Saturday, November 11, 2006

Donald Rumsfeld, War Criminal?

Time magazine has a story, excerpted here, by Adam Zagorin, on efforts by German prosecutors to develop a case against Donald Rumsfeld and other American officials for violation of war crimes. Procedurally, Germany can do this because in cases of war crimes, genocide, and crimes against humanity, it observes "universal jurisdiction" - non-residents can sue in German courts for actions that did not take place on German soil if they violate these German laws (because the US is not a signatory to the International Criminal Court, to keep prosecutions such as these from happening, the German court is a logical place for such an action to take place). Unlike the prosecution of Pinochet in Spain, the Germans do not have to find German citizens who have suffered injury in order to proceed.

I am uncomfortable with such prosecutions as these, not because the targets are American, but because we have not dealt effectively with the doctrine of "sovereign immunity" that, as the name denotes, immunizes leaders from legal action in the performace of their sovereign duties. I am not arguing that sovereign immunity is a good idea. I am also not arguing that the prosecution of Pinochet was not long in coming (his American enabler, Henry Kissinger, belongs in a dock right next to him, if anyone does). My point is that, as a matter of international law, we have not effectively defined the limits of sovereign immunity, nor have we created mechanisms that are recognized internationally for agreeing that these limits have been met. Even in cases of genocide, as the cases against Bosnian war criminals have shown, these issues are difficult to unravel.

I am not saying that the prosecution is unnecessary or unwarranted. I believe that such legal actions are necessary for better policing of the international community - much better than rendition and indefinite detention. I just feel that the international community, for a variety of reasons, has yet to come to terms with the limits, not just of the doctrine of sovereign immunity, but the limits of sovereignty itself. Until and unless we are willing to do so, such prosecutions will be seen as political, rather than legitimate exercises of legal authority.

Such, in fact, is the case here. Toward the end of the piece, Zagorin writes:
[I]t is the latest example of efforts in Western Europe by critics of U.S. tactics in the war on terror to call those involved to account in court.
U.S. officials has long feared that legal proceedings against "war criminals" could be used to settle political scores.

In other words, there is no exploration of the merits of the case, of whether or not, in fact, the German case was actually motivated by something other than politics, or that the actions of those under investigation, who include not just Rumsfeld, but Alberto Gonzalez, and former Deupty Attorney General John Yoo whose defense of torture has often reached, ahem, tortured extremes, could possibly meet the threshold of what constitutes a war crime under German law. Indeed, there seems to be little question that these officials either participated in, or directed, actions that, by most definitions, were indeed outside the boundaries of the conduct of warfare. That those who oppose them could be motivated by anything other than politics, however, is not a question for Mr. Zagorin.

Part of the reason for this is that there are no generally accepted standards for moving forward in a case such as this. Until and unless such criteria can become codified by treaty, or until the United States ratifies the treaty and becomes a member giving the ICC legal jurisdiction over the actions of Americans, I am afraid that, as much merit as the German case may have, it will never receive serious consideration by American officials, and I for one doubt whether or not Rumsfeld or any of the other possible soon-to-be defendants will ever see a day in court.

Religion and the Election: A First Look

Over at Faith in Public Life there has been much discussion over the way religious affiliation played in the recent election. One part of this same general analysis is also discussed here at My Direct Democracy, with an interesting coda at the end I had not heard before, to whit, church attendance played a part in the 2004 Presidential election to the extent that George Bush increased his vote total among those who attended church less than once a week. In any event, unlike the knee-jerk, self-congratulatory talk after 2004 when sself-appointed "leaders" of the conservative Christian movement touted their role in George Bush's victory, the statistical data from the mid-term elections show that, in terms of religious self-identification and affiliation, the results are mixed.

More to the point, all summer FPL has been documenting, since this summer through the early fall, the changing face of American evangelicalism, especially as regards issues of environmental concern and economic justice. While there are many, perhaps even millions, who are moved to vote on single, hot-button, issues such as abortion and gay marriage, the days when that was enough to motivate the Republican "base" are long gone. Rampant corruption, an illegal, unjustifiable war, economic injustice, and environmental degradation are also of concern, even to self-described evangelicals (a word the media, and many bloggers, simply refuse to understand in its proper context, somehow lumping Jerry Falwell, James Dobson, and Pat Robertson all together under that rubric). The self-immolation of Ted Haggard certainly did not help evangelical voters; it may be years before the NAE recovers fully, and when it does, it is sure to be a far different institution.

American Christianity is diverse, variegated, and undergoing rapid transformation as old labels and identities are challenged and new understandings of the necessities of faith emerge. Pro-lifers pelting plastic feti at women going to Planned Parenthood are an anachronism. The highly charismatic, Bible-based Metropolitan Community Church is much more in line with the changing dynamics of American christianity. All this is to say, quite simply, there may no longer be a "base" for the Republicans to relie upon.

For this reason, I cannot countenance the advice given over at mydd (linked above) that Democrats should ignore people of faith. They represent a potential wealth of voters, if only the party can create lively and relevant appeals that eschew either the pandering the Republicans have displayed for a generation along with a commitment to achieving certain goals - environmental integrity, economic justice, racial justice, and commonsense, realistic foreign policy that does not see war as a viable means to achieving justice are some of the goals the recently elected Democratic majority have already pledged themselves to. If they succeed, there is no doubt religious voters will turn more and more to the Democratic Party in the future.

I Threw Down a Challenge, They Try to Meet It

I have to admit, the couple over at this blog are willing to at least attempt a response. I challenged to them to respond to something in the comments section of their blog where I ranted about Republican hypocrisy concerning "support for the troops" (my actual words were, "If I hear a Rpublican talk about supporting the troops, I think I'll vomit"). My complaint is simple - Republicans say the Democrats don't support the troops, then fail to send them into battle properlyu armored, with enough ammunition, with improperly armored vehicles, untrained and undermanned to do occupation duty, then try to elminate funding for care once they come home. It's liek this wierd anti-reality: Republicans crow about supporting the military, but the Democrats have been consistently smacked down when they tried to do so.

My neighbors to the north answered by offering two non-existent choices, neither of which are on the table, and neither of which is politically, militarily, or even (in the case of the second) morally feasible. They offer either "Get out all the way" or "Send in enough troops to wipe 'em all out". Along with the first, they offer the vision of us sitting in our homes, embracing one another as Al Qaeda kicks down our doors to rape our men and kill our women . . . or whatever.

The truth is, as always, quite different. First of all, the war in Iraq and the "War on Terror" (I really have no idea what that might be) are related only to the extent that, by invading Iraq, the United States has now created a terrorist petri dish in the Cradle of Civilization. Our attention should have been Al Qaeda, Al Qaeda, and Al Qaeda - the fact that the Taliban is poised to reconquer Afghanistan should tell us how successful the Adminsstration has been - and by directing our attention to Iraq we may have created a situation in which we are more at risk no matter what measures we take now to straighten ourselves out.

