Saturday, March 05, 2005

Oh well, Glen was never the cool one...

Less Swearing on TV, Demands Former Sex Pistol


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Word for the Week

Ephesians 5:8-14

The recent arrest of Dennis Rader, suspected of being Witchita’s "BTK" serial killer, has opened a mystery.

Not "whodunit": according to the Wichita police, it's an open-and-shut case. It's a mystery in the original sense of the word: an unresolvable paradox. For in the same decades Rader allegedly spent terrorizing his community, he was helping to lead a Wichita church.

Rader and his wife were active in the congregation; he was even president of the church council when he was arrested. Unlike his workplace, Rader's church has stuck with him: he was fired from his job Wednesday, the same day his pastor visited him in jail.

In a further twist worthy of Graham Greene, the church may have played a role in Rader's arrest. Wichita police apparently ran him to ground by tracing code on a floppy disk sent to them by the BTK killer to a computer in the church office.

There’s little sense in trying to puzzle all this out. Psychologists say that many murderers have an extraordinary ability to segment their lives into a seemingly stable surface and a dark, roiling substratum.

So the mystery remains unresolved: how could a person capable of murdering at least 10 people pass for normal in a community of good folks? These are Lutherans, for goshsake. Aren’t they supposed to be more focused on casseroles than binding, torturing, and killing?

It’s human nature to divide the world up like this, into good people and bad people, or as Paul calls them "children of the light" and "children of the darkness."

It is also wrong.

The great American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr once wrote an essay explaining why: to divide the world up into white hats and black hats inevitably becomes an exercise in ideology, which is to say, an idealization of what is good for me and mine as good for everyone.

That, Niebuhr argues, ignores a more fundamental problem in human nature: the conflict between self-giving and selfishness. We are by nature neither good nor bad, he says, but conflicted, torn between the desire to seek our own ends and the desire to seek what is good for others. That conflict rarely leads to the kind of bifurcation seen in Dennis Rader, but it is present to some extent in all of us.

This makes the world a more complex—and terrifying—place. There is no easy comfort in realizing that the evil of the world resides within us—except the simultaneous realization that the good resides there as well.

From that perspective, Paul's exhortations make more sense. "Live as children of light," he says, "for the fruit of the light is found in all that is good and right and true." This is not a call for believers to segregate themselves from a fallen society, but for them to live as Jesus instructed: in the world, but not of it. According to Paul, part of the calling of Christian life is to engage the darkness around and within us, and move to the light.

Or as Alexander Solzhenitsyn writes in The Gulag Archipelago,

If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?
Whether we like it or not, people like Dennis Rader are a piece of our own heart, as are terrorists—domestic and foreign—insurgents, and all our other enemies. We can and should track them down, put an end to their selfishness, even separate them from ourselves as necessary. Nowhere is this more true than with serial killers, who murder for nothing more than self-gratification.

But to say that they are categorically different than we are is not only unwise. It is to remove a piece of our own hearts, to make ourselves less human. A serial killer depends the division of the good and the evil: the good we stand beside in church. The evil we kill, with no need for remorse.

Why would we want to drag ourselves down to that level?

In the end, the mystery of Dennis Rader's double life is not that he was able to go undetected for so long. It is that in order to preserve the fullness of our humanity, we must accept—though not embrace—that which seems least human.

O God, awaken us to what is good and right and true, and send us your light to shine in the darkness we would rather not confess.


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Saint Death

From the AP via the Tucson Citizen:
Hundreds of Mexican devotees of Saint Death - a quasi-Catholic faith that worships the skeletal figure of death - marched through downtown Mexico City yesterday to demand respect for their religion and its followers.

Holding banners reading "Respect Religious Freedom" and "We are not criminals or drug addicts," marchers drawn from some of the city's roughest barrios carried statues of the elegantly clad Grim Reaper down the city's main boulevard.


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More Headlines We Can't Resist

From the Salisbury (NC) Post: Faith sewer system ready to flow

Some days, it seems like they don't know how true that is.


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What happened to 'compassionate conservatism?'

Most of us know by now it was just lip service Bush gave when he talked about being a compassionate conservative.

But U.S. Senator Rick Santorum is (how can I charitably put this?) slower than most of us.


Give Sen. Rick Santorum credit for persistence: The Pennsylvania Republican soldiers on with President Bush's "compassion" agenda even when Bush himself retreats.


