Friday, February 11, 2005

The Bush Bait and Switch-Part 2

from grannyhelen

In which George W. Bush and the Republican Party Promise the American Voters One Thing Before the Election, and Then Swindle Them Once in Office.

This segment's broken promises: health care, Medicaid, farm subsidies and veterans benefits.

This diary series is dedicated to the 2004 Republican National Convention, which produced the 2004 Republican Party instructive document containing pre-election promises that in no way reflect Bush's current budget proposal.

Next stop down the Republican Party's pre-election promises to the American taxpayer: healthcare. Surely, the proposed $13 billion in Medicaid cuts was mentioned somewhere in their platform?

Here's what they have to say:

True Solutions for Affordable, High-Quality Health Care

The cost of providing health care for employees is a major burden for American businesses. Health insurance costs for employers have been rising every year since 1996, causing businesses to hire fewer new employees and too many families to go without insurance. Studies show that 60 percent of uninsured Americans either work for a small business or are dependent upon someone who does. The way to alleviate that burden is to bring down the cost of health care in America. Shifting the cost-burden onto the federal or state governments - costs that will ultimately be borne by the taxpayers - is not an effective solution to the problem. We must attack the root causes of high health care costs by: aiding small businesses in offering health care to their employees; empowering the self-employed through access to affordable coverage; putting patients and doctors in charge of medical decisions; reducing junk lawsuits and limiting punitive damage awards that raise the cost of health care; and seizing the cost-saving and quality-enhancing potential of emerging health technologies. It is also important that we reaffirm our Party's firm rejection of any measure aimed at making health care a government-run enterprise. universal health care, tort reform, some gobbledy-gook about empowering the self-employed through access to affordable coverage...Nope, I don't see those Medicaid cuts anywhere in Bush's pre-election promises to the American people.  In fact, here's what they actually said about Medicaid:

Medicaid and the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP)

The President has worked to help states develop new approaches to expand coverage in their Medicaid and SCHIP programs. Waivers and state plan amendments approved by the Department of Health and Human Services have expanded eligibility under these programs to more than 2.6 million children and improved benefits for more than 8 million children and adults since 2001. By working with governors of both parties, the Bush Administration is fostering the creation of innovative approaches to health care access and delivery by the states. We support enhancing efforts to reach the parents of children who are eligible for SCHIP so that more children receive health coverage...

Want more irony? Here's specifically what the Republican Party Platform says about inequities in health care and higher infant mortality rates among minorities and the poor:

Eliminating Health Care Disparities

Disparities in health and health care based upon race, ethnicity, socio-economic status, or geography are unacceptable. Historically, African Americans, Hispanics, Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, American Indians, and Alaska Natives have experienced poorer health outcomes and received lower-quality care than the majority of Americans. For example, infant mortality rates are twice as high among African Americans as whites, and African American children are twice as likely to have asthma and six times as likely to die from asthma as white children. The prevalence of HIV/AIDS in Latino populations is four times higher than among whites while the prevalence among African Americans is nine times higher than that of whites. In addition, Hispanics are nearly twice as likely to die from diabetes as whites, and African American adults are almost twice as likely to die from heart disease as whites. There is also strong evidence that people living in rural and other non-metropolitan areas, regardless of their race or ethnicity, are more likely to experience access problems and poorer health outcomes. Republicans are committed to addressing these health and health care disparities.

Progress has been made in recent years in a number of areas, including enhancement of federal research on health disparities, identification of barriers to care for our increasingly diverse population, expansion of the number of health professionals who are committed to serving minority and underserved patients and their communities, and improvement in the quality of care for uninsured and underserved populations. Republicans believe we must build on this success and increase these efforts. We strongly support initiatives to improve the quality of care delivered to all Americans...

Just leaves you speechless, don't it?

This next part is my personal favorite, having grown up on a family farm. It really talks up the 2002 Farm Bill, which the President's budget pretty much makes null and void:

Agriculture and Rural America

American farm and ranch families embody some of the best values of our nation: hard work and risk-taking, love of the land and love of our country. Farming is the first industry of America - the industry that feeds us, the industry that clothes us, and the industry that increasingly provides more of our energy. The success of America's farmers and ranchers is essential to the success of the American economy. The President put his words into action when he signed the 2002 Farm Bill, passed with strong support from Republicans in Congress. And President Bush continues to pursue and enforce international trade agreements that affect farmers and ranchers.

Note to South Dakota farmers: you should have kept Daschle. Really.

Finally, any review of the promises the Republican Party made to American voters before the November elections just wouldn't be complete without a special section dedicated to veterans:

Honoring America's Veterans

As Americans, we must honor our commitment to the 25 million veterans in the United States. America is dedicated to honoring its commitment to these patriots. Veterans have helped shape the American character, and their service represents the highest form of national service. President Bush and Congress have increased funding for veterans services, including substantial increases in Veterans' Administration (VA) health care funding. This additional funding has made it possible for the VA to improve health care access for veterans who need it most, including low-income veterans, those with service-connected disabilities, and those who need VA's specialized services. President Bush has twice signed legislation effectively providing "concurrent receipt" of both military retiree pay and VA disability compensation for combat-injured and highly-disabled veterans, thus reversing a century-old law preventing concurrent receipts. In addition, President Bush has fulfilled his promise to cut the disability claims backlog that existed when he took office and reduce waiting times for veterans seeking initial medical care. We support more care to more veterans in more places where they need it most. We also applaud the President's efforts to maintain and expand our national cemeteries...

Compare this with how Bush's budget will affect veterans, as reported by the Florida Sun Sentinel:

Two million veterans would pay more for drugs and health care. Prescription co-payments for veterans with higher incomes and no service-related disabilities would more than double from $7 to $15 for a 30-day supply. These veterans also would pay an annual $250 fee.

About 1.9 million veterans live in Florida, and 550,000 of them are enrolled in the Veterans Affairs health-care network. It is not clear yet how many of those would have to pay the proposed annual fee if it passed.

Al Linden, executive director of Disabled American Veterans, Department of Florida Inc., said that veterans who served their country shouldn't be asked to pay for their health care.

"It's the DAV's position is that no veterans should have to make a co-payment," Linden said.

Well, Mr. Linden, before the November elections that was the Republican Party's position as well.

Thank you for reading this rather long, 2-part diary series. I think it is valuable to understand what Bush and the Republican Party promised the American voter months ago, and how they're swindling that same voter right now.


Religious News Roundup-February 11, 2005

Today is the commemoration of St. Vlassios of Sebaste, also known as St. Blaise.

The Orthodox calendar of saints says of St. Blaise that

Divine grace, through which he healed the diseases of men and beasts, and especially of infants, made his name famous. He contested for the Faith under Licinius in the year 316. Saint Blaise is invoked for the healing of throat ailments.

Handy to know in the winter months.

If you're in Wiota, Wisconsin this Sunday, stop by Wiota Lutheran Church. They're having a Norwegian dinner at 2:00:

The menu includes Norwegian meatballs, ham, lefse, mashed potatoes, corn, green beans, cole slaw and Norwegian goodies.

We're there, as long as the goodies don't include fish.