Second, as the President has tried to wage the war of the bumper sticker - "cut and run", "stay the course", "we'll stand down when they stand up" - the Democrats have offered numerous alternatives that, while differing in detail, boil down to this: get the troops to Kuwait and the Kurdish north and allow the Sunni and Shi'a to either war or work it out. If KBR, Bechtel, and Halliburton want to stay, they are more than welcome to the private security firms now used by the United States to guard their dignitaries, but they should be out of a job because the Marines should take over their traditional role at the American embassy compound.

Finally, I just wish to say something that should not need to be said, but bears repeating in our sophomoric media culture - the Republicans who crow loudest about supporting the troops, and who insist that dissent from the war is unpatriotic have never fired a round of ammunition in anger; many of those who dissent are decorated war heroes. That should tell us all we need to know about the upside-down world we have been living in the past few years.

As for the issue of supporting our troops, I stand by what I have said, and what exists in numerous news reports since the invasion began in 2003. Republicans talk a good game, but at every opportunity they have managed to actually undercut our troops in the field and once they return. The fact that parents of troops had to send them night-vision goggles, balaklavas for those cold Iraqi winter nights, and the troops themselves had to armor their own vehicles - all this while the troops guarded oil fields and KBR truck convoys while the embassy hired out security to private firms are enough evidence to ensure Republicans are never taken seriously in matters of National Security again, for at least a generation.

UPDATE: Crooks & Liars has the text of Howard Dean's Veteran's Day statement, of which some I shall quote below:
For too long the Republican Congress and the Bush Administration have failed to keep that promise [to veterans]. When Democrats take control of Congress, we will offer America's veterans and military families a renewed commitment to fully fund veterans health care, expediting the processing of benefit claims, and providing affordable health care ti thousands of members of the Guard and Reserve by providing them full TRICARE benefits.

Would funding need to be restored if Republicans, in full and complete control for Congress for 12 years, had funded it properly in the first place?

Sore Losers Among the Victorious

If you go here, here, and here you will get a taste of what the Insider/DLC crowd is feeling now that Dean, the grassroots, and the netroots have proven that a progressive party can be built that is capable of winning. Of course, I will not discount the egregious conduct of the Republican majority over the past six years (although if this story is to be believed, we could have been spared at least two years of this nonsense), along with a war in Iraq that grows deadlier and deadlier even as we are told things are improving by our now-irrelevant President and Vice-President.

More to the point at issue here, however, is the question of why blow-hards like Carville, his harpy of a wife, and their minions in both parties are consulted and considered sages. Carville helped Clinton eke out a win in 1992, so he's a political strategist? How many elections has Matalin helped succeed? Like Tom Friedman, Charles Krauthammer, Joe Klein - journalists, yes, but people who are so in love with their own sage abilities it is a marvel we don't turn running our country over to them - Carville and Matalin need to be placed on a "no-call" list. I am not suggesting censorship, but the media do need to start demonstrating some sense of responsibility. These people are consistently wrong, yet we turn to them again and again. Why?

UPDATE: If you go here, Glenn Greenwald has much to say about this very issue, treating Carville with the contempt he deserves. Sadly, however, I do believe that, like the Druge-inspired "Where's Nancy?" nonsense at the end of the campaign, it is Carville's turn, in Mark Halperin's words, to "rock our world".

Friday, November 10, 2006

Musical Interlude and Promo

This appears to be a feature that will become regular. Once I feel safe uploading music samples, I will add them as well. It probably will not be daily as it has been, but certainly at least weekly.

If you go here, you will discover that power prog metal, Euro-style is alive and well. My daughters are devoted fans of Star One, loving the DVD. You have to keep an open mind as well as remember that quite a bit of it is intentionally over the top to appreciate it. You also have to marvel at the depth and diversity of the mind creating such a wide range of music. Have fun, earthlings!

Some comments on new links, etc.

With the rush of the coming election last weekend, and its aftermath, I haven't taken time to remark on some of the changes here, or why it was necessary. Starting in September or early October, I was experiencing multiple problems with my local IP. For that reason, we had no internet in the Kruse-Safford household. When I could get through to Blogger, I couldn't access my account, nor could I get them to send me my username or password. I succumbed to the inevitable once our internet service had returned, without problems, and decided to start a new blog.

I changed the name because I found the original title intellectually dishonest. To call oneself a "Progressive Christian" (a) puts the cart before the horse, as it were, putting one's political positions ahead of one's faith commitments; (b) ignores the reality that a "Christian" does not exist, but is an abstraction. Christians only exist as members of local faith communities. The church is where Christians are; anywhere else and you look in vain; (c) modifies one's Christian faith by the word "progressive", and it smacks of elitism. A more accurate description of my beliefs about myself and the relationship between my politics and my faith is reflected in the new title, although I still have the "church" part following a description of my politics. Perfection is something towards which we strive . . .

As I have revamped the blog, gone into beta, I have added a whole slew of links that I use all the time in my wanderings and meandering around the internet. Some of them, like "Christy's" and "Contra Capa" are there because I happen to like them - and I enjoy flirting with their author, even though she lives in Portugal. "PGUMC" is there because that is my wife's church; the same goes for the homepage of the United Methodist Church. I find these are the links to which I go more than any other, and to which I link in posts again and again.

Finally, a special note about one specific link to which I referred last night - "The Power of Narrative" by Arthur Silber. Arthur's posts are usually long, always well-written, thoughtful, even provocative. There is a depth and seriousness to them that I envy, and towards which I strive. I disagree with much of what he writes, no so much politically as intellectually. I find his analysis based on presuppositions with which I cannot agree. Just because I do not agree with him, I still turn to him time and again because he makes me think, challenging me to think deeply about matters of great importance. A diaolgue with Arthur can only help me, and all of us.

'Tis the Season to Become Unhinged

Over here we have an example of how nutty some right-wingers are. Pure and simple. I wish I could be more generous, I wish I could be more thoughtful, I wish I could give them the benefit of the doubt. I cannot. Calling the ACLU far-left, then citing them for defending the Klan and Nazis is simply incoherent.

All this started because I refuse to countenance another December of the phony "War on Christmas". The US retail sector relies upon the four-and-a-half week Christmas shopping season for close to half its income; why on earth would any American, except for the fringes, wish for Christmas to end, as that would mean the collapse of our economy, pure and simple? As a side note, I for one will not be engaging in an orgy of consumption this year. My wife and I have discussed it and will buy nothing for one another, and only minimal gifts for our children. Few lights, few decorations, except for those that emphasize the birth of the Christ child. No Santas. No reindeer. Hymns celebrating the birth of the savior and prayerful contemplation of what that means for us - that is how we shall celebrate Christmas this year.

