Saturday, March 15, 2008

Barack Obama: On My Faith and My Church

by Barack Obama - reposted from Huffington Post

The pastor of my church, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, who recently preached his last sermon and is in the process of retiring, has touched off a firestorm over the last few days. He's drawn attention as the result of some inflammatory and appalling remarks he made about our country, our politics, and my political opponents.

Let me say at the outset that I vehemently disagree and strongly condemn the statements that have been the subject of this controversy. I categorically denounce any statement that disparages our great country or serves to divide us from our allies. I also believe that words that degrade individuals have no place in our public dialogue, whether it's on the campaign stump or in the pulpit. In sum, I reject outright the statements by Rev. Wright that are at issue.

Because these particular statements by Rev. Wright are so contrary to my own life and beliefs, a number of people have legitimately raised questions about the nature of my relationship with Rev. Wright and my membership in the church. Let me therefore provide some context.

As I have written about in my books, I first joined Trinity United Church of Christ nearly twenty years ago. I knew Rev. Wright as someone who served this nation with honor as a United States Marine, as a respected biblical scholar, and as someone who taught or lectured at seminaries across the country, from Union Theological Seminary to the University of Chicago. He also led a diverse congregation that was and still is a pillar of the South Side and the entire city of Chicago. It's a congregation that does not merely preach social justice but acts it out each day, through ministries ranging from housing the homeless to reaching out to those with HIV/AIDS.

Most importantly, Rev. Wright preached the gospel of Jesus, a gospel on which I base my life. In other words, he has never been my political advisor; he's been my pastor. And the sermons I heard him preach always related to our obligation to love God and one another, to work on behalf of the poor, and to seek justice at every turn.

The statements that Rev. Wright made that are the cause of this controversy were not statements I personally heard him preach while I sat in the pews of Trinity or heard him utter in private conversation. When these statements first came to my attention, it was at the beginning of my presidential campaign. I made it clear at the time that I strongly condemned his comments. But because Rev. Wright was on the verge of retirement, and because of my strong links to the Trinity faith community, where I married my wife and where my daughters were baptized, I did not think it appropriate to leave the church.

Let me repeat what I've said earlier. All of the statements that have been the subject of controversy are ones that I vehemently condemn. They in no way reflect my attitudes and directly contradict my profound love for this country.

With Rev. Wright's retirement and the ascension of my new pastor, Rev. Otis Moss, III, Michelle and I look forward to continuing a relationship with a church that has done so much good. And while Rev. Wright's statements have pained and angered me, I believe that Americans will judge me not on the basis of what someone else said, but on the basis of who I am and what I believe in; on my values, judgment and experience to be President of the United States.



In more detail, Barack Obama's address outlining his views on the role of religion in American politics. For what it's worth, it's probably the best, most comprehensive, enlightening and rational discussion on the topic that I've heard. Plan on 39 minutes of the most reasoned insight into the subject ever injected into American political discourse.

Rules of Citizenship

by Charley Reese
reposted from AntiWar

Here are some rules for being a good citizen. They date back to the American Revolution, but most Americans today have forgotten them.

Rule No. 1 is that people given power will tend to abuse it. This applies to everyone from local government to national government. It applies to Democrats and to Republicans. The reason it is so universal is because it originates in human nature, which is the same today as it was 10,000 years ago.

That's why the Founding Fathers labored so hard to devise a basically weak national government. Not only does the Constitution divide power between the three separate and equal branches of the federal government, it also divides power between the federal and state governments. Unfortunately, we have removed many of these safeguards.

Not everyone in government abuses power, and one of the duties of a citizen is to recognize those who don't and to reward them.

Rule No. 2 is that politicians have an inclination to lie. The Bush administration lied us into a war. There were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. The regime of Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with al-Qaeda or with the attack on the U.S. It is also a lie that "everyone believed Saddam had weapons of mass destruction." The U.N. weapons inspectors had never said, after 1995, there were weapons. They said there was a paper discrepancy. One part of the government said x amount had been destroyed; another branch said it was y amount. You will find paper discrepancies in practically every government in the world. Witness, for example, the numerous weapons and large amounts of money our own government cannot account for in Iraq.