Today's categories:


Religion & Politics

  • Bruce Prescott lays a smackdown on the Southern Baptists for their uncritical support of the President's Social Security piratization plan. And when we say "smackdown," this is what we mean:

    It would be hard to find a better example of how debasing it is for a religious denomination to place loyalty to a politician above the proclamation of the gospel.

    Focus on the Family falls into the same trap here, simultaneously continuing their campaign to have their non-profit status lifted. (Warning: that's a .pdf link.)

    And as long's as we're twitting FotF, can we just say this? Look at their logo:

    Does that not look like a 1970s advertisement for an ice cream parlor?

  • Given how critical we've just been of faith groups supporting the President's agenda, you might expect that we'd be equally hard on groups that take positions against it. Well, we would, but there's some important distinctions here. The interfaith group going after the budget does some theological reflection, which is far different than the SBC and FotF's partisanship under the guise of informing their members on the Social Security debate. And while the budget group is highly critical of Bush's proposal, notice that they don't call for its rejection outright; instead, they call upon Congress to reflect upon their values and vote accordingly. That's far different than support based not on faith, but ideology.

  • Evangelical Christians have been thrown into sudden prominence after last year's elections, and they're now in the process of sorting out what all that means. So you have the National Association of Evangelicals urging caution, and people like Ron Sider and John Thune floating baloons. Thune's about as bad as you'd expect: he participates in Bible study with Tom Coburn, and like every other wingnut out there, lists getting Bush's judicial nominees confirmed and DOMA as top priorities. But Sider, who's often mentioned in the same breath as Jim Wallis, isn't as far away from Thune as we'd like. He's against same-sex marriage, he believes children are better off when raised with a mother and a father, and he's in favor of school vouchers. RNR appreciates some of his critiques of the evangelical movement, as well as his support for environmental and anti-poverty legislation, but still. We're not quite ready to endorse him as the religious left's answer to Jerry Falwell.

  • Speaking of Jerry, he's been filling in for the now-vanquished Tucker Carlson on Crossfire. Yecch.

  • The Virginia House has passed a proposal to amend the state constitution to "protect" religious speech. You know, because Jefferson and Madison were such weak-kneed liberals when they wrote in the separation of church and state in 1786.

    We're suspicious of the proposal for two reasons, though. First of all, it's based on the kind of common overreactions that don't need to be dealt with through legislation. Second, because quotes like this from the bill's supporters lead us to believe the real agenda is entirely different than the stated one:

    Jack Knapp, executive director of the Virginia Assembly of Independent Baptists, said he believed court decisions have made the amendment necessary.

    "We've come to the place now where the Christian religion is not even treated as an equal partner in religious liberty. We've come to the place where to express anything Christian is now against the law in the public forum," he said.

    This is about controlling that public forum, not protecting anything.

  • Also in the South: the Georgia Senate shot down Gov. Sonny Perdue's proposed amendment enabling government subsidies to religious social service groups. DNC leaders, are you paying attention?

    Democrats said they support the amendment's goal, but offered their own version, which specifically stated government money could not pay for sending students to private and parochial schools.

    "This isn't an issue of whether you're for or against faith," said Sen. Doug Stoner, D-Smyrna, the Democratic plan's sponsor. "If you vote for this resolution the way it is currently worded, then you have enabled school vouchers in this state."

    School vouchers, in many parts of the South, is code for "subsidies to racist Christian academies." Even in the North, vouchers are hotly contested. Here's a way to turn back support for "faith-based initiatives."


Same Sex Marriage

  • The Boston Globe talks to a couple of Catholic legislators who believe their faith led them to support SSM, despite what their fellow parishioners, priests, and bishop might tell you.  (Philocrites, who steered us to the article, is mad because the Unitarians got overlooked in the article. To which we respond: welcome to the UCC's world...)

  • Anyway: the New York Sun has a stupid, stupid article about members of the clergy and what they think about SSM.

  • Pam, if you're reading this, you ought to be able to hit this one out of the park: a theater chain in Canada is running ads in favor of the SSM act currently before Parliament.  This has the "family values" crowd crying foul, naturally.  No indication in the article, but somehow we doubt they're showing them in front of "Bambi."

    But way down at the bottom is the really interesting piece:

    Famous Players Theaters is owned by Viacom Canada, Inc., the Canadian arm of the large media conglomerate Viacom, which also owns such media outlets as MTV, Nickelodeon, Showtime, Infinity Broadcasting, and Comedy Central.

    More hypocrisy from the suits.

  • Pacificus has a good catch: why, if Eliot Spitzer has nothing to do with the SSM case working its way through the New York courts, does this article from Baptist Press drag his name into a discussion of that case? Why, because he's a strong candidate for NY governor, and they're trying to drive up his negatives.  Hmm, what was it that Bruce Prescott had to say?  Could it be:

    It would be hard to find a better example of how debasing it is for a religious denomination to place loyalty to a politician above the proclamation of the gospel.

    Yeah, that's it.


This 'n' That

  • Since we've brought up Bruce Prescott's name a couple of times now, let's not forget to remind you all that he's begun podcasting his radio interviews.

  • The Des Moines Register goes in search of Iowa's "most moral" county. They find a windmill:

  • Beliefnet passes on a long story about sexual abuse in Amish communities from Legal Affairs. We wonder if the article wasn't inspired by this series by RNR's local newspaper.

  • There's a new edition of the Talmud coming available. At 73 volumes, we doubt we'll be putting it on our nightstands anytime soon. To give you an idea of just how daunting the Talmud is in any language, check out this sample page:

    If we're not mistaken, that skinny column in the middle is the scripture itself. The rest is commentary, and commentary on the commentary...

  • MSNBC figures out that, you know? The sudden upswing in ID/Creationist court cases around the country might be part of an organized campaign.

  • Joan Chittister calls for the Catholic Church to make up its mind on married priests. Be careful what you wish for, Joan: you might wind up with pastordan!

  • It's difficult to resist headlines like this: "Faith to seek its own police force." That's Faith, North Carolina, y'all.

  • A couple of "church and state" items: the Bush administration is going to the Supreme Court to stop hallucigenic tea from being used in certain religious ceremonies. And Hawaiian prisoners in Oklahoma are being permitted to celebrate the traditional holiday of Makahiki, thanks in part to the help of the UCC. (Thanks to Hono Lulu for the tip!)

  • And if you thought that story was a bit off-kilter, consider the Hasidic reggae singer. We hear he's supposed to be pretty good!


Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Ash Wednesday Sermon

Isaiah 58:1-12

Ash Wednesday, as I'm sure many of you know, marks the beginning of the Christian season of Lent, forty days of fasting and repentance (not including Sundays) that lead up to Easter. As Jesus tested himself in the wilderness, so Christians test themselves in Lent.

About that word "repentance":  it's easy to get caught in the old sense, meaning something akin to, if not actually, "self-flagellation." Don't do it. Lent is not a time to hate oneself. Rather, it is a time to repent in the Hebrew sense: to turn, to modify, to change one's evil ways. And as Isaiah tells us, Lent is a time to make that turn on behalf of the community.
It is the community, after all, that has rebelled against God as our reading from Isaiah opens. "Day after day" they seek God in empty ritual, mouthing the right words while not changing their hardened hearts.  They are hypocrites without equal: they worship

as if they were a nation that practiced righteousness,
and did not forsake the ordinance of their God;
    they ask of me [God] righteous judgments,
    they delight to draw near to God.

