Saturday, December 17, 2005

For Justice: Day 6 Church and State

I've been aware, at least on the periphrery of my consciousness, of posts about the "12 Days of Justice" on various left wing blogs, and that they had something to do with opposing Samuel Alito's confirmation. Unfortunately I've been busy enough with a variety of different projects and trying to get over some nasty bug that's going around, that today has been my first chance to really devote any attention to it. I see that these diaries of action items are being posted at MyDD, My Left Wing, Booman Tribune, DemBloggers, and e Pluribus Media--just to name the first handful I've found. At Howard-Empowered People, several of us have been saying that we'd like to have regular action items to focus on.

I know that the twelve days are now half over, but I'm also aware that the more the grassroots work together, the better chance we have of being heard and having an impact. So today I've added a graphic link to our sidebar to help raise awareness of, and hopefully participation in this grassroots campaign for justice.

Day 6: Separation of Church and State

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Truth and Mainstream: Howard Dean

This is a Kos diary, in case you'd like to recommend it, but it's also posted at Scott for America. (And I personally think it's important to give the smaller blogs some love too.)

Just 4 years ago Howard Dean was a relatively unknown Governor in Vermont. The Democrats were often his biggest challenge in the Vermont State House. Ask anyone in Vermont and they will call Dean a conservative Democrat. Although the state leans left, there are many very Republican areas, and they have a second term Republican Governor. The NRA endorsed Dean in all 5 campaigns for Governor, and he balanced the budget 12 years in a row. He supported the Gulf War and the war in Afghanistan. If he were ever to run for President, many would never have anticipated him being labeled the most liberal credible candidate.

Click here for more.

P.S. Scott is also the author of this book.

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Dean: Dems work to strengthen community

Thank you, Demetrius, for catching this Yahoo article about Howard Dean that I had missed...

The Democratic Party's legislative priorities could help strengthen the American community in the coming year, Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean said Saturday in his party's weekly radio address.

"In the spirit of all the holidays that Americans celebrate at this time of year and the values we share, I want to talk about what Democrats believe what will make our American community stronger," the former Vermont governor said.

In his remarks, which made multiple references to the holiday season, Dean touched on issues ranging from job creation and improved public education to a strong national defense and universal health care.

In other news, progressive evangalical Christian Jim Wallis and over 100 supporters were arrested in an act of civil disobedience (protesting the immoral 2006 federal budget) and the silence of the mainstream media has been deafening.

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How to tell when someone is lying

Interesting read...
A Fish Story or Not

Behaviorists tell us that lying is innate to the human species and comes about for two genetically programmed reasons: to receive rewards and/or to avoid punishment. Whether we lie depends on our calculation of the reward/punishment equation. This is called "situational honesty." Because most of us are conditioned to believe lying is wrong, it creates stress. (That's not true with very young children and pathological liars.) The degree of emotional discomfort is determined by two factors: the adverse consequences of the lie and our perception of being caught. Experienced interviewers know that stress causes most people to react differently when they lie. How to recognize the signs of stress and detect lying are skills auditors need to acquire.

Click here to read about these signs--how many of them have we seen in members of the Bush administration?

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Friday, December 16, 2005

Kenya vs Norway Open Thread

Some of my favorite silly Flash animations, now in one place (this post). First, we were introduced to that catchy loop animation song "Only in Kenya" that could get in your brain (well, my brain, I don't know about yours) and stay there all day.

Then, some fans of the animation decided to film their own live version

And finally, since the Kenya animation, in extolling the virtues of Kenya, dissed Norway, fans of the country of ice and snow (and, of course, fjords) struck back.

Also, Burton Earny, creator of The Llama Song, has a new animation called Three Dudes and a Puppy. It's very weird, and rather long--and claims to be only Episode 1 (when it ends, we don't know the puppy's fate). But, if that doesn't deter you, click.

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Senate Rejects Extension of Patriot Act

From Yahoo news:

The Senate on Friday refused to reauthorize major portions of the USA Patriot Act after critics complained they infringed too much on Americans' privacy and liberty, dealing a huge defeat to the Bush administration and Republican leaders.

In a crucial vote early Friday, the bill's Senate supporters were not able to get the 60 votes needed to overcome a threatened filibuster by Sens. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., and Larry Craig, R-Idaho, and their allies. The final vote was 52-47.

As you can see in the upper left hand corner of this page, Senator Feingold is blogging at TPM Cafe's Table for One today, in case you want to say anything to him. Maybe when you're thanking him, you can tell him he's earned a Howardly.

As for a very UN-Howardly doctor in the U.S. Senate...