In his speech Tuesday about his efforts to help the poor, Bush made no mention of what was once the cornerstone of his "compassionate conservatism" -- an $85 billion tax break to spur charitable giving. This was no oversight: Bush's new budget drops the whole idea.


But there yesterday morning in the Mansfield Room off the Senate floor was the No. 3 Senate Republican, politely disagreeing with his president. "We're going to work on the charitable giving package and try to do the best we can," said Santorum, who aides say would spend about $25 billion on the program Bush has dropped.


Likewise, Santorum disagreed with Bush's plan for a $2 billion, 35 percent cut in Community Development Block Grants. "I don't support the dramatic reduction of the program," the senator said, surrounded by leaders of religious charities assembled in front of a "Fighting Poverty" backdrop.


Santorum's courage won him the immediate and predictable ridicule of Democrats. At a news conference two hours later by Senate opposition leaders, Sen. Tom Harkin (Iowa) huffed that "Republicans got moxie" to claim they care about the poor. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (Mass.) tried to one-up Santorum by calling for a vote Thursday on raising the minimum wage.


The Pennsylvanian may have a political motive for outdoing Bush on poverty. He's a deeply conservative figure who is up for reelection next year in a blue state. But he has championed programs to aid the poor by boosting charitable efforts, working with Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (D-Conn.) on an often lonely legislative battle. And Santorum wouldn't be the first to direct friendly fire at the White House's compassion efforts. Two former officials from Bush's "faith-based" office, John J. DiIulio Jr. and David Kuo, have complained that the White House "never really wanted the 'poor people stuff,' " as Kuo put it recently.



Link to full story here.

Carnacki


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Welcome Jesus' General readers!

We hope you find nothing here that would convince you that we're Frenchmen (or woman) around these parts.

Drop us a comment or an e-mail if you feel so moved.

And thank you, General, Sir!!


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Friday, March 04, 2005

Two on Faith-Based Pork

First from Inter Press Service News Agency, a vaguely sinister-sounding outfit I hadn't heard of before this: an interfaith group is lining up to oppose the pork provisions in the Job Training Improvement Act:
”Since their inception in 1982, our laws have included civil rights protections against employment discrimination,” Terri Schroeder, senior lobbyist for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), a member of the coalition, told IPS.

”Faith-based organisations have always participated, and have always played by the same rules as other service providers.”

The coalition includes such groups as the AFL-CIO, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the American Association of University Women, the American Federation Teachers, the Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs, the Central Conference of American Rabbis, the Episcopal Church, USA, Catholics for a Free Choice, the General Board of Church and Society of the United Methodist Church, and many others.

And here's one from Voice of America:
The Reverend Land notes President Bush has always said his faith will govern his actions. That is not so different from the attitude of past presidents. “The president is not departing from what has been the historical practice of Americans and their leaders having religion play an important part in their speeches, public policy and in their public events. It is not a violation of separation of church and state unless it were to be required by the state, which of course it is not.”

However, the Reverend Gaddy thinks President Bush goes further than his predecessors. “He uses religious language to advance public policy. That shuts down the debate that is so important in a democracy by suggesting that if this position is one endorsed by religion itself, then this is an issue you should not question.”

The Reverend Gaddy warns this kind of rhetoric could lead to further entanglement of church and state, with injury to both. But the Reverend Land contends that a president's moral values -- often grounded in religious belief -- inevitably tie to his public policies. No doubt religious leaders like the Reverends Land and Gaddy will continue their debate as President Bush recently re-affirmed his commitment to the initiative, saying "faith can move mountains."


Wonder what Chuck Grassley thinks of that?

[UPDATE]: Make that three.
Recent experiences of some Inland religious and nonprofit groups raise questions about the federal government's ability to monitor tax money distributed to faith-based groups.

In the last two months, three of 10 Inland groups identified as grant recipients under new faith-based funding rules have said they either didn't get money the White House said they did in 2003 or are not faith-based organizations.


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More pesky Christians speaking out

From Ekklesia:
Christian peace activists who disarmed a US Military aircraft re-fuelling at Shannon Airport in Ireland during the invasion of Iraq go on trial in Dublin on 7th March (Monday).

The trial is expected to last for two weeks.

They have the support of Archbishop Desmond Tutu and US actor Martin Sheen who proclaimed that "the prevention of war should not be a crime".

...

In a statement, the Christians said; "It has been a long two years for our ploughshares community, but a much longer two years for the people of Iraq suffering an invasion, occupation and plunder of their homeland."

"The Irish State's attempt to criminalise our non-violent act of peacemaking complements their militarisation of the civilian Shannon Airport to service the U.S. war machine."

