Saturday, July 22


Some Baptist colleges and universities are seeking independence from the Southern Baptist Convention. As the national Convention (and its state affiliates) has moved increasingly to the right it has exerted more and more control over curricula and faculty.

During The Sage's tenure at Southwest Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, we saw so many fine educators, including president Russell Dilday, pushed out of their positions because the right-wingers insisted that they toe a dogmatic, fundamentalist line that made no provisions for academic freedom or intellectual curiosity.

David W. Key, director of Baptist Studies at the Candler School of Theology at Emory, put it more starkly. "The real underlying issue is that fundamentalism in the Southern Baptist form is incompatible with higher education," Professor Key said. "In fundamentalism, you have all the truths. In education, you're searching for truths."

Hat tip to Dr. Bruce.

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My oldest son, who is a history major, remarked to me the other morning as I was watching coverage of the Middle East crisis on CNN before leaving for work, "This looks to me like Sarajevo in the making."

More and more, I'm beginning to believe he's right.

Wouldn't that just give Bush, Cheney, Rove and Rumsfeld (particularly Cheney) a woody? To be stars in the real-life drama "World War III"? I can just see them waltzing around in Patton's high boots and posing for photos on destroyers.

The sad truth is, I don't think any of those guys relate to FDR or Churchill. I think they identify more with the likes of Mussolini and Kaiser Wilhelm.

I can't help suspecting that Dick Cheney has been harboring for years a regret for his multiple-deferment lack of military service. After all, he's a big strong Wyoming hunt-loving boy who served one legitimate war hero (Bush 41) and was once subordinate to Rummy, who can at least boast that he served. To be successful in a political party that openly worships militarism, Cheney's always seemed to posture as the epitome of the chickenhawk bully, the guy who has to prove he's tougher and meaner than any other SOB on the block.

UPDATE: Digby has insights (when doesn't he?) on the subject:

"In A World Transformed, the memoir that he and Bush senior published in 1998, [Brent] Scowcroft makes it clear that while all Bush senior's top advisers had different perspectives, the fundamental division lay between Defense Secretary Richard Cheney and everyone else. By his account, and by those of others in the administration, Cheney never trusted Gorbachev. In 1989 Cheney maintained that Gorbachev's reforms were largely cosmetic and that, rather than engage with the Soviet leader, the US should stand firm and keep up cold war pressures.

"In September 1991 Cheney argued that the administration should take measures to speed the breakup of the Soviet Union—even at the risk of encouraging violence and incurring long-term Russian hostility. He opposed the idea, which originated with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Colin Powell, that the US should withdraw its tactical nuclear weapons from Europe and South Korea. As a part of the preparations for the Gulf War he asked Powell for a study on how small nuclear weapons might be used against Iraqi troops in the desert."

This is the person who is playing a longer game than the tacticians, not Little Bushie. And he is playing a long game. His sharklike, relentless, predatory concentration on achieving long held goals no matter what the current circumstances is quite awesome to behold. The problem is that he's nuts.

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Friday, July 21


FEMA continues to do a "heckuva job."

Imagine losing your home to Katrina. You feel like your government has let you down. Left with limited options, you're living in a FEMA trailer park, which is on public property. A reporter wants to talk to you about your experiences — but the government tells you that you're not allowed to talk to a journalist without a FEMA representative on hand to monitor what you say.

Asked for an explanation, you're told, "That's just a policy."

Gregg Leslie, legal defense director for the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, said FEMA's refusal to allow trailer-park residents to invite news media into their homes unescorted was unconstitutional.

Hat tip to Demagogue.

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Michael Medved on his radio talk show today gave evidence of one of the most pervasive philosophies in America today: that national patriotism trumps religion, and thus becomes a religion itself.

Medved awarded his "Call of the Day" encomium to a call from an American Muslim, Hasim, who suggested that the Israeli Knesset (or representatives thereof) and the U.S. government open talks with the World Council of Imams to prevent a worldwide call for jihad by the Imams. Medved asked Hasim what he would do if the Imams called for a jihad that demanded Muslims turn on their country and family. Hasim judiciously said he would seek counsel from the Koran to determine if they were correct. But, he said, even if he concluded that it was, he could not say that he would actually be ABLE to fight his nation and his family. Michael asked if such a thing occurred, if it wouldn't make Hasim question the validity of his religion. Hasim demurred, while still maintaining, honestly and humbly, that he didn't know if he would be able to summon the will to do what he was commanded to do.