"The Patriot Act expires on Dec. 31, but the terrorist threat does not," Frist said. "We have a clear choice: Do we advance against terrorism to make America safer or do we retreat to the days before Sept. 11 when terrorists slipped through the cracks."

Seems like he deserves a little something special too.

Here's what Feingold said in response:
Wisconsin Democrat Russ Feingold said it was "shameful to suggest" that lawmakers seeking changes in the bill want the Patriot Act to expire. "That would only happen if the proponents block alternative reauthorization that can easily pass," he said. "Now is not the time for brinksmanship or threats."

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Working Together To Take Back Our Country

Teri Mills is a longtime Democracy For America community member. Her guest column on health care appears on Blog for America on Fridays and she blogs at

Hundreds of Oregonians gathered on a cold, chilly Friday evening to support
Nick Lampson in his quest to become the next U.S. Representative of the 22nd Congressional District of Texas. (Yes, this is the district presently held by Tom DeLay - everyone say boo all together.) DeLay has another reason to begin taking an anti-anxiety agent as it was learned this week that the Supreme Court has agreed to hear a constitutional challenge to the hotly disputed Texas redistricting plan engineered in 2003 that handed Republicans six extra seats in the U.S. House of Representatives under his leadership as House Majority Leader.

Nick Lampson and Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR)proudly sporting a University of Portland soccer sweatshirt in recognitionof the women's first place NCAA finish this month.

Sponsored by the Committee for a Livable Future (the 3rd largest environmental PAC in the nation which was founded by
Congressman Earl Blumenauer D-OR) and the Democratic Party of Oregon, the event featured a bluegrass band with a crowd sing-a-long to Bye Bye Tom DeLay - just where DeLay ends up going is anybody's guess, as long as it is not back to Congress. It is noteworthy and commendable that Congressman Blumenauer, who has been very supportive of Democracy for Oregon activities and was a keynote guest at our summit last May, also made a substantial contribution to help assure that Lampson is elected in 2006 and the event raised over $50,000.

Both Blumenauer and Lampson are staunch advocates of the Patient's Bill of Rights, which ensures that all Americans enrolled in Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs) receive the highest quality of care. They also believe it is a priority of this country to improve access to affordable and quality health care. And Lampson, like Blumenauer, understands the benefits of Social Security as his father died when he was 12 years old. Blumenauer was instrumental in helping to ensure the success of the Democratic Party of Oregon's house parties to save social security and was a guest on the conference call.

Lampson is fortunate to have Melissa Taylor as the newly appointed Director of Party Administration of the Harris County Democratic Party in Houston, TX. Taylor is a long time Democracy for Texas member and with her help and the help of friends like Congressman Earl Blumenauer, we will take back our flag, our democracy, and our country.

Teri Mills, RN, MS, ANP
Democracy for Oregon

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Friday Comics

Here is to Peace!

Looks Like Santa is Going to Have a Little Talk With Tom Delay
War on Christmas
RIP Richard
Commander and Theif!
The Friendly Skies
Purple Pill

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Howard Dean on the 1000th day of the Iraq war

This is from the DNC web site, from December 14, but I thought I should share it here for anyone who hasn't seen it:

"Today marks another solemn milestone in the War in Iraq. For the last 1,000 days, America's brave men and women in uniform have served with great courage. We owe them and their families a great deal.

"President Bush sent us to war without a clear plan to win the peace, and now 1,000 days after the start of the war there is still no plan. Democrats will continue to hold President Bush accountable for his failed policies and his inability to be truthful with the American people. America deserves better. Our troops deserve better. Policies built on truth, on honest dealings with our soldiers, our citizens, and our allies are much more likely to succeed than policies built on the quicksand of deceiving the American people."

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Thursday, December 15, 2005

Shameless promotion/Open Thread

Hey, I figured if Kos could do a Shameless Promotions thread, then we could too.

jc's three Cafe Press stores are Vote Progressive, Election Blues, and Designed for You. Demetrius and I have the one shop, People-Powered Gear, and it's got both political and nonpolitical (Puplinks, Letter Lane, Church of the Restful Sabbath) themed items.

Okay, now that that's out of the way, how about some play time? (These tend to require either Flash or Javascript).


Snowglobe (click and drag to shake snowglobe)
Make snowflakes

I'm going to add more fun time-wasters as I think of them, or as they are suggested in the comments.

And now I'm going to totally bum you out. You know the pancake rabbit from yesterday? He's dead. I know, I know--you *just* found out about him, thought he was adorable, and now I tell you he's dead. Actually, if you clicked the link and read to the bottom, you found out already. Anyway, here's the new photodiary created by Oolong's owner. There is now a new rabbit named Yuebing, who can be seen (among other things) visiting Oolong's grave on his "deathday" in 2004 and 2005.