As a Christian, I cannot emphasize strongly enough that, if there were some sort of "War on Christmas", it would be part and parcel of the rejection and persecution Christians are told to expect (doesn't the orgiastic commercialization of the holiday kind of constitute such a war anyway?). I would not want the government to "do something" about it, nor would I whine about it. I would simply continue to celebrate the birth of the Messiah, and get on with my life. That is what Christians are supposed to do. Hollering and stamping feet and ranting about "far-left groups" only makes one look silly. There are far more important things in this world about which to be worried - like the ever-rising death-toll in Iraq.

UPDATE: As the intent of your post was most clearly to show that the ACLU was preparing, if not already beginning, to wage "War on Christmas", the fact that such is not explicitly mentioned is irrelevant. Apparently, you wish us to ignore the connotation of your post, sticking only to the denotation. Alas and alack, had you merely been making a list of ACLU "offenses", you would not have referenced Christmas so much, both in your introduction, and in the examples you list.

Do you honestly think I, or any of us, are that dumb?

The Limits of Political Action

Like many other liberals, progressives, lefties, and even most moderates, I have not hidden my joy at the outcome of the elections on Tuesday; I am enjoying the meltdown - the very public, very nasty, and occasionally very insane meltdown - of the Republican Party even more, because, unlike the coming dispute within the Democrats in Congress, it is not about who is to share the glory for victory, but who is to share blame for defeat (and who is to lead them out of this mess; I hope, just for the fun of it, it is Michael Steele). While gloating is never attractive, and there is something un-Christian about smiling while other people are hurting, I will not deny the simple human satisfaction of schadenfreude (for those of you who don't know, it is German for "neener-neener-boo-boo!").

Having said that, I do not want to make the mistake of thinking salvation for the country has arrived. As I outlined below, the danger of the Republicans over the past two years has been less of action than inaction; there was work to be done, and the Republicans insisted on a holding pattern, thinking they could hold onto power with the same tactics that have worked in the past. The American people have disabused them of that idea, and while it seems hard for some to grasp, this Congress will be far more progressive than many in the past.

None of this heralds the arrival of peace in our time, a light at the end of the tunnel, an end to our long national nightmare, nor has our day been made. Political struggles remain, and that always means compromise and parts of the progressive wishlist will inevitably fall by the wayside, not through perfidy or weakness but the inevitable give and take of political wrangling (incidentally, this is something the Republicans in Congress simply forgot; you only get a little when you give a little). As a Christian, and not just a left-winger, I have no illusions that our say of national salvation arrived on November 7, 2006 (as, I think, too many conservative Christians believed has happened when the Democrats lost control of Congress in 1994). While my beliefs include an embrace of progressive ideals, it is not identical with them, and the Church has other work to do, some of it only marginally related to the events of the past week.

I hate to be a wet blanket, but 23 Americans have died in the past 10 days in Iraq; not one more American has health care than had it on November 6; the minimum wage is still $5.15/hr, so that full-time workers at this rate are far below the poverty line; oil companies are making record profits and are still not taxed on them; New Orleans is a city on the brink of death; our ports are not secure; our phone calls are tapped; people languish in prisons, some without charge, some anonymously, some sent to "secret prisons" to disappear into horror.

Progressives who are Christians need to remember that politics is about power, not only seeking it, but using it. In the end, Christ rejected the use of power, dying as a failed revolutionary rather than living as a powerful king. This is the limit of Christian participation in politics - we cannot be seduced by power. The kingdom for which we work is not of this world.

Thursday, November 09, 2006


Click here and be thankful if you vote Democratic on Tuesday.

UPDATE: Click here if all you got was a blank page from NRO. Arthur has the thing in full, with commentary. I have added Arthur Silberg's blog because (a) he writes well; and (b) I disagree with much of what he says, although I am sympathetic to him. I shall comment more on the addition tomorrow.

In honor . . .

There is a new link to the right. I have found Glenn consistently correct, occasionally funny, and always insightful. His outrage at the moral and intellectual midgets who (used to) govern and (still) pollute our airwaves has been nothing short of inspiring. His refusal to buy into the normal discourse, but to shred it with common sense and moral force is inspiring. His bitch-slapping to Democrats to stop thinking and acting like losers is much needed, and something I echo.

With that in mind, I think the Democrats in Congress need to take a page from Newt Gingrich of all people. Newt captured the minority leader position from retiring (in all senses of the word) Rep. Bob Michel with the intention of creating a Republican majority. He did it by refusing to assume the Republican minority in the House was perpetual; by refusing to accept inside-the-beltway wisdom on how those who get along will go along; by being aggressive, cantankerous, and occasionally borderline psychotic and megalomanical; and most of all by acting like a winner once he actually won. Democrats in Congress (and those who plan on running for the Presidency in 2008) need to start accepting the fact that (a) they won; and (b) in winning they have earned the right to a little goddamn respect. When someone in the MSM starts bleating Republican talking points as if they were deep thoughts, the Dem in question should forcefully insist that such is no longer tolerated, that public discourse is no longer in the hands of the insane, the criminal, or moral cripple. Bi-partisanship, like any date, only works if both show up. If the Dems are stood-up, as they have been for the past 12 years, there is no reason to expect them to accede to minority demands simply because they are made.

In order to govern, the Democrats need to remember that they have won. They are beholden to no one but the millions who voted for them - not "Dean" Broder, not Rahm, not Chuck Schumer, not EJ Dionne, and certainly not the flapping-lip class on television. One of the biggest mistakes the Republicans made is assuming that they could manipulate reality through their control of the discourse on television and talk-radio. As reality and discourse parted company, a majority of Americans seemed to prefer reality, so we were treated to the amusing scene over the past month to six weeks of their discourse becoming increasingly shrill, increasingly hostile towards their audience, and even more divorced from reality. This should be an object lesson to any and all who believe that Americans are "sheeple" (h/t to rudicus), waiting to be eaten by the big bad wolf named Karl Rove.

Newt was successful because, as loony as he was at times, he never accepted the Republican Party's status in the House. Once they were out of the majority, too many Democrats seemed to believe that, since they had the House for forty years, it was the Republicans' turn. Well, that lasted 12 years. The hard part, of course, comes next; they have to prove they have earned the trust we have put in them.

Musical Interlude and Promo

From Dead Soul Tribe's song "Why?" from The January Tree CD: Land of democracy/Land of hypocrisy/Force down our throats the indecent as pleasure/While violence and war deemed appropriate measures" (lyrics by Devon Graves).

That pretty much sums up why we all voted the way we did Tuesday. Click the link, but be warned - the band name should give you a clue, but it is pretty dark (but not Black) heavy metal. Enjoy, though.

List of success or frustration?

