Sunday, April 15, 2007

Further Proof of the Bush Religious Administration

You want further proof of how the Bush Administration is infiltrating the Religious Right Extremists into our government...at the highest levels within our Justice Department? View the video and read the Op-ed below.

* God bless Bill Maher for reporting on this (click on video link below and take 4 minutes to watch) - http://www.veoh.com/videos/v386320cSz7Mt4c?searchId=1385750823793937407&rank=4

* And God Bless Paul Krugman for reporting on this as well ...(see in bold below) TR

For God’s Sake

By PAUL KRUGMAN Published: April 13, 2007 In 1981, Gary North, a leader of the Christian Reconstructionist movement — the openly theocratic wing of the Christian right — suggested that the movement could achieve power by stealth. “Christians must begin to organize politically within the present party structure,” he wrote, “and they must begin to infiltrate the existing institutional order.”

Today, Regent University, founded by the televangelist Pat Robertson to provide “Christian leadership to change the world,” boasts that it has 150 graduates working in the Bush administration.

Unfortunately for the image of the school, where Mr. Robertson is chancellor and president, the most famous of those graduates is Monica Goodling, a product of the university’s law school. She’s the former top aide to Alberto Gonzales who appears central to the scandal of the fired U.S. attorneys and has declared that she will take the Fifth rather than testify to Congress on the matter.

The infiltration of the federal government by large numbers of people seeking to impose a religious agenda — which is very different from simply being people of faith — is one of the most important stories of the last six years. It’s also a story that tends to go underreported, perhaps because journalists are afraid of sounding like conspiracy theorists.

But this conspiracy is no theory. The official platform of the Texas Republican Party pledges to “dispel the myth of the separation of church and state.” And the Texas Republicans now running the country are doing their best to fulfill that pledge. Kay Cole James, who had extensive connections to the religious right and was the dean of Regent’s government school, was the federal government’s chief personnel officer from 2001 to 2005. (Curious fact: she then took a job with Mitchell Wade, the businessman who bribed Representative Randy “Duke” Cunningham.) And it’s clear that unqualified people were hired throughout the administration because of their religious connections.

For example, The Boston Globe reports on one Regent law school graduate who was interviewed by the Justice Department’s civil rights division. Asked what Supreme Court decision of the past 20 years he most disagreed with, he named the decision to strike down a Texas anti-sodomy law. When he was hired, it was his only job offer. Or consider George Deutsch, the presidential appointee at NASA who told a Web site designer to add the word “theory” after every mention of the Big Bang, to leave open the possibility of “intelligent design by a creator.”

He turned out not to have, as he claimed, a degree from Texas A&M. One measure of just how many Bushies were appointed to promote a religious agenda is how often a Christian right connection surfaces when we learn about a Bush administration scandal.

There’s Ms. Goodling, of course. But did you know that Rachel Paulose, the U.S. attorney in Minnesota — three of whose deputies recently stepped down, reportedly in protest over her management style — is, according to a local news report, in the habit of quoting Bible verses in the office? Or there’s the case of Claude Allen, the presidential aide and former deputy secretary of health and human services, who stepped down after being investigated for petty theft. Most press reports, though they mentioned Mr. Allen’s faith, failed to convey the fact that he built his career as a man of the hard-line Christian right.

And there’s another thing most reporting fails to convey: the sheer extremism of these people. You see, Regent isn’t a religious university the way Loyola or Yeshiva are religious universities. It’s run by someone whose first reaction to 9/11 was to brand it God’s punishment for America’s sins. Two days after the terrorist attacks, Mr. Robertson held a conversation with Jerry Falwell on Mr. Robertson’s TV show “The 700 Club.” Mr. Falwell laid blame for the attack at the feet of “the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians,” not to mention the A.C.L.U. and People for the American Way. “Well, I totally concur,” said Mr. Robertson.

The Bush administration’s implosion clearly represents a setback for the Christian right’s strategy of infiltration. But it would be wildly premature to declare the danger over. This is a movement that has shown great resilience over the years. It will surely find new champions. Next week Rudy Giuliani will be speaking at Regent’s Executive Leadership Series.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Religious Right's Credibility Continues to Lessen

The Religious Right's credibility, support and political 'puppets' are lessening...Frank Rich's op-ed in the NY Times today captures the decline of the Religous Right and its affect on politics. How sweeit it is.

Op-Ed Columnist
Mary Cheney’s Bundle of Joy
By FRANK RICH
Published: December 17, 2006

IT’S not the least of John McCain’s political talents that he comes across as a paragon of straight talk even when he isn’t talking straight. So it was a surprise to see him reduced to near-stammering on ABC’s “This Week” two Sundays after the election. The subject that brought him low was the elephant in the elephants’ room, or perhaps we should say in their closet: homosexuality.
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Senator McCain is no bigot, and his only goal was to change the subject as quickly as possible. He kept repeating two safe talking points for dear life: he opposes same-sex marriage (as does every major presidential aspirant in both parties) and he is opposed to discrimination. But because he had endorsed a broadly written Arizona ballot initiative that could have been used to discriminate against unmarried domestic partners, George Stephanopoulos wouldn’t let him off the hook.

“Are you against civil unions for gay couples?” he asked the senator, who replied, “No, I’m not.” When Mr. Stephanopoulos reiterated the question seconds later — “So you’re for civil unions?” — Mr. McCain answered, “No.” In other words, he was not against civil unions before he was against them. His gaffe was reminiscent of a similar appearance on Mr. Stephanopoulos’s show in 2004 by Bill Frist, a Harvard-trained doctor who refused to criticize a federal abstinence program that catered to the religious right by spreading the canard that sweat and tears could transmit AIDS.

Senator Frist is now a lame duck, and his brand of pandering, typified by his errant upbeat diagnosis of the brain-dead Terri Schiavo’s condition, is following him to political Valhalla. The 2006 midterms left Karl Rove’s supposedly foolproof playbook in tatters. It was hard for the Republicans to deal the gay card one more time after the Mark Foley and Ted Haggard scandals revealed that today’s conservative hierarchy is much like Roy Cohn’s milieu in “Angels in America,” minus the wit and pathos.

This time around, ballot initiatives banning same-sex marriage drew markedly less support than in 2004; the draconian one endorsed by Mr. McCain in Arizona was voted down altogether. Two national politicians who had kowtowed egregiously to their party’s fringe, Rick Santorum and George Allen, were defeated, joining their ideological fellow travelers Tom DeLay and Ralph Reed in the political junkyard. To further confirm the inexorable march of social history, the only Christmas season miracle to lift the beleaguered Bush administration this year has been the announcement that Mary Cheney, the vice president’s gay daughter, is pregnant. Her growing family is the living rejoinder to those in her father’s party who would relegate gay American couples and their children to second-class legal or human status.

Yet not even these political realities have entirely broken the knee-jerk habit of some 2008 Republican presidential hopefuls to woo homophobes. Mitt Romney, the Republican Massachusetts governor, was caught in yet another embarrassing example of his party’s hypocrisy last week. In a newly unearthed letter courting the gay Log Cabin Republicans during his unsuccessful 1994 Senate race, he promised to “do better” than even Ted Kennedy in making “equality for gays and lesbians a mainstream concern.” Given that Mr. Romney has been making opposition to same-sex marriage his political calling card this year, his ideological bisexuality looks as foolish in its G-rated way as that of Mr. Haggard, the evangelical leader who was caught keeping time with a male prostitute.

There’s no evidence that Mr. Romney’s rightward move on gay civil rights and abortion (about which he acknowledges his flip-flop) has helped him politically. Or that Mr. McCain has benefited from a similar sea change that has taken him from accurately labeling Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson “agents of intolerance” in 2000 to appearing at Mr. Falwell’s Liberty University this year. A Washington Post-ABC News poll last week found that among Republican voters, Rudy Giuliani, an unabashed liberal on gay civil rights and abortion, leads Mr. McCain 34 percent to 26 percent. Mr. Romney brought up the rear, at 5 percent. That does, however, put him nominally ahead of another presidential wannabe, the religious-right favorite Sam Brownback, who has held up a federal judicial nomination in the Senate because the nominee had attended a lesbian neighbor’s commitment ceremony.

For those who are cheered by seeing the Rovian politics of wedge issues start to fade, the good news does not end with the growing evidence that gay-baiting may do candidates who traffic in it more harm than good. It’s not only centrist American voters of both parties who reject divisive demagoguery but also conservative evangelicals themselves. Some of them are at last standing up to the extremists in their own camp.

No one more dramatically so, perhaps, than Rick Warren, the Orange County, Calif., megachurch leader and best-selling author of “The Purpose Driven Life.” He has adopted AIDS in Africa as a signature crusade, and invited Barack Obama to join the usual suspects, including Senator Brownback, to address his World AIDS Day conference on the issue. This prompted predictable outrage from the right because of Mr. Obama’s liberal politics, especially on abortion. One radio host, Kevin McCullough, demonized the Democrat for pursuing “inhumane, sick and sinister evil” as a legislator. An open letter sponsored by 18 “pro-life” groups protested the invitation, also citing Mr. Obama’s “evil.” But Mr. Warren didn’t blink.

