May 252009
 

I continue to be baffled by the arguments in favor of torture, and the justifications that are made for America’s use of torture. Darth Cheney claims that it “kept us safe” by providing actionable intelligence allowing the U.S. to subvert terrorists plots. We know this to be untrue…in some cases, it had just the opposite effect.

Newt Gingrich is claiming it was all OK because Nancy Pelosi was briefed on it. Well, there is no provision in the Constitution that says a law can be circumvented by briefing someone in Congress.

The subversion of the Constitution and the rule of law should be troubling to every American, but I think I am most disturbed by our behavior from my moral and Christian perspective.

When we get people who are more concerned about reading the rights to an Al Qaida terrorist than they are with protecting the United States against people who are absolutely committed to do anything they can to kill Americans, then I worry…. These are evil people. And we’re not going to win this fight by turning the other cheek. –Former Vice President Dick Cheney, February 4, 2009

But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you. –Jesus, Luke 6:27-31.

These two opposing statements by former Vice-President Dick Cheney and Jesus Christ bring into sharp focus the contradictions of being a country that simultaneously lays claim to Judeo Christian values while going to any lengths to protect and preserve the American empire – including torture. What does the practice of torture by our government say about those of us who are American Christians?

The great biblical evangelists Paul and Steven were tortured, but continued to profess what they believe. They never used violence or coercion to spread the faith; rather people came to Jesus in part because of the non-violent Christian witness of the early members.

And lest we forget, it was Jesus who was himself tortured and killed. Early Christians espoused love in the face of hate, generosity in the face of theft, blessings for curses, and turning the cheek in the face of violence. They did this not out of weakness, but out of strength.

George Bush and other professing Christians succumbed to the temptation of perceived expediency to employ torture in order to try to create the non-existent link between Iraq and Al Qaeda. Dick Cheney says “these are evil people” as a way to justify torture. But Christians have dealt with evil people before and Jesus taught us explicitly that evil is never overcome by evil; it is over come by Good. Plus, Jesus’ words in Luke 6 – Do unto others as you would have them do unto you – have a chilling resonance when it comes to torture.

Torture PhotoA recent Pew Center survey indicates that the more a person attends church, the more supportive they tend to be of torture as practiced by the U.S. Government.1 This raises a very serious crisis of faith within my soul, and it makes me fear for the very soul of my country. I fear what is to become of us and our Republic.

Over two years ago I spent time begging the Methodist Episcopacy to condemn American torture. Only five Bishops cared enough to call on Bush to halt the practice of torture.2345 The more one attends church, the greater should be the outrage when one reads comments like Cheney’s. Loyalty to a political cause should not triumph belief in human rights.

Sadly the new century seems to have changed our belief that we should be that “shining city on a hill” Regean talked about. We now consider the Constitution and the Geneva Conventions to be quaint and outdated. Defending the abuses by party leaders like Bush, Cheney and their henchmen have become more important that defending the basic human rights we claim to live by. And the media’s lack of calling people out for their hypocrisy has made the situation even worse. Continue reading »


  1. Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, April 29, 2009: More than half of people who attend services at least once a week — 54 percent — said the use of torture against suspected terrorists is “often” or “sometimes” justified. 

  2. John Masters, “Resolutions By The United Methodist Council of Bishops,” Deep Sand, May 13, 2005 

  3. John Masters, “Another Letter to the U.M. Bishops on Torture,” Deep Sand, June 13, 2005 

  4. John Masters, “Here I Go Again,” Deep Sand, June 16, 2005 

  5. John Masters, “Once Again A Call to Methodist Bishops to Denounce Torture,” Deep Sand, Sept. 28, 2005. 

W. – A Movie Review

 Culture, Movies, Politics, Presidency  Comments Off on W. – A Movie Review
Feb 232009
 

W Movie PosterW. takes viewers through Bush’s eventful life — his struggles and triumphs, how he found both his wife and his faith, and of course the critical days leading up to Bush’s decision to invade Iraq.

Genres: Comedy, Drama, Biopic and Politics/Religion; Running Time: 2 hrs. 11 min.; Release Date: October 17th, 2008 (wide); MPAA Rating: PG-13 for language including sexual references, some alcohol abuse, smoking and brief disturbing war images.