Over at Faith in Public Life, they have this article with a misleading title. I originally clicked it because I thought it might be an evaluation of what the Christian conservatives have received for the gift of their support over the past thirty years for the Republican Party. Instead, I saw a rather poorly written list that, if considered dispassionately, actually does answer the question in the subtitle, by saying that Christian conservatives haven't received a whole lot for all the work and prayer and candidates and organizing and so forth and so on. John Ashcroft was Attorney General for a little while, but he was so horrific that he left even when Bush was riding high.

The truth of the matter is that, when the Christian conservative movement emerged in the 1970's, it was easy to limit the agenda to prayer in public schools and abortion because, in truth, they reflected reltively recent social changes that disturbed many, and not just Christian conservatives. With the social and cultural landscape drastically different now, many of the efforts of Christian conservatives can now be seen to be futile efforts to arrest social and cultural change through political means. The fundamentalist churches are even more marginalized now than they were because those who might have joined them politically are now concerned with issues that align them with their more liberal sisters and brothers in the mainline churches, especially issues surrounding the environment and the integrity of creation.

With the rise of a new evangelicalism, whose ethical concerns are social rather than personal, the fundamentalists may find themselves moving back to their more comfortable self-imposed internal exile, leaving the rest of us to contend in a world irredemably fallen. While I do not hope that is the case (I may find their theology silly and their politics dangerous, that does not mean they should be excluded from our national polity) I fear it may be the case. Whatever may happen in the future, and I believe it may take years to discover that, alas, we are without our fundamentalist brothers and sisters, American Evangelical Christianity, and even Mainline Christianity, is evolving in new and creative ways, and I believe that Christian conservatives, still yearning for a past that is gone forever, will find themselves increasingly marginalized.

Now back to our regularly scheduled reality, all ready in progress . . .

While much of the journalistic and blogging world was centered on the results of the election on Tuesday, the Supreme Court heard a challenge to the so-called "partial-birth abortion" ban. My local paper even had a short piece, focusing mostly on the fact that testimony was "graphic" (any surgical procedure, even a tonsilectomy, if described verbally, is pretty gruesome). A couple months or more ago, over here, I wrote a bit in general about my own evolving position on abortion. In the time that has since passed, it has continued to evolve, and I want to link that evolution to what may just be an opportunity for an entirely new debate in this country.

First, I would just like to say that I do not believe that abortion is a right, protected by the First Amendment. I do not believe that there is such a thing as a generalized right to privacy, nor do I think abortion is or ever could be considered part and parcel of what we call rights. It must be remembered that, as understood by the framers of our Constitution, a right was not something an individual possessed for personal use; rather, a right was communal, something people used together for the common good. Speech is a protected right not so I can say "Fuck you!" to the President. Freedom of speech guarantees all of us the freedom to demand of our leaders better action. Freedom from illegal searches, the necessity of warrants, freedom from unusual or cruel punishments, the right to trial by jusry - that bundle of rights most often castigated by conservatives as "coddling criminals" are in place because there is close to 5,000 years of human history testifying to the tendency of the state to abuse any grant of power, including the police power. Again, these rights are communal; they exist to protect not so much the individual, but to protect the state, in these instances from its own worst tendencies.

A generalized right of privacy, and specifically a right to abortion confuses the entire idea of what a "right" is, introducing all sorts of contemporary notions of individual expression and autonomy, ideas not only unkown to the framers, but with little philosophical or existential grounding. We are not, nor should we ever consider ourselves as being, absolutely distinct from others with whom we share social existence, linked only through voluntary agreement, and limited as such to contractual agreements, enforcement of which is the sole legitimate business of government (this is the classic libertarian argument, an argument based neither in reality nor philosophy). We are bound together, whether we like it or not, and the obligations we share, sometimes even against our own interests or preferences, are necessary to ensure society continue to exist.

That being said by way of introduction, what are we to make of the past generation's debate on abortion? For my part, I find it so muddled, liberals and progressives often making racist arguments, conservatives often making arguments for empowerment, men standing up for a right to choose while women demand an end - the end is listless, as they say, of the confusing, contradictory way the argument has gone on. I hope, in all honestly, that the Supreme Court decides that, in fact, the states can legislate concerning abortion (which is, incidentally, all overturning Roe v Wade and Planned Parenthood of Pennsylvania v Thornburg would do; it would end legilsative silence, it would not outlaw abortion). If this is done, a real debate, one not muddied and muddled, one reflecting a moderately pro-choice consensus would be where most states would end up.

Many pro-choice advocates insist that this is unacceptable. They insist that there be a general availability, with as few restrictions as possible, nationwide. The alternative, they insist, is back-alley abortions, with women bleeding to death, or dying of septicimia or peritonitis. The old bogey of incest is waved, to make sure that minors are not hindered by parents (as the father of two daughters, all I have to say to this is that my kids can't have a tooth removed without my signature on about a dozen forms; I will most assuredly not be silent if my children can have any medical procedure without my knowledge or consent). The problem, of course, is that these arguments are based on a fundamentally anti-democratic belief that the people are not intelligent enough to legislate in their own best interests. If all the pro-choice demands are not met, we are often treated to the specter of hordes of unwanted babies, either aborted in back alleys or born and abandoned, or born and raised in resentments (all of these happen already, but never mind that).

Of course, I am no happier with the pro-life side of the argument. I shall say it as plainly as I can, and only once: NEITHER AN EMBRYO NOR A FETUS ARE OR COULD EVER BE CONSIDERED A PERSON UNDER LAW, OR EVEN COMMON SENSE. Uncomfortable as I am with the intransigence and elitism of the pro-choice crowd, the ignorance and self-righteousness of the the pro-life crowd is even more repellant. The most ridiculous "bumper sticker" of the pro-lifers is "If you're pregnant, it's a baby, not a choice". First of all, she might not be pregnant by choice; until the baby is able to live outside the mother with minimal assitance from machines, it is not a baby (as Roman Catholics are often those who spout this nonsense, and as they are supposed to be knowledgeable in Aristotelean philosophy, can someone please explain the distinction between potential and actual to them, for God's sake?).

My hope is that, with a renewed, vigorous debate, not on judges or justices to the Supreme Court, but rather over real public policy - and at the state level, where it belongs in the first place - we can grow as a society, and deal with this, and a whole host of other issues, in an adult manner. Until the Constitutional lock is removed, however, the extremes will hold the debate hostage.

Some local and state post-mortem info

Courtesy of the Rockford Register-Star, here is some general info on local and statewide items of interest.

You could show me reams of statistical data to show that newspaper endorsements are meaningless and this little bit of info would, as far as I am concerned, prove it all wrong. The Register-Star did an admirable, even brave thing and endorsed Green Party candidate Rich Whitney for governor. Rod Blagojevich and Judy Bar Topinka were and are excrable politicians, and rather than settle, the RS recognized a real alternative. As a result, in the three counties most served by the paper - Winnebago, Boone, and Ogle - Whitney's numbers were highest, except for his home county of Jefferson way down south. Statewide Whitney received around 10% of the vote. Up here where he was endorsed he was in the high-teens to low-20s. Imiagine if other papers in the state had been intelligent enough, brave enough, and wiley enough to spit in the eyes of the two major party crooks. The enire landscape of Illinois politics might be very, very different.

