Friday, April 22


Colbert King is fighting mad about the "hijacking of Christianity" by the "religious right." I feel the same way, yet I know I shouldn't be, as it is simply one more Biblical prophecy being confirmed in our day.

I am a committed Christian, an evangelical, fundamentalist Christian, if you want the specifics. I am also a lifelong progressive Democrat, a political position determined by my Christian beliefs. I remember my conservative mother saying often in my youth, "D----- is left-wing, but I don't worry about it because I know it's driven by her religious convictions."

In one of the most outrageous smears to be uttered by a so-called religious leader, Perkins said that "activist courts, aided by liberal interest groups . . . have been quietly working under the veil of the judiciary, like thieves in the night, to rob us of our Christian heritage and our religious freedoms." That is an unmitigated lie that should not be allowed to stand.

Which judges are out to rob Christians of their heritage? That is religious McCarthyism. Perkins should name them, provide evidence of their attempted theft of "our Christian heritage" or retract that statement with an apology. Don't count on that happening.

Angered by Democratic opposition to some of President Bush's judicial nominees, Perkins's group has also put out a flier charging that "the filibuster . . . is being used against people of faith." To suggest Democrats are out to get "people of faith" is despicable demagoguery that the truly faithful ought to rise up and reject.
Where do those on the religious right get off thinking they have the right to decide who is in and who is out? Who appointed them sole promoters and defenders of the faith? What makes them think they are more holy and righteous than the rest of us?

They are not now and never will be the final arbiters of Christian beliefs and values. They warrant as much deference as religious leaders as do members of the Ku Klux Klan, who also marched under the cross.

They should be resisted, not pandered to by politicians.
The Bergen Record in Hackensack, N.J., editorialized that the attempt by the Christian right to dominate all three branches of government "has to frighten anyone who is not a Christian conservative. It should frighten us all." Baloney. It should make us mad. Fighting mad.

The fact is, the Bible warns us against people who will use Scriptures selectively and cynically to achieve their own earthly ends (Matthew 7:15-23, Matthew 24:11, 2 Timothy 4:3-4). Even if you are a Christian, as am I, you should weigh (1 Corinthians 14) the words of any man who professes to speak for the Lord by the Scriptures. Fundamentalist Christianity is fundamentally a Gospel of love, tolerance, and sacrifice, a calling to emulate the actions and teachings of Jesus Christ, a spirit not actively demonstrated by the "religious right."

Law professor Marci Hamilton addresses the issue of "activist anti-Christian judges":

Absurdly, Frist and his fellows charge that the Democrats are "anti-religion" -- despite the fact that the vast majority of them are in fact also people of faith. The issue plainly isn't really religion, per se; virtually everyone in this debate is religious. The issue, it appears, is the wish to control public policy from a narrow religious perch.

What upsets the "People of Faith" -- and the Republican party for now -- is not the lie that Democrats are anti-religion; they plainly are not. It is the truth that the courts have not followed the far right's own political and religious dictates. But if the far right is upset with this, that simply means it is upset with the Constitution. Indeed, its discomfiture goes well beyond specific constitutional issues to the very bedrock of American liberty and constitutionalism -- it is attacking the separation of powers and the rule of law.
The Republicans' claim that people of faith have been rejected because of their faith is simply factually false. The reasons for rejection have ranged from political world views, to an inclination to impose religious beliefs on secular law, to advocacy of the diminution of civil rights, and more. And all of these reasons have been made quite public.

Essentially, the far right ring of the Republican party that now controls the Bush White House is interested in appointing as many activist judges as it can to overturn Roe v. Wade, Lawrence v. Texas, and those decisions under the Religion Clauses -- the Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause -- that have rightly precluded religious conservatives from dominating the schools, the courthouses, and public grounds. Inclusion is a right, but domination and coercion are Establishment Clause violations, and ones that often inhibit the Free Exercise rights of others.

As should be obvious by now, "activism" is a code word for results not desired by the speaker.
Even if politics must define the Supreme Court -- and the truth is, law defines it far more -- then today's name-calling by both the far left and the far right misses the mark. This Court is, in fact, a Goldwater and a Reagan Republican Court.