Among those defending the invitation was David Kuo, the former deputy director of the Bush White House’s Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives. In a book, “Tempting Faith,” as well as in interviews and on his blog, the heretical Mr. Kuo has become a tough conservative critic of the corruption of religion by politicians and religious-right leaders who are guilty of “taking Jesus and reducing him to some precinct captain, to some get-out-the-vote guy.” Of those “family” groups who criticized Mr. Obama’s appearance at the AIDS conference, Mr. Kuo wrote, “Are they so blind and possessed with such a narrow definition of life that they can think of life only in utero?” The answer, of course, is yes. The Christian Coalition parted ways with its new president-elect, a Florida megachurch pastor, Joel Hunter, after he announced that he would take on bigger issues like poverty and global warming.

But it is leaders like Mr. Hunter and Mr. Warren who are in ascendance. Even the Rev. Richard Cizik, vice president for governmental affairs at Mr. Haggard’s former perch, the National Association of Evangelicals, has joined a number of his peers in taking up the cause of the environment, putting him at odds with the Bush administration. Such religious leaders may not have given up their opposition to abortion or gay marriage, but they have more pressing priorities. They seem to have figured out, as Mr. Kuo has said, that “politicians use Christian voters for their money and for their votes” and give them little in return except a reputation for bigotry and heartless opposition to the lifesaving potential of stem-cell research.

The axis of family jihadis — Focus on the Family, the Family Research Council, the American Family Association — is feeling the heat; its positions get more extreme by the day. A Concerned Women for America mouthpiece called Mary Cheney’s pregnancy “unconscionable,” condemning her for having “injured her child” and “acted in a way that denies everything that the Bush administration has worked for.” (That last statement, thankfully, is true.) This overkill reeks of desperation. So does these zealots’ recent assault on the supposedly feminizing “medical” properties of soy baby formula (which deserves the “blame for today’s rise in homosexuality,” according to the chairman of Megashift Ministries), and penguins.

Yes, penguins. These fine birds have now joined the Teletubbies and SpongeBob SquarePants in the pantheon of cuddly secret agents for “the gay agenda.” Schools are being forced to defend “And Tango Makes Three,” an acclaimed children’s picture book based on the true story of two Central Park Zoo male penguins who adopted a chick from a fertilized egg. The hit penguin movie “Happy Feet” has been outed for an “anti-religious bias” and its “endorsement of gay identity” by Michael Medved, the commentator who sets the tone for the religious right’s strictly enforced code of cultural political correctness.

Such censoriousness is increasingly the stuff of comedy. So are politicians of all stripes who advertise their faith. A liberal like Howard Dean is no more credible talking about the Bible (during the 2004 campaign he said his favorite book in the New Testament was Job) than twice-married candidates like Mr. McCain are persuasive at pledging allegiance to “the sanctity of marriage.”

For all the skeptical theories about the Obama boomlet — or real boom, we don’t know yet — no one doubts that his language about faith is his own, not a crib sheet provided by a conservative evangelical preacher or a liberal political consultant on “values.” That’s why a Democrat from Chicago whose voting record is to the left of Hillary Clinton’s received the same standing ovation from the thousands at Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church that he did from his own party’s throngs in New Hampshire. After a quarter-century of watching politicians from both parties exploit religion for partisan and often mean-spirited political gain, voters on all sides of this country’s culture wars are finally in the market for something new.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

"New Rules" and The Christian Wrong

From Bill Maher's HBO Series - 'New Rules'

Which Brings me to our final New Rule of the evening, there is no devil so stop blaming your screw-ups on him. One of the biggest Evangelical leaders in America, the Reverend Ted Haggard, was out-ed for drugs and gay sex with a male prostitute. Or as Fox news reported it, 'John Kerry hates our troops.' Now this was big news because Reverend Haggard was frequently at the White House and a big fan of President Bush, as Haggard described as tan, firm and supple where it counts. And as President as the National Association of Evangelicals, Haggard presided over 45,000 Evangelical churches and was a 'rock star' for the Christian Right...and like a rock star, he was getting his freak-on a lot.

Sometimes the sodomy left him so exhausted he could barely use idiotical fairy tales to get people's money. Yes, Reverend Haggard was living a shameful double-life (sarcastic tone), but hey you can't keep being an Evangelist a secret forever.

Now I bring this up, because I believe it connects deeply to the Republican rout this week. They lost because they came to represent the opposite of everything they were supposed to be. Competent? No. Spendthrift? Hardly. Ethical? Rarely. The last straw was when the party that was supposed to be carrying the water for the gay bashers turned out to be a closet of repressed screamers! Who knew that when the Republicans got in bed with the Christian Right, it would be inside of a stall inside a truck stop restroom along the New Jersey turnpike??

Reverend's Haggard's plight led many to ask "Is it genetic? Can a man actually be born a hypocrite??" Because Ted Haggard was the leader of a mega-church, and the mega-churches are presided over the same skeevy door-to-door bible salesman that we have always had but just in an age of better technology. But they are selling the same thing -- fear. Fear - to keep you in line and to get your money.

And it's not a coincidence the Republican Party has in recent years operated in the same way. It's also no coincidence that people with too much faith simply do not see reality. Bush not seeing Iraq for what it is, is not much different from the way Reverend Haggard's followers still think he is not gay. I am not kidding - in there world, there are no gay people. There are just straight people who are sinning. They don't want to do it but the devil makes them. The devil targets people like Reverend Ted - that's how it happens in their world - the devil got a hold of Reverend Ted and Ted said "get thee behind me Satan...and put it in gently." Come on, the man was anointing people with astro-glide. He was preaching fire and rhinestone...(whisper) he was gay.

In conclusion, I would just like to say on this historic week that the legacy of the religious right will be despite their holy pretenses, they made politics not cleaner but dirtier! Because when you are so sure you are right, you wind-up acting so wrong.

And as for Reverend Ted himself, the good news is that he is in full "recovery." And says he will be receiving both spiritual advice and guidance. The bad news is it's from Andy Dick.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Sunday, September 24, 2006 - Christian Right's Strategy on Mid-Term Elections and Preparing Children to Fight a Holy War

Below are two articles as reported in the Minneapolis Star Tribune. The first article is on the Christian Right's strategy of motivating its conservative base to vote in the upcoming mid-term elections. The second article is on children's camps called "Jesus Camps" which teach children to prepare for a Holy War against all other religions, especially Islam.


Key GOP voter bloc not singing party's praises

Republicans hoping for a strong turnout of Christian conservatives have reason for concern, as these "values voters" are feeling betrayed.

To the daunting challenges facing Republicans in this fall's midterm elections, add another: angry "values voters" who say they feel used and abandoned.

"We put these people in power in 2004," said Sue Means, a home-school activist from suburban Pittsburgh. "I really expected more. I'm disappointed."
Means said she sees little but broken promises from the Republican-led Congress: the failed federal marriage amendment, waffling on stem-cell research, no new limits on abortion. And she is among many other like-minded voters who were widely credited in 2004 with helping pass same-sex marriage bans in 11 states and being crucial to President Bush's reelection.

"There are a lot of people that are somewhat disillusioned and have a feeling of betrayal for having worked so hard and have Republicans be so unresponsive," said James Dobson, chairman of the national group Focus on the Family.

As part of a campaign to rouse Christian conservative voters, Dobson is coming to the Twin Cities next week to speak. His group also is working with ministers around Minnesota to mobilize in time to influence the Nov. 7 elections.

Republicans counting on a strong turnout of Christian conservatives at the polls may have other reasons for concern. Midterm elections often do not excite the masses. A signature issue, such as a ban on same-sex marriage, is on the ballot in fewer states this year. And the federal government has promised to crack down on church-based partisan politicking after complaints about such behavior in 2004, which could suppress religious leaders' involvement and dampen turnout.

Dobson and others are working hard to counter that possibility, though they acknowledge their disappointment. "Whether Republicans deserve the power they were given, the alternatives are downright frightening," Dobson told more than 3,000 attendees at a recent "Stand for the Family" rally in Pittsburgh.

The event was the first of three designed to energize Christian conservative voters. All three are in states that have hotly contested Senate races: Minnesota, Pennsylvania and Tennessee.
The Pittsburgh event was part political rally, part church revival. Held at a downtown hockey arena, it featured entertainment by the Christian pop group the Sounds of Liberty. An enormous U.S. flag hung behind the speakers, who included Dobson, Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council and Gary Bauer of American Values. All warned of threats to religious liberty, to marriage and, as Perkins put it, of "our children being indoctrinated with homosexuality in our public schools."

All the speakers stressed that they wouldn't tell people how to vote.

But if a politician shares his principles on issues from judges to marriage "and is committed to the God of the universe, and from my perspective, Jesus Christ his only begotten son ... it would be a sin not to go to the polls and vote for him or her," Dobson said.

Similar efforts are underway across the country. In Missouri, home of another tight Senate race, a ballot initiative on stem-cell research has energized social conservative voters. There, Texas evangelist Rick Scarborough has led five church rallies, with two more scheduled, to rev up voters to oppose the initiative. In Washington last week, the Family Research Council's Values Voter Summit included a training session titled "Getting Church Voters to the Polls."
And gay-marriage bans are on the ballots in eight states this year, including three that have close Senate races: Arizona, Virginia and Tennessee.