Illinois' voter turnout was lower than the national average, although in pockets it might have been higher, because two of the names at the top of the ticket were among the least liked in recent memory (see above paragraph). Like close to a fifth of my fellows here in Boone Co., I cast a ballot for Whitney (in fact, thanks to early voting, I did so before the newspaper endorsement), but that does not negate the sad fact that neither party served Illinois voters well. The persistence of corruption of the most venal sort, the most blatant sort, proving not only that some people can be bought, but that their price is shockingly low, is a consistent drag upon citizen participation and attention to public affairs. If we all feel that you have to pay to play, even if you don't have to pay very much, why vote, organize, petition, and do all the other things necessary for the actual operation of government? I do believe that the entire state needs to go into legal receivership; we need legal and political overseers to ensure that corruption, while never completely rooted out, becomes much less common, much less sordid, and certainly of a higher class.

I understand that parties need to ration resources, and put their resources where they will get the most return. As early as the late spring/early summer, however, it was pretty clear to me, a lowly observer of polls and trends, that things were swinging in favor of the Democrats, if they could be disciplined and courageous and actually oppose the Republicans (which would be difficult because in order to oppose, something had to have been done, and the Republicans have done little to nothing over the past two years). As the netroots and dKos/Atrios-supported candidates showed, actual opposition was a winner over and over again. As early summer moved into late summer into early fall and full campaign mode, it should have been clear that this was the Democrats year. More money, more vibrancy, more buzz - and most important, no matter how hard the MSM tried, Republicans could not get traction on the discourse - all of these should have led to more money and effort put into as many races as possible. In 1994, the Republicans targeted and beat sitting Speaker Tom Foley; why didn't the Demos do that in Hastert's district, especially after the Foley scandal broke, it became clear Hastert had bee silent for political purposes, and suddenly disappeared from the national spotlight? Why not go after all the other corruption allegations? Hastert could now be back in the Fox Valley wondering if there are still open wrestling coach jobs. As for my district, Dick Auman was a potentially impressive candidate, and Don Manzullo a nobody who will now be a back-bench nobody. Our district was ill-served by chicken-hearted Democrats, afraid to invest even after it became clear that there might be the possibility of eking out a victory. My hope is that the various Democratic Party committees will work harder over the next two years, ask for and invest more money and work for a candidate that might possibly increase the Democratic trends in the House and Senate.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Unfair and really unbalanced

I think FOXNews was thrown off completely by last night's Democratic Congressional and Governor's sweep. Either that, or the people at FOXNews are just dumber than a room full of boxes of rocks. Thus this headline creating an entirely new office.
They might have been taking a cue from their Aussie-Brit owner, thinking we have a "Shadow Cabinet" - a group of leaders from the opposition ready to take over office in case the majority party leaves office before a general election.
Notice I keep trying to be generous to these folks. I just can't get past that headline and the BRAND NEW OFFICE, JUST CREATED BY AND FOR REPUBLICANS of minority speaker, or should I type, Minority Speaker.

A couple important points to remember

First, I want to point to Glenn Greenwald here and here, because he is saying almost exactly what I said on Monday night in the comments section here. I read some of the comments on the C&L piece, and all I can say is that these are people who are afraid of success.
A Democratic victory is not an end, but rather a means to an end, and at least one commentor got it right when saying that we need to hold their feet to the fire. We wanted, and worked for, and agitated for, and prayed for, and finally voted for, a Democratic majority in Congress in order to work on an agenda that benefits the entire country - including corporations, investors, bankers, small business owners, and clergy. Few are thinking that now, with a Democratic Party dominant in Congress all will be well; there are real impediments, not the least of which are the legal - and extra-legal! - obstructions available to the executive. Bi-partisanship is important, and being active on an agenda that serves the country well will ensure continued political success for Democrats.

Glenn also points out that we are in the midst of a Constitutional crisis, and it is a real one, not a semen-stained blue dress. It is encumbent upon Congress to perform routine oversight of the Executive Branch, and that includes issuing subpoenas and calling people to account for their actions. Will this be a "witch hunt" or the legitimate activity of the legislative as it performs it Constitutional function of balancing the power of the Executive, especially an Executive as amok as this one? Part of the problem answering this question lies with a media so distorted and debased by nearly a generation of genuflecting before Republicans that it is incapable of asking proper questions and connecting information from one day, week, month, or year to the next. Another problem lies with the up-coming power struggle within the Congressional Democratic Party: will they become the breeding ground for a real progressive alternative or reflect the fantasies of Rahm Emmanuel and the DLC crowd? Only time will tell.

So, to those who refuse to see what has happened as a good thing, remember, even the most joyous of us understand it is only a first small step, and we all have to continue working, and working even harder (it is much easier to dissent than it is to govern), to ensure we continue to govern, and take back the White House in two years. And to those who think that governance and critical oversight are mutually exclusive, remember that, while the inaction of Congress the past two years has left so much undone, there is the time, the ability, and the willingness to do both and accomplish both.

A Musical Interlude and Promo

I'm listening to Marillion right now, "Gazpacho" off Afraid of Sunlight. I remember being disappointed in it when it first came out; after all, Brave blew me away, musically and emotionally, and Sunlight just seemed so weak. It grew on me, especially this song and the title track. I like a band that takes risks, including writing a song about the OJ Simpson case. If you have time, check them out.

Idiots with Big Egos

Over at Fire Dog Lake there is this piece and this one showing that one's enemies are too often those to whom one shoud be most closely allied. Rahm Emmanuel should be on his knees thanking the progressive Internet Community - everyone from dKos and atrios to Howie Klein and little, barely-read blogs like mine - for delivering a Democratic majority in Congresss. We shall be hearing more of this whole "conservative dems are the ones who won" argument until it is disproven, and then we shall hear "the progressives will lose us the majority in two years" argument. Emmanuel wants Pelosi's job, the conservatives are deathly afraid of a progressive movement, and even corporate-favoring Dems are nervous because of Chairman Waxman, Chariman Rangel, and others who may actually accomplish something approximating a progressive agenda over the next two years.
Rather than play the power game, Emmanunel should send out Christmas cards to all the DLC donors and return to his suburban Chicago district and shut up. Of course, he won't, but if enough of us bloggers, big and small, shout loud enough, maybe he will.
Rather than take credit (the flip side of the egregious "blame game") Emmanuel should be figuring out how to actually govern. It's a challenge, Rahm.
UPDATE: If you go here you will find the wonderful phrase "a Rahm Emmanuel spittle-soaked fantasy." I dearly love Jane Hamsher, have never met her, know little about her, except she writes a great blog, but I would pledge my undying devotion to her just for that phrase alone. That and her note that Americans "ran from conservatives like a bad case of crotch lice".
UPDATE II: After much thought, I have decided that Rahm Emmanuel is not an idiot. Considering the advice, both strategic and tactical, he gave Democratic House candidates, and his disdain for the most successful and popular candidates, I would change the label from "idiot" to "coward".