Medved concluded the segment by insisting that NO Christian or Jew would respond to a so-called call from God to turn on one's nation or family, that such a thing would cause them to deny their faith. He implied that that's the difference between rational believers in Christianity and Judaism as opposed to fanatic believers in Islam.

That's interesting. I can't speak for those of the Jewish faith (I'd have to check with my two Jewish daughters), but I can state with confidence that in the Old Testament God spoke very skeptically about nations and warned his people against demanding an earthly government lest their leaders command their children into serving in wars, etc., advising them to trust in and follow him rather than a secular government. In the New Testament Christ specifically told his followers that their faith would require them to part from their families, and though he offered the oft-quoted and misrepresented, "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's and to God the things that are God's," it is generally acknowledged by Biblical scholars that his meaning was something to the effect of, pay your taxes and obey the laws of the government, but only where they do not conflict with the commandments of God, which always take precedence.

So Michael, as a Christian, it is my conviction that if I believed God was telling me to oppose my nation or my family, it would behoove me to do just that. Like Hasim, the question is whether my faith would be great enough to cause me to actually do it. I guess that makes me no different than any Muslim, huh? So much for your argument, smug Michael.


Expect renewed charges against "activist judges." Judge refuses to dismiss eavesdropping lawsuit against AT&T.

"The compromise between liberty and security remains a difficult one," Walker said. "But dismissing this case at the outset would sacrifice liberty for no apparent enhancement of security."

And in declining to dismiss AT&T Inc. from the lawsuit, filed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation privacy group, Walker suggested the case had some merit. "AT&T cannot seriously contend that a reasonable entity in its position could have believed that the alleged domestic dragnet was legal," he wrote.
The lawsuit challenges President Bush's assertion that he can use his wartime powers to eavesdrop on Americans without a warrant. It accuses AT&T of illegally cooperating with the National Security Agency to make communications on AT&T networks available to the spy agency without warrants.

The government intervened in the case, telling Walker that Bush's surveillance program, adopted after the Sept. 11 terror attacks, is "a secret of the highest order."

Foundation attorney Cindy Cohn said she hoped Walker's order would make it more difficult for Congress to keep lawsuits out of open court. "We're hoping that this will convince members of Congress that the government's attempt to sweep all these cases into a secret court is not appropriate," Cohn said.

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My youngest son called me tonight and asked me to read this, by Robert Fisk.

He didn't realize it, but his dad, The Sage, and I have seen Beirut, the "Paris of the Middle East," destroyed and rebuilt, destroyed and rebuilt several times throughout our lives.

And it will happen again and again in the future. The cycles of violence will continue throughout the region, and the world. There is only one hope for change: that enough individuals will say, "Enough!" and insist that the pursuit of peace be considered at least an equal priority as defense, or war.

That is not going to happen because of governmental dictat, or legislation. It will only happen as a result of men's hearts changing.

The "alien" movies of my youth often had a common theme. Peoples from other planets would come to Earth to take over our planet after being persuaded that the peoples of the earth were about to destroy one another and the world because they couldn't learn to live peaceably with one another. Nothing has changed since then. Weapons of mass destruction continue to be developed and built, not just by rogue states or terrorist movements, but by the greatest national powers, including the U.S. The most powerful men and women in the world continue to find it wiser or more expedient to threaten and counter-threaten their enemies than to co-opt them and convert them to allies.

So I fancy, and so told my thoughtful son, that I really have no hope for the world other than that which my religion provides me -- the belief that if we won't change our ways ourselves and seek the path of peace rather than war, at some point God himself will act as the aliens in old space movies did and intervene at last, taking the choice from us and imposing a new divine world order.

But I am repelled by the wingnut Christianists who rejoice in the horrors we witness as signs presaging the "second coming" of Christ. I find it repulsive that any would find cause for celebration in the deaths of innocents. I am filled with despair at our lack of vision, humanity and courage that would cause us to turn from the failed policies of thousands of years and attempt something new, the very thing ordained by our Lord but ignored by those who profess to follow him: the pursuit of peace.