"When you have a marriage amendment on the ballot, it makes it that much easier" to motivate conservative Christian voters, said John Green, a senior fellow at the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. "And on balance, they'll vote for the Republican candidates in those states."

Some say such efforts go too far. Americans United for Separation of Church and State has sent 117,000 letters to pastors of churches in 11 states targeted for action by conservative Christian leaders. The letter reminded pastors that Internal Revenue Service regulations prohibit churches from endorsing or opposing specific candidates and from intervening directly in partisan campaigns.

Doing so could jeopardize a church's tax-exempt status and lead to fines, the group warned. Even voter guides can be a thinly veiled partisan effort, the letter said. Earlier this year, the IRS reported that, in the 2004 election cycle, it investigated 47 allegations of improper church politicking; 37 were given warnings or fined, and a few cases remain outstanding.

"Houses of worship must not become cogs in someone's political machine," said the Rev. Barry Lynn, Americans United's executive director. He accused Dobson and others of trying "to build a kind of religious Tammany Hall."I don't set the Senate races and I don't set the referenda," Scarborough responded. "If that has an impact on Senate races, so be it," the Texas evangelist said. "I hope and pray that pro-life senators get elected. That's no secret."

Allen Hertzke, a professor at the University of Oklahoma who studies evangelical Christians, said the IRS focus could suppress voter turnout. Given the array of obstacles, it wouldn't be surprising if Christian conservatives show less clout in 2006, Green said.

"But we shouldn't underestimate their ability to reach their constituencies," Green added. "A lot of this happens through church networks. Unless you happen to be in the network, you wouldn't notice it."


At 'Jesus Camp,' fired-up kids in
combat gear prep for holy war
Nick Coleman, Star Tribune

Holy war is coming. Thank you, Jesus.

That's the tone of a disturbing new documentary called "Jesus Camp." The film, by Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady, takes us to a Bible camp called "Kids On Fire," where the children of evangelical Christians are indoctrinated in a militant faith that sees nonbelievers as opponents and secular government as an enemy to overthrow.

I saw a preview of the movie last week (it opens at the Lagoon Cinema in Uptown on Oct. 6, if the Rapture hasn't come by then). And I will leave the film criticism to others. But "Jesus Camp" shows what may be in store for us when millions reject the idea of separation of church and state and want to create a Christian State ready to do battle for Christ.
We get kids in combat fatigues, their faces painted in camouflage colors, who sob, speak in tongues and pray for Jesus to re-make America in his image. Or, more accurately, to re-make it according to the plan of the adults who are turning these children into good little Evangelical mujahaddin.
Pumped up in the Lord, the kids grab hammers and smash crockery labeled "government," sending the shards flying while adult leaders urge them to "give up your lives for Jesus" and "break the power of our enemies in government."

It's not clear who the enemies are, but we know who they aren't: There's a scene showing the kids praying before a cardboard cut-out of President George W. Bush.

"They're so usable," Camp Pastor Becky Fischer says, without irony. "Today is a fulfillment of prophecy," she tells the kids. "We've got to stand up and take back the land. This is a generation of purity and righteousness and holiness, and you are going to serve the Lord all the days of your life."

The Lord and George Bush, too. It is a powerful team.

If you wonder why I am talking about a film about people in the Bible Belt, you haven't been paying attention. "Jesus Camp" (go to jesuscampthemovie.com to learn more) is about a North Dakota camp attended by kids from throughout the country.

"They start taking control in small slices," says the only person in the film who raises warning flags, a liberal talk-radio host named Mike Papantonio. "How anybody can say, 'This doesn't affect me,' is completely absurd."Jesus Camp" is not an "attack" film. In fact, Rev. Fischer is enthusiastic about its portrayal of her efforts. But the movie will give nonevangelicals a sobering glimpse of how a potent mix of politics and religion is being used to restore America to the kind of country "it was meant to be." Or on making it into a place ruled by zealots who have no tolerance for religious diversity and who believe (in Fischer's words) that democracy doesn't work.

"If the Evangelicals vote, they determine the election," one mega-church pastor brags, smugly. "It's a fabulous life."

It's also a tone-deaf life.

When a precocious 9-year-old girl, on fire for the Lord, accosts some elderly black men and asks what will happen to them when they die, they answer they expect to go to Heaven. Rattled, and without a reason to preach, she walks away and mutters: "I think they were Muslims."
Muslims are the enemy, along with liberals and the shadowy forces of secularism and humanism who want us to believe in evolution and the Big Bang.

Holy War is coming, TV preacher Pat Robertson said last week, while Muslims protested against Pope Benedict and "Christian" lobbying groups urged Congress to permit the use of torture. All while here, on the prairie, Christian groups were urging voters to "make wise Biblical choices about how to vote in November."

Well, Christians, maybe it's time to pray for peace and to vote not just on Biblical principles, but specifically on New Testament principles, such as the Sermon on the Mount, when Jesus said, "Blessed are the peacemakers."

But that, of course, was back in the days before he started wearing camouflage.

Nick Coleman • ncoleman@startribune.com

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Current Policies of the Republican Party and Christian Right

Republican Budget Bill Savages the Poor
By Max J. Castro
Progreso Weekly 24-30 November 2005 Edition

They are at it again. Anyone who hoped that the images of the aftermath of hurricane Katrina, which made the extent of squalor in America visible and dramatized the life-and-death consequences of inequality, would stir the conscience of our ruling party was wrong. Dead wrong. Last week, after suffering the embarrassing defeat of its main budget proposal, the Republican leadership in the US House of Representatives managed to push through $50 billion in cuts to "domestic discretionary spending." That is code for programs such as food stamps, health care for poor children, the indigent elderly and the disabled, student loans, and foster care. These are the last remnants of the frayed, flimsy safety net that this society - the least generous of any rich nation toward its disadvantaged - provides the most vulnerable among us.

Who the targets of the spending reductions are is crystal clear. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (http://www.cbpp.org/) reports that the GOP bill just approved would "deny food stamps to more than 220,000 low-income people each month by 2008, and would cut basic food aid by nearly $700 million over five years." Perhaps anticipating that many of the poor might get sick because of malnutrition, the House measure would also "allow states to impose substantial new co-payment and premium fees on millions of low-income Medicaid beneficiaries, and to scale back substantially the health care services that the Medicaid program provides." What do Republicans have against poor people that they so persistently and savagely seek to punish them even in the face of the kind of evident suffering revealed by the catastrophic events of New Orleans?

The question is more vexing when one considers that the vast majority of Republican members of Congress proclaim themselves staunch Christians, yet their policy choices consistently contradict fundamental tenets of the faith. In 1986, for example, the US Catholic bishops proclaimed: "As individuals and as a nation ... we are called to make a fundamental 'option for the poor.' The obligation to evaluate social and economic activity from the viewpoint of the poor and the powerless arises from the radical command to love one's neighbor as one's self. Those who are marginalized and whose rights are denied have privileged claims if society is to provide justice for all. This obligation is deeply rooted in Christian belief." William Quigley, professor of law at Loyola University in New Orleans, further defines this option for the poor, which the bishops consider to be deeply rooted in Christian, and not merely Catholic, belief: "The preferential option for the poor means several things: maintaining solidarity with the poor and powerless; viewing and evaluating all economic, political and institutional action and institutions from the perspective of the poor; and having an ongoing commitment to action on behalf of justice."

The 'Christian' Republicans who run Congress and the 'Christian' president who sits in the White House consistently turn this fundamental Christian principle exactly on its head. They do so not only through budget cuts that savage the poor but also through lavish tax cuts that benefit the rich. If the Republicans wanted to reduce the bloated federal budget deficit - the reason Republicans claim we need to cut domestic programs - they could do so in a more effective way and one that would be consistent with their professed faith. Canceling two tax cuts for the rich slated to take effect January 1, 2006 alone would save about $70 billion. That's 40 percent more than would be saved by gutting social programs.

Instead, in order to give the greediest a huge New Year's gift, the Republicans are willing to strike a devastating blow against the neediest and add $20 billion to the deficit. So much for fiscal Christian charity and fiscal conservatism! What makes the situation even more egregious is the extent to which the Bush tax policy already showers the rich with colossal gifts. Once more, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities: "The highly respected Urban Institute-Brookings Institution Tax Policy Center reports that households with incomes of more than $1 million a year - the richest 0.2 percent of the US population - already are receiving tax cuts averaging $103,000 this year, before these two new tax cuts take effect. The Tax Policy Center finds that the two tax-cut measures in question will give these 'millionaires' nearly another $20,000 a year in tax cuts, when the measures are phased in fully." In Rerum Novarum, Pope Leo XIII asserted that "rights must be religiously respected wherever they are found ... Still, when there is question of protecting the rights of individuals, the poor and helpless have a claim to special consideration."

Why is Rep. Rick Santorum, that paragon of Catholic virtue, not resigning from the Republican Party? Perhaps Santorum and other 'Christians' reason that since the rich are as likely to attain heaven as a camel to enter the eye of a needle, it is the Christian duty of the Republican Party to provide them the Kingdom of Heaven here on Earth. The latest Republican attack against the "poor and defenseless" was so cruel and brazen that 14 Republicans withstood withering pressure from their party's leaders in the House and voted their conscience in opposition. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, that champion of Little Havana's viejitos, was not among them. What business does Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, whose district includes few millionaires but many poor senior citizens and children who will be the main victims of the perverted priorities embodied in the Republican budget, have voting for these shameful cuts?