Starring: Josh Brolin, Elizabeth Banks, James Cromwell, Ellen Burstyn, Thandie Newton

Directed by: Oliver Stone

Produced by: Elliot Ferwerda, Albert Yeung, Matthew Street

Lay and I watched this movie at home on DVD last weekend. It was more interesting than I expected. The film hopscotches through Bush’s life in an effort to compile all the seminal moments. Because of the number of “events” the film attempts to chronicle, this just all happens too fast.

Brolin, though he doesn’t look that much like W., creates a memorable character that might be W. with vitality in his certitude and confusion. The same goes for Cromwell, playing H.W. Bush,  who catches the patient, patrician nature of a family scion. Richard Dreyfuss is scary good as a Machiavellian Cheney. Wright’s Powell and Toby Jones’ Karl Rove are dead-on. Yet Glenn doesn’t quite get the smugness of the former secretary of defense. Ellen Burstyn doesn’t seem to know what to do with Barbara Bush, but has only one or two minor appearances.

We come into the story with a bull session in the Oval Office with speechwriters and top advisers that produced W.’s “Axis of Evil” speech about Iran, Iraq and North Korea.Here we are introduced to  Brolin as W., Dreyfuss’ as a dark  Dick Cheney lurking in the corner, Thandie Newton’s Condoleezza Rice, Scott Glenn’s Donald Rumsfeld and Jeffrey Wright’s Colin Powell. They all hit their parts well as they act, bluster and argue just like we thought they would — only they seem like figures in a wax museum. As one reviewer put it, “It comes perilously close to a Saturday Night Live sketch.”

A critic for the Hollywood Reporter wrote:

“W.” is not really a political movie per se; rather, it’s a movie about a man who went into politics but probably shouldn’t have. It’s about how a father can misread a son, how a son can suffer in the shadow of a famous dad and how temperament gets molded by events both internal and external.

I loved reading the viewer reviews on Yahoo Movies. Clearly people viewed the movie through the lense of their political persuasion. The user reviews had titles like: “Pointless Leftist Drivel;” “The liberal dumbocrats at it again;” and my personal favorite:

How Dare HE!
I cannot believe that a man would openly mock a sitting president, and a christian one at that!!!

Stone put up a website listing his sources for the events portrayed in the film, and I thought that W.’s “to-the-manor-born” arrogance came through well enough for me the find the film believable. And if the wingnuts are so up in arms about it, I’m guessing it hits too close to home for them, so I like the politics.

What I would say is that it showcases some decent acting with a mediocre script. It probably want have a lot of historical significance, as it will be many years before the final truth of this man and his administration comes out. Until then, we’ll have to settle for some “truthiness.”

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Jan 212009
 

Dick Cheney showed up at the Inauguration in a wheelchair. The official story was that he’d hurt his back while lifting a box the night before. Seeing him “crippled,” and being wheeled around on his last day as Vice President was a suitable coda to the worst administration in history of America, and while it may not matter anymore, I’m not buying the official story.

First, Dick Cheney may be one of the most arrogant human beings I’ve ever seen. I don’t believe for a minute that he would condescend to lift a box. He had “people” to do the manual labor.

More important though were some unusual looking things in the few quick shots I saw of him. Cheney never didn’t have that arrogant snear on his face, but yesterday it wasn’t there. His head was somewhat slumped over, and he was withdrawn. I didn’t see him interact with anyone. The lady pushing him the entire time didn’t look like she was a family member, and she had this bulky backpack on the entire time. I believe she was a nurse or doctor, and the backpack included medical equipment.

I think Cheney had either a cardiac event or some sort of vascular disruption Monday, and they didn’t want admit it.

I have no proof, but I also have absolutely no reason to believe any story put out by the Bush Administration, and my eyes and intuition tell me something else.

God Makes It Up to John McCain

 Congress, Election, Politics, Presidency  Comments Off on God Makes It Up to John McCain
Sep 022008
 

Apparently some of the krazy kristian kooks had been praying for, and asking others to pray for, rain in Denver during Obama’s acceptance speech. Obviously it didn’t happen, and the Democrats had a perfect evening, so clearly our Republican God was asleep at the switch. But, just when the fundies were about to lose faith, God made it up to them and sent a hurricane to save the day.

Apparently, must to the relief of the McCain campaign, Gustav’s arrival on the Gulf Coast gave Bush and Cheney an excuse to not attend the Republican National Convention. What a world it’s become when it’s seen as a blessing when the sitting President won’t be attending his Party’s national convention.