Thursday, July 20


Stuck at the office catching up on all that landed on my desk while I was on vacation. I was given two new video projects while gone, and my ongoing projects include planning and equipping a soon-to-be constructed broadcast studio for the company. I won't explain another project that is taking huge amounts of my time and attention (other than to note that I spent a minimum of two hours a day while ON MY VACATION dealing with it), but that is the project that has me saying I'm leaving the office before I commit murder or do something else that will cost me my job -- and that wouldn't be a good thing to do on my birthday.

So I'm sending my elder son to Chick-Fil-A to get me some chicken nuggets and will try to spend the rest of the night chilling instead of responding to a single other call relating to work.

Tuesday, July 18


As the mother of five (two sons, three daughters) whose ages are separated, oldest to youngest, by only seven years, I've learned a lot about conflict resolution. Whenever The Sage or I intervene in quarrels or fights, the first words we inevitably hear are, "(S)He started it!" Our response is always along the lines of, "Who's going to end it?"

There are many good reasons for that. Here are just a few of the more obvious ones:

(1) The person who actually threw the first punch is not always really the person who "started it." The punch may be a response to an extreme verbal provocation ("She said my best friend Marsha dressed like a ho!"), a long-suffered injustice ("He always borrows my videos without returning them and you won't do anything about it!"), or a perception that it is a defensive move ("She kept acting like she was going to punch ME!").

(2) Even if the person who "started it" is in the wrong, retaliation could lead to endless counter-punches that escalate into full-fledged violence, which means I lose a child.

(3) Other, innocent, people could get caught and hurt in the crossfire. ("Yow! I was just trying to get to my room!")

(4) One of the children could win the fight only to incite fear or hatred in another child that could lead to future partisan fights ("The one who won was in the wrong! Now I hate my brother and I hate my sister who sided with him!"), creating a full-fledged family war.

(5) We're Christians, which means we believe Jesus knew what he was talking about and we'd be smart to follow his example. He said, "Blessed are the peacemakers," not "Blessed are those who counterstrike." He said, "Turn the other cheek," not "If someone strikes you, hit him back twice as hard." He didn't give any convenient outs or caveats to his commandments, such as if the other person was of another religion or nationality, or seemed like a really bad guy. This might not be relevant to non-Christian families, but since American policy, both domestic and foreign, seems these days to defer to the "Christianists," shouldn't those policies at least consider the wisdom of the first, and definitive, "Christian"?

(6) Taking that example, we're parents (procreators, or pro-creators, which means we've created in partnership with God), and in light of that knowledge ("For God so loved the world...") we've always said, "There are no disposable children." That means, roughly, that whatever the problem, we have to work it out. It's not good enough to say, "You broke the rules, so you're out." Somehow, someway, we have to pursue a solution. (In our religion, that resulted in "That He gave His only begotten son...") Otherwise, what will the children who remain believe? That love is conditional?

How does this relate to the current crisis in the Middle East?

To refer to a cliche, "If you don't understand it, I can't explain."

But for the unenlightened, I will try. Our youngest son had a desperate drug problem when he was a young teen. It caused tremendous conflict with our other children. They resented the resources (time, money, emotional commitment) that were required to help him through that time. He emerged after several years as a bulwark of the family, an excellent scholar, champion athlete, best of all a peacemaker. He is beloved by all, including his siblings.

Imagine what might have happened had he been written off because of past bad acts.

Back to the Middle East analogy: former foes can make excellent allies ... if we talk, if we are committed to the pursuit of peace, if we suffer through the bad times because we believe that the payoffs will be worth it. The short-sighted and militarists will always reap immediate political benefits in such an environment. The visionaries, the statesmen, will defer those because of their belief (dare I call it faith?) in the ultimate, and much greater, benefits of peace.

As a parent who has seen the results of the latter in a familial setting, I opt for the longer, more difficult but more rewarding, road to peace.


Sunday, July 16


Corporate lawyer and former Air Force officer Mikey Weinstein says no way.

Weinstein, 51, was once a White House lawyer who defended the Reagan administration during the Iran-contra investigation. Three generations of his family -- his father, himself, both of his sons and a daughter-in-law -- have gone to U.S. military academies.