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

George Bush and the 'new' Republican Party - Current and Future Repurcussions

This posting was sent to me by a friend and colleague who voiced how troublesome our country has become in the last four years and 10 months...

Among all of my closest friends, I am (I believe) the only one who is a registered Democrat (and always have been). Referring to those friend of mine, every one of them, including my wife were born, raised and have for half a century plus voted (almost) party line Republican. Those friends (my wife included), one would say are devoted Republicans…true party loyalists.

Until now.

Building up to it, this past weekend, my wife and some of our friends said, they can’t wait until the next election and each one thereafter. ‘Cause they plan on casting their ballets for every Democrat listed. They said they are doing to vote the Democratic party line as their intent is to remove every Republican incumbent that have overtly or not supported our sitting Crusader President, GWB. I was amazed to hear that…or was I?

In fact, my wife said (as well as a few other friends), they intend to re-register as a Democrats so they can vote in the Democratic primary. Knowing my wife (and some of these friends of ours)…I was equality shocked to hear that too…or was I?

We as Americans are in a very very sad state of affairs under this current administration and its leadership. This is not only my personal observation…just ask around those Dems and Reps you know. They will agree, America is on a course of extreme disarray. Granted some of this chaos is in deed a carry over from the previous Clinton administration (no doubt some bad decision were made during those times too), though to a far less extent. But Crusader GW Bush (and his Knights in Dull Black Amour) sitting around the Oval Table have unquestionably set a new (sub) standard for America at each and every aspect of the American way. They are consciously and non-consciously turning the American Dream into an American Nightmare…and making significant headway (sadly) with a set of extreme-right values that are not in the best interest for (all of) America…regardless of what the orate.

It has been said: “…the times make the President…the President does not make the times.” Crusader Bush has proven that truism to be false. I am appalled, I am enraged, I am deeply concerned…I am down right embarrassed as to what this current administration under the management of Crusader Bush and his jousting Knights have been trying to do and in some instances (sadly) succeeded to accomplish…to underhandedly undermine and manipulate the greatness of America in becoming a greatly divided more than ever.

We are faced with a religious right wing fanatic in the Oval Office for another three plus years. One that believes he was destined by God to be where he is. ((The fact he thinks that is one thing…the fact he actually said it in public…(as the president) astonishes me and others). With that notice and his statement that we are on a Crusade against the evil empire abroad (he actually stated that too), that with all the misguided rational he has governed by and supported by his loyal fanatical colleagues he has so craftily surrounded himself with…perhaps the enemy is not out there after all…perhaps its within.

Just look at what has gone on this past week. Need I say more.

I think, it’s the first time in 61 years (and as an VN Vet, enlisted) that I have real doubts about the short and long term future of America. I’m genuinely saddened. On this course, what will I/we be leaving my/our grandchildren? What will history say about this generation I/we am part of? This administration almost makes the Nixon years look great. I am deeply concerned. Crusader Bush, as the CEO of America, perhaps he should be firing some of his Knights in Dull Black amour and send them for a good flogging. Show the American people that our, America’s best interests far out weights GW’s and his cohorts personal friendships, business and religious interests. This council sitting around the Oval Table in that Oval Office has caused a far greater mistrust than anyone can imagine has American’s and our foreign allies. Thanks GW, good job. And Crusader GW has accomplished another unique feat, he has in four years and ten months, turn the symbolic White House, into a Knightly Grey House of religious fanatical war mongers from the extreme Christian Right with a Crusade mentality and mission…to screw everything up that our Founding Father envisioned and formulated 229 years ago…all in four years and ten months. Good going Crusader GW Bush.

A sick thought huh.
Anonymous

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Topic of the Week - Intelligent Design Debate

As this so called debate on intelligent design between The Christian Right and the rest of America continues, it must be put in perspective. There is no debate when it comes to public education - intelligent design has no place in our public school system, especially when compared to the theory of evolution where The Christian Right are trying to categorize and place it in Science class.

The exchange between an advocate of intelligent design and myself (below) is an example between the two sides of this so called debate. I will let you decide if you think the Christian Creationist theory, masked as intelligent design, should be incorporated into our public school systems. Lookout for this issue in next year's elections - it will be an initiative that will be included on a number of state's ballots. The over-arching agenda here is that The Christian Right is attempting, once again, to incorporate their religious belief system into our public policies and public education system.

Of course, to protect the identity of this exchange, I have removed the names involved and replaced with PWB and intelligent design (ID):


PWB: With respect to my comments prior on your conservative agenda, your belief of 'Intelligent Design' contrasting/comparing to the science of evolution and how it should be taught in our public school system within science/biology class is an example of your attempt to incorporate your religious beliefs into our public education system.

ID : Yes, absolutely. intelligent design should be offered as another explanation for our existence - not sourced from any single religion or article of faith, but in general. If any religion basis for it (like the Bible) is sited, all known religious articles of faith should be shared equally. Evolution is based on faith. I defy you to come up with one piece of sound evidence for evolution from one species to another (not adaptation among like species – that is an entirely different matter).

PWB: Evolution is based on faith? This is an incorrect statement, and I think you realize this, don't you? Evolution is based on the continual focus on proving this theory with a fact based approach.

Let me ask you, why should intelligent design be offered in our public school systems? What is your true intent? I think if you were hontest with me, and others, you would acknowledge your true intention is to incorporate your Christian belief system into our public school system.

Science is based on the continual focus on facts - testing and retesting hypothesis until this 'theory' can be explained in a logical, rational way. Evolution is a science that continually attempts to prove this theory. Intelligent design, on the other hand, is based on hypothesis only - only your faith (beliefs) back it up. Therein lies the difference - there is no continual attempt, with a fact based focus, to explain and support this rational.

The other part of this issue, putting your general focus on all religions, is that the Christian Right, in general, is leading this agenda regarding intelligent design to have Christianity's belief in Creationism taught in our public schools - you know that, I know that and those who oppose their agenda know this. The Discovery Institute, the largest leading political conservative activitist organization whose primary focus is on challenging Evolution as part of the public educational curriculum, is funded by a number of Christian evangelical organizations.

Also, the last and extended part of this issue aligned with your intelligent design rational is that your 'faith' determines as fact that there is an afterlife (again, no actual facts prove that an afterlife for humans exist). Evolution is focused on the past and attempting to prove this theory, over and over again. Intelligent design is focused on the past but also aligned and supports a future 'faith-based' religious belief...again without any attempt to prove any factual base details.

ID: Then let each individual decide for themselves. Don’t you see the hypocrisy of the current state?? The Government is governing our beliefs and our children's beliefs with only teaching evolution.

PWB: Herein lies the difference between us on my stance of a distinct line between church and state and your stance that melding religious and 'faith-based' beliefs into our public policies, public educational systems and public forums are OK. I don't. Evolution is not based on religion, intelligent design is.

Your belief that 'faith' is OK to incorporate into our public policies and public forum respective of your Christianity beliefs is most disconcerning - faith/religion are the same when you use in this context...your foundation of Christianity as your basis to support these beliefs.

ID: You’re off base on this. I’ve always said that our country and constitution was formed based on “faith” (not religion) from the beginning. I’m not trying to incorporate anything, you and the left are trying to snuff it out through an activist judicial system.

PWB: Once again, whose 'faith?" Lets be honest here - you are talking about your stance that our country was founded upon Christian faith, your biblical Christian beliefs. You are trying to incorporate your biblical belief into our public policies - period. Once again, herein lies the difference between us when it comes to separation of church and state - I don't believe religious beliefs should govern our public policies. You do. This issue, intelligent design, is just one example.

ID: I believe this is why we are split so far – when you consider for a moment, that there is a possibility that we are not an accident (that this is another explanation other than evolution), then you and the left will give pause to how this is a life issue.

PWB: This is your religious belief again talking here. Your belief that we are not an 'accident.' Truly, your faith cannot support a fact based approach in proving your theory of creation (lets call it what is is rather than intelligent design, huh?). I acknowledge and respect your belief that life is not an accident, that there is a divine creator but many would appreciate it if you keep this belief personal and/or within your family or church... and try not to incorporate it into our public policies. Is evolution proven as 100 percent fact? Of course not. But there is a fact-based approach.

ID: No, they are teaching a theory, evolution, (and their faith in it) as fact. Why are you and the left afraid of letting our children have all the information and coming to their own conclusions?? This is one of the issues I point to when I allude to the “conflicted left”. The 'conflicted left' is indeed conflicted when it comes to explaining and rationalizing 'faith.'

PWB: Why afraid of letting intelligent design be taught in our public school system? Because there is not a fact-based agenda - it is based on religious faith. And those that are able to detach themselves from their religious faith and analyze the overarching picture on 'faith' know that there is no right and wrong answer, there is no right and wrong religion, there is no right and wrong explanation. The 'conflicted left' is indeed conflicted on this issue...as they could or should be because they are aware there is no right and wrong belief system and they tend to respect each individual's belief system, whatever that belief may be.