The Dems brought Bill Clinton back for another if his outstanding speeches.

Of course the storm in Louisiana didn’t deter the Republicans from soaking up the hospitality of the Washington Lobbyists. Watch the report below.

Sep 012008
 

I am a huge fan of Lewis Black. His stand-up routines and commentaries on the Daily Show almost always evoke a laugh-out-loud reaction from me. One night last week I watched, for a second time, a Comedy Central showing of Black on stage in Washington, D.C. In response to Bush’s comments about Evolution that, “the jury is still out,” Black does a routine about the Old Testament. As is always the case with the best comedy, it made me think about me think about things from a different perspective…about how we Christians use the Old Testament to discriminate against gay people.

Black talks about the first books of the Bible being the book of his people, the Jewish people. He proceeds to make fun of Christians deciding the Old Testament wasn’t good enough, and having to come up with our own book…calling ours “New,” and his “Old.” It really gets funny when he talks about how, despite having to have our own book, Black says, “Yet every Sunday I turn on the TV set, and there’s a priest or pastor reading from my book, and interpreting it. And their interpretations, I have to tell you, are usually wrong. It’s not their fault, ’cause it’s not their book. You never see a Rabbi on TV interpreting the New Testament…do you?”

He notes that if there’s something about the Old Testament we don’t understand, there are Jews who walk among us we can ask. Now Black is making a point about the Creation story, but I find his logic applicable to other areas, such as the religious conservative view of homosexuality. Remember that most of the scripture cited by the krazy kristian kooks to justify their bigotry against gay people comes from the Old Testament. Of course, for the most part, the books of the Christian Old Testament constitute the Jewish Torah.

Black is correct that this is “his book,” and, while I understand there are very conservative orthodox Jews who also believe homosexuality is wrong, all the Jewish people I know have no problem at all with homosexuality. Funny, isn’t it, that most of the passages used to endorse homophobia come from the Old Testament, but the Jewish people…the people of “the Old Testament”…are the ones that seem to have the least aversion to homosexuals. Maybe we Christians should take Black’s advice to seek out the Jews among us, and have them interpret the Old Testament for us.

The Price Paid for Power

 Election, Featured, Politics, Presidency, Religion, Right Wingnuts  Comments Off on The Price Paid for Power
Aug 212008
 

John McCain’s military service deserves the thanks and respect of the American people, especially given his time spent as a POW in Vietnam. However, the over-use of this status for political gain becomes laughable after a while, and erodes the respect with which it should be treated. It seems to be used by his surrogates to explain everything.

The other day McCain was asked about how many houses he owns (I plan to write more about this later), and he stumbled, and could not remember. As it turns out, it’s either seven or eight…no one else seems quite sure either.  It took less than 24 hours for for a McCain spokesperson to invoke the POW status to explain away the housing gaffe. Brian Rogers told the Washington Post, “This is a guy who lived in one house for five and a half years — in prison.”

Recently at the Saddleback interviews (where McCain received Rick Warren’s questions in advance), McCain told a story about his time as a POW when a guard came to him at Christmas time and quietly used his sandal to draw a cross on the dirt floor. It was certainly a moving story, but what exactly it says about McCain I can’t quite figure out. It seems to me to say more about that guard…but the krazy kristian kooks love it. Anyway, like some of Dick Cheney’s story, it might have been borrowed.

Let’s look at the timeline. McCain came back from Vietnam in 1973, and shortly after that wrote a 12,000 word story published in U.S. News and World Report, but never mentions this incident. In 1999, McCain writes about it as his story in his book, Faith of Our Fathers. But in 2000 he talks about the story, but says it was another prisoner.

OK, so just strike it up to his age (or his previous status as a POW). Except that story appeared in the book, The Gulag Archipelago, by recently deceased Alexandrja Solzhenitsyn and published in the west in 1973. Did the same thing happen to McCain? Certainly could have, but it could have also come from a distant memory in a ghost writer’s brain…especially since McCain attributed it to someone else himself.  Continue reading »

Trading Places-The Karl Rove Wager

 Election, Featured, Politics  Comments Off on Trading Places-The Karl Rove Wager
Aug 152008
 

Back in the early ’80s, a movie was released staring Dan Akroyd and Eddie Murphy called Trading Places. Two characters in the movie, Mortimer and Randolph Duke (played by Ralph Bellamy and Don Ameche) are wealthy commodity brokers who argue constantly over social issues, and enjoy a small wager from time to time. Akroyd plays the wealthy trader for their firm, Louis Winthrope, III, and Murphy plays a down out scam artist/street person, Billy Ray Valentine.