The Goldwater Republicans, embodied by Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, believed in individual rights, separation of church and state, and federalism. No wonder, then, that they believe that no single religious viewpoint should determine whether a woman could obtain an abortion.

Meanwhile, the Reagan Republicans were united under a single banner of smaller government (which translates into states' rights, or federalism).
Consider judicial nominations. Plainly, the right solution is the moderate one -- and the commonsensical one as well. It is patently obvious that excellence and independence of judgment are the only qualities the Administration and the Senate should be seeking in our federal judges, who will serve for decades and face literally thousands of issues. But these qualities are antithetical to the one that is being sought by Frist and DeLay: the willingness to take orders, either from the political branches or a particular religious group.


Thursday, April 21


Posting will be sporadic over the next week. I'll be out of town for most of the next ten days on business that will run late into the evenings on most days.


What's wrong with Texas? With all the problems this state has, now we're spending precious legislative time passing laws to ban gays from serving as foster parents? I want to see a single legislator take in 80 foster kids into THEIR home. And the vote was 135-6, with barely a token opposition from Democrats. Does that say that even Dems in Texas take it for granted that homophobia is the popular and just attitude in the state?

I've got to get out of here. But my other home is Florida, and it's not exactly a great alternative these days. In fact, the two states (both populated with a plethora of Bush worshippers) seem to be increasingly converging in culture and political orientation. If it weren't for our need to be close to the kids, we'd be in Canada tout de suite.


Unconscionable! 42 Democrats in the House voted to repeal the estate tax, putting still more money into the coffers of the uber-wealthy and increasing the deficit. And for what reason?

There was no good policy reason for a Democrat to vote to kill the estate tax outright. (Perhaps some of the 42 felt that opposing the estate tax repeal would bring upon them a barrage of ads claiming they support the "death tax.") Under existing law, the estate tax is scheduled to decrease gradually over the next four years and is then repealed totally in 2010 before returning in full force in 2011. The Republicans came up with this nutty schedule several years ago to keep the cost of their tax cuts within agreed upon budget limits. And they wanted to make Bush's tax cuts look less expensive than they were. But that was obviously a ruse at the time. The GOPers were not interested in truly being fiscally responsible. And this repeal will add, according to the Tax Policy Center, $270 billion to the national debt in the next decade. It also will only benefit a very small number of taxpayers--perhaps about 30,000. This is a sop for the super-rich. Estates smaller than $1.5 million (or $3 million a couple) are now exempt from the tax. And when the House Democrats offered to raise the exemption to $3.5 million--which would exempt all but the top .3 percent of estates--the Republicans said no. They wanted the deepest-pocketed Americans--that is, the heirs of these people--to have more in their pockets.


Bob Herbert pens a poignant and lovely tribute to Marla Ruzicka:

So if you were into stereotyping, you might see her, even admire her, and still miss the fact that in her short life she gave us a stunning example of what it means to function full time, and with all one's energy, at the highest level of humanity.
Her goal was twofold: First, to secure compensation for the relatives of innocent victims who were killed, and for the many thousands of noncombatants who have been wounded or displaced. And, second, to get the U.S. government to establish an office or agency, perhaps within the State Department, to collect data and report on the civilian casualties of war.
She didn't do it for political gain or monetary gain. She did it out of love. I think her legacy will be to forever change the attitude of the U.S. government and the U.S. military on how they deal with collateral damage."

A lovely sentiment, that last paragraph, but with this administration and this military command, I think it's highly unlikely that her personal tragedy will make the slightest difference. The wingnuts are already laughing and rejoicing in the most callous way in her death. At least among progressives, she will be mourned, remembered and honored.

Tuesday, April 19


Xpatriated Texan has a poignant post recalling the Oklahoma City bombing of ten years ago and relating it to the inspired acts of domestic terrorism that have continued to plague our nation.

I remember so vividly that morning. As PR manager of the company that built the Alfred P. Murrah Building, I was alerted very quickly to the disaster. We take so much pride here in the quality of construction we provide; seeing the twisted structure, the death scene of so many innocents, made vividly clear just how much hatred was required to destroy it, spilling over to permanently injure or destroy so many lives. And there's no question in my mind that the vitriolic rhetoric of the Rush Limbaughs contributed to an anti-government atmosphere that has fueled the actions of militias and Eric Rudolphs across the U.S.