I ask again, why do you Christian fundamentalists want to incorporate your beliefs into our public policies, public forums and public educational systems? Because you believe that your one faith is the only true belief and existence for this country and world on a whole. This is most dangerous - please review historical evidence and how belief movements attempting to incorporate one belief system nationally can seep out of control. This is what the 'conflicted left' is concerned of...and what our founding fathers were concerned of when they drew a distinct line between church and state within our public policies and public education.

End

If you have an opinion on the intelligent design agenda, please click below and post your comments.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Topic of the Week - The Bush Regime and the Iraq Invasion - Lies, Deceit & Power

This article by Thom Hartman is the most insightful article I have read on the over-arching intention of the Bush regime in why they invaded Iraq. I encourage each of you to read it, and take note of Hartman's support of this intent, as well as read in between the lines of what we have experienced since January 20, 2001 when George Bush took office.

This article was passed on to me by a family member who has an intellect and insight I most admire. Thank you.

If after reading this article, you have comments or alternative viewpoints, click on 'Post your Comments' at the end of the article.

They Died So Republicans Could Take the Senate
by Thom Hartmann


Richard Nixon authorized the Watergate burglary and subsequent cover-up to advance his own political ambitions. Because Nixon's lies were done for the craven purpose of getting and holding political power, his lies - in the minds of the majority of the members of Congress - were elevated to the level of impeachable "high crimes and misdemeanors."

Bill Clinton had sex in the White House with Monica Lewinsky, but Congress concluded he'd lied about it to maintain political power. Another impeachable crime.

The real scandal of the Downing Street Memos, with the greatest potential to leave the Bush presidency in permanent disgrace, is their implication that lies may have been put forward to help Bush, Republicans, and Blair politically. If Bush lied to gain and keep political power, precedent suggests he and his collaborators in the administration may even be vulnerable to impeachment.

Conservatives say the Bush claims of WMD and "mushroom clouds" were a "lie of ignorance." Condoleezza Rice periodically does the talk-show circuit and repeats the "lie of ignorance" myth. "The entire world thought Saddam had WMD," she and other Bush representatives suggest over and over again. "We had bad intelligence."

This is a lie to cover up a more damaging lie. "The entire world" was, in fact, watching and listening to Hans Blix, who was telling us that he couldn't find any evidence of WMD - or any other sort of threat - in Iraq. Most of our allies were convinced that Saddam did not have WMD, or that if he did have some small stockpiles left they were so insignificant and degraded that they were irrelevant. This is why the only permanent member of the UN Security Council to join us in attacking Iraq was Blair's UK: China, France, and Russia didn't believe Iraq represented a threat to them, to us, or even to its neighbors.

Nonetheless, Bush keeps trying to push this lie-to-cover-up-a-lie. In his June 19, 2005 radio address, he suggested that the Saudis who flew the planes into the World Trade Center were actually Iraqis. "We went to war because we were attacked," he said, hoping Americans' memories are short.

US media pundits, knowing the "WMD lie" and the "Saddam attacked us" lie for what they are, mostly suggest that Bush's use of WMD and terrorism to justify invading Iraq was a "lie of convenience." The implicit assumption is that Bush did this because of a "greater good"; that even though he lied, he was doing so to advance America's interests. This helps pundits to feel like they're part of an in-crowd elite who know what's best for America, even if they can't tell the children - er - citizens.

The "lie of convenience" is based on the neocon argument that the US needed a "footprint" in the Middle East to both secure our oil supplies and provide military security to Israel. But it ignores the many nations in the region where we now have military bases (some huge), the power and ability of our navy, and the power of Israel's military. And it doesn't explain how our getting bogged down in Iraq could possibly advance our interests at home or around the world.

Often included in the "lie of convenience" mix is the PNAC suggestion that for America to be safe, we must forcefully project military power all over the world and hold decisive control of the world's largest oil supplies. This flies in the face of most of America's history, starting with George Washington's farewell address warning against "foreign entanglements." It's not only un-American, but is the assumption used throughout history to justify empires, and in every single case has ended up bleeding dry those empires, consigning them to painful contraction or total collapse.

And neither the "lie of convenience" nor the "lie of ignorance" were demonstrably the reasons why Bush invaded Iraq.

So why then did George W. Bush lie us into invading and occupying Iraq?

We know that Bush wanted to massively cut taxes on his corporate sponsors and people, like himself, with substantial inherited fortunes. He wanted to weaken government protections of the environment, children, the poor, the elderly, the ozone layer, and our nation's forests. He wanted his oil-rig and mining-interest friends to have more access to public lands.

We know he wanted to undo Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal by stripping the American workplace (particularly government and schools) of unions, rolling back "socialist" unemployment and Social Security programs, and eliminating SEC and tort restraints on predatory corporate behavior. He'd even campaigned on this platform - particularly Social Security privatization - back in 1978 when he unsuccessfully ran for Congress from Texas.
We know he wanted to increase the police power of the federal government, gut the First and Fourth Amendments, and thus create a "safe and orderly nation" of people under constant surveillance, who never question those in power.

We know he wanted to give billions of our tax dollars to churches he approved of, and bring their leaders into the halls of government. He wanted to pass laws incorporating religious dogma about when human life begins, what is appropriate sexuality, and free churches to use tax-exempt dollars to influence politics.

It was an ambitious agenda. In order to bring about this neoconservative paradise, Bush knew he'd need considerable political capital. And that kind of capital didn't come from his being selected as President by the Supreme Court.

Such political capital - such raw political power - would only come, he believed, by his becoming a "war president."

Bush wasn't the first to realize how war strengthened a president in power, although the Founders saw it as a danger rather than an opportunity.

On April 20, 1795, James Madison wrote, "Of all the enemies to public liberty war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes. And armies, and debts, and taxes are the known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few."

Reflecting on war's impact on the Executive Branch of government, Madison continued his letter about the dangerous and intoxicating power of war for a president.

"In war, too, the discretionary power of the Executive [President] is extended," he wrote. "Its influence in dealing out offices, honors, and emoluments is multiplied; and all the means of seducing the minds, are added to those of subduing the force of the people. The same malignant aspect in republicanism may be traced in the inequality of fortunes, and the opportunities of fraud, growing out of a state of war...and in the degeneracy of manners and morals, engendered by both.

"No nation," he concluded, "could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare."
But freedom wasn't the goal of George W. Bush or his neoconservative Republican colleagues. It was political power. And they were willing to lie us into a war to achieve it.

Writer Russ Baker noted in October, 2004, that Mickey Herskowitz, the man Bush had originally hired to write his autobiography ("A Charge To Keep: My Journey To The White House"), told Baker that George Bush was planning his Iraq invasion - to seize and hold political power for himself and the Republican Party - during his first presidential election campaign.

"He was thinking about invading Iraq in 1999," Herskowitz told Baker. "It was on his mind. He [Bush] said to me: 'One of the keys to being seen as a great leader is to be seen as a commander-in-chief.' And he said, 'My father had all this political capital built up when he drove the Iraqis out of Kuwait and he wasted it.' He said, 'If I have a chance to invade, if I had that much capital, I'm not going to waste it. I'm going to get everything passed that I want to get passed and I'm going to have a successful presidency."

Bush lied, and Americans died. And continue to die. But politically - at least so far - it has worked out well for Bush.

It was a lie of political expediency, with the war resolution carefully timed just before the 2002 elections to help the Republicans take back the Senate.

It was echoed and amplified and repeated over and over again to help him and other Republicans get elected in 2004.

It wasn't a war for oil - cheap oil was just a useful secondary benefit.

It wasn't a war against terrorism - that was just a convenient excuse.

It wasn't a war to enrich Bush's and Cheney's cronies - those were just pleasant by-products.

It wasn't a war to show Poppy Bush that Junior was more of a man than him - that was just a personal bonus for Dubya.

It was, pure and simple, well planned years in advance, a war to solidify Bush and the Republican Party's political capital.

It was a war for political power. That had to be first. Everything else - oil, profits, ongoing PATRIOT Act powers, easy manipulation of the media - all could only come if political power was seized and held through at least two decisive election cycles.

The Bush administration lied us into an invasion to get and keep political power. It's that simple.

The same reason Richard Nixon authorized Watergate and then lied about the cover-up. The same reason Nixon lied about his "secret plan" to get out of Vietnam.

When Americans - and the US media - finally realize that Bush's lie was just to get "political capital," to increase the "discretionary power of the President" so he could undo Roosevelt's New Deal and seal power across all three branches of government for his Party, they will turn on him and his Republican co-conspirators.

If it comes out in the open before the election of 2006, Republicans could even lose the House and the Senate, which would virtually guarantee investigations of the many other crimes of the Bush administration. (For example, "bribery" is one of two crimes cited in the Constitution as grounds for impeachment - and the Big Pharma/Medicaid and Big Tobacco/lawsuit settlement cases may qualify.)

Probably the only two things that could slow down the American electorate's growing realization of the magnitude and horror of Bush's political lies would be another attack on America or a new Bush-led war into Syria, Iran, or North Korea.