As if that weren't bad enough, they expect results from their religious observances:

Why do we fast, but you do not see?
Why humble ourselves, but you do not notice?

God (through Isaiah) has a very succinct answer to these questions:

Look, you serve your own interest
    on your fast day,
    and oppress all your workers.
Look, you fast only to quarrel and to fight
    and to strike with a wicked fist.
Such fasting as you do today
    will not make your voice heard on high.

If penitence is about making you feel good about yourself, it's not going to get you very far with God. There is no way to buy righteousness. Instead, God has some suggestions:

Is not this the fast that I choose:
    to loose the bonds of injustice,
    to undo the thongs of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
    and to break every yoke?

You want to do something nice for me? God asks. You want to do a little fasting, a little repenting? Fine. Then change the rules of the game that keep some people on top and some people on the bottom.

That's not an abstract, "global" suggestion, either.  It's very specific to the individuals being addressed:

Is [my fast] not to share your bread with the hungry,
    and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover them,
    and not to hide yourself from your own kin?


If you remove the yoke from among you,
    the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil,
if you offer your food to the hungry
    and satisfy the needs of the afflicted,
then your light shall rise in the darkness
    and your gloom be like the noonday.

This is not giving up sweets for a few days.  The Israelites are called in this prophecy to nothing short of a radical reorganization of their society, so that justice and equity will become the highest virtues. Again, this is nothing abstract: Isaiah tells his listeners that this will involve your bread, your house, your food. Unless you are willing to risk your own material possessions, the prophet suggests, you have not entered into the kind of change that makes for true repentance.

Before we get into the application of the text, let's pause to notice a couple of things. First of all, it's scary enough to think about opening our front door to the homeless today, but remember, when these lines were first written, economic insecurity was an everyday part of life. To offer food to the hungry might very mean that you yourself would have to do without, and the same was true of offering clothing to the naked.  The people were being called to a significant material gamble here.

Second, these instructions contain an odd mix of idealism and common decency. Who should need to be told to take care of family? To not point a finger in blame at someone else, or to refrain from speaking evil against them? And yet we all need the reminder, don't we? Anyone who claims that they've never talked trash about somebody else is a liar. The same goes from pointing fingers at the Bush administration, Republicans in general, or one another. Whether or not they deserved to have a finger pointed at them is irrelevant; even if we can feel justified in our blame, we have allowed our society to continue in such a fashion that blame needs to be apportioned. The very fact that we can point the finger means that we are still caught in the yoke of injustice and sin. For were we able to create a perfect world, there would be no need to blame anyone for its shortcomings.

The ashes we take upon our foreheads we take for ourselves. No one else.

Last, notice that this text requires no creed, no assent to a list of intellectual propositions or "right belief" in order to participate in the proper fashion. That's because the ancient Israelites could assume such things: if you were a Jew, you believed in God, and that was that.  But for our purposes, no matter. The repentence of Ash Wednesday is to be found in the doing, not the thinking.

Which brings us to the application portion of our sermon. Reading the Daily Kos every day is fine; we learn a lot, share a lot, build up friendships and connections that are invaluable. But to paraphrase Paul, if I hit the refresh button and do not have love, then I am nothing.

The essence of love is service, and what we are called to by Isaiah is nothing more complex than concrete, material acts of loving service. Set aside the questions of political activism, positioning, message discipline, and all that rot. Jeff Gannon will still be around for hunting purposes tomorrow; Howard Dean will more than likely still become Chairman of the Democratic National Committee on Sunday.

But you and I came here because we wanted to make a difference, and tonight is an opportunity to recommit ourselves to doing just that. So, no partisanship, no asking for "righteous judgments" on behalf of our side. Just step forward, take some virtual ashes, drop a buck in the plate for a charity or three:

Anddon't forget to pray that all our repentence may be real, and that the results of our efforts may be a society transformed:
The Lord will guide you continually,
    and satisfy your needs in parched places,
and make your bones strong;
and you shall be like a watered garden,
    like a spring of water,
    whose waters never fail.
Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt;
    you shall raise up the foundations of many generations;

you shall be called the repairer of the breach;
the restorer of streets to live in.


The Bush Bait and Switch-Part I

from grannyhelen

In which George W. Bush and the Republican Party Promise the American Voters One Thing Before the Election, and Then Swindle Them Once in Office.

This segment's broken promises: social security, transportation and education.

This is my question to every Republican voter out there: did you vote for this? Did you vote for Social Security to be privatized? Did you vote for Medicaid to be cut for the poorest Americans, and the poorest children?

Well, this hardly compassionate agenda is actually not what Bush and the Republican Party ran on in the November elections. Insightful excerpts from the 2004 Republican Party Platform follow.

It's clear what this new budget is: a prime example of Bush's bait-and-switch to the American electorate. People did not vote for this budget, Bush did not run on this budget, and the American voter needs to let him know in 2006 that you can't tell somebody you want to do one thing, and then do something else.

For instance, on social security, here's what the 2004 Republican Party Platform said Bush would do (my emphasis added, obviously):

Social Security needs to be strengthened and enhanced for our children and grandchildren. Republicans remain committed to the principles the President outlined:

Anyone now receiving Social Security, or close to being eligible for it, is guaranteed that their benefits will not be cut and their taxes will not be raised. Social Security is a promise made by this country to its citizens and Republicans will keep that promise.

Key changes to Social Security should merit bipartisan agreement so all improvements are a win for the American people rather than a political victory for any one party...

Personal retirement accounts must be the cornerstone of strengthening and enhancing Social Security. Each of today's workers should be free to direct a portion of their payroll taxes to personal investments for their retirement. It is crucial that individuals be offered a variety of investment alternatives and that detailed information be provided to each participant to help them judge the risks and benefits of each plan. Today's financial markets offer a variety of investment options, including some that guarantee a rate of return higher than the current Social Security system with no risk to the investor...

...This is a challenge that demands leadership. President Bush has shown this leadership by proposing a bold alternative to the collapse of Social Security. Along with Americans everywhere, we pledge to join him in this endeavor of a lifetime. Individual ownership of voluntary personal retirement accounts for today's workers will make Social Security more equitable, but, just as importantly; will put the system on sure financial footing... Doing nothing is not an option. We must keep faith with both the past and the future by strengthening and enhancing Social Security. We believe that everyone who participates in the Social Security program should use legal and accurate identification. President Bush formed a bipartisan commission that recommended three models for reform and many Republicans in Congress have exhibited leadership in sponsoring six different bills. Non-partisan analysis of these proposals shows that each strengthens Social Security and that each shares a common characteristic: giving workers the option of supplementing Social Security with personal retirement accounts that they own. Our Party supports the efforts of President Bush and Congressional Republicans to enact legislation during the next term.

Okay, question for the group: where are these proposals and where is the non-partisan analysis that shows that each strengthens social security?