Policy over Politics: A Defeat for Nihilism

I believe that it is important neither to gloat nor to run ahead of ourselves. The Democratic Party will be the majority party in the House of Representatives and, unless Katherine Harris stops in Virginia on her way back to Florida to count votes, they will control the Senate as well; that much is true. Whether they can do anything - accomplish the so-called "100 hours" Rep. Pelosi and Rep. Hoyer have talked about - depends upon their willingness to wrestle with an Administration that, unlike the Clinton Administration, is known less for their political acumen and finesse than their ability for political bludgeoning. Clinton was successful partly because the Republicans preferred stomping loudly and carrying a really big stick to subtlety. He was able, time and again, to create the impression, real or not, that the Republicans were following his lead. I doubt Bush, Cheney, Rove, and the rest will be as adept; part of the reason for this doubt lies in the title above.
Experience of the past nearly six years pretty well proves that the Bush Administration has no interest in developing policy; Bush himself seems to have neither the intellectual curiosity, nor even the acumen necessary for the difficult and quite dull process of actually figuring out how to do something that pleases enough people to create a constituency to keep it going. They enjoy power; they are constitutionally incapable of doing anything with it other than ensuring they continue to hold onto that power.
One of the oft-repeated comments one hears is that the American people are tired of gridlock and want congress to actually accomplish something. Through a combination of fear and apathy, the Republican Congress these past two years has accomplished nothing of note, and both the party leadership in Congress and the White House have made sure that it was so because to legislate would, perhaps, create a situation that could not be controlled for political benefit for the White House. Such a strategy - I call it nihilism because the Latin "nihil" means "nothing", what the leaders in Congress and the White House sought to achieve and actually accomplished - is now seen to be self-defeating. I will wager (although not predict) that Rove's time in the White House can be numbered in months if not weeks as the party begins to realize that the destruction of the Republican Party is closing in.
This is all good, not for the Democratic Party, but for the United States, Republicans included. I want a strong, healthy, vital Republican Party because it keeps the political system healthy to have debate and even violent disagreement. By suppressing dissent within the legislative branch itself, the nihilists achieved not even their goal of holding on to power. I prefer the nuts and bolts of policy to the horse-race of politics because something is always preferrable to nothing.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Election Night Quicky

i just want to relate this from my experience as an election judge today. Turn-out was "higher than average", and in the precinct where I was judge that was . . . just under 34%!!! Part of me says "Yea!" to all those who voted, and "Thpthpthpthp!" to all those who didn't. For those who used some lame excuse, there was an individual, a man who is a member of our church, who is elderly and quite ill with Parkinson's Disease among other ailments. On his wife's arm, his walker in front of him, he came in and voted. It took him longer than most people, just to walk the length of the table, but he did it. Why didn't everyone? Of 689 registered voters in the precinct, 240 voted. I hope we can do better next election.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Trying to get those last minute pre-election posts in

Over here at the Rudicus Report, I took on the fake cynicism of one who thinks he has it all figured out. I am tired of know-it-alls, whether they are Christian know-it-alls who have salvation, God, Jesus, heaven, whatever all figured out; science know-it-alls who have phsyics/chemistry/biology/cosmology all figured out; and socio-political know-it-alls who have our country all figured out, and have given up on it. Each of these is a form of elitism, really a kind of sophomoric gloating in the superiority of one's own knowledge, even wisdom, over and against the great unwashed masses who are so ignorant, so purblind, so benighted, they couldn't even grasp all that such sages have to offer.

I will say this only once. I do not believe for one minute that the Republicans will still hold both houses of Congress as of January 1, 2007. If, however, all the polls, all the predictions, all the pundits (good, bad, and horrible) are wrong and the Republicans still hold Congress, does that mean that our country is doomed? Or, perhaps, does it mean that we must continue to work, write, protest, even harder? I for one would rather die on my feet than live on my knees, accepting some "inevitable" Republican shenanigans that destroy our democracy.

When all else fails, keep the voters at home

Jane Hamsher over at FDL has this little ditty from my old stomping grounds. Five years in the Old Dominion was enough to convince me that, while summer lasted until October, winter was the four or five weeks after Christmas, and spring started in early March with the dogwoods blooming, I was not cut out to live in the Old South (there is no such thing as the New South except in the minds of people who don't live there). Yes, let's keep the voters at home. Let's lie, let's misdirect, let's threaten, and then let's be stupid enough to put "Paid for by the RNC" on the fliers.

The best thing in the Democrats favor is that these idiots are, in the wonderful words of Duncan over at atrios, too stupid to breathe. More than polls, more than frustration at a war gone horribly wrong, more than the notion that the nation really has awakened from its five-year-long slumber of trust in those in whom no trust should reside - it is the simple fact that the current bunch of leaders of the Republican party not only are stupid, they think the rest of us are, too. The polls close in Illinois in 26 hours and 42 minutes.

Speaking of Media Matters . . .

Say what you will about him, love him or hate him, Jerry Falwell certainly doesn't hide his light under a bushel or pull his punches. In his nationally syndicated Old Time Gospel Hour sermon yesterday, as reported here, Falwell declared that Hillary Clinton (well read in theologians like Paul Tillich and Reinhold Niebuhr, of whom I wonder if Falwell has even heard; she raised her daughter in the United Methodist Church; Chelsea Clinton's confirmation class retreat was held at the White House) and Nancy Pelosi (I know nothing and care nothing about her religious beliefs) were "ungodly". Apparently, the whole "judge not lest ye by judged by the same measure" thing slipped right through Falwell's steel-trap mind.

He is entitled to his political opinions, as are we all. He is even entitled to his theological views, as are we all. To claim, based solely on the former, an insight into other's spiritual status is awful. In my previous blog, I actually said some nice things about Falwell, things I will not take back. I cannot, however, sit idly by and allow him to say that some persons exist outside either the grace or Providence of God. If he has a problem with the politics of either of these women, or anyone else, let him battle it out in the realm of ideas. To exclude those with whom he disagrees politically from the family of God is wrong, and has no place in civilized theological or churchly discourse, least of all in a Sunday sermon. Falwell has disgraced the pulpit.

Strange Coincidences

I am not given to conspiracy-mongering, but earlier this afternoon was off-line for quite a while. Now, is down. My guess is they are being inundated and their servers are crashing. This is more despicable bullshit (sorry but there is no other word for it) from the group that is giving us push-poll phone calls around the country. We must do more than expose the shenanigans; we must GET OUT THE VOTE. Take a dozen friends with you to the polls. Take a dozen senior citizens who may not have transportation. Volunteer with a union, the NAACP, or any of a number of other groups that want as many people as possible to vote. As I noted in the previous post, I am an election judge here in Illinois, and will be ensuring a fair count of all ballots - anyone who enters the door of Poplar Grove precinct 3 in Boone County will cast a ballot that will be counted. Period.