Nor, it should be added, did Saddam pretend to have weapons of mass destruction. The Iraqi government said repeatedly that it did not have them.

Lying by American politicians has become so pervasive, it is the rule rather than the exception. Lies destroy credibility, but because they are so pervasive today, few people get punished when they are caught lying. Citizens should consider a lie a mortal sin in the realm of civics, for lies are an attempt to deceive the people about very important matters. Lies are a direct attack on the American system of self-government, which is based on the premise that if the people know the truth, they can make the right decisions.

Rule No. 3 is to always oppose excessive government secrecy. Common sense tells us that government is entitled to some secrecy, primarily military in time of war. Recent governments, however, have gone overboard and promiscuously classify practically any piece of paper that comes across their desk. Usually the only thing they are protecting is our own government from embarrassment or possibly criminal prosecution.

National-security letters are a good example. These are demands by the FBI for information about citizens for which there is no search warrant. The institutions receiving them are threatened by criminal prosecution for revealing to anyone that they have received one. These warrantless searches went from 8,500 in the year 2000 to 47,000 by 2005. The current government conducts all kinds of "data sweeps" that involve our use of the Internet, including Web pages we visit and e-mails we write or receive, along with telephone calls, our spending habits, the flights we take and our bank records. The right to privacy for all practical purposes is as dead as a beached whale.

But are you being spied upon? Sorry, that's classified. Thus, invasion of privacy and secrecy go hand in hand. The only remedy I can see for this is to vote out of office the politicians who have tolerated it and to avoid electing anyone who might reasonably be expected to continue these practices. They are all done, of course, in the name of security, but Benjamin Franklin said it well when he wrote that those who prefer security to freedom deserve neither.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Waterboarding?

... so whatever happened to sodium pentathol?

Bush says if younger, he would work in Afghanistan

In a phone conversation with US troops on permanent deployment to Afghanistan:

"I must say, I'm a little envious," Bush said. "If I were slightly younger and not employed here, I think it would be a fantastic experience to be on the front lines of helping this young democracy succeed."

"It must be exciting for you ... in some ways romantic, in some ways, you know, confronting danger. You're really making history, and thanks," Bush said.

More after the click ...

Wonkette had an interesting thought:

"Maybe when Ron Paul is president and invents the Liberty Time Machine, he can send George Bush back to his glory days fighting Charlie in the skies of Midland, Texas."

I don't want to, but I will ...

"I don't want to disparage anyone because of their race, their ethnicity, their name -- whatever their religion their father might have been," he said. "I'll just say this: When you think about the optics of a Barack Obama potentially getting elected President of the United States -- I mean, what does this look like to the rest of the world? What does it look like to the world of Islam?"

"I will tell you that, if he is elected president, then the radical Islamists, the al-Qaida, the radical Islamists and their supporters, will be dancing in the streets in greater numbers than they did on September 11 because they will declare victory in this War on Terror."

"Additionally, his middle name (Hussein) does matter. It matters because they read a meaning into that in the rest of the world. That has a special meaning to them. They will be dancing in the streets because of his middle name. They will be dancing in the streets because of who his father was and because of his posture that says: Pull out of the Middle East and pull out of this conflict."

-- Iowa Republican Congressman Steve King

More after the click ...

My comment:

Those who cannot win on the strength of their arguments seem to always resort to personal invective and ad hominem attacks. Here's a guy who doesn't have a have a positive idea about how to deal with the issues that confront the country; the bogus war in Iraq when the focus should be on the terrorists in Afghanistan, an economy circling the bowl and a nation divided by fear, lies and misdirections. He wears his prejudices - the same kind of prejudices and bigotry that are at the root of the Sunni-Shiite violence unleashed in Iraq - with such pride and conviction. Perhaps he represents his party better than some of us would like to admit.

It's also an interesting hypocracy to read his statement of what he doesn't want to do ... just before he does what he just said didn't want to do. Do these people ever actually listen to themselves?

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Rodham Saddam


or watch the video here ...