Bush has already shown, by lying us into Iraq, that he's at least capable of the latter. As Jefferson wrote in a letter to James Madison on February 8th 1776, "It should ever be held in mind that insult and war are the consequences of a lack of respectability in the national character."

And already the cons are working the talk-show circuit, threatening the US with a new attack, and recommending we strike now at Iran or Syria. "Be afraid. Be aggressive. Give us more political power."

But if Jefferson was right when he said that the best defense of democracy was an informed electorate, there is still a small window of opportunity for the American press to do the job they've been so carefully avoiding these past five years.

Instead of just reporting that the Downing Street Minutes and memos exist, they can highlight them against the timeline of Bush repeatedly lying during those days before the war. They can quote him saying that he had no plans for war, was working toward peace, and only wanted Congressional authorization to avoid a war, and point out that this was all after - months after - his administration had told the British that war was a sure thing.

Lying, in other words, to get us to go along with an invasion that would cement in Republican control of the Congress and the White House, and, thus, also the courts. Lying for nothing more than "political capital."

Let us hope our Fourth Estate is up to the task.

Thom Hartmann (thom at thomhartmann.com) is a Project Censored Award-winning best-selling author, and host of a nationally syndicated daily progressive talk show and a morning progressive talk show on KPOJ in Portland, Oregon. www.thomhartmann.com His most recent books are "The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight," "Unequal Protection," "We The People," "The Edison Gene", and "What Would Jefferson Do?

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Topic of the Week - Response to Minnesota Family Council Editorial

The following letter was sent to the Minneapolis Star Tribune today in response to Tom Prichard, President of the Minnesota Family Council, editorial printed in the newspaper regarding his opposition to same sex marriage. This letter could be used as an example and be sent to each national and state government representative in opposition to the many "Family" organizations rooted in prejudice (American Family Research Council and Focus on the Family are prime examples of these type of "Family" organizations). Both the letter and the editorial by Prichard are reprinted below.

Dear Star Tribune,

I would like to respond to Tom Prichard's editorial you printed today, Saturday July 30, 2005. Prichard, President of the Minnesota Family Council, gives a counter-point to the Star Tribune editorial from last Saturday, July 23rd supporting Canada's resolution on Civil Marriage, inclusive of same sex marriage.

First, Prichard immediately exposes his flaw of his stance when he claims the Star Tribune "fails to successfully answer the religious and other objections to same sex marriage." Response: Our Constitution clearly states the need for separation of church and state so Prichard's focus on the religious objection has no relevance in our government policies.

Second, Prichard states that "gay activists aren't seeking equal access to marriage. They can already marry; it just must be to a person of the opposite sex." Response: Prichard clearly exposes his ignorance with this comment and completely negates his comments further in the article when he states that same sex marriage could lead to polygamy. Suggesting a solution for the gay and lesbian community to marry the opposite sex completely portrays a lack of understanding from Prichard on how gays or lesbians cannot just fall in love with the opposite sex - it is counter to their DNA. So is Prichard advocating marriage between two people without a foundation of love? It certainly seems so.

Third, Prichard states that "Marriage has always been rooted in the relationship between a man and a woman -- a relationship that is essential to procreation and to the successful nurturing of children." Response: Recent studies prove that children raised in a same sex household have no less personal development than those in heterosexual households. According to the MECA (Marriage Equality California) who has done more bi-partisan research on this issue than any other organization, Charlotte J. Patterson of the University of Virginia summarizes from seven in-depth research studies comparing heterosexual and same sex marriage parenting. Patterson states "there is no evidence to suggest that lesbians and gay men are unfit to be parents or that psychosocial development among children of gay men or lesbians is compromised in any respect relative to that among offspring of heterosexual parents. Not a single study has found children of gay or lesbian parents to be disadvantaged in any significant respect relative to children of heterosexual parents. Indeed, the evidence to date suggests that home environments provided by gay and lesbian parents are as likely as those provided by heterosexual parents to support and enable children's psychosocial growth." Besides Prichard's biblical belief, can he support any research study that supports his claim that children of heterosexual couples are better off developmentally than same sex couples? No, he cannot.

Fourth, Prichard states consistently that marriage equates to raising children. Response: I, personally, take offense to this. My wife and I have decided currently not to have children - a choice we both made. According to Prichard and other conservative "Family" organizations who are against same sex marriage, they believe procreation is essential to marriage. So literally according to Prichard, our decision to not have children is against the definition of marriage. I think every married couple who choose not to have children would argue they are legally married, would they not?

Fifth, Prichard takes the typical 'persecuted' stance when he states that the church in Canada is being victimized "Catholic and evangelical leaders now face threats of legal sanctions if they speak out against same sex marriage." Response: Yes, public opposition against same sex marriage is prejudice - period. If Prichard and the Church leaders publicly proclaimed that African-Americans, Muslims, Hispanics and other minorities should not be married, this would be correctly defined as bigotry. And legal sanctions could be levied against this bigotry as bigotry is rooted in hate and inciting hate. Just yesterday on July 29th, the Orlando Sentinel reported that hate crimes against the gay community in Florida is at an all time high "The number of such incidents statewide accounted for 20 percent of all hate crimes in 2003, the highest proportion for this category ever recorded in Florida." So this type of preaching publicly, outside their church, against opposition to same sex marriage needs to be monitored so it does not incite hate crimes.

And finally, I would like to challenge Prichard's implication of Churches right to Tax-Exempt status. I think we should ask ourselves, why are Churches categorized as 501(c) organizations and realize tax benefits inclusive of exemption from state and federal corporate income tax and possible exemptions from local property taxes? Organized religion (churches) are a business - they operate as a business and generate income by soliciting funds from their membership (customers). Because, at times, a part of their profits are given to charitable causes ((by no means a regular practice within all church organizations), does this entitle all realized profits not to be taxed? For example, the profit realized by a church that is reinvested into creating and building a larger building may not be taxed or be taxed at a much lower rate. Why? A majority of businesses in the United States have setup foundations and or causes that give monies to charitable organizations as well - why are their other profits, reinvested into their businesses, taxed at a higher rate? Surely, I would think Republicans and Democrats who are fighting for lower taxes would question this inequality, wouldn't they? It seems clear to me our country should consider taxing these church businesses who take their profit and reinvest into their business at the same rate as other businesses who do the same. With our soaring deficit, this is just one possible solution to increase tax dollars to help alleviate our national and state debt(s) that is both equitable and acceptable. Yes, charitable contributions deserve to be a tax write-off...but not monies that are used for operating expenses, building larger churches and/or increasing salaries of the church hierarchy. Something to think about.

In summary, the bottom line is that Prichard and the Minnesota Family Council are inciting prejudice against gays and lesbians and trying to incorporate their biblical beliefs into our public policies here in Minnesota. Not only does the U.S. Constitution state that separation of church and state is our foundation, but I believe our Minnesota government and Minnesota populace respects this value within our public policies as well.

Comments? Click below on "Post your Comments."


Tom Prichard: Reject Canada's same-sex marriage error
Tom Prichard
July 30, 2005 PRICHARD0730

The Star Tribune's editorial "Canada Leads: Gay equality is the issue" is both a success and a failure. It succeeds in exposing the flawed basis for the editors' support of same-sex marriage (SSM). And it fails to successfully answer the religious and other objections to SSM.

The editorial argues that SSM is an issue of equality: Gays and lesbians need to be treated equally. The reality is that gay activists aren't seeking equal access to marriage. They can already marry; it just must be to a person of the opposite sex. They want a radical redefinition of marriage, and they're attempting to co-opt the term "equality" to get it. People's concepts of equality evolve, they argue.

Advocates of this "evolving" equality have to answer the logical question: If marriage should be redefined to include two people of the same sex, why shouldn't it be broadened to include three women and a man (polygamy)? Why not whole groups of individuals (polyamory) as some now advocate? There simply is no rational basis for limiting this "evolving" equality.
The fact is that true marriage is founded on something more substantial than the latest social theory. It's rooted in who we are as human beings -- in nature and in creation. Our nation's founders referred to it as "the laws of nature and of nature's God."

Marriage has always been rooted in the relationship between a man and a woman -- a relationship that is essential to procreation and to the successful nurturing of children. (Of course, that leads to another question same-sex marriage advocates must answer: Who is the unnecessary person in this nurturing and raising of children -- the mother or the father? By definition one or the other is eliminated from a same-sex household.)

The editorial argues that religious objectors don't really need to be concerned about a legal redefinition of marriage, because what we're talking about is "civil" marriage and not "religious" marriage. But the civil benefits of marriage don't differ from the religious simply because it's civil. The need for a mother and father in a child's life doesn't change once you leave the church, synagogue or mosque. SSM will simply deepen the already devastating problems in our society of children lacking either a father or a mother.

The editorial also forces us to ask: Where, exactly, is Canada leading with regard to religious freedom and SSM? Let's look at the church in Canada. Catholic and evangelical leaders there now face threats of legal sanctions if they speak out against SSM. Bishop Frederick Henry of Calgary was warned by Revenue Canada that his public opposition to SSM might jeopardize his charitable tax status.