Ironically, this Republican plan sounds very much like Clinton's proposal to use the budget surpluses to allow individuals to start independent savings accounts to supplement social security. The difference is Clinton's plan for independent savings accounts was in addition to (not in place of) the standard social security benefit, and he was not proposing to increase the deficit, or lower the amount of money going into the system, in order to start these personal accounts. Details of Clinton's sound, sober and fiscally responsible social security program are here: Obviously, comparing the Clinton plan and the GOP's rhetoric before the election, I think most voters - if they even bothered to get this far in the party platform - felt that the Republican proposal would resemble Clinton's, and not the one Bush is proposing right now.

But...what about Bush's other cuts? Were they foreshadowed in the Republican Party Platform that he ran on before the November elections?

Here's what the 2004 Republican Party Platform says about national railway systems:


A safe and efficient transportation system is essential to keeping people and goods moving and cities and communities prosperous. Congestion and delay not only waste our time as individuals, they also burden businesses and our entire economy with inefficiency and higher costs. Republicans strongly support a comprehensive transportation policy agenda that enhances safety, reduces congestion, modernizes infrastructure, and promotes economic growth.

Our national railroad network is a crucial component of our public transportation system. Railroads helped build our country, and our national passenger railroad network plays a key role in transportation and economic growth. Republicans support, where economically viable, the development of a high-speed passenger railroad system as an instrument of economic development and enhanced mobility. Republicans support a healthy intercity passenger rail system. Amtrak provides a valuable service to passengers, especially in the Northeast corridor. But we recognize that the goal of establishing a national passenger rail system with modest federal support has failed to materialize. Clearly the financial problems plaguing Amtrak cannot be solved simply by continued infusions of taxpayer dollars. Fundamental reforms should be enacted to transition Amtrak into operational self-sufficiency.

Hmmm...didn't see the words "gut Amtrak" anywhere in this document. What I read was "fundamental reforms" which would "transition Amtrak into operational self-sufficiency".

Let's move onto education, and the President's plan to cut funds for cutting 48 education programs, including one for removing drugs from schools. The Springfield, Missouri News Leader reports:

The proposed cuts include $1.1 billion in state vocational education grants, $496 million for educational technology grants, and $437 million for safe and drug free schools.

What does the 2004 Republican Party Platform say about these cuts in educational programs?

Public education, access for every child to an excellent education, is a foundation of a free, civil society. The children who enter schools today will leave as young adults, full of dreams for the future. They will soon become the scientists and researchers who make great discoveries, the engineers and mathematicians who build our communities, the doctors and nurses who heal and comfort the sick, the teachers who will educate the next generation, the leaders who transform government, the poets, artists, and writers who entertain and inspire. Every child deserves a first-rate education, because every child holds infinite potential, and we should give them every opportunity to reach it.

We believe there is an inseparable link between a vibrant economy and a high-quality education system. It takes a vibrant economy to provide the tax base necessary to fund a high-quality education system. Equally, it takes a quality education system to provide the highly skilled labor force necessary to meet the demands of a growing, vibrant economy...

...We are the Party parents can trust to improve schools and provide opportunity for all children, in every neighborhood, regardless of background or income. We are the party willing to embrace new ideas and put them to the test. Americans agree that the status quo in education is no longer acceptable. We have challenged low expectations and poor achievement, and we are seeing results.

But wait...what does it say about funding education specifically? Don't they mention anywhere that they will be cutting educational programs?

Well, here it is in their own words:

Historic Levels of Funding

President Bush and Congressional Republicans have provided the largest increase in federal education funding in history and the highest percentage gain since the 1960s. Support for elementary and secondary education has had the largest increase in any single Presidential term since the 1960s - an increase of nearly 50 percent since 2001. The President and Congress are particularly focused on programs for America's neediest students, including minorities and children with special needs. With this increased funding comes a new focus on achievement and results...

Higher Education Affordability

Republicans are working to ensure that college is affordable and accessible for America's low- and middle-income families through increased funding of grants, low-interest student loans, and tax breaks for working families. As a result of Republican leadership, total student aid for higher education has increased to a historic $73 billion proposed for 2005. Next year, almost 10 million students and parents will receive one or more grants, loans, or work-study awards.

The President has requested record levels of Pell Grant funding. These grants will help an estimated 5.3 million low-income students pay for higher education - one million more students than when President Bush and Vice President Cheney came to office. Under a new Enhanced Pell Grant proposal, low-income students who take a rigorous high school curriculum - the kind of curriculum that will best prepare them for success in college - will be eligible to receive an additional $1,000 per year.

To ensure that America remains the world leader in the innovation economy - and to ensure that America's graduates have the training they need to compete for the best jobs of the 21st century - President Bush proposes to expand opportunities for math and science education in colleges and universities. Needy students studying math and science will be eligible to receive additional college aid...

I've read through the entire section of the Republican Party Platform as it pertains to their educational policies and initiatives, and guess what? Nowhere does it mention that part of their platform is cutting educational programs.

Imagine that.

Part 2, In Which the American Voters Get Screwed By Republican Party Pre-Election Promises on Health Care, Medicaid, Farm Subsidies and Veterans Benefits, Follows Soon.


Religious News Roundup--February 9, 2005

Today is Ash Wednesday for most Christians, and the start of the New Year in many Asian countries.

Tomorrow is the first of Muharram, the start of the Muslim New Year.

Ash Wednesday begins Lent, a time of penitence and self-reflection for Christians.  It is often a time when the faithful re-commit themselves to doing good works, so it's only appropriate that we have a couple of seminars to tell you about today.  There's one in DC tomorrow night (6:45), focusing on "Religion & Activism: [the] History of Religious Organizing," and another tonight in New York City: "God, Gays, and Democracy in America." We wish we could be at both of them.

Today's categories are:


Speaking Out

Again, it's appropriate at the beginning of Lent to notice some action-oriented Christians:

  • John Edwards talks about poverty, which is his new job.  We're going to rip off Chuck Currie's fine summary of the speech:

    Edwards was the only candidate during the 2004 presidential primaries to make ending poverty a central theme of his campaign. He hasn't abandoned that goal:

    It may seem like an impossible goal to end poverty, but that's what the skeptics said about all of our other great challenges. If we can put a man on the moon, conquer polio, and put libraries of information on a chip, then we can end poverty for those who want to work for a better life.

    Edward's words stand in sharp contrast to the plans of George W. Bush. He released his budget today and it includes cutbacks in health care for the poor and other anti-poverty programs so that the nation can afford Bush's tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. The former North Carolina senator had some strong words about the president's leadership:

    George Bush likes to talk about an "Ownership Society." We already have one: CEO's with jets; Power companies that get their way even if the health of children and pregnant women suffer. Oil companies who write our energy policy. George Bush's so-called "Ownership Society" is a secret society that rewards the wealthiest and shuts out those who work hard every day.

    You go, John.

  • Black Baptist churches are seeking to reclaim their prophetic voice.

  • Sojourners takes the administration to task on its budget priorities.  Again, shamelessly ripping off:

    "Yesterday, President Bush released his administration's proposed 2006 federal budget. The $2.6 trillion budget projects a record $427 billion budget deficit, not including funding for Iraq and Afghanistan. It includes increases in military spending while at the same time proposes major cuts to domestic programs that benefit people living in poverty.