More "My imaginary friend is more real than your imagainary friend"



You've met John McCain's buddy, the wacko bible thumper John Hagee, now meet McSame's "spiritual advisor", Rod Parsley:

from Mother Jones:

In a chapter titled "Islam: The Deception of Allah," Parsley warns there is a "war between Islam and Christian civilization." He continues:

"I cannot tell you how important it is that we understand the true nature of Islam, that we see it for what it really is. In fact, I will tell you this: I do not believe our country can truly fulfill its divine purpose until we understand our historical conflict with Islam. I know that this statement sounds extreme, but I do not shrink from its implications. The fact is that America was founded, in part, with the intention of seeing this false religion destroyed, and I believe September 11, 2001, was a generational call to arms that we can no longer ignore."

Parsley is not shy about his desire to obliterate Islam. "In Silent No More", he notes—approvingly—that Christopher Columbus shared the same goal: "It was to defeat Islam, among other dreams, that Christopher Columbus sailed to the New World in 1492…Columbus dreamed of defeating the armies of Islam with the armies of Europe made mighty by the wealth of the New World. It was this dream that, in part, began America." He urges his readers to realize that a confrontation between Christianity and Islam is unavoidable: "We find now we have no choice. The time has come." And he has bad news: "We may already be losing the battle. As I scan the world, I find that Islam is responsible for more pain, more bloodshed, and more devastation than nearly any other force on earth at this moment."

Parsley claims that Islam is an "anti-Christ religion" predicated on "deception." The Muslim prophet Muhammad, he writes, "received revelations from demons and not from the true God." And he emphasizes this point: "Allah was a demon spirit."

Read the rest of the article after the click ...

My comment:

That kind of "spiritual advice" does not bode well for "peace on earth, good will to men". But, if you've got a woody for interminable holy wars, Parsley is your man.

Yep, we may just be in Iraq for 100 years.

Client #9: New career opportunities - spokesmodel

Spitzer scandal gets Virgin treatment



Virgin Mobile moved quickly this week to produce an Eliot Spitzer print ad as part of its “You call the shots” campaign.

To promote its dedication to a more personalized approach to customer care, Virgin will run a full-page ad this week in Metro and 24 commuter dailies in Toronto featuring the now-former Governor Spitzer with a thought bubble above his head that reads: “I’m tired of being treated like a number.”

The ad copy reads: “At Virgin Mobile, you’re more than just a number. When you call us we’ll treat you like a person, not a client. Whether you’re #9 or #900, you’ll get hooked up with somebody who’ll finally treat you just how you want to be treated.”

More sexploitation after the click ...

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Egress

Anatomy of a recession

Commentary: Our immediate-gratification mindset's partly to blame

MarketWatch

There is a marked difference between economic growth and debt-induced demand. Instead of letting the market take its medicine and enter recession in 2001, the powers that be injected fiscal and monetary drugs to dull the pain and induce stock gains.

The Federal Reserve understands the market is the world's largest thermometer and the driver of a finance-based economy. On the back of the tech bubble, in the aftermath of 9/11, following the invasion of Iraq and into the election, they administered stimulants with hopes that a legitimate expansion would take root.

Is this a conspiracy theory from tin-foil types sitting on a grassy knoll? The only difference between intervention and manipulation is communication, as we're apt to say, a fine line that's been all but erased in recent years. Hank Paulson recently highlighted The Working Group as a policy tool, an admission that effectively exposed the wizard behind the curtain.

While government policy set the stage for the underlying imbalances, our immediate-gratification mindset exacerbated them.

Consumers bought goods with no money down and financed those obligations at zero percent.

Many used homes as collateral and flipped into adjustable-rate mortgages at the urging of Alan Greenspan.

Total debt in this country rose to more than 400% of GDP as societal spending habits lost all semblance of consequence.

More after the click ... Any questions?

Third Party Opportunity

by Bob Franken

It is time, though, to speak sincerely about insincerity. It is the force that propels our country and we need to embrace it. The Hypocrite party would be a welcome change from the Democrats and Republicans who both share their own motto: "Don't Get Caught".

The rest after the click ...