Don't know why, but I find this oddly touching.

And here's the Booman Tribune Thursday Dog Blogging diary, for more critter viewing.

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Paranoia in the Pentagon, Fascism in the FBI

NBC news recently revealed that the Pentagon maintains a secret database on "suspicious" domestic groups. Instead of the Pentagon bending its efforts toward protecting America, they monitor peaceful anti-war and counter-military recruitment groups.

Christopher Pyle, a former Army intelligence officer, blew the whistle on the Defense Department for monitoring and infiltrating anti-war and civil rights protests during the Vietnam War. Pyle says, "The documents tell me that military intelligence is back conducting investigations and maintaining records on civilian political activity. The military made promises that it would not do this again."

On December 9, 2005 the Colorado Springs Gazette reported that the FBI puts the names and license plates of protestors into domestic-terrorism files. ACLU legal director Mark Silverstein said, "This kind of surveillance of First Amendment activities has serious consequences. Law-abiding Americans may be reluctant to speak out when doing so means that their names will end up in an FBI file."

So, in a time when we *know* that there *are* real terrorists, the Pentagon and the FBI are wasting time and money looking for terrorism in all the wrong places. Maybe they're following the example of George Bush looking for WMDs under tables in the oval office. And with as little success.

Susan D

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Democratic Party Nominating Calendar

Ahhhh, a title that only a D.C. wonk could love. From Kicking Ass, the DNC blog, come this news:

The Commission on Presidential Nomination Timing and Scheduling just
wrapped up its look into the Democratic nominating calendar. The final
report is available here if you're interested, and in the spirit of transparency, the DNC Office of Party Affairs and Delegate Selection has provided the materials from all of the meetings leading up to the report, which will be permanently available at

The report is actually quite interesting even if you're just approaching the logic behind the nominating calendar for the first time. There's a lot of history and a lot of academic reasoning behind many of the decisions that make the schedule into what it is.

Action item: Glance, skim, read through the final report. Love the idea? Hate it? Contact the DNC and let them know what you think.

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Thursday Comics

Everyone Needs a Lap Dog!

Who Does Santa Believe In
Iraqi's are Taking Controll of Their Country
Strong On Imigration
Drug Benefits are Easier Then Ever
Pull Out of Iraq Rejected
Survivor Island Economy
New Supreme Court Justice
What in the Wide Wide World of Sports is a Going on Here!
Hanging Chad Again?

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Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Open Thread (some relief, dammit!)

I don't know: one of those days where the world is just too damn big and nasty to fit in my head. I want some *relief* damnit!
puddle | Homepage | 12.14.05 - 5:08 pm

Me too, puddle. The panda's just not doing it for me any more. Going to have to move on to harder stuff. Kitten cam?
Renee in Ohio | 12.14.05 - 5:24 pm

Kitten cam, puppy cam, dolphin cam. . . . and then some. . . .
puddle | Homepage | 12.14.05 - 5:49 pm

How 'bout Oolong, the pancake rabbit?

...or its American cousin, Stuff on My Cat. What else ya got for relief tonight?

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Suzi Hackett in ad, blogger conference call

Passing this along, FYI. There is a new diary by Paul Hackett over at Kos, entitled Iraq: This Time, Last Year.

I wanted to pass this message from Suzi, my wife, along to everyone. She had her first conference call with bloggers today to discuss our new ad and what its like for the families of the men and women serving overseas in Iraq. I hope you enjoy her message and take a moment to watch the video and please feel free to recommend this post if you feel others would benefit from the message.


Click here for the rest of the diary. It includes a message from Suzi and a link to Hackett's new ad, Tremendous Sacrifice, in which Suzi appears. A couple screenshots can be seen below.

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A dose of the good doctor

Because a dose of Howard Dean always makes us smile...

Thank you, Corinne, for pointing out this piece at the DNC web site about Howard Dean's visit to a children's hospital in Chicago.

Doctor, Doctor, Give Me the News

The Gov paid a visit to some kids who probably needed a little cheer around this time of the year and was given a quick tour of some of the facilities, inlcuding sitting in to watch some brain surgery. (I'm told the brain surgery was not on a republican lawmaker - although some would argue that it should be.) For some of the doctors it was quite a surprise to see Dr. Howard Dean walking around the premises.

It was a short visit, but a fun one nonetheless. When one of the doctors asked if the Governor still stays active in the medical field he replied "I haven't practiced medicine in 13 years. I wouldn't want to be my first patient!"