    Some of the proposed changes:

    *Making permanent the tax cuts of 2001 - 70% of which benefited the wealthiest 20% of U.S. citizens

    *The elimination of block grants that aid poor communities

    *Making it more difficult for working poor families with children to be on Medicaid

    *A $355 million cut to programs that promote safe and drug-free schools

    *Cuts to housing and urban development programs

    *The elimination of 48 educational programs

    Budgets are moral documents. This administration's proposed budget reflects a set of priorities that stand in clear opposition to biblical values. Paying attention to the poorest among us is arguably the most central biblical imperative - not increased spending on nuclear warheads and tax cuts for the rich.

    When considering a document as important as this one, it is imperative that our leaders consider its impact on people living in poverty. Urge your members of Congress to consider this budget's effect on the poor.

    Click here to take action today."

    The Quakers aren't so happy, either, and neither is the National Catholic Reporter.  Click for more info.

  • A interfaith group of six congregations around Schenectady has come together to endorse the principle of tolerance of gays and lesbians; meanwhile, responses to the recent ELCA report on the church and homosexuality have been coming in.  We agree with the Progressive Protestant that this is a good one, if for no other reason than that it pushes the PP to our own UCC:

    The word "safe" comes to mind. It's obvious the church is afraid - perhaps rightfully so - of the division that may occur if a bolder decision were made. Revelation 3:16 comes to mind: "So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I am about to spit you out of my mouth." Contrast with John 3:16: "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life."

    Dan Mixdorf, Pastor, Faith Lutheran Church, Eldridge, Iowa

    But this one is good, too:

    I would never presume that I'm more worthy of God's love or of all the rights and responsibilities of the church merely because God made me heterosexual. The report is a good compromise but bad theology.

    Jeffrey Boldt, Member, Advent Lutheran Church, Madison, Wis.

    And while we were doing a little research on Advent Lutheran, we found this statement.  We may have to post that in its entirety.

  • Mainstream Baptist is getting ready to podcast interviews by Bruce Prescott on his local radio show in Oklahoma City(?).  Among those interviewed: Fredrick Clarkson. Fred and Bruce are both loyal Kossians.  Tune in to hear more.

  • In These Times carries a brief interview with Jeremiah Wright, aka Barack's pastor.

  • Tom Kertes reports on a Quaker peace activist becoming persona non grata at a Tennessee high school.

  • And just so you don't think we're unaware of activism on the other end of the Christian political spectrum, check these links: Michael Marcavage and the Philly 5 are trying to depict their arrests as a violation of their free speech, and apparently meeting with some success in the PA legislature.  Info here and here.  And another group is pressuring Condoleeza Rice to lean on the Saudi government, so they'll ease up on their restrictions on Christianity in the kingdom.

    Let us know how that campaign works out for ya.

    And one last one:  the SBC Baptist Press defends Social Security reform.  We'd love to dissect this one in detail, but we'll content ourselves with one major points: encouraging the government to care for the poor and elderly is not abdicating the church's responsibility to the poor.  It's a way of fulfilling that responsibility, and a mighty efficient one at that.

    Okay, two.  Jackass.

    Dangit, now we've got to put a quarter in our swear jar.  We gave up cussing for Lent, you know.


This 'n' That

  • Paul Shanley was convicted of all counts in his molestation trial Monday.  More links here.

  • Kathleen Parker is such a tool.  The problem with the National Prayer Breakfast is not that people get together to nosh & pray, but that it is in fact a multi-day conference run by an obscure group with a fairly scary agenda.  See here for more information.

  • Speaking of obscure groups with fairly scary agendas, the Bush administration wants offload government-provided social service programs to faith-based groups.

  • Speaking of blah blah blah, a proposal in the Virginia legislature to meddle in the affairs of Christian denominations has been defeated.

  • There's a new academic outfit being formed at St. Andrew's University in Scotland: the Center for the Study of Religion and Politics. pastordan might apply.

  • Last up, Celebrity News You Can Use: Jack White wanted to be a priest.  So did John Kerry.  Does that mean Jack will run for president someday?  Sharon Osbourne got herself canned for asking a New Zealand-born actor if he was a "sheep shagger," or so she says. (Say that six times fast!) It's television censorship we can get behind.  Newt Gingrich is a hypocritical tool, and a former legislator who apparently has no problem with ignoring the function of the courts in American politics.


Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Bill Moyers

As usual, Bill Moyers gets it and states it well:

One of the biggest changes in politics in my lifetime is that the delusional is no longer marginal. It has come in from the fringe, to sit in the seat of power in the Oval Office and in Congress. For the first time in our history, ideology and theology hold a monopoly of power in Washington.

Theology asserts propositions that cannot be proven true; ideologues hold stoutly to a worldview despite being contradicted by what is generally accepted as reality. When ideology and theology couple, their offspring are not always bad but they are always blind. And there is the danger: voters and politicians alike, oblivious to the facts.

Remember James Watt, President Ronald Reagan's first secretary of the interior? My favorite online environmental journal, the ever-engaging Grist, reminded us recently of how James Watt told the U.S. Congress that protecting natural resources was unimportant in light of the imminent return of Jesus Christ. In public testimony he said, "after the last tree is felled, Christ will come back."

Beltway elites snickered. The press corps didn't know what he was talking about. But James Watt was serious. So were his compatriots out across the country. They are the people who believe the Bible is literally true -- one-third of the American electorate, if a recent Gallup poll is accurate. In this past election several million good and decent citizens went to the polls believing in the rapture index.

I've got an idea: Let's leave the rapture to God. It's in his hands and I find the idea that the Christian right believe they can push his hand and bring about the rapture on their timeline instead of his arrogant and repulsive.

Link to full article




Some conservatives are worried about the growing march to fascism in this country, too.

Students of history inevitably think in terms of periods: the New Deal, McCarthyism, "the Sixties" (1964-1973), the NEP, the purge trials—all have their dates. Weimar, whose cultural excesses made effective propaganda for the Nazis, now seems like the antechamber to Nazism, though surely no Weimar figures perceived their time that way as they were living it. We may pretend to know what lies ahead, feigning certainty to score polemical points, but we never do.

Nonetheless, there are foreshadowings well worth noting. The last weeks of 2004 saw several explicit warnings from the antiwar Right about the coming of an American fascism. Paul Craig Roberts in these pages wrote of the "brownshirting" of American conservatism—a word that might not have surprised had it come from Michael Moore or Michael Lerner. But from a Hoover Institution senior fellow, former assistant secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration, and one-time Wall Street Journal editor, it was striking.

Several weeks later, Justin Raimondo, editor of the popular website, wrote a column headlined, "Today’s Conservatives are Fascists." Pointing to the justification of torture by conservative legal theorists, widespread support for a militaristic foreign policy, and a retrospective backing of Japanese internment during World War II, Raimondo raised the prospect of "fascism with a democratic face." His fellow libertarian, Mises Institute president Lew Rockwell, wrote a year-end piece called "The Reality of Red State Fascism," which claimed that "the most significant socio-political shift in our time has gone almost completely unremarked, and even unnoticed. It is the dramatic shift of the red-state bourgeoisie from leave-us-alone libertarianism, manifested in the Congressional elections of 1994, to almost totalitarian statist nationalism. Whereas the conservative middle class once cheered the circumscribing of the federal government, it now celebrates power and adores the central state, particularly its military wing."