Leonard Cohen: inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame



"Democracy" / Leonard Cohen

It's coming through a hole in the air,
from those nights in Tiananmen Square.
It's coming from the feel
that this ain't exactly real,
or it's real, but it ain't exactly there.
From the wars against disorder,
from the sirens night and day,
from the fires of the homeless,
from the ashes of the gay:
Democracy is coming to the U.S.A.
It's coming through a crack in the wall;
on a visionary flood of alcohol;
from the staggering account
of the Sermon on the Mount
which I don't pretend to understand at all.
It's coming from the silence
on the dock of the bay,
from the brave, the bold, the battered
heart of Chevrolet:
Democracy is coming to the U.S.A.

It's coming from the sorrow in the street,
the holy places where the races meet;
from the homicidal bitchin'
that goes down in every kitchen
to determine who will serve and who will eat.
From the wells of disappointment
where the women kneel to pray
for the grace of God in the desert here
and the desert far away:
Democracy is coming to the U.S.A.

Sail on, sail on
O mighty Ship of State!
To the Shores of Need
Past the Reefs of Greed
Through the Squalls of Hate
Sail on, sail on, sail on, sail on.

It's coming to America first,
the cradle of the best and of the worst.
It's here they got the range
and the machinery for change
and it's here they got the spiritual thirst.
It's here the family's broken
and it's here the lonely say
that the heart has got to open
in a fundamental way:
Democracy is coming to the U.S.A.

It's coming from the women and the men.
O baby, we'll be making love again.
We'll be going down so deep
the river's going to weep,
and the mountain's going to shout Amen!
It's coming like the tidal flood
beneath the lunar sway,
imperial, mysterious,
in amorous array:
Democracy is coming to the U.S.A.

Sail on, sail on ...

I'm sentimental, if you know what I mean
I love the country but I can't stand the scene.
And I'm neither left or right
I'm just staying home tonight,
getting lost in that hopeless little screen.
But I'm stubborn as those garbage bags
that Time cannot decay,
I'm junk but I'm still holding up
this little wild bouquet:
Democracy is coming to the U.S.A.


or watch the video here ...
UK concert tour to follow.

If you're not all that familiar with Leonard Cohen and why he's important, this is a good place to start finding out about his significance.

Exhaustive review finds no link between Saddam and al Qaida



WASHINGTON —

An exhaustive review of more than 600,000 Iraqi documents that were captured after the 2003 U.S. invasion has found no evidence that Saddam Hussein's regime had any operational links with Osama bin Laden's al Qaida terrorist network.

The Pentagon-sponsored study, scheduled for release later this week, did confirm that Saddam's regime provided some support to other terrorist groups, particularly in the Middle East, U.S. officials told McClatchy. However, his security services were directed primarily against Iraqi exiles, Shiite Muslims, Kurds and others he considered enemies of his regime.

The new study of the Iraqi regime's archives found no documents indicating a "direct operational link" between Hussein's Iraq and al Qaida before the invasion, according to a U.S. official familiar with the report.

More after the click ...

My comment:

But we do have ample evidence of direct operational links between Saddam Hussein and Donald Rumsfeld. Don't they count as ties to terrorism?

UPDATE:

March 12, 2008 1:58 PM

ABC News' Jonathan Karl Reports: The Bush Administration apparently does not want a U.S. military study that found no direct connection between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda to get any attention. This morning, the Pentagon cancelled plans to send out a press release announcing the report's release and will no longer make the report available online.

The report was to be posted on the Joint Forces Command website this afternoon, followed by a background briefing with the authors. No more. The report will be made available only to those who ask for it, and it will be sent via U.S. mail from Joint Forces Command in Norfolk, Virginia.

It won't be emailed to reporters and it won't be posted online.

Asked why the report would not be posted online and could not be emailed, the spokesman for Joint Forces Command said: "We're making the report available to anyone who wishes to have it, and we'll send it out via CD in the mail."

Another Pentagon official said initial press reports on the study made it "too politically sensitive."

Read the rest after the click ...

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Peace breaks out in Iraq, relatively speaking


More after the click ...

My comment:

I'm particularly fond of the part about the end of major combat operations.

Quick question

Q. Will marital fidelity be an issue if Hillary Clinton is elected?

A. Not as far as I know. (smirk)

Thought for the day

We thought, because we had power, we had wisdom.