"We are not alone, as other peace activists, and also resisters within the British and U.S. military are being dragged before
courts & court martials, imprisoned in jails & stockades for their non-violent resistance to this war."

"In war, authentic peacemaking is criminalized, as killing, theft, torture, incineration, internment, rape and sexual abuse are legitimised."


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Oh, this is rich.

From the Des Moines Register:


A national group of Christian lawyers is appealing to church leaders to join them in lobbying against the bankruptcy reform bill introduced by Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Ia.


The lawyers say the legislation runs contrary to the forgiveness of debt and charity required by the Bible.


"As Christian attorneys, we strongly believe that it was never God's intention to create a society where indebtedness was a crime or a badge of dishonor," Christian members of the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys wrote in a letter sent Feb. 26 to hundreds of church leaders across the nation.


More:


The bill, which is receiving Senate debate, would make it harder for most people to receive full debt cancellation under Chapter 7 of the bankruptcy laws. More people would have to repay at least part of their debt, based on income.


The lawyers note that in the Old Testament, God did not outlaw borrowing and lending, but provided that loans would become discharged every seven years.


In response, Grassley said Congress could not be bound by biblical mandates because "the Constitution does not provide for a theocracy."


"I can't listen to Christian lawyers because I would be imposing the Bible on a diverse population," Grassley said. "I'll bet those lawyers wouldn't want us to impose the principles of forgiving debt every seven years. If that were the law, nobody would loan them money."


Darn that pesky Bible! Wouldn't want religion to get in the way of corporate giants collecting 29.5% interest, now would we?


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Heh

From Gary Bauer's "End of Day Report"

2,000 or 200?

Last December, the Congress and the White House agreed to pass new
legislation that authorizes the hiring of 2,000 new border patrol agents
each year for the next five years. To me, the bipartisan agreement was an
encouraging sign that we may start getting serious about our porous
borders.

But in Washington the �devil is in the details.� The budget that was just
sent to Capitol Hill only provides for 200 new agents, not 2,000. With all
the fraud and waste inherent in big government, why, oh why, are we
pinching pennies on something as central to our future as border security?
I want a balanced budget, but this is the wrong place to look for savings.

Senate liberals immediately went on the attack over the missing 1,800
agents. Senator Hillary Clinton has already tried to appear tougher on the
immigration issue than the administration. The budget request will give
her more ammunition.

Just a few weeks ago, Homeland Security officials told a congressional
committee that Al Qaeda operatives are trying to enter the U.S. from
Mexico. In fiscal year 2003, about five percent of captured illegal
immigrants crossing our southern border were OTMs (Other Than Mexicans.)

If, God forbid, there is another September 11th-type of attack involving
terrorists who entered the country illegally, the political backlash
against the White House and the majority party will be devastating.


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Action Alert

From the UCC Justice and Peace Network:

The Responsible Education About Life (REAL) Act, S 368/HR 768, was introduced
in Congress in February to address the unbalanced and misleading approach to
sexuality education currently being taken by the Bush Administration. Since
1996, tax dollars have been used to fund "abstinence-only-until-marriage"
sexuality programs. In his 2006 budget, the President has requested $206
million for narrowly-focused, often medically inaccurate programs.

Many of the current, federally-funded programs contain errors, distortions and
stereotypes. The programs are prohibited from discussing contraceptives unless
they are portrayed as ineffective. The programs may not talk about
reproductive choice or sexual orientation.

The REAL Act would allow states and local communities to choose what type of
sexuality education they want to provide. A Kaiser Family Foundation poll
shows that 93 percent of Americans support teaching comprehensive sexuality
education in high schools, and 83 percent of Americans support teaching
comprehensive sexuality education in middle/junior high schools.

Information is power. Education makes for better choices. There are resources
that provide responsible, comprehensive, age-appropriate, accurate and value-
based human sexuality education. The Our Whole Lives curriculum, published by
the United Church of Christ and the Unitarian Universalist Association, is
widely regarded as one of the best age-span resources available. Through such
resources, children and youth are provided with information grounded in the
values of self-worth, responsibility, sexual health, justice and inclusivity.
This information can help save lives.

Sex is everywhere - our children and youth see it on TV, on the Internet, in
magazines and in music. Parents and caregivers are asking for help in teaching
about our precious gift of human sexuality, and most do not want sexuality
education based on fear, shame and misinformation.