Link to full article.



I Pity the Poor Immigrant

From Agape Press:
...A retired immigration and naturalization service official says Americans need to be aware that illegal aliens may be using U.S. citizens' social security numbers to obtain jobs and file income tax returns. Brian Perryman, a former Chicago Immigration and Naturalization Service director, says many unsuspecting taxpayers may be completely unaware that someone else is using their government-issued number. The situation is very serious, he adds, and unfortunately the Social Security Administration has no enforcement power when it comes to stolen numbers. "Now," the former INS official says, "persons unlawfully here can earn an income from working using a fraudulent social security number, and if they file a tax return, they'll attach a W-2 with that fraudulent Social Security number on it." When this happens, the IRS normally "just processes the returns it receives with the fraudulent numbers," Perryman says; therefore, unsuspecting citizens often do not find out that someone else is using their SSN until another return is filed with the same number under a different name.

Whatever happened to treating the resident alien with impartiality? Or do we just consider them all guilty until proven innocent?



IQ and the Death Penalty

This is just sad: a Virginia inmate who was spared the death penalty three years ago by court ruling banning the execution of mentally retarded prisoners is now in jeopardy after having his IQ retested.

Is this what we have come to?


They take action, too.

From the UCC Justice and Peace Network:

The President released a $2.57 trillion budget on Monday, February 7, which gives a significant boost to military spending while cutting discretionary spending (other than defense and homeland security) by 1 percent. For the first time in years, Congress will now be left to consider measures to reduce funding for nearly 150 programs that provide vital social services.

The potential impact of these budget proposals on our nation's most vulnerable populations should spark a national debate. Proposed cuts to critical safety net programs such as Medicaid, Food Stamps, veterans' health services, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, and the Earned Income Credit, among many others, signal a new era of government irresponsibility. The budget also includes $138 billion in cuts for mandatory programs which will result in a loss of income to states of $45 billion in Medicaid payments and the elimination of 200,000 to 300,000 poor people from the Food Stamp program.

Further bad news comes from the President's pledge to cut the deficit in half by 2009 (now at a record $427 billion this year) while still making room for continuing the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, neither of which appear in this year's budget. In January, the President asked for a special off-budget appropriation of $80 billion for war efforts in Iraq. The budget seeks to make the 2001 tax cuts permanent at a cost of $130 billion over the next five years. The growing red ink will undoubtedly entice deficit hawks in Congress to call for deeper cuts in essential programs.

Congress can act boldly and creatively to oppose budget cuts in human services and should instead fund the FY2006 budget by scaling back tax cuts to the wealthy, closing corporate tax loopholes, and holding military and war spending in check. To send a message to your member of Congress, click

More here, under the pregnant title "Whose Services Would Jesus Cut?"


Why Do Republicans Hate the Church?

The Houses of Worship Political Speech Protection Act is back, reintroduced by Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC).

HOWPSPA, if you will recall, was first floated by Jones last year, and aims at legalizing political activities by churches, including candidate endorsements and fund-raising pitches. The 2005 version is apparently somewhat more narrow:
H.R. 235...limits the type of activities permitted, but it is more expansive in that there is no ceiling on the number of activities that could be permitted. Under H.R. 235, the permitted campaign-related activities would have to occur in the "content, preparation, or presentation of any homily, sermon, teaching, dialectic, or other presentation made during religious service or gatherings," but any amount of these activities could be conducted provided they were part of the presentation at a religious gathering. However, religious organizations would be precluded from making campaign contributions or paying for advertisements in newspapers.

So: pastors could endorse candidates from the pulpit, or an adult forum could discuss moral values and talk about putting those values into action by helping out candidates or groups.

At the moment, the threat from this bill is somewhat limited: it has no cosponsors, which isn't a good sign for its long-term success. Still, it bears watching.

My friends over at the Daily Kos are worried about churches meddling in political affairs. I'm concerned with just the opposite.

If, as I've argued before, the Faith-Based Initiatives campaign is nothing more than a patronage program, HOWSPA is a recipe for making churches political subsidiaries of whatever party controls the Executive Branch. Talk about moral values in a way that benefits the right candidates, get your church programs funded by the FBI susidies. Criticize the wrong pol, get cut off from the gravy train. It's that simple.

Not to mention how divisive this would be within the church. How many congregations do you know that could accomodate easily a pastoral endorsement of one candidate or another? Most pastors I know would get thrown out on their arse by the second or third time. How many congregations are even united politically? Not many, even on the extremes. Allowing political speech within church activities would be corrupting and corrosive.

Let's review: the government subsidizes programs at a local church, which in turn officially supports the politician what brought home the bacon in the name of their particular brand of moral values. Who wins?

Not the people served by the initiative: it's far from proven that "faith-based" programs work any better than government programs.

Not the church members: their attention has been diverted from growth in the faith to political activism, and if they happen to disagree with the political agenda, they risk either disrupting their congregation or being forced out of it.

Not the pastors: instead of carrying out their ministry, they're focused on continuing the money flow and making sure they pay off the political debts they've run up.

Not the taxpayers: their money is being spent with little to no supervision (even Jim Towey, the director of the FBIs Office, admits he doesn't really know how much money gets spent this way).

Not the voters: they get cheated of a free and open debate on the issues.

So who does that leave? Hmm. The politicians.

(thanks to troutfishing and dianeL for links & the heads-up)


Monday, February 07, 2005

Religious News Roundup--February 7, 2005

Today is the first day of Mulk, or "dominion," the 18th month of the Baha'i year. Tomorrow is Shrove Tuesday or Mardi Gras, the last day of feasting before the beginning of Lent. In Central PA, we call it "Fasnacht," or the "eve of fasting," and we celebrate with ready horrid potato donuts. Can we please move to New Orleans, dear? Please?

Well, if you're kicking around for something to do, there's a Reiki Circle from 7-9 tonight at East-West Books in Sacramento. It does cost $10, but you'll feel better when you're done.

Keanu Reeves had this to say about making his latest movie, "Constantine":

I went with an exorcist for a bit. I just want to know really practical things, like how do you hold someone possessed by the devil?

Today's Categories:


Religion & Politics

  • There's a new book out by Bruce Shortt, the man behind the Southern Baptists' proposal to endorse a wholesale abandonment of public education.  Three guesses as to the subject?  Yep, that's it:  "The Harsh Truth About Public Schools."

  • Pam has more to say on black pastors getting cozy with the Republican party.  Suffice it to say she's not in favor of the idea.

    Actually, suffice it to say she's not in favor of the pastors in question, either.

  • Ralph Reed has filed the necessary papers to allow him to accept campaign money.  He may be thinking of running for Georgia Lt. Governor in 2006.  Meanwhile, Nancy Pelosi has named James Clayburn of South Carolina to lead the House Democrats' Faith Working Group. It appears that the group is a more focused on passing legislation than we'd thought, but we're still a bit leery of a group led by someone who makes quotes like:   "I look forward to leading House Democrats' efforts to more effectively communicate our Democratic values, which are fundamentally American values."