See also this diary by Andrew C. White, Howard Dean: The Life of the Party.
When I saw a headline quoting Gov. Dean saying the US could not win in Iraq I knew we would shortly be hearing all the usual noise and complaints about his latest "gaffe." Of course, I was reminded of his definition of a gaffe... "When you tell the truth and the people in Washington think you shouldn't have." Forgive me if I take a moment to smile at that.

You see, I don't care much what the people in Washington think. Like most of you, I live in the real world and I am not afraid of nor shocked by the truth. I'll let you in on a little secret... neither are my Republican and Independent neighbors. What we care about is whether the people in Washington are getting the job done. And let me tell you, Howard Dean, Chairman of the Democratic National Committee, is getting the job done.

From the moment he started asking the question "What I want to know is..."

Through the end if his Presidential campaign; from the formation of the Democracy for America PAC through his election as DNC Chair; from his promise to help rebuild the State Democratic Committees to his fulfilling that promise by having placed staff in every state; to this moment right now Gov. Dean has been in the trenches doing his part to take our country back.

Click here for the rest.

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Wednesday Comics

Mission Accomplished!

Christmas on the Gulf Coast
Guess What George, Santa is Coming!
The Beast of Freedom
Is it a Holiday, is it Christmas, is it a Christmas Sale?
Xbox Merges with C-Span
Condi Claus is Coming to Town
Are we There Yet!
What do I Want for Christmas?

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Tuesday, December 13, 2005

More bad news in Ohio

I just got an article in my email with the following title: Senate passes bill with minor change on ID requirement for voters. The bill, frankly, sucks out loud, and the concessions are indeed minor.

One change made Tuesday would allow voters' current driver's licenses to be allowed as identification even if a person's address was different than the one on the license.

The bill, which needs House agreement with Senate changes on Wednesday, would require each voter to present a driver's license, bank statement, utility bill or other identification at the polling place. Currently, a registered voter only must match a signature in the poll book.

The Senate eliminated a requirement that voters must cast provisional ballots if they moved within the same precinct before Election Day but the board of elections wasn't aware of the change.

Why was this legislation supposedly needed?
However, Sen. Kevin Coughlin, a Cuyahoga Falls Republican, said the real targets are the outside groups that paid people to register voters in the effort last year to oust President Bush. Some signature collectors used fraudulent names, made-up addresses and in one case, used the names of celebrities or cartoon characters.

"We seek to suppress those who commit fraud against people who cast legal ballots statewide," Coughlin said.

Sen. Teresa Fedor, a Toledo Democrat, said the fraud allegations were groundless. "Mickey Mouse got caught and did not vote. There was no voter fraud," she said.

There was also mention of the protesters who attended today's vote.
Linda Perront, 44, also of Cincinnati, sat in the gallery wearing a sash that read "Let the people vote." Perront said she is worried Republicans may be trying to reduce Democratic votes.

"My fear is that it may be targeted that way. It affects every single voter," she said.

The name appears to be spelled wrong, but given that she wrote yesterday that she would be attending this protest, I think we can be fairly certain that Ms. "Perront" is our own Linda in Cincinnati, seen here (wearing her trademark hat) protesting a visit by Karl Rove to her hometown.

Thank you, Linda, for continuing to fight the good fight.

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From Subway Serenade
Chapter 2 (excerpt)

...The blue eyed preacher smiled a knowing smile, walked slowly through
the cleared pathway to me and gently put his hand on my shoulder. Then
he looked up and spoke to the crowd. /*

*/ "Everyone here should remember this: If you would be a friend of
the Lord, then you should give as much as you can, as often as you can,
without counting the cost." He then looked into my eyes and said,
"Zack, I'm just a weary traveler whose come to light the way, and soon I
will be returning to my Father's house. I'd be honored if you would
lead me to your home, so that I may dine with friends of the Lord." /*

*/ I saw in his eyes a deep abiding peace, mingled with the most
profound sadness. Suddenly, my head was filled with a brilliant light,
and in the blink of an eye I was shown the Name of God. I was crushed
by the sheer weight of the love I felt, and my mind screamed. Just as
quickly the feeling stopped and I had to struggle to catch my breath. I
looked up at the preacher again and he smiled, but I found myself
wondering how so much love could ever be so sad. Speechless and dazed,
with the preacher's hand on my shoulder, somehow holding me up, we
started to move back through the crowd toward my home...

(Read the whole story here.)

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Vengeance is Mine--you can't play with it any more!