Contact your members of Congress and urge them to cosponsor the REAL Act, if they have not yet done so. To send a fax or e-mail message, click http://www.ucctakeaction.org/ctt.asp?u=3735004&l=81636

To find out about Our Whole Lives training sessions, go to http://www.ucctakeaction.org/ctt.asp?u=3735004&l=81635.


[UPDATE]: This piece from the Chicago Tribune helps make sense of what's at stake here.


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Thursday, March 03, 2005

The other side of the UCC

This ought to get Jim Hutchins (see below) going:
Leaders of five Mainline Protestant denominations will call on Congress to reject-"as unjust"-President Bush's 2006 federal budget at a press conference on Tuesday, March 8, 2005 at 3:30 p.m. in the West Room of the National Press Club, 529 14th St. NW, 13th Floor.

Participating in the press conference will be the Most Reverend Frank Griswold, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church USA, the Right Reverend Mark Hanson, Presiding Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, the Reverend Dr. Clifton Kirkpatrick, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the Reverend Ron Stief for the United Church of Christ and Jim Winkler, General Secretary of the General Board of Church and Society for the United Methodist Church.

The leaders will offer a joint statement followed by individual statements on specific areas of concern regarding the President's 2006 federal budget. The leaders will speak from the context of the teachings of Jesus Christ on matters of economic justice. The leaders will also illustrate how the Churches are doing their part to serve the working poor of the nation and reject the notion that faith-based organization can alone turn back the rising tide of poverty at home and abroad. After the press conference, the leaders will be available answer questions from media.


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Divestment movement rooted in anti-Evangelicalism?

This would be fascinating, if true:
The snowballing move by main-line Protestant churches to punish Israel with economic sanctions may be one of the prices the Jewish state is paying for the growing and visible support of Evangelical Christians in this country.

That ominous link emerged this week in conversations with interfaith leaders and in research by a top political scientist, as Jewish officials tried to solve the biggest puzzle in the divestment controversy: Why is the push happening now, just as the Middle East seems poised for a new peace process?

“My personal belief is that [divestment] is almost entirely rooted in this,” said James Hutchins, an activist in the United Church of Christ who is opposed to the divestment crusade touched off with a vote last summer by the Presbyterian Church (USA).

Except, as Chuck Currie has noted, Hutchins is something of a professional kvetcher, if you'll excuse the term. He runs a site that, as Currie puts it, "is put together by someone whose only intention is to catalog how he thinks the United Church of Christ gets things wrong."

So who better to opine on developments potentially unsettling for conservative Jews?

In fairness to Hutchins, UCC Truths is less conservative than the fundamentalist Biblical Witness Fellowship. The national UCC leadership could come out strongly in favor of Mother's Day, and hear from Hutchins that they were neglecting fathers.

Still, it's a bit dishonest to call him an "activist." Sh-t stirrer, is more like it--and that's coming from someone who's been called the same thing more than once.


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More on Dennis Rader

Turns out Rader (Wichita's BTK suspect) will not be tossed out of his congregation:
"We are not going to cut him off. I could tell that he was relieved," Clark told The Associated Press. "He is still a part of the body of Christ -- and that is something some people will have a hard time hearing."

And--this is worthy of Graham Greene--it seems the church had a role in catching Rader:
A hidden electronic code on a computer diskette helped lead police to Dennis Rader, the suspect in the BTK serial killings, according to the pastor of Rader's church and a retired Wichita police supervisor.

The Rev. Michael Clark, pastor of Christ Lutheran Church in suburban Park City, said Tuesday that police searched the church and found that a 3.5-inch diskette containing what is alleged to be communication from BTK once had been used in the computer in the church office.

Rader, charged with the 10 slayings tied to BTK, was president of the church council and had used the computer at least once to print out a meeting agenda, Clark said.

We're hearing a lot coming out of Christ Lutheran; I assume that it's one of the few sources that can--or will--talk about Rader.


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Because using the Lord's Supper for politics isn't just for Americans anymore

Priest to deny communion to a Canadian MP over his support of same-sex marriage:
“I explained in the letter that he was scandalizing members of our faith community,” Fr. Lemire explained. “I asked him to reconsider his position” on the issue. Fr. Lemire explained that, after Mass the following weekend, Angus told him he would be back in the riding [district office?] in a couple of weeks, and would arrange a meeting then. Fr. Lemire never heard back from him, he said.

Wonder why the good Father's letter went unanswered?


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From Tikkun:

(via reader Claire S.):

Spiritual Activism: A