The $5 wager between the Mortimer brothers is that if they put the Pryor character into the right situation, he’ll rise to his new circumstances, and behave like a well-bread, educated wealthy person. On the flip side, if Winthrope has all the trappings of wealth and influence removed from him, he’ll quickly resort to a life of crime and scamming. In the end, the joke was on the Duke brothers, as Winthrope and Valentine came together to not only financially destroy the Dukes, but become rich themselves.

Most recently, I’ve been thinking about the hateful politics of personal destruction created by Jesse Helms, and perfected most recently by Karl Rove. It took no time for the Republican machine to come out with a Swiftboat book about Obama. The race is being subtly played. Make no mistake, Rove is pulling strings in the background.

I was realizing how ineffective America now is on the world stage in regards to Russia’s move into Georgia as we try to self-righteously claim they have no right to move into a sovereign country. I see what a terrible state America is in now in almost every aspect thanks to Bush/Cheney regime.

2008 by Reuters

2008 by Reuters

I suddenly had a vision of Rove sitting around a hotel bar in some remote town on a campaign swing. He’s chatting with some political operative from the opposing candidate, and they’re each trying to one-up the other with tales of their personal daring-do. Finally, Karl looks across the table and plays the wildest card of all. He says to the other person, “Tell you what…I think I’m so fucking good, I’ll bet you five dollars I can get the dumbest man in America elected President.” The other person accepts the bet.

GUESS WHO WON?

In this case, the joke’s on us. Cheney and his crony’s are getting rich, and the rest of America is going bankrupt…financially, ethically, and morally.

Election Roundup for 08-07-2008

 Congress, Corruption, Election, Politics  Comments Off on Election Roundup for 08-07-2008
Aug 072008
 

I thought I’d consider a single post to provide my observations on the election shenanigans.

McCain’s still getting pretty much a free pass from the media, but I hope it won’t last. He’s flip flopped on the Bush tax cuts, offshore drilling, campaign finance, immigration reform, the religious right, negative campaigning, torture, etc., etc., How is it possible for anyone to go on television and say that McCain is still the “maverick” of the 2000 election. Perhaps his adoring fans in the media are just having a tough time coming to grips with the fact that their old buddy is no longer recognizable.

Then there is a little issue with a Charlie Crist/John McCain campaign contributer/bundler. McClatchy is reporting:

Alice Rocchio is an office manager at the New York headquarters of the Hess Corp., drives a 1993 Chevy Cavalier and lives in an apartment in Queens, N.Y., with her husband, Pasquale, an Amtrak foreman.

Despite what appears to be a middle-class lifestyle, the couple has written $61,600 in checks to John McCain’s presidential campaign and the Republican National Committee, most of it within days of McCain’s decision to endorse offshore oil drilling.

A former FEC official said that it’s possible that the Rocchios had the means to make those hefty contributions – their first reported donations to a federal campaign. But the official, who declined to be identified because of the sensitivity of the matter, said that their donations also could trigger a complaint or otherwise catch the eyes of the agency’s enforcement staff, tasked to ensure that companies or wealthy individuals don’t illegally circumvent contribution limits by using employees or other third parties as “conduits” for cash.

And it looks like there are some other questionable “donor’s” along with this couple. McCain’s been fast and loose with the election laws, but it looks like this story might get some legs. There are a lot of people involved.

The McCain campaign has managed to push around the Obama camp, and many Democrats are getting concerned. They believe Obama is not fighting back hard enough, and I tend to agree with that. The guy has ideas, but unfortunately, Presidential campaigns are no longer about ideas…they’re about mudslinging…and the Republicans have that down to an art.

Speaking of Good-Time Charlie Crist, Mr. “I’m a live and let live kinda guy,” is apparently still campaigning to be McCain’s running mate. He’s quickly gone from opposing off-shore drilling to being in favor of it, and he’s gone from taking no position on Florida’s Anti-Gay Marriage Amendment to being in favor of the amendment. As we’ve noted previously, despite his life-long status as a  bachelor, it appears he’s now also found a girl toy and gotten engaged (can you say Fag Hag?). I actually had some respect for the guy at one time, but that’s all blown away now.