I didn't have anything of my own to say about the impending execution of Tookie Williams, for pretty much the same reason Pastor Dan at Street Prophets says he refrained from comment, there were others who could say it better, and more succinctly. Well, that, and the fact that I didn't feel well enough versed in the particulars of the case to comment intelligently. Now that the execution has taken place, the discussion of the death penalty in general continues. Over at Blog for America, Demetrius commented:

Understand that at the time the typical response to someone putting out someone's eye would be to take *both* their eyes, the eyes of everyone in their family, and the eyes of anyone who looked at you funny on the way there. "An eye for an eye" means *just* *ONE* *eye*! This was a radical concept.

In my EFM classes, I have been learning about the book of Genesis, the different sources it is believed to have come from (at least four distinct sources), and what it tells us about how the Hebrew people understood their relationship with God. One thing I remember from my reading is that the concept of revenge really did get out of control exponentially so that, yes, saying ONLY one eye for an eye was clearly an effort to put the brakes on.

On the page about revenge at, I found this:
Revenge is a hotly contested ethical issue in philosophy. Some feel it is necessary to maintain a just society. In some societies, it is believed that the damage inflicted should be greater than the original one, as a punitive measure. The Old Testament philosophy of "an eye for an eye" (cf. Exodus 21:24) tried to limit the allowed damage to avoid a series of violent acts that spiral out of control. Detractors argue revenge is more like the logical fallacy "two wrongs make a right." Some Christians interpret Paul's "Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord" (Romans 12:19, King James Version) to mean that only God has the moral right to exact revenge.

Of the psychological, moral, and cultural foundation for revenge, philosopher Martha Nussbaum has written: "The primitive sense of the just - remarkably constant from several ancient cultures to modern institutions ... - starts from the notion that a human life ... is a vulnerable thing, a thing that can be invaded, wounded, violated by another's act in many ways. For this penetration, the only remedy that seems appropriate is a counterinvasion, equally deliberate, equally grave. And to right the balance truly, the retribution must be exactly, strictly proportional to the original encroachment. It differs from the original act only in the sequence of time and in the fact that it is response rather than original act - a fact frequently obscured if there is a long sequence of acts and counteracts" ("Equity and Mercy," in Sex and Social Justice [Oxford University Press, 1999], pp. 157-58).

The interpretation of Paul's words makes sense given what I read about the history of revenge. According to the story that has unfolded up to that point (and continues today) humans have proven incapable of handling revenge in a responsible manner, without misusing it. When our kids are having a loud, headache-inducing squabble, and it turns out that some *thing* is at the center of the problem, it is not uncommon for Demetrius to say, "Okay, bring it here. Put it on my desk. You can have it back when I think you can handle it responsibly."

It's not that big a stretch, for me, anyway, to see vengeance as something that humans have proven incapable of administering responsibly, justly, and without excess.

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Tuesday Comics

Deans Theory of Realitivity!

Bush's Theory of Evolution
Religious Rights Theory of Christmas
Congress's Theory on Being a Congress Person
Rumsfields Theory of Justice
Hillary's Theory on Campaigning
Going Commando!
Cause its Getting Hot in Here!

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Monday, December 12, 2005

Open Thread

More pictures from the baby panda slideshow here.

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Saving Tookie Williams

Note from Renee: Kimmy has been posting the "Save Tookie" link in the comments, and I asked if she or someone else would please write up a post we could front page about the topic, since I have not followed the case that closely myself. Sylvie said that Agatha had been following the case and could probably write something for us to post. Earlier today, Sylvie saved this post as a draft before leaving for work. Sadly, I just read that Schwarzenneger has denied clemency to Tookie Williams. So even though the comics thread has not been up that long, I decided to post this sooner rather than later.

From Agatha, a long-time blogger at BFA:

Dear Governor Schwarzenneger,

I am writing to ask you to grant clemency to Tookie Williams. I find it disgraceful that the state of California would execute a man nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

I was for capital punishment for many years. To this day, I have no sympathy for rapists and child molesters in particular. However, I have come to understand that race and class discrimination undermines our legal system and fair representation of defendants. Over the past couple of years, innovations in forensic science have exonerated prisoners on death row. How can anyone feel closure if the question ultimately remains whether the person being executed is possibly innocent?

The case for Tookie Williams' innocence is particularly strong. Regardless of his possible innocence (this is a big "regardless"), Tookie is not asking for freedom but simply that you spare his life. He is still looking at life in prison, which for me, personally, must be a living hell.

Tookie Williams has managed to transform a living hell into an opportunity to spread peace. I have not read his books for children, but I have read his "Protocol for Peace." I am moved by his effective grassroots strategy to bring about peace in our communities. By engaging ordinary citizens, Tookie is advocating for society, individual members from all generations and walks of life, to work together in a difficult but rewarding process towards mutual respect and peace. Furthermore, his credibility as a reformed gang member must touch people, especially young people, in a way that no other person can.