In Europe the same pattern exists, with church leaders threatened with criminal sanctions if they speak out against homosexual behavior -- behavior that will be officially affirmed by society if SSM is recognized. It doesn't take much imagination to realize that if SSM becomes the law of the land in the United States, churches opposing it would face the loss of their tax-exempt status, and individuals could find themselves charged under anti-discrimination laws.
Fortunately, the effort of SSM advocates to piggyback off the civil rights movement is being exposed for what it is -- the co-opting of a legitimate equality struggle for the pursuit of lifestyle choices. It's not surprising that many of the most vocal opponents of SSM are members of the African-American community.

No, we don't want to follow Canada, because that nation's path will only lead to the further disintegration of marriage, harm to children and religious persecution.

Thankfully, most Minnesotans realize the folly of following that lead.

Tom Prichard is president of the Minnesota Family Council.

Comments? Post below.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Civil Marriage - A Lesson to the U.S. (and Christian Right) from Canada

It was a pleasure to read the Editorial of Saturday, July 23rd in the Minneapolis Star Tribune on how 'Canada Leads - Gay Equality is the [real] Issue.' The definition of marriage, only between a man and woman, should be left up to churches/religions who interpret their religious faith within this realm...not our government. Civil Marriage (i.e. Civil Unions) is appropriately recognized now in Canada, within their governmental policy, inclusive of unions between both heterosexual and same sex couples. Bravo to the Canadian government.

Within this Editorial, it was so encouraging to read that Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin changed his view on the definition of marriage stating "My misgivings about extending the right of civil marriage to same-sex couples were a function of my faith, my perspective on the world around us. But much has changed since that day four years ago...we've come to the realization that instituting civil unions -- adopting a 'separate but equal' approach -- would violate the equality provisions of the Charter. We've confirmed that extending the right of civil marriage to gays and lesbians will not in any way infringe on religious freedoms."

Lets emphasize this again - extending the right of civil marriage to gays and lesbians will not in any way infringe on relgious freedoms - period. Our current regime, the Replublican Party and The Christian Right need to face reality respective of this truth (as outlined in our Constitution) that Civil Marriage respects the right of religious freedom and supports the separation of church and state in this country. Gay marriage in no way violates religious expression and religious freedom for any individual or group...and The Christian Right needs to support this truth. If The Christian Right is as patriotic as they like to claim, they will respect this valued principle of our Constitution.

I admire Canadian Prime Minister Martin for reflecting on this issue, and changing his stance from four years ago, in support of legalizing Civil Marraige. He reminds me of advice I received a couple months ago from a very wise 87 year old 'young' gentleman who told me "for a person to change his mind, he must have one."

The Editorial in the Star Tribune is outlined below for your benefit:


Editorial: Canada leads/Gay equality is the issue
July 23, 2005 ED0723

Canada, like the United States, is a nation of immigrants, a nation that respects and protects minority rights. While it frequently chafes at being overshadowed by the superpower to its south, Canada this week took a step Americans will someday emulate. It legalized gay marriages in the name of equality.

Why do we believe the trend will spread, when today's most vigorous efforts on the subject go in the opposite direction? Because people's concepts of equality evolve. Just as the United States came to realize women deserved the right to vote, just as it later realized the rights of people from different races to marry each other, we are convinced that it eventually will accept the reasoning that has led the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain and now Canada to recognize same-sex marriages.

That's why it is dismaying that Minnesotans will likely spend next year arguing whether the state Constitution should be changed to specifically disallow gay marriage, and even civil unions. Gov. Tim Pawlenty, while indicating support for some kind of protection for gay couples, stops short of civil unions. And his party appears ready to make the constitutional amendment a major goal.

Our hope is that Minnesotans, like many Canadians, will begin to look at the issue in terms of equality. Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin, in a long, impassioned address, demonstrated how quickly people's views can change when they begin to look at it from this perspective. On Feb. 16, he said to the House of Commons, "I rise in support of Bill C-38, the Civil Marriage Act. I rise in support of a Canada in which liberties are safeguarded, rights are protected and the people of this land are treated as equals under the law. ... Our deliberations will be not merely about a piece of legislation ... more deeply, they will be about the kind of nation we are today, and the nation we want to be." Martin pointed out that four years ago he voted to support the traditional definition of marriage, explaining, "My misgivings about extending the right of civil marriage to same-sex couples were a function of my faith, my perspective on the world around us.

"But much has changed since that day. We've heard from courts across the country, including the Supreme Court. We've come to the realization that instituting civil unions -- adopting a 'separate but equal' approach -- would violate the equality provisions of the Charter. We've confirmed that extending the right of civil marriage to gays and lesbians will not in any way infringe on religious freedoms."

What Americans can learn from Martin's transformation, and that of many Canadians, is that religious freedom and a minority's right to equality can go hand in hand under the Constitution just as they now do under Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms. No religious entity is compelled to marry a same-sex couple in Canada. This law is about civil marriage. What various religious entities do is entirely up to them. Canada is therefore free to protect the minority rights of gays and lesbians, and religions are free to marry or not to marry as their faiths dictate. These are two separate issues.

As people the world over have come to recognize that homosexuality is not a "lifestyle choice" but a fact of life, more and more are beginning to realize that same-sex couples deserve the same respect and protection that traditional couples have had. There are many ways to protect such couples, as evidenced in the differing laws of Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Iceland, New Zealand and Finland -- each of which grants registered same-sex partners the same or similar rights as married couples. But Americans, sooner or later, would do well to separate in their minds civil and religious marriage rights -- and ultimately confer civil rights to this minority population.

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Sunday, July 17, 2005

Topic of the Week - Focus on the Big Picture...and Karl Rove must Resign

Lets review the facts and opinions/hypothesis of the security breech by Karl Rove and lets keep our eye on the 'big picture' here in what this media attention is really about - the White House manufactured and manipulated evidence and deceived Congress and the American People to invade the country of Iraq - period. Anyone with a brain and who has followed all the information and reports from the UK government officials (i.e. Downing Street Memo), the US officials (recent Joe Wilson/Valerie Plame smear campaign by the White House) knows this to be true. We all knew it to be true back in 2003 in the build-up to the invasion of Iraq - it was obvious the Bush administration had a hidden agenda to invade Iraq and no one, including the United Nations, was going to stop them.

Lets look at the Wilson/Plame smear campaign in detail...and keep your eye again on the big picture here on what this security breech is really about - manufacturing evidence to deceive Congress and the American people to invade Iraq.

1. Fact: Karl Rove lied denying previous statements in 2003 that he had nothing to do in leaking Valerie Plame's name to the media.

As reported on NBC's Meet the Press by Tim Russert this morning: Matthew Cooper, Time Magazine reporter answered the following question before the Grand Jury as written in Time Magazine's recent, July 25, 2005 issue;

Question: Was it through my (Cooper's) conversation with Karl Rove that I leaned for the first time that [Joe] Wilson's wife worked at the CIA and may have been responsible for sending Joe Wilson to Niger to investigate the 'Yellow Cake' Uranium sale to Iraq? Answer: Yes

Question: Did Rove say that she worked at the [CIA] "agency" on "WMD"? Answer: Yes

Question: When Rove said things would be declassified soon, was that itself impermissible? Answer: I don't know. (Remember this statement that "things would be declassified soon.")

Question Directly from Tim Russert: For the record, the first time you learned that Joe Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, worked for the CIA was from Karl Rove? Answer by Cooper: Yes

2. Fact & Hypothesis: VP Dick Cheney's Chief of Staff Scooter Libby had given Matthew Cooper a specific waiver, and I (Cooper) gave a deposition in the office of my attorney in August, 2004 regarding limited conversations with Libby that was not discussed until now. Libby on the record denied that Cheney played or knew or had any role in Wilson's trip to Niger. Off the record, I asked Libby if he had heard anything about Wilson's wife sending her husband to Niger. Libby replied "Yeah, I've heard that too."

Fact: Libby, Cheney's Chief of Staff, denied Cheney had anything to do with or knowing Wilson went to Niger or played an role within this mission.

Hypothesis: Dick Cheney orchestrated this 'Yellow Cake' uranium scheme in his bid to manufacture evidence to justify an invasion of Iraq.


3. Fact & Hypothesis: Matthew Cooper in the July 17, 2003 issue of Time magazine that "some government officials have noted to Time magazine in interviews, (as well as to syndicated columnist Robert Novak) that Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, is a CIA official who monitors the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. These officials have suggested that she was involved in her husband's being dispatched to Niger....

Question by Tim Russert: Some government officials? Were those Rove & Libby? Answer by Cooper: Yes

Question from Russert: Are there more government officials? Answer by Cooper: I don't want to get into it, but it's possible.

Question by Russert: Have you told the Grand Jury about that...that there may have been more sources? Answer by Cooper: Yes.

Hypothesis: VP Dick Cheney (and most likely President Bush) was very much involved in trying to manufacture evidence to invade Iraq and Cheney was the main person (along with Karl Rove) behind the "smear" campaign of Joe Wilson and his wife, Valerie Plame.

4. Fact: On July 14, 2003, Robert Novak's syndicated newspaper column stated "Wilson never worked for the CIA, but his wife, Valerie Plame, is an agency operative on weapons of mass destruction. Two senior administration officials told me that Wilson's wife suggested sending him to Niger....The CIA says its counterproliferaion officials selected Wilson and asked his wife to contact him."