The media is starting to wake up to the nonsense, at least according to some of the reports over at tpmmuckraker and Crooks & Liars. If you are the recipient of one of these automated push-polls (you will know because [a] the source of the call will not be identified; and [b] if you hang up, the calling will continue until you get the entire message) contact the local television and print media. Reporters are on the story, but they need our help.

Get out the Word. Get out the Vote. Let's take Congress back. Let's take our country back.

UPDATE: Well, is up and running. Until tomorrow night, things are going to be very nasty around the country.

When is a lie not a lie?

Over at Crooks & Liars they have a bit of a story on the race to fill Tom DeLay's empty seat in Texas. The on-screen caption reads that the seat in "favored by the Republican", but the story itself relates the fact that the Democrat candidate is in the lead. Much of the discussion revolves around FOXNews seemingly blatant lie. Some commenters have noticed, however, that the on-screen headline is, in fact, technically correct. It does not say "The polls now favor the Republican for the seat." Rather it says the seat is favored by the Republican."

Consider the meaning of that preopsitional phrase, and how clever it is. A FOXNews managing editor can say with a straight face that, in fact, they have not lied about the story; all they have said was that the Republican in the race would prefer to win the seat as it is favored by her. One can scream "semantics!", which to me is the last refuge of the defeated. In fact, FOXNews is being misleading without telling a falsehood (as in perpetually labeling Mark Foley a Democrat).

We must stand in awe of such an ability to manipulate the language, creating a fog of misunderstanding. By creating a brouhaha, FOX can claim that those who disagree with its editorial stance are accusing it of something they have not done. The charge, then, falls back on those who have made it. We can all wink and nod and say "Oh, but we know what they were up to," but the fact remains that they have potentially created a situation where, by inserting themselves into the story through the careful manipulation of the language, they can set the tone for the follow-up. Machiavellian, or perhaps Rovian, in its implications, we must be careful not to take our eyes off the prize, and vote tomorrow. Take a dozen people with you to the polls.

Personal note: Tomorrow I am going to be an election judge in the third precinct of my small community here in Boone County, IL. The polls are open from 6:00 am to 7:00 pm so a long day is in store.

On Lying Liars (I hope Al Franken didn't copyright that)

Over here Glenn Greenwald (whom you can also find here, and who is consistently one of my favorite commentators on all things contemporary and political and legal) has an excellent piece on the pathological nature of the lying that exists within our current Administration. I agree with everything Glenn wrote (I feel terrible making that admission because I rarely agree with everything any writer every says; perhaps I am going soft), but I want to consider the issue of "lying in politics" from a different angle.
We often hear it said, especially by those either unaware of current affiars, or those who claim to be disillusioned with politics, that "They all do x (lie, cheat, steal)". Enough examples can be brought to bear to prove the point to those to whom the point seems self-evident, and our political system loses another active member, allowing those in power to act with that much less scrutiny. The possibility of a nation of three hundred million people, over half of whose citizens are not only not actively engaged in the affiars of running the state but feel the entire system is flawed and will not respond to their needs or wishes creates a nightmare scenario in which, well, in which we currently live.
It is not enough to say to the falsely cynical or falsely all-knowing or disillusioned that, in fact, they all don't do it, that, in truth, most politicians of whatever party are honest and hardworking and pay due diligence to their position as representatives of the people and for the people. The problem is the way the media focuses attention on sociopaths and cowards - Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, Michael Ledeen, Dick Cheney, Tom DeLay - who seem unable or unwilling to account for the truth or reality. One reason I feel that the media does not correct these people in real time is they beleive the people at home understand that when those such as these (and others like them) speak, it is usually more out of their ass than out of their brain, heart, or certainly mouth. Thus, their lies go unchallenged and spread like a virus through the body politic.
A perfect example is the fake "Where's Nancy?" scheme put out first by Drudge, then repeated ad nauseum until it was brought up on MSNBC. Of course, this was something that was not only untrue, but easily disproven, yet it had some kind of wierd half-life that kept it going. Of course, the real question, and I know of only one instance where it was brought up, was "Where's Denny?" The sitting Speaker of the House, one would think, would be on all the talk shows, doing multiple interviews, out stumping for candidates, etc. Except, he's not. The reason he's not is because he knows, and his handlers in the party understand, with the Foley scandal and other scandals hovering like flies over his political corpse, Hastert is not what they would call a "hot commodity"; rather, he is "radioactive". So, rather than deal with that, a story is concocted, and spread like an overturned bucket of shit on a linoleum floor, that Nancy Pelosi is "hiding" from either the media, the public or both, when, in fact it is the case that it is the Republican leadership that is in hiding, using second-string flapping lips to get their message out this close to election day.
All of this creates an atmosphere of cynicism, disillusionment, apathy, and disengagement that only serves the status quo. The status quo is not just "dysfunctional" (to quote Richard Perle) but actively hostile to practical democracy and governance. We Americans have the opportunity to change all that tomorrow. If we want change, yet vote for any member of the current ruling party, then we are as much a part of the problem as George Bush and Dick Cheney. If we want change and do not vote, we are aiding and abetting the destruction of our Constitution and our whole way of living. If we vote, with hope and prayers and belief not only that we can be better, but that we deserve better as a nation then maybe, just maybe, we will wake up Wednesday morning to a whole new reality.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Stupid Mouthpiece Tricks

The election is just two days away (thankfully) and we all know that both sides are going to pull out all the stops. I guess I shouldn't be surprised when even a Republican I occasionally admire becomes a sock puppet for the usual gang of idiots, but when I saw the headline
over this story I threw up my hands.
Ask yourself a few questions:
A)Does Liddy Dole actually believe that the Democrats want to "lose" in Iraq?
B)Does Liddy Dole know what winning as opposed to losing in Iraq?
C)Does Liddy Dole feel happier knowing she made herself a sock puppet on national television?
The fact that someone - anyone - can get on national television and say such an inane, meaningless thing and not be challenged shows how low our media has sunk, a totally different topic. The fact that a person who is in a position of authority would demean themselves to go on national television to say something that (a) is meaningless in and of itself; (b) the person saying it knows is meaningless; (c) even if it had meaning would be demonstraly untrue all prove not that our political system is broken so much as those in charge of communicating the message of one of the two major parties in the United States thinks that most of us are actually quite stupid. Alas and alack, it is not we who are stupid. Indeed, I do believe that shall send a loud and firm message that we will no longer be treated as if we are stupid. It is, in fact, they who are stupid. The well is dry, this dog don't hunt/bark/sniff/yowl/lift its leg anymore. I don't care what metaphor one chooses, but Liddy's sad performance shows that, in the words of Owny Madden in The Cotton Club, "That bastard's time is just about up."