It's why, like Xpatriated, I continue to fear that some crazies are going to feel justified by the statements of John Cornyn, Tom DeLay, James Dobson, Sean Hannity et al in committing violence against our duly-appointed judges, decent people just trying to serve their city, state or country the best way they know how. It's bad enough when the talk show wingers speak irresponsibly; when our elected leaders do the same, and on the floor of the Senate, we know we've taken a wrong turn into a dark period of our history. The question is, who has the courage to bring us back into the light?


Eric Alterman is seriously pissed about Time's cover story of Ann Coulter. He calls it "a moral and intellectual scandal and a permanent stain on the reputations of everyone associated with it, most particularly its author, John Cloud." I'm in total agreement and have canceled my subscription with a note to the Circulation Editor protesting the Coulter story and the flack journalism it demonstrates.

Time’s cover story/whitewash of Ann Coulter, here, will make it impossible for serious people to accept what the magazine reports at face-value ever again. It is as if Time had contracted a journalistic venereal disease from Rush Limbaugh and Bill O’Reilly and is now seeking to lower itself to their level in pursuit of their ideologically-obsessed audiences.

Eric goes on to say that he specifically pointed one of the researchers of the story to a number of available resources that should have been a check to Cloud's sloppy reporting. Evidently the writer lazily relied on a simple Google search and didn't even read many of those search results.

We have got to start holding editors responsible for their reporters' shoddy journalism. They are the ones who select and pass on stories and should be the gatekeepers for their publications, not just rubber stamps for reporters. I have more trouble getting a story printed in a company news release or internal newsletter than the Elizabeth Bumillers, Judith Millers and John Clouds of the world have getting published in major media outlets. Upwards of 20 people review every word I write; every assertion, every fact is checked and rechecked, challenged and defended, before a word goes out.


To understand how critical the next appointments to the Supreme Court will be to our nation's future, you must read this comprehensive article on the "Constitution In Exile" movement. Just a whiff:

As Sunstein, who describes himself as a moderate, recently explained to me, success, as the movement defines it, would mean that ''many decisions of the Federal Communications Commission, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and possibly the National Labor Relations Board would be unconstitutional. It would mean that the Social Security Act would not only be under political but also constitutional stress. Many of the Constitution in Exile people think there can't be independent regulatory commissions, so the Security and Exchange Commission and maybe even the Federal Reserve would be in trouble. Some applications of the Endangered Species Act and Clean Water Act would be struck down as beyond Congress's commerce power.'' In what Sunstein described as the ''extreme nightmare scenario,'' the right of individuals to freedom of contract would be so vigorously interpreted that minimum-wage and maximum-hour laws would also be jeopardized.

Judge Clarence Thomas is a prominent proponent of the movement.


Another big boon for the drug companies, sponsored by your friendly "anti-drug" Bush administration at the expense of our teenaged children.


Among other Bush administration policies, our steps toward increasing our nuclear arsenal are endangering the whole of mankind.

A high-level U.N. panel recently warned: "We are approaching a point at which the erosion of the Non-Proliferation regime could become irreversible and result in a cascade of proliferation." It is truly shocking that the public seems oblivious to the 34,000 nuclear weapons still in existence, most of them with an explosive power several times greater than the bombs that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The NPT was obtained through a bargain, with the nuclear-weapons states agreeing to negotiate the elimination of their nuclear weapons and share nuclear technology for peaceful purposes in return for the non-nuclear states shunning the acquisition of nuclear weapons.

Adherence to that bargain enabled the indefinite extension of the treaty in 1995 and the achievement of an "unequivocal undertaking" in 2000 toward elimination through a program of 13 Practical Steps.

Now the United States is rejecting the commitments of 2000 and premising its aggressive diplomacy on the assertion that the problem of the NPT lies not in the nuclear-weapons states' own actions, but in the lack of compliance by states such as North Korea and Iran.