– Stephen Vincent BenĂ©t

Some Questions About the Spitzer Incident

Jane Hamsher on BlueDogLake

ABC is reporting that Eliot Spitzer came under the attention of the Feds because his bank reported "suspicious money transfers" to the IRS. The Justice Department brought it to the FBI's Public Corruption Squad, who looked into it and found that payments were made to a company called QET, which did business as The Emperor's Club.

All kinds of questions arise here:

1. Why would the bank tell the IRS and not Spitzer himself if there was a suspicious transfer? Spitzer is a longtime client, a rich guy and the governor. We're talking thousands of dollars here, not millions. It doesn't make a whole lot of sense that they spotted a "suspicious transfer" made by the governor, and that this is how things began. It's possible it was just ordinary paperwork the bank had to file with the government whenever some particular flag was raised, but if that's the case, why did the DoJ go to DefCon 3?

2. What is a USA doing prosecuting a prostitution case? This isn't normally what the feds spend their time with.

3. Mike Garcia is a Chertoff crony. Sources familiar with the investigation say that he sent a prosecution memo to DC two months ago asking for authority to indict a public figure (Spitzer). Which means they had their case made long before the wire tap of February 13. Why did they then include this line from that conversation in the complaint?
LEWIS continued that from what she had been told "he" (believed to be a reference to Client-9) "would ask you to do things that, like, you might not think were safe -- you know -- I mean that...very basic things...."Kristen" responded: "I have a way of dealing with that...I'd be like listen dude, you really want the sex?...You know what I mean."

This salacious detail does not seem like it's necessary to make their case, and appears to be added for no other purpose than to destroy Spitzer's career.

Four more interesting questions after the click ...

Monday, March 10, 2008

Yup ... it's all good ...


More after the click ...

Spitzer and the Emperor's Club

Listening to New York Republicans riff on Spitzer and his announcement concerning his involvement in a prostitution ring and wondering where the hell their moral indignation is when it's one of theirs. When its a Republican all you can hear from that side of the aisle is the chirping of crickets.

I can't help wondering if it has something to do with the fact that he patronized $5,500 an hour hookers while they limit themselves to cruising airport men's rooms... i.e. jealousy.

While they're calling for Spitzers resignation, perhaps they could add several other names to that call.

But I forgot ... IOKIYAR.

"Without you, we are but dust..."

The Sermon I think this Mom will never forget.... this particular Sunday sermon...

"Dear Lord," the minister began, with arms extended toward heaven and a rapturous look on his upturned face. "Without you, we are but dust..."

He would have continued but at that moment her very obedient daughter who was listening leaned over and asked quite audibly in her shrill little four year old girl voice, "Mom, what is butt dust?"

Unexpected Victory

from Phil Plait / Bad Astronomy

The Oklahoma House of Representatives has passed a bill that says that a student can receive a passing grade in an Earth Science class if they say that the Flying Spaghetti Monster created the Earth an hour ago, and then planted false memories into every single living creature on Earth to make it seem like they’ve been around longer.

Of course, that’s not the intent of the bill. The intent is that a student can say the Earth is 6000 years old and still get a passing grade. The bill itself says that a student cannot be graded down if they say that what they are being taught interferes with their religious beliefs.

Specifically, the bill states:

A school district shall treat a student’s voluntary expression of a religious viewpoint, if any, on an otherwise permissible subject in the same manner the district treats a student’s voluntary expression of a secular or other viewpoint on an otherwise permissible subject and may not discriminate against the student based on a religious viewpoint expressed by the student on an otherwise permissible subject.

It’s the "otherwise permissible subject" phrase that’s sticky. That can easily be interpreted as meaning tests, besides just normal classroom discussion.

For a long time, I have been disquieted by the fact that many people want to give patently ridiculous ideas as much standing as reality. One problem with this is that once you open the door to fantasy, any and all flavors of it can walk on through, as in the example above. But it also elevates fantasy to the same level as reality, and that is simply wrong.


More after the click ...

Sunday, March 09, 2008

A Walk in the Park

Saguaro National Park (East) on the loop trail.


Looking into the Rincon Mountains east of Tucson.


Saguaro cactus, emblem of the American Southwest.


Desert Landscape.

Wild flowers are just starting to bloom. This is supposed to be one of the best years for the flowers in the last decade. I think I'll focus on flower and natur photography this year.