Karl Rove...spoke with the columnist Robert D. Novak [on July 8, 2003 - six days prior to Novak's column above] as he was preparing an article...that identified a CIA officer who was the undercover, someone who has been officially briefed on the matter said. Mr Rove has told investigators as of last Friday, July 15, 2005 that he learned from the columnist the name of the CIA officer, who was referred to by her maiden name, Valerie Plame, and the circumstances in which her husband, former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, traveled to Africa to investigate possible uranium sales to Iraq the "person" said. After hearing Mr. Novak's account, the person who has been briefed on the matter said, Mr. Rove told the columnist "I heard that, too." This past account was reported in the July 15, 2005 edition of the NY Times.

5. Fact: On Friday, July 11, 2003 in a Newsweek magazine article July 16, 2005 issue reported that "Rove told Matthew Cooper that Wilson's trip had not been authorized by "DCIA "- CIA Director George Tenet - or Vice President, Dick Cheney. Rather, 'it was (Rove said) Wilson's wife, who apparently works at the agency on WMD issues who authorized the trip."

Karl Rove "out-ed" Valerie Plame to the media which is against the 1982 law forbidden White House officials, or anyone employed in government service, to disclose a CIA operative to the public. This is breaking the law. Rove's attorney will stand behind the fact that Rove apparently did not disclose Valerie Plame's actual name but rather leaked that this CIA operative was Joseph Wilson's wife. Regardless, it is obvious Karl Rove is guilty of leaking information to the press that threatens national security.

6. Fact: Karl Rove signed an oath as employed by the White House, and they (White House employees) are given a briefing book that states within "Before....confirming the accuracy of what appears in the public source, the signer of the SF 312 must confirm through an authorized official that the information has, in fact, been declassified. If it has not....confirmation of its accuracy is also an unauthorized disclosure." Briefing Booklet; Classified Information Nondisclosure Agreement Page 73.

So by confirming a story with Robert Novak, or sharing a story with Matthew Cooper, no matter where it came from, Karl Rove leaked to the press classified information after taking an oath to the President of the United States not to do so.

7. Statement: John Podesta, former Chief of Staff for Bill Clinton stated on Meet the Press: "What's this all about? This is about the White House trying to defend its use of manipulated information of intelligence material to invade Iraq. Mr. Rove stated he was not involved in the Wilson/Plame disclosure, as stated by Scott McClellan in July, 2003 press briefing. This is a lie - Karl Rove was involved and leaked Valerie Plame's name to the press. This is a lie and Karl Rove is the top advisor to our President. Karl Rove must resign."

8. Fact: The Iraq invasion has increased the number of 'terrorists' within the Islamic fundamentalist culture worldwide. According to many sources and research conducted in 2004 and 2005 (see most recent study as reported in today's July 17, 2005 Boston Globe newspaper http://www.boston.com/news/world/middleeast/articles/
2005/07/17/study_cites_seeds_of_terror_in_iraq/ )
the Iraq invasion has most definitely increased the hostility and number of 'terrorists' both domestically and internationally in their fight against the United States and its allies. On the CNN morning edition this past Friday, July 15, 2005, in an exclusive interview with two Iraqi insurgents, both insurgents acknowledged the Iraq invasion has created a hatred so much so that the insurgents are able to recruit Islamic fighters from around the world in fighting the U.S. and their numbers have increased significnatly because of the Iraq invasion.


The bottom line is that Karl Rove has to resign - period. He lied and manipulated evidence in a smear campaign against Josheph Wilson and his wife, Valerie Plame who is a CIA operative, to cover-up the lies, deception and manufactured evidence from the White House in attempting to justify their invasion of Iraq.

Once again, do not forget the big picture here and let me restate it - The White House manufactured evidence and deceived Congress and the American people in order to invade Iraq and occupy a country. Currently, over 1,700 U.S. lives have been lost, presumable over 12,000 Iraqi citizens have been killed and over $500 billion dollars of our tax payer monies have been spent on this invasion. And finally, this Iraq invasion, besides being immoral, has left our country vulnerable militarily and economically...more so than any time in our country's history - period.

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Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Muslim Fundamentalism & Conservative Christianity vs. Secularism

I am reading a three part series of articles running on the front page of the Wall Street Journal on 'Islam & Europe - A Volatile Mix." In the second series of articles, they are tracing the history of the emergence of Islamic Fundamentalism in Europe and profiling four key individuals on their efforts to build a foundation for Islamic Fundamentalism. As the WSJ reports in the article:

These current tensions are embedded in the events of half a century ago. Postwar Munich was a ruined city packed with Muslim emigres fleeing persecution. While the West tried to observe and control them as valuable pawns in the Cold War, they encountered formidable rivals seeking their own power bases in Europe's burgeoning Muslim world.

Over the next few decades, four men would try successively to control the Munich mosque: a brilliant professor of Turkic studies, an imam in Hitler's SS, a charismatic Muslim writer with a world-wide following and a hard-nosed Muslim financier now under investigation for backing terrorism. Most favored some sort of accommodation with the West. But the victor had a bolder vision: a global Islam opposed to the ideals of secular democracy.

The last line in the second paragraph (in bold here) is most interesting in that there is a correlation between The Christian Right and its opposition to secular democracy and Islamic fundamentalism and its opposition to secular democracy. It seems that the fundamental Christians and fundamental Islamists have a core principle in common. The line between fundamental Christianity and fundamental Islam is much thinner than some may care to acknowledge...

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Sunday, July 10, 2005

The London Attacks and Fear Rhetoric by the Bush Regime and The Christian Right

As the horrific events of the London bombings unfold from this past Thursday, one can almost feel the emergence of fear that was so prevalent, and orchestrated, by the Bush regime and The Christian Right over the last five years.

First, lets be real - the deaths and injuries from the London attacks are very tragic and targeting innocent people, no matter how desperate certain groups within the Islamic faith feel, is no basis for acknowledgement of their cause when murder is their primary protest - period. Its unfortunate that these Islamic groups do not review history and understand that massive change and awareness is only productive through peaceful expostulation (i.e. Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King).

But lets not forget that innocent people are dying each and every single day in Iraq...our occupation is a cause for this loss of innocent lives whether you want to acknowledge and accept this truth or not. My point is lets be aware of the entire picture with respect to the killing of innocent lives.

The "War on Terror" was defined after 9/11 by the Bush Regime as an offensive measure...to both take the fight to the terrorists as well as to leverage fear in obtaining their political agenda. The Christian Right has always had a foundation of fear in their belief system...fear of homosexuals, fear of other belief systems, etc. The connection between the Bush regime and The Christian Right is very deep...almost an unconscious connection cloaked in fear.

Karl Rove, Dick Cheney, Richard Pearle and Paul Wolfowitz realize how this fear can impassion people...so much so that this fear overrides their entire life, day by day, hour by hour. A bit dramatic? No, not really. Think about it for a moment.

After 9/11 and for the next three years leading up to the election of 2004, every Christian Right I spoke with completely ignored the deceit, corruption and policy agenda of the Bush regime, which put America and the American people in the worse situation politically, militarily and economically in our history. Each Christian Right would froth at the mouth if you dared criticize the Bush regime on any Bush policy decision. They called you unpatriotic and even called you a traitor.

Most personal value traits (benevolence, tolerance, etc.) were overridden by a 'pack' mentality witch hunt to seek and destroy anyone who got in their way...including the people of France, all of Europe, Canada and any other former ally who did not 'obey' this new world order. And this new world order was and is based only on fear and control.

This offensive fear strategy against terror is wrong. Anyone with an understanding of basic psychology knows that a strategy of destruction against an enemy, no matter the justification and consequences, spreads to a fervor among the offensive party and their supporters of bias, prejudice, extreme nationalism and a mentality of superiority. Any action is justified and then supported by those people who are fearfully loyal to their leader(s).

And lets be clear - the war on terror to eliminate terrorist acts/attacks cannot be 'won' with an offensive strategy. It only increases a resentment which multiplies throughout the opposing faction. The Iraq invasion is just one example of this flawed belief.

Terrorist acts can only be contained - any battle that is won in Iraq, Afghanistan or any other territory in the world is one small battle won but the chances of winning the war only diminishes. Those who don't allow fear to overwhelm their lives understand this. They understand that as long as our current regime tries to 'stomp-out' terrorism for good, it will only increase the number of terrorist acts in the future. Any offensive strategy is a destructive strategy and 9/11, or the recent London attacks, does not validate this strategy.

I suggest you to be aware of the Bush regime's rhetoric going forward in the wake of the London bombings. The Christian Right will respond once again with indignance how America is the best country in the world and we need to teach the world how to adhere to 'our' values. They will mobilize further and respond with blind loyalty to the Bush regime's use of fear rhetoric in order to continue to push their fear agenda forward.

I encourage you to challenge immediately any fear type of rhetoric, comment or discussion you encounter either interpersonally, within the media (write emails to the Editor) and/or within our politician's rhetoric. The London bombings are tragic....but don't let our current regime exploit it at the expense of our civil liberties, our values and what our domestic and foreign policy should be...because this current regime is already exploiting it. Fear is the only tactic the Bush regime has left.

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