What now for Ted Haggard?

Following a link here to here I was glad to read someone who wanted to do more than rub poor Ted Haggard's nose in the fact that he was a big fat hypocrite. While Duncan seemed to voice very little sympathy for the former Rev. Haggard, and Balkin was more interested in the psychological destruction (as well as familial destruction) wrought by religious repression of sexual desire defined as sinful, even evil, my own perspective is one of compassion. I feel for Haggard, for his wife and children. Psychology aside (and how many armchair shrinks are really qualified to comment in such a way?), I have a theological question for Rev. Haggard, should he stumble across this site: How can something created by God (you), called good by God (again, you) be inherently evil? You as an individual are certainly more than the sum of your physical, psychological, and emotional make-up, but your sexuality is certainly a part and parcel of what makes you Ted Haggard. You are a child of God, created and loved, and even now redeemed. Do you think Satan creates these desires, these feelings, these longings? Do you think that, if only you pray harder, fast more, and preach more loudly against same-sex erotic desire, God will come and rescue your libido from Satan's wiles?
I would propose an alternative. You are a child of God, created in love, nurtured in love, called by God to be a preacher of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Your mistake, and it is a mistake many Christians want to make, is supposing that some kinds of love are wrong and therefore a bar to doing what God calls you to do, from being whom God created you to be. In the first epistle of St. John, we are reminded that God is love, and we only love because God first loved us. Whether you love women or men, or perhaps even both, that love is not a sin, does not come from Satan, is not something to be elminated, eradicated, or otherwise hidden under the bushel of denial and repression. Love, as it comes from God, is not wrong, and cannot be wrong.
Your only sin (I am not concerned with question of crimes here; that is another matter entirely for the local authorities) is to believe that the most precious of God's gifts to humanity, love, can be evil. Your only sin is to believe that by loving other men as men love women you are evil. That displays a tremendous lack of faith - in God, in God's creation, and in the good child of God that you are. It is not being a bisexual or gay man that is wrong. It is denying it to the point that it explodes in a way calculated to destroy you and all you hold dear that is wrong. Would your life be where it is today if, years ago, you had said to yourself, "I am gay, but God still loves me and calls me to preach the Gospel of grace"?

Watching Saving Private Ryan in George Bush's America

I recently watched Saving Private Ryan, and found myself amused at the difference a few years can make in one's reactions to a film. I remember very well how, when it was first released eight years ago, many on the right embraced it (along with Tom Brokaw's bathetic The Greatest Generation) as a repudiation of all things Clintonesque. I distinctly remember columnist Suzanne Fields writing a column in which she compared the on-screen, pretend heroism of Hanks et al. with the real-life President dealing with a hostile Congress and media environment. Landing as it did in the midst of the Year of Monica, SPR seemed to offer something our then-contemporary times lacked - a certain seriousness, a depth of humanity, even a willingness to be equivocal about certain moral issues (didn't we see American soldiers engage in war crimes in this film?). Nevermind tht the shallowness was foisted upon the American people by a Republican establishment hell-bent on destroying a Pesident they considered illegitimate; the shallowness was real, and being Clinton was President, he received much of the blame for the irrational exuberance of an age more concerned with blow jobs and blue dresses than a fight against tyranny.
Fast forward to the age of Bush, and we find much the same shallowness, but it a tragic, rather than farcical shallowness (proving Marx wrong once again). Embroiled in a horrific war of choice, foisted upon us once again by a Republican establishment ill-equipped intellectually or morally to handle the strain, I found myself faced with the imperative of Tom Hanks' dying Capt. Miller: "Earn this." When I first saw the film when it was released, I felt the film offered no answers, but rather addressed this question to us, the viewers. Had we earned these deaths? Had we become worthy of the sacrifices made to keep us safe?
While one could argue the point back and forth eight years ago, in George Bush's America, it seems to me the answer is a resounding, unequivocal "NO!". Those who currently hold positions of authority and power are unworthy of the great offices they occupy. They have mortgaged our future, economically, militarily, and even morally for transient political gain. They have wasted our most precious resource - the lives of our young men and women - in a war no one wanted, and it seems, no one even thought through very clearly. Rather than a shaking Matt Damon standing before Tom Hanks, imagine for a moment, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleeza Rice, Dennis Hastert, John Boehner, Bill Frist, or even George W. Bush standing there. These moral midgets have brought this nation to the brink of failure. The only excuse this gang of incompetents could possibly offer is that they are morally deaf to such an imperative. Such an excuse only shows the depths to which we have sunk; to offer John Bolton the office once held by Adlai Stevenson and Eleanor Roosevelt is an insult not just to the United Nations, but an example of the complete and utter stupidity of our current administration. It would be funny if lives weren't being lost even as this is typed. The stakes are much too high to pretend this is some kind of game, intellectual or otherwise.
This is the service watching Saving Private Ryan has offered in George Bush's America: We are reminded that we need people in positions of authority who are worthy of the burdens they carry, and who will lead us to be better than we are, or perhaps even thought we could be.

It's Been A While . . .

Ok, so after several weeks of not getting an answer to my query for my password, and having my server not work on me, I decided to start over, and use my previous blog as an archive. If you are visiting me for the first time, by all means click the link to Progressive Christian to find out what you are in for.
I guess I will have to start all over building a readership, if I even had one, so expect quite a bit of blogging over the next few days. I thought I would start with something I just heard on NPR. NPR ran a story on the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of Boris Pasternak's Dr. Zhivago, and at the end of the story played a clip from Kruschev's audio memoirs in which the Ukranian strongman voiced regret at the role he played in banning the novel and harrasing Pasternak. Now, a cynical person might suggest that, as Kruschev was receving much the same treatment as Pasternak had, the regret was too little too late, motivated less by real regret and more by self-pity. I would agree that such might actually play a part in some of what Kruschev was feeling to motivate such a regret. Such questions and assertions are really unanwerable and so uninteresting. We can speculate for quite a while as to the "why" of such a statement, but if nothing else it reveals that Kruschev was less of an ideologue than his public persona projected. In humanizing the director of the starvation of his fellow Ukranians, it at least offers the thin hope of redemption for one guilty of a heinous crime against humanity.
My thought upon hearing Kruschev voice such a thought was this: Would our current President, in a fit of self-reflection not normally considered part of his personality, voice regret at the waste of life and national treasure and resources and political capital for the horrendous act of stupidity in Iraq? Someday may we be treated to the dulcet tones of George W. Bush saying, "You know, invading Iraq was perhaps the single most horrific decision of my life, and I regret it now"? Can we expect our leaders to become as human as a former Soveit premiere?

Virtual Tin Cup

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