USA!! ! ! ! ! ! ! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
USA ! ! ! ! ! ! !
USA ! ! ! ! ! ! ! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
USA ! ! ! ! ! ! !
USA !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Cheney Likes to Say Stuff

Cheney in 1991...

Cheney today....

Friday, November 03, 2006

Anti-gay Pastor Resignes On Allegations of Gay Sex, Meth Use

GOP Races to Get Out of Iraq...Emmotionally

The GOP is racing to get out of Iraq, emotionally. Ohio Republican Deborah Pryce, is the latest in a string of leaders distancing themselves from the war, in an ongoing fight to see who can support the troops the least.

The war in Iraq now polls so badly that people like Mrs. Pryce are withdrawing from Iraq, emotionally, even if they have openly supported it for years. Pryce made the attempt by telling CNN Radio, "What's happening in Iraq is not a direct reflection on me."

This is akin to a political cut and run in the final days of the 2006 campaign. People like Mrs. Pryce are essentially saying: I voted for the war, I supported the war, but now that 60% of Americans are against the idea I want them to know the war has no reflection on me. This is, of course, insane talk.

I believe the Iraq was is a direct reflection on all of us. It is certainly how the world views us, (Ah, that pesky world....), it's certainly carrying a steep price tag in lives and dollars, and I believe your opinion on the war is a direct link to your discernment.

You certainly can't be in favor of the war, and put your own pro-war speeches on your web page, and then try to sell the lie that the war is no reflection on you. You certainly can't ask the American people to give their sons and daughters for the cause, to give billions of dollars for the cause, and then ask that they not debate the war...can you?

"I voted to give the president the authority to use force in Iraq; that doesn't mean I'm always happy with what I see, but I can think of nothing worse for our troops or our prospects for success than having 435 members of Congress second-guessing our commanders," Pryce wrote.

I can think of a few things worse for our troops:

1. Believing that debating the war is harmful to the troops.
2. Sending the troops into a war that can't be openly debated.
3. Sending the troops into a war in such a state that we can't debate openly in front of them
4. Sending the troops into a war with no exit strategy
5. Accepting vague and unmeasurable benchmarks as an exit strategy
6. Sidelining someone like Colin Powell (who actually has fought a war with Iraq)
7. Supporting those who told us that Iraq was a grave threat
8. Showing no signs of discernment or hindsight while conducing the war
9. Supporting those who said they had a plan to keep America safe, which involved sending troops to Iraq, and are now admitting that plan really sucks
10. Supporting those who would rather support Don Rumsfeld then the commanders
11. Really believing that Iraq is the central front in the war on terror
12. Believing that doing anything else in Iraq, other than what we are currently doing, means "losing" in Iraq.
13. Really believing that fighting the terrorists in Iraq means we don't have to fight them in "every street in America"
14. Letting Dick Cheney speak.
15. Saying things like "losing" or "coward" or rubber stamping for those who do
16. Letting troops fight in Iraq for freedom and then trying to keep freedoms from Americans...doesn't that kind of negate what they're doing in Iraq?
17. Getting the troops stuck in Iraq while North Korea builds a nuclear weapon. Nice move.
18. Raising defect spending on the war because of reasons 1 through 12, which our troops will have to pay off
19. Swiftboating someone a vet like John Kerry, or supporting those who do
20. Using the war in Iraq to get elected then saying it has no reflection on you

Thursday, November 02, 2006

First Lady Secretly Believes Troops Are About Five Years Old

First lady Laura Bush cautioned Wednesday that Americans discussing the war in Iraq - especially politicians - should be careful what they say because other countries are paying attention.

"Responsible candidates understand that the men and women of our military are risking their lives for us, and that we must conduct our debate here at home in a way that does not jeopardize our troops in harm's way," she said, calling for "conversations conducted with civility and respect."

The first lady then suggested rather than mention key words in our debates those words should now be spelled out, in an attempt to keep troop morale as high as possible.

"We all know this thing is going to h-e-l-l right before our eyes," she demonstrated with a smile. "But the t-r-o-o-p-s don't need to hear that, OK? We're in a tough fight in I-r-a-q. We're going to win this w-a-r. The t-e-r-r-o-r-i-s-t-s will not. There, now isn't that much better?"

Despite the spelling out of indicative words, the troops still seem clever enough to discern when they are being fooled, cajoled, chided, or sent on extremely dangerous missions with inadequate equipment or for which they have had no training. No amount of careful discourse seems to be able to stem their natural longing to take a hot shower, play with their children, and kiss their spouse just one more time.

President Bush initially applauded the idea to spell out key words, but failed miserably during a practice run.

If the debate escalates to the point where spelling key words is no longer practical the First Lady further suggested that our elected leaders at least fight in a car outside in the driveway, or, if at all possible, at least after the troops have gone to bed.

Rumsfeld: I Just Work Here

When you went to bed last night you were a little worried about those John Kerry comments weren't you? While you slept the political tooth fairy left something under your pillow. House Majority Leader John Boehner has effectively neutralized the situation by saying that the Generals, not Don Rumsfeld, are responsible for the troubles in Iraq.

Hahahahahaha! Good morning, world!

Yes, that's right, Don Rumsfeld, the man who sent too few troops to Iraq, sent them with inadequate equipment, sent them in with no plan as to what to do after the fall of Saddam, is not the droid you are looking for.

When things were going were going well--that short, heady period when we were fishing Saddam out of a spider hole--Rumsfeld was "in the cockpit" against the war on terror, his war. But now? Hey, man, he just works here, OK?

In an interview Wednesday on CNN, Boehner said, "Let's not blame what's happening in Iraq on Rumsfeld."

CNN's Wolf Blitzer replied, "But he's in charge of the military."

"The fact is, the generals on the ground are in charge, and he works closely with them and the president," Boehner, an Ohio Brownshirt, said.

Ahh, those hapless Generals are the ones to blame. They're the ones who got us into a land war in Asia.

It's a little disheartening that the Brownshirts don't even understand the chain of command, since the military is their bread and butter. It's not like it's top secret or anything. In fact it's available at Fox News. But they understand enough to know that spin rolls downhill, a pattern that has been far more effective than anything Bush, Cheney, Rice, or Rumsfeld have been able to come up with.

The Brownshirts are also circulating a report that we are winning on the Eastern Front. Just ride it out, it'll be fine.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Brownshirts Subdue Heckler at George Allen Event

A heckler who confronted Sen. George Allen at a campaign appearance Tuesday was put in a chokehold and slammed to the floor by three Brownshirts in an incident captured on video.

Mike Stark, a liberal blogger, deviant, and first-year University of Virginia law student, approached Allen at an event in Charlottesville, loudly asking, "Why did you spit at your first wife, George?" according to witnesses.

Three men, members of the Storm Divison, commonly referred to as Storm Troopers, immediately grabbed Stark, dragged him backward and slung him to the carpet outside a hotel meeting room.