You must be asking yourself many questions today. I hope you are asking yourself what decision will benefit the greater good. You have a choice to execute a possibly innocent man. This may bring closure to some. Or, you can let a man in jail continue to write and speak out for peace. This will continue to diminish gang violence in our communities. The former decision has a potential for irreparable harm, while the latter hurts no one and helps many.

Thank you for reading my e-mail. For the past couple of hours, I have been trying to call your office. The line was either busy or unable to take my call. I know that politicians value phone calls more than e-mails, but I hope that this e-mail will help you in your decision process.


You can get all contact info here. He's scheduled to be executed tomorrow at 12:01 AM.

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Monday Comics

Someone is Watching You!

The Many Faces of Hillary
Santa Claus Meets Congress
Unintelligent Designer
Santa Plays Favorites
Condi Learns a Thing or Two from Dick
God Resigns for Family Reasons
Dems Hide Behind Dean
The US Does Not Torture Santa Claus
Dems Exit Stategy
Really, What is Torture?

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Language, self-deception, and evil done in our name

The following is just an excerpt of Harold Pinter's Nobel Prize acceptance speech:

The United States supported and in many cases engendered every right wing military dictatorship in the world after the end of the Second World War. I refer to Indonesia, Greece, Uruguay, Brazil, Paraguay, Haiti, Turkey, the Philippines, Guatemala, El Salvador, and, of course, Chile. The horror the United States inflicted upon Chile in 1973 can never be purged and can never be forgiven.

Hundreds of thousands of deaths took place throughout these countries. Did they take place? And are they in all cases attributable to US foreign policy? The answer is yes they did take place and they are attributable to American foreign policy. But you wouldn't know it.

It never happened. Nothing ever happened. Even while it was happening it wasn't happening. It didn't matter. It was of no interest. The crimes of the United States have been systematic, constant, vicious, remorseless, but very few people have actually talked about them. You have to hand it to America. It has exercised a quite clinical manipulation of power worldwide while masquerading as a force for universal good. It's a brilliant, even witty, highly successful act of hypnosis.

I put to you that the United States is without doubt the greatest show on the road. Brutal, indifferent, scornful and ruthless it may be but it is also very clever. As a salesman it is out on its own and its most saleable commodity is self love. It's a winner. Listen to all American presidents on television say the words, 'the American people', as in the sentence, 'I say to the American people it is time to pray and to defend the rights of the American people and I ask the American people to trust their president in the action he is about to take on behalf of the American people.'

It's a scintillating stratagem. Language is actually employed to keep thought at bay. The words 'the American people' provide a truly voluptuous cushion of reassurance. You don't need to think. Just lie back on the cushion. The cushion may be suffocating your intelligence and your critical faculties but it's very comfortable. This does not apply of course to the 40 million people living below the poverty line and the 2 million men and women imprisoned in the vast gulag of prisons, which extends across the US.

I don't know about you, but I see a common thread between the words here and this piece entitled The unbearable kitschness of Christmas.
But perhaps the most important corruption of Christmas kitsch is how it shapes our understanding of peace. This is the season where the word "peace" is ubiquitous. Written out in fancy calligraphy everywhere, "peace and good will to all" is the subscript of the season. It's the peace of the sleeping child, peace as in "peace and quiet", peace as a certain sort of mood. But this is not what they need in Bethlehem today. They need peace as in people not killing each other.

This sort of peace requires a stubborn engagement with the brute facts of oppression and violence - which is the very reality that the kitsch peace of Christmas wants to take us on holiday away from. How ironic: we don't want the shittiness of the world pushed at us during this season of peace. This, then, is the debilitating consequence of kitsch. Kitsch peace is the unspoken desire that war takes place out of sight and mind – it's the absolute denial of shit. Political leaders who are preparing for yet more fighting will be happy to oblige. Christmas has become a cultural danger to us all, not just a danger to orthodox Christianity.

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Sunday, December 11, 2005

Stumbling around the web

Just another interesting link I discovered through Stumbleupon and thought I'd share.

People who learn about the mantra naturally want to know what it means, and often ask for a translation into English or some other Western language. However, Om Mani Padme Hum can not really be translated into a simple phrase or even a few sentences.

All of the Dharma is based on Buddha's discovery that suffering is unnecessary: Like a disease, once we really face the fact that suffering exists, we can look more deeply and discover it's cause; and when we discover that the cause is dependent on certain conditions, we can explore the possibility of removing those conditions.