I also find it interesting that a whole bunch of Republican Candidates in tight races are saying they just don’t have time to make it to the Republican Convention. They all seem to have scheduling conflicts. That’s completely understandable with such short notice given on the dates for the convention. (snark) It appears they’re not even sure if George and Dick will make an appearance. Of course McCain has an ad out now attacking Bush and saying that Washington is broken. I’m sure he’d prefer it if the current administration stayed home. I wonder if they’ve told him yet that they aren’t leaving office regardless?

Jul 042008
 

Today is a day or ironies. George Bush is visiting Thomas Jefferson’s beloved Monticello on this the 232nd anniversary of our declaration of independence from a king named George. As Jefferson warned that Americans would have to be ever on their guard against those who might turn the presidency into the tool of their “elected despotism,” I doubt he would be greeting Bush.

We live in a time where the very freedoms bought at so great a price by the founding fathers are being left in shreds. Dick Cheney has successfully convinced Americans they are safer with a “unitary executive.” How have American’s bought into this lie? This is the thing the founders were most interested in guarding against.

We have become a country comfortable with torture, willing to accept indefinite detention of both Citizens and non-citizens without benefit of habeas corpus, and we have come to believe we can trade our freedoms for security. We now have neither.

In another ironic twist, Jesse Helms, 86 year old retired Senator from North Carolina died today. All the pundits will take to the airwaves to talk of how Jesse Helms was a great American…a real patriot. Jesse Helms was neither, and will be someday acknowledged as the father of divisive politics in America. It is from Helms that political operatives learned how to use scapegoats and fear mongering to turn Americans against some enemy (even themselves) in order to further their own political aims.

Karl Rove perfected the technique, but Jesse Helms is the man who developed it. When the Soviet Union fell and Helms lost his primary enemy, he learned he could create an inside threat. First, it was gay people in general, then, as manna from God came AIDS, and Jesse could attack Gays as public health enemies who deserved what they got. Despite what you will read and hear, on this 4th of July, America lost not a patriot, but one of it’s greatest enemies.

Some find hope in the Obama candidacy. I hope it sparks a renewal of the American Spirit, but great damage has been done, and it will take much to reverse the decline of the great American Experiment. I hope he can inspire an American renewal, but my enthusiasm is tempered.

On this day when we pause to consider Patriotism, I find it being attacked on all sides. The first great precept of Patriotism is the right and obligation to question the leaders of government. The current government insists that to question them is to be unpatriotic. We squabble over what a person wears on his lapel, but I tell you that those who demand these superfluous shows are usually the least patriotic, but we take up their cause with enthusiasm.

Patriotism, true patriotism, is not found in a lapel pin, but in the soul. I find patriotism in the trembling hands of an American Veteran wearing his American Legion hat and proudly raising his hand in salute during the Presentation of The Colors. I know patriotism when I feel that chill run up my spine as I look at the flag flying in the mountain breeze against a brilliantly blue North Carolina sky while the ASU Marching Band plays the National Anthem. I see patriotism in the people who write their representatives and demand better from them.

On this day when we celebrate patriotism, I try to maintain hope, knowing it’s easier for me than for those founders 230 years ago as they took those tentative steps towards a brave new form of self-government. But we have traveled a long way from those innovative thoughts. Perhaps this generation doesn’t have the courage or strength for self-government, but I will continue to hope, I will continue to do what little I can, and I invite you to demand a return to the found ideals of America. The served us well for the first 200 years.

Darwin on Today's Economy

 Business, Congress, Corruption, Featured, Places, Politics, Presidency, Society, Tampa  Comments Off on Darwin on Today's Economy
Apr 102008
 

Reuters has a report from The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and Economic Policy Institute showing that, “Since the late 1990’s average incomes have declined 2.5 percent for families on the bottom fifth of the country’s economic ladder, while incomes have increased 9.1 percent for families on the top fifth.” The report goes on to say that middle class hasn’t fared very well either, as income for the middle class has grown only 1.3 percent in nearly eight years.

“The report’s bottom line is that since the late 1980’s income gaps widened in 37 states and have not narrowed in any states,” said Jared Bernstein, one of the report’s authors. “In fact, we’ve found that the trend toward growing inequality has accelerated during this decade.” Continue reading »