    If you have to argue that your values really are American, you've lost the game out of the gate.

    Much better to con the public into believing that your representation of their values is what got you elected, even when more of that public itself says it voted on the war.

  • The National Association of Evangelicals is warning its constituents not to get too closely identified with the Republican party--or at least one of its Vice-Presidents is.

  • Mike McManus cops to accepting money from the Bush administration, though he denies it was designed to influence his writing.  You gotta know you're a hack when the Reading Eagle drops your column.

  • Ordinarily, we would have brushed by a piece like this as being just one more wing-nut screed, relying as it does on atrocious misunderstanding of statistics. But this quote, as wrongheaded as its author's intentions were, does seem to sum up the situation nicely:

    "A white male aged 20 currently has a rate of 6% on his "savings" and a 20 year old black male has enjoys a rate of -15%. You'd have to be nuts to put your money in an account that ultimately pays out less than what you put in, yet young workers do it every day under the current system. It is morally egregious that this government plan forces young workers into that situation."

  • The Detroit News has posted a series based on a survey they did on moral/religious/values attitudes in Michigan.  Fair warning: they don't have an overview of the survey results (nor do they have the questions all in one place), so we haven't been able to do much in the way of evaluation.  But with that caveat in mind, here's the articles they spun out of the survey: 1, 2, 3, and 4.

  • Again, consider the source, but there's news today that a federal judge has refused to intervene in criminal charges brought against the "Philly 5" for disrupting a Philly Pride event last fall. Mike Tidmus has more on Philly 5/Repent America leader Michael Marcavage's arrest record.


Church Life

  • More news from the National Association of Evangelicals: apparently they, among other prominent evangelical groups, have come out in favor of good environmental stewardship.  Not to be outdone, the Church of England has also announced a green initiative.  

    The WaPo article linked above has gotten a fair amount of play among bloggers over the weekend, but for our money, the Baltimore Sun's article on Saturday about Intelligent Design was far better, if for no other reason than that it stepped out of the "he said, she said" mode to evaluate some claims:

    Larson's argument reflects common misunderstandings of evolutionary theory and scientific language. A "fact" in science is considered less significant than a "theory," and when scientists say "theory," they don't mean an untested hunch. They mean an encompassing explanation of a pattern of facts that has been amply supported by evidence.

    Johnson's argument reflects a "balance" and "fairness" principle that was once set in Arkansas law, requiring public schools to give equal treatment to evolutionary theory and "creation-science."

    In 1982, a federal court struck down the law, ruling that "creation-science" was not science and that the state law served religious ends. Five years later, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a similar law in Louisiana that allowed evolution to be taught in public schools only if accompanied by instruction in "creation-science."

  • A Philadelphia-area paper hits on a national trend: Catholic schools are increasingly run by laity, not nuns or priests.

  • Two innovations we're not necessarily in favor of: church franchises in Illinois, Bible Boot-Camp in California (thanks to Body & Soul for the link).  To be fair, church "franchises" are not new, though the terminology is:  in medieval times, a town might have one large "cathedral" church and several smaller "chapels"--i.e., branches of the main church.

    But giving 16-year-olds imitation M-16s in their church youth group?  That's just whack.


This 'n' That

  • Two from Christianity Today: evangelism in tsunami-affected areas is complicating relief efforts, to no one's surprise; and an interesting report on Assyrian Christians, the last major group speaking Aramaiac.

  • A former Protestant seminary is being converted (with government funds) into a training facility for Islamic clerics in the Netherlands.  That oughtta get the Christianists frothing at the mouth, though we understand they don't have much for the Netherlands anyway.

  • Last one: Paul Shanley's molestation case has gone to the jury.  There's a bunch of links here, along with a ton on other subjects.


Sunday, February 06, 2005

Intellectual Property is a Moral Right-Part I

From grannyhelen

A note to the kind readers of faithforward: please hear me out on this one, and then flame me if you will. I know this is a very contentious topic with passionate emotions on all sides. My intention here is to lay out the historical and philosophical argument for intellectual property being considered a moral right and part of the natural law. I hope that any feedback I receive from this diary is as measured in its language as I have attempted to be here.

I've participated in only a few of the intellectual property conversations on the blogosphere. I don't consider myself to be uninformed on this topic: indeed, I spent the last five years of my professional life as a cog in the bureaucracy of licensing and rights clearance (sure, I could tell you who I worked for, but then I'd have to kill you. Just joking. Moving on...).

The reason why I've been reticent to diary on this subject before is the level of acrimony that arises when this issue is brought up. Folks on the Lessig side of the debate generally have a line of attack that reads something like this:

-The founding fathers hated copyright and therefore would hate our current system of intellectual property.

-You cannot own an idea, therefore there is no such thing as intellectual property.

-You cannot own an idea; therefore you are not entitled to make a living on intellectual property rights.

-The government grants limited monopolies to rights holders, therefore they are not vested in their own ideas and therefore rights should not descend or be held longer than 20 years with a 20 year extension.

And so on and so on. Not only am I familiar with Lessig and these arguments, there are areas that I strongly agree with Lessig and his followers on. Intellectual property and copyrights in particular are too skewed to favor corporate interests. The public domain has been eroded and needs protection - in my fantasy world of intellectual property freedom, through federal legislation instead of case law, which would protect the general public from corporations and right holders over-reaching and being too litigious in protecting their rights. I think Lessig's concept of the Creative Commons is an innovative way to address the needs of the online community to share information quickly and easily without fear of attorneys sending individual users cease-and-desist letters.

Where I part company with the Lessig crowd is the insistence of inherently vesting the rights of created works not in the individual but in the government.

Huh? Say...what?! (eyes glazing over)

Yep, sentences like that are the reason why intellectual property discussions are frustrating to have. Most of the time it sounds like people are just talking gibberish and making big bucks because they're speaking a language you can't understand and all you want to do is download some Billy Bragg songs you lost because your former roommate used your CD as a beer coaster. So let's start with some definitions. These come to you courtesy of the good folks at the US Department of State. The definitions I've picked out refer specifically to the different areas of intellectual property law, specifically copyright, patent, right of publicity and trademark. Also tossed in their official definition of what intellectual property and the public domain are, just so we're all playing off the same page of music, and moral rights, as I brought these up in the title of this diary:

COPYRIGHT [copyright]. An exclusive right conferred by the government on the creator of a work to exclude others from reproducing it, adapting it, distributing it to the public, performing it in public, or displaying it in public. Copyright does not protect an abstract idea; it protects only the concrete expression of an idea. To be valid, a copyrighted work must have originality and some modicum of creativity.

INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY [patent-trademark-unfair competition-copyright-trade secret-moral rights]. Creative ideas and expressions of the human mind that have commercial value and receive the legal protection of a property right. The major legal mechanisms for protecting intellectual property rights are copyrights, patents, and trademarks. Intellectual property rights enable owners to select who may access and use their property and to protect it from unauthorized use.