The site about the parrots I mentioned below is one I found via Stumbleupon, as are these
Jumping cats
NASA fakes moon landing
Astronomy picture of the day

Once you install the toolbar in your browser window, you sign up for a login, and then you click little checkboxes to indicate what sort of sites you'd be interested in seeing. Much of the time when I'm online I have a specific purpose in mind, but I find it fun and relaxing sometimes just to "wander around" the internet and see what's out there.

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Wild parrots in the snow

There are huge numbers of wild parrots living in Brooklyn. New to me--what else is going on in the world that I have no idea about? That's a rhetorical question of course...the obvious answer is "plenty". You just *have* to stay humble when you realize that. The wild quaker parakeets are actually a serious issue--click to read more if you'd like something different to worry about. Or relax by watching the panda cam, if your browser and internet connection supports it.

Oscar's Word for the Week can be found here, and puddle has shared some of her own thoughts on religion/spirituality over at pyzch.

And Monica's post "What's the matter with Ohio?" can be found here. Please feel free to comment in any or all of these threads, based on whatever strikes your fancy.

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Word For The Week

Jesus answered, "My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm."

Therefore Pilate said to Him, "So You are a king?" Jesus answered, "You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice."

Pilate said to Him, "What is truth?" And when he had said this, he went out again to the Jews and said to them, "I find no guilt in Him."

John 18:36-38

What is truth? Some people would assert that the world is round - is that true? Some people would assert that Napoleon Bonaparte actually existed - is that true? Some people would assert that Jesus Christ is fully God while others would assert that there is no God but Allah and Muhammad is his prophet - which one is true? What is truth?

It has been asserted that the world suffers from truth-decay, that skepticism has eroded the enamel of truth and has infested it with nihilistic cavities. The situation is such that to the postmodern mind the most offensive thing that one could do is to assert that someone else is wrong - the word "tolerance" has been modified to mean "Never tell me that I am wrong!" The postmodern mind, however, is incredibly inconsistent and even celebrates its inconsistencies. To the postmodern mind it is wrong for a Christian to assert that a Jew or a Muslim is wrong, but there is nothing wrong with asserting that Robert Oler is wrong. Any- and everything is to be tolerated except that which the postmodern mind finds to be intolerable. It seems that even to the postmodern mind there is such a thing as objective right and wrong, such a thing as objective truth.

No matter how hard you try, you simply can not escape the Law of Noncontradiction - it's not just a theory. When you assert a woman's inalienable right to choose an abortion you simultaneously assert that those who affirm a baby's inalienable right to life are wrong. When you assert that the death penalty is immoral you simultaneously assert that those who support the death penalty are wrong. When you assert that all roads lead to God you simultaneously assert that those who affirm Jesus' statement that no man comes to God but through Him are wrong. Whenever you assert any proposition as being true you simultaneously assert that all contradictory propositions are false, that all contradictory propositions are wrong. Such is the nature of the Law of Noncontradiction.

But what is truth?

Truth is that which corresponds to objective reality. Some would say that perception is reality, but our perceptions can be deceived like Adam and Eve. As I look down a set of railroad tracks I perceive that they eventually touch, but that perception is wrong - the two tracks never touch each other. As I observe the sun I perceive that it rises in the east and sets in the west, but that perception is wrong - the earth rotates, the sun does not circle the earth. As I sit in my chair I perceive that it is solid, but that perception is wrong - it is primarily blank space with bits of matter held together by covalent and ionic bonds. Human perception is not sufficient for understanding objective reality; it can not get us to the truth.

In order for us to properly discern the truth, in order for us to understand objective reality, we need the understanding of One who created objective reality. Without divine revelation we can know nothing of objective reality. The universe bears God's fingerprints and we can learn a lot about the universe through the faculties that He has given us, but we can know nothing about Him who gives meaning to the universe without special revelation from Him about Him. If you ask a person on the street, "Who is Jesus?" you will hear any number of answers - "A good man," "a prophet," "a teacher," "an angel." People have misunderstood the person and work of Jesus Christ since His incarnation. Joseph initially thought that He was some other man's baby. Herod the Great thought that He was born to overthrow him. Herod Antipas thought that He was a sideshow entertainer to amuse him. Some people thought that He was their free lunch, while others thought He was one of the prophets reborn. People, left to themselves without revelation from God, have always been wrong about Jesus.