Now he's declaring war against what, for him, is an improbable enemy: the defense establishment. He is suing the Air Force in federal court, demanding a permanent injunction against alleged religious favoritism and proselytizing in the service. He has also formed a nonprofit organization, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, to combat what he sees as a concerted effort by evangelical Christian organizations to treat the armed forces as a mission field, ripe for conversions.
Ambassadors for Christ in uniform. To Weinstein, who is both a Jew and a member of a military family, it is an abomination. It "evokes the Crusades." He says he can't believe that generals talk like this when the United States is fighting a global war on terror and trying to win hearts and minds in Muslim countries.

He starts to get riled up -- waving his arms, quoting the Constitution, saying "the Christian right wants people to think that separation of church and state is a myth, like Bigfoot." And then he pauses, something he does not do often.

"Let me make it clear. I would shed my last drop of blood to defend their right to hold that biblical worldview. They are absolutely entitled to believe that Anne Frank is burning in hell along with Dr. Seuss, Gandhi and Einstein," he says. "But I will not accept my government telling me who are the children of the greater God and who are the children of the lesser God. That's the difference. I will not defend -- I will fight them tooth and nail, and lay down a withering field of fire and leave sucking chest wounds -- if they engage the machinery of the state, which is what they're doing."
Since that day, Weinstein says, he has talked with hundreds of present and former cadets and staff at the academy, and has become convinced that the conflict is not between Christians and Jews, but between aggressively evangelical Christians and everybody else.

Weinstein's passion already has shaken the Pentagon. His complaints about the Air Force Academy led last year to congressional hearings, an internal Air Force investigation and new Air Force guidelines on religious tolerance.

The internal inquiry substantiated virtually all of his specific allegations.

Emphasis mine.

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A key Federal Reserve researcher thinks so.

Thank you, George W. Bush, for all the economic confidence you've provided us.

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Same tune, different title.

Former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich says America is in World War III and President Bush should say so. In an interview in Bellevue this morning Gingrich said Bush should call a joint session of Congress the first week of September and talk about global military conflicts in much starker terms than have been heard from the president.

"We need to have the militancy that says 'We're not going to lose a city,' " Gingrich said. He talks about the need to recognize World War III as important for military strategy and political strategy.

Gingrich said he is "very worried" about Republican's facing fall elections and says the party must have the "nerve" to nationalize the elections and make the 2006 campaigns about a liberal Democratic agenda rather than about President Bush's record.

Heavens, yes! Get those voters pumped up about the dangers posed to our nation by gay marriage and a higher minimum wage, and they'll forget all about the fact that Bush and his rubberstamp Republican Congress have led us into a costly, foolhardy adventure in Iraq that has benefited us exactly ZERO, his tax cuts for the uberwealthy have mortgaged our children's future, his tough-guy bluster and policies have contributed greatly to a decline in America's prestige and influence throughout the world and an exponential increase in violence and the threat of violence throughout the globe.

Like Arlen Specter, it is Gingrich's proposed strategy to legitimize Bush's disastrous actions by declaring retroactively that they are a reasonable reaction to a crisis largely created by those same actions.

Frank Rich get it, as he so often does, exactly right:

The Bush doctrine was a doctrine in name only, a sales strategy contrived to dress up the single mission of regime change in Iraq with philosophical grandiosity worthy of F.D.R. There was never any serious intention of militarily pre-empting either Iran or North Korea, whose nuclear ambitions were as naked then as they are now, or of striking the countries that unlike Iraq were major enablers of Islamic terrorism. Axis of Evil was merely a clever brand name from the same sloganeering folks who gave us “compassionate conservatism” and “a uniter, not a divider” — so clever that the wife of a presidential speechwriter, David Frum, sent e-mails around Washington boasting that her husband was the “Axis of Evil” author....

Since then, the administration has fiddled in Iraq while Islamic radicalism has burned brighter and the rest of the Axis of Evil, not to mention Afghanistan and the Middle East, have grown into just the gathering threat that Saddam was not. And there’s still no policy. As Ivo Daalder of the Brookings Institution writes on his foreign-affairs blog, Mr. Bush isn’t pursuing diplomacy in his post-cowboy phase so much as “a foreign policy of empty gestures” consisting of “strong words here; a soothing telephone call and hasty meetings there.” The ambition is not to control events but “to kick the proverbial can down the road — far enough so the next president can deal with it.”

Great new addition to the Democratic lexicon: Bush's "kick-the-can" strategy. Let's start the buzz that will get it into the media consciousness.

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