Brazil has put the issue in a nutshell: "One cannot worship at the altar of nuclear weapons and raise heresy charges against those who want to join the sect.

As the Union of Concerned Scientists says, "Despite the end of the Cold War more than a decade ago, US nuclear weapons policy remains mired in Cold War thinking. The Clinton administration ignored its historic opportunity to reverse decades of dangerous and provocative nuclear weapons planning, and in its 2001 Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), the Bush administration has taken steps backwards by increasing the roles for nuclear weapons in US policy... The Bush NPR calls for the development of new, more “usable” nuclear weapons; for the preemptive use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapon states; and for reducing the time required for the United States to resume nuclear weapons testing."

In this last-year article in Slate, Fred Kaplan wrote, "There is no nuclear arms race going on now. The world no longer offers many suitable nuclear targets. President Bush is trying to persuade other nations—especially "rogue regimes"—to forgo their nuclear ambitions. Yet he is shoveling money to U.S. nuclear weapons laboratories as if the Soviet Union still existed and the Cold War still raged."

And don't forget, that Cold War Soviet expert, Condo-LIES-a Rice, is now our Secretary of State. Gee, we've been setting such a GOOD example for the nations of the world under Bush, haven't we? Chant along with me now the old mantra, "No more nukes! No more nukes!"

Monday, April 18


(with apologies to Barry McGuire)

Our trade imbalance, it is exploding,
The deficit alone is just too big for toting,
Our foreign affairs are just more war and goading
I’m telling you, friends, I feel a grim foreboding
But this is what we get for too few Dems a-voting,
And I tell you, over and over I see a fearsome trend
I believe could lead to American destruction.

Don’t you understand what I’m trying to say?
If the Bush administration keeps getting its way
The conservative wingnuts will lead us astray
Their idea of greatness is Bush and DeLay
And future generations will view with dismay
And I tell you, over and over I see a fearsome trend
I believe could lead to American destruction.

Tax cuts for the wealthy and not for working,
The need for decent healthcare, they’re all for shirking,
Our sacred Constitution, they’re now reworking,
And just outside your bedroom, James Dobson’s lurking,
And all the time I picture Dick and Georgie smirking,
And I tell you, over and over I see a fearsome trend
I believe could lead to American destruction.

Our way of life, it is disappearing,
Our politicians live for electioneering,
Their legislation looks more like racketeering,
The poor and middle classes cry, but they’re not hearing,
The end of progress is what Rethugs are cheering.
And I tell you, over and over I see a fearsome trend
I believe could lead to American destruction.


Democracy for America is asking for suggestions for an anti-Tom DeLay billboard. Submit slogans here.

If you could say something—in a big way—to the people of Congressman Tom DeLay's district in Texas, what would it be?

We're looking for a slogan—something short, something memorable, and something that lets the people of his district know that it's time for him to go.

We're buying billboards in the 22nd Congressional District, and if your slogan is selected, it will be part of Democracy for America's big splash in Tom DeLay's backyard.

What message do you want to send?


From Eugene Oregon at Demagogue, A Point Worth Repeating.

If any group of people ought to be upset about Republican allegations that Democrats are preventing people of faith from being confirmed as judges, it ought to be those judges who have already been confirmed.


I can't believe that the major press outlets continue to feature the ravings of the disgusting Ann Coulter. Now Time has her on its cover. The cable news networks regularly give her air time, lending a credibility to her fascist rants and increasing her popularity among the wingnuts. In lieu of the fact that most of Time's on-line readers responded to the poll question "Does Ann Coulter make a positive contribution to American political culture?" with a resounding "No!" (78%; 21% said Yes, 1.4% Don't Know), I would think that a rash of subscription-cancellations might send a message to the magazine's management. I myself am a long-time subscriber, both on-line and print, and I'm willing to join a boycott of the "We don't read Wynand" campaign in Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead sort if that's what it takes to make the mainstream media get it that they're doing a disservice to the American debate. A few nuggets from Coulter:

I think we ought to nuke North Korea right now just to give the rest of the world a warning. Boom!...They're a major threat. I just think it would be fun to nuke them and have it be a warning to...the world. -- Speaking to a New York Observer reporter in January 2005