I wish that Pilate had waited for Jesus' answer to his question about the nature of truth, but Jesus answered that question earlier when He said, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me." It is said that all truth is God's truth, that anything which is true affirms God and is affirmed by God, and that assertion is supported by Paul's epistle to the Colossians where he testified, "For by [Jesus] all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities - all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together." John testifies, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it." Truly, Jesus, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

There is a reason why some things are truly right and some things are truly wrong - the universe has a Moral Lawgiver, a Creator, and He loved us enough to empty Himself into flesh and blood and walk among us. We who are called by the name of Jesus Christ seek to advance His kingdom - the dynamic rule of God over the lives of men and women, boys and girls. The Kingdom is not advanced through coercion, force or politics - it is advanced by giving people an opportunity to accept citizenship in His kingdom, to accept Jesus Christ as Lord.

Some people find it offensive when Christians tell them that they are going to Hell under the influence of sin, but is that any different from progressives telling Americans that the country is going to Hell in a hand basket under the influence of the Bush Administration? The truth can trouble you. The truth can terrify you. The truth can totally twist your thinking ("I'm fat?!?"), but that does not negate its truthfulness: I am fat, the Bush Administration is destroying America, and no one comes to God except through Jesus Christ - to all who received Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God; children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God.

That's the truth.

May the LORD bless you and keep you;
May the LORD make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you;
And may the LORD,
Who desires an objectively real relationship with you,
May He turn His face toward you and give you peace.

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What's the matter with Ohio?

Editor's note: I have promoted this post by Monica Smith to the front page, because I think an alternate thread on Sunday should be a genuinely alternate thread rather than merely "If you don't want to talk about religion, you can gather over here."

I want to start a series of "What's the matter with Ohio?" focusing on some of the thirty Rangers that supported GWB to the detriment of the people in their state. One, William O. Brisbane, is now representing us at UNICEF. Should he be ashamed of having made the following statement to that organization?

Remarks by William O. Brisben, U.S. Representative to the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), to the UNICEF Executive Board, September 28, 2005

Thank you Mr. President.

I want to thank UNICEF as well as the countries represented in this room who have offered their assistance following the destruction of Hurricane Katrina, and now Hurricane Rita. The American public has been overwhelmed with the world's generosity. More than 115 countries and nearly a dozen international organizations have stepped forward with offers of assistance. Although we could not accept all of the offers, we appreciate each offer of assistance made.

We appreciate the careful and extensive work that UNICEF staff has undertaken on the Medium Term Strategic Plan. Overall the Plan offers a coherent vision for UNICEF programming over the next four years.

In particular, we are pleased with the focus on data, evidence and measurable results, especially in child survival; with the attention given to the humanitarian response function; with the emphasis on the role of the supply division; and with recognition that pilot projects, partnerships, research and advocacy must be undertaken strategically. We are also pleased with the treatment of the family as the center actor in the development of children.

Results-based advocacy can be a powerful tool in helping children survive and thrive. When it is paired with good research, strategic focus, and skilled communication, effective Goodwill Ambassadors and UNICEF staff can educate, encourage and cajole their audience to put children first.

Advocacy, however, is rarely sufficient by itself, and is not credible without strong programs that go beyond the rhetoric. The United States believes that UNICEF is at its very best converting goodwill and dollars into actions that meet children's needs in health, education, nutrition, and protection.

In keeping with this mandate, this Plan reflects international commitments to measuring progress towards the child survival, health and education goals set out in the Millennium Declaration and the Core Commitments to Children in Emergencies. UNICEF plays a vital role in achievement of these international commitments through its support for national capacity building. We would like to see that support more clearly tracked in the MTSP through the addition, where possible, of indicators that measure UNICEF's support for national capacity building in the MTSP's five focus areas.

The United States very strongly supports democracy, freedom and human rights, but is concerned by the implications of closer ties between the rancorous and often paralyzed human rights apparatus and the much more functional UN funds and programs such as UNICEF. Improving child welfare is principally a matter of setting policies that improve health, education, and overall security; it is a matter of political will and resources rather than asserting rights.

We share the human rights concerns that motivate UNICEF to focus on marginalized and vulnerable children and families. We believe, however, that making the achievement of "rights" is not a reliable method of organizing programs.

We also believe the Plan needs to stress the central role of families in child survival and well being to reflect and encourage UNICEF programs to support and empower families and communities. Parents and caregivers should be explicitly recognized and supported as the primary partners of UNICEF in helping children grow to adulthood in good health and with opportunities for a better life. In this context, we continue to advocate for the expansion of initiatives in life-skills training beyond the most fundamental elements of hygiene and skills training to cover broader youth development incorporating prevention of HIV/AIDS, and the promotion of involved and responsible fatherhood and motherhood.

BTW, some other Ohio "Leaders" whose help has to be suspect:

Carl H. Linder
W.R. Timken, Jr
Robert T. Bennett
Ron Beshear
David L. Berman
Douglas E. Corn
Walden W. O'Dell
M. Keith Weikel, PhD

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