MORAL RIGHTS [copyright-author's rights]. Certain rights of authors, beyond those recognized in copyright law, as recognized by the legal systems of some European and other countries. Moral rights generally fall into three categories: the right of an author to receive credit as the author of a work, to prevent others from falsely being named author, and to prevent use of his or her name for works he or she did not create; the right of an author to prevent mutilation of a work; and the right of an author to withdraw a work from distribution if it no longer represents his or her views.

PATENT [patent]. A grant by the federal government to an inventor of the right to exclude others from making, using, or selling his or her invention. There are three kinds of patents in the United States: a utility patent on the functional aspects of products and processes; a design patent on the ornamental design of useful objects; and a plant patent on a new variety of a living plant. Patents do not protect ideas, only structures and methods that apply technological concepts. Each type of patent confers the right to exclude others from a precisely defined scope of technology, industrial design, or plant variety. In return for the right to exclude, an inventor must fully disclose the details of the invention to the public so that others can understand it and use it to further develop the technology. Once the patent expires, the public is entitled to make and use the invention and is entitled to a full and complete disclosure of how to do so.

PUBLIC DOMAIN [general intellectual property]. The status of an invention, creative work, commercial symbol, or any other creation that is not protected by some form of intellectual property. Items that have been determined to be in the public domain are available for copying and use by anyone. The copying of such items is not only tolerated but encouraged as part of the competitive process. (See COPYING, INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY.)

RIGHT OF PUBLICITY [general intellectual property]. The inherent right of every human being to control the commercial use of his or her identity.

TRADEMARK [trademark]. 1. A word, slogan, design, picture, or other symbol used to identify and distinguish goods. 2. Any identifying symbol, including a word, design, or shape of a product or container, that qualifies for legal status as a trademark, service mark, collective mark, certification mark, trade name, or trade dress. Trademarks identify one seller's goods and distinguish them from goods sold by others. They signify that all goods bearing the mark come from or are controlled by a single source and are of an equal level of quality. And they advertise, promote, and generally assist in selling goods. A trademark is infringed by another if the second use causes confusion of source, affiliation, connection, or sponsorship.

Notice a theme running throughout some of these definitions: "concrete expression of an idea"; "creative ideas and expressions of the human mind that have commercial value"; "Patents do not protect ideas, only structures and methods that apply technological concepts"; "the inherent right of every human being to control the commercial use of his or her identity". Intellectual property law is concerned with the tangible creative expressions of the human mind - what we in the biz refer to as "created works" (in the instance of one's persona, the commercial value of that persona is considered a "created work"). And, if that created work has a commercial value - i.e., if more than you, your cat and your parents would pay good money to access it - then intellectual property law gets extremely concerned about protecting your created work. Intellectual property law is not concerned with protecting intangible ideas that do not exist in tangible form. Let me say this again so the point is clear: intellectual property law is not concerned with protecting ideas; it is only concerned with protecting the created works that arise from those ideas.

Why? Where does this come from?

Justin Hughes of Harvard University traces this mentality in intellectual property back to John Locke's concept of labor. Remember John Locke, the guy the founding fathers relied upon when formulating most of their concepts about democracy and government? In properly evaluating the intentions of the founding fathers in all sorts of areas, including intellectual property, I think it's fair to bring up John Locke.

As this is quickly shaping into a diary series, at this point I'll only briefly quote from Hughes' paper on Locke just so you can get a flavor of where he's coming from. I may devote a separate diary to full coverage of Locke, labor and intellectual property...depending on how this first one goes and how much stamina I have this next week. Be prepared...Hughes gets kinda wordy in places:

A society that believes ideas come to people as manna from heaven must look somewhere other than Locke to justify the establishment of intellectual property. The labor theory of property does not work if one subscribes to a pure "eureka" theory of ideas. Therefore, the initial question might be framed in two different ways. First, one would want to determine if society [*301] believes that the production of ideas requires labor. Second, one might want to know whether or not, regardless of society's beliefs, the production of ideas actually does require labor. This second question is the metaphysical one; in its shadow, society's belief may appear superficial. It is not. We are concerned with a justification of intellectual property, and social attitudes -- "understandings" as Justice Stewart said -- may be the only place to start...

...Of course, there are clear instances in which ideas seem to be the result of labor: the complete plans to a new suspension bridge, the stage set for a Broadway show, a scholar's finished dissertation involving extensive research, or an omnibus orchestration of some composer's concertos. The peripheral realms of intellectual property also provide examples in which the object immediately seems to be the product of tremendous work: news stories gathered and disseminated by wire services, or stock indexes calculated by a financial house. The images of Thomas Edison inventing the light bulb and George Washington Carver researching the peanut come to mind as examples of laborious idea-making. As society has moved toward more complicated technologies, the huge scales of activity required by most research, involving time, money, and expertise, have made the autonomous inventor a rarity. This trend strengthens the image of idea-making as labor akin to the mechanical labor that operates industrial assembly lines...

..The creativity we perceive in an intellectual product may be either in the core idea or in the core idea's execution. I suggest that when we readily can separate the two, execution always seems to involve labor, but it is not always clear that the creation of the idea involves labor. Ideas often seem to arrive like Athena -- suddenly they are here, full and complete. Like Zeus, we may have a headache in the process, but it is some unseen Minerva who puts in the labor.

Yet our inability to formulate any clear separation between idea and execution suggests that we should treat them as one. This apparent inability is reinforced by occasions in which the "execution" step begins before the idea. n96 In many fields, one has to do extensive research to create a necessary launching pad for a new idea. A graduate law student writing his doctoral paper made the telling comment, "If I had six more months to work on this paper, it would be an original idea." n97

...The case law of section 102 of the 1976 Copyright Act n102 has developed what has been called "the idea/expression dichotomy." n103 Under this doctrine, "expressions" are protected but the underlying "ideas" are not. n104 Not [*313] surprisingly, the courts have never developed a clear distinction between the two, relying instead on comparisons such as between the idea of a male nude and the expression of The David. n105 When one replicates a series of scenes a faire n106 to make a story, there is no copyright problem; n107 when one reproduces sets and production techniques, there is. Illicit copying is copying an expression, "the total concept and feel" of a work, n108 not just the idea.

Okay, I think that's enough Hughes for now. And you're probably saying to yourself - if you've gotten this far - well, heck, grannyhelen, what-in-the-h-e-double-toothpicks does all that mean?

Here's what Hughes is saying in a nutshell: intellectual property protects the fixed expression of an idea, not just the idea that's floating around in your head.  The fixed expression of the idea requires labor to see its full execution, and according to Locke's theory of labor all labor is a societal good and therefore the worker should receive adequate compensation for his labor. Therefore, the created work being a product of labor requires protection so that the person who created the work can receive adequate compensation for all the work he put into creating his created work in the first place.

Clear? No? Well, I'll be hanging out in this thread so let me know if you have questions. Or read the entire
for yourself (link above), as a brief excerpting hardly does it justice.

IF I continue this diary series, topics I'm thinking of covering next are: John Locke and the concept of labor in intellectual property; Thomas Paine, the natural rights of man and intellectual property; and the history of intellectual property in the colonies...or how the founding fathers learned to love corporate America.

But I'm not promising anything. Again, it all depends on how much stamina I have.

Hope you enjoyed this one and let me know if you want more.