Press passes can't be that hard to come by if the White House allows that old Arab Helen Thomas to sit within yards of the President. -- In her Feb. 23 column

We need to execute people like John Walker [Lindh] in order to physically intimidate liberals. -- From a 2002 speech

There are a lot of bad Republicans; there are no good Democrats. -- From CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight, July 21, 2003

Whether they are defending the Soviet Union or bleating for Saddam Hussein, liberals are always against America. They are either traitors or idiots... -- From her best-selling 2003 book Treason

We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity. We weren't punctilious about locating and punishing only Hitler and his top officers. We carpet-bombed German cities; we killed civilians. That's war. And this is war. -- From National Review Online

Liberals become indignant when you question their patriotism, but simultaneously work overtime to give terrorists a cushion for the next attack and laugh at dumb Americans who love their country and hate the enemy. -- July 3, 2002 essay

My only regret with Timothy McVeigh is he did not go to the New York Times Building. -- As quoted in the New York Observer, Aug. 20, 2000

RE: McVeigh quote.  Of course I regret it.  I should have added, "after everyone had left the building except the editors and reporters." -- From an interview with Right Wing News


William Raspberry on the dangerous effects of Fox News:

For the Foxidation process to work, it isn't necessary to convince Americans that the verbal ruffians who give FNC its crackle have a corner on the truth -- only that all of us in the news business are grinding our partisan axes all the time and that none of us deserves to be taken seriously as seekers of truth.

This is huge. As a friend remarked recently, time was when if you found it in the New York Times, that settled the bar bet and the other guy paid off. But if the Times and The Post or any other mainstream news outlet -- including the major networks -- come to be seen as the left-of-center counterparts of Fox News Channel, why would anyone accept them as authoritative sources of truth?

What is at risk is not a reputation for infallibility; everyone knows that even the best newspapers and most careful broadcasters make mistakes. But it has been generally accepted that the mainstream media at least try to get it right -- even when they too grudgingly acknowledge their errors after the fact.

What worries me is that journalism could become a battlefield of warring biases: I'll sock it to your guy, your party or your position on a public issue, and you'll sock it to mine. And we'll both believe we've done a good day's work. Come to think of it, a review of the stories on Social Security suggests that it is already happening to some extent. And one result is that you are less sure than you ought to be as to what the truth about Social Security really is.


Bob Herbert has a great op-ed in today's NY Times comparing FDR's last State of the Union speech with the public policies of the Republican leadership since Nixon's ascendancy. Read the whole thing.

Roosevelt was far from a perfect president, but he gave hope and a sense of the possible to a nation in dire need. And he famously warned against giving in to fear.

The nation is now in the hands of leaders who are experts at exploiting fear, and indifferent to the needs and hopes, even the suffering, of ordinary people.

"The test of our progress," said Roosevelt, "is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little."

Sixty years after his death we should be raising a toast to F.D.R. and his progressive ideas. And we should take that opportunity to ask: How in the world did we allow ourselves to get from there to here?


Darrell Ankarlo (Dallas talk radio KLIF) was ranting this morning about "activist judges" who somehow he holds responsible for the murders/sexual crimes against children such as Jessica Lunceford, Polly Klaass, and a more recent case I hadn't heard about yet (I think the killer's name was something like David Onstad), the strangulation murder of a 13-year-old girl in Ruskin, Florida.

I'm not familiar with the role of the judges in these cases, but it's clear that the wingnuts are willing and anxious to lay the blame for every kind of crime at the feet of the judiciary in order to fuel their campaign against it. One of Darrell's main points was pro-death penalty, anti-appeals process, so I suspect he's making a connection with prior judicial rulings against some states' death penalties as being "cruel and unusual punishment" as support for his contention that we should "fry and sizzle more of these guys" to deter further murders. Of course, those states who chose to went back and rewrote their death penalty legislation so it could pass muster with the courts.

I fear it's coming -- more violence against judges. And those who are building the pyre are going to have to assume responsibility for the flames.

UPDATE: OK, the guy's name was David Onstott and his victim was Sarah Lunde. No mention of how any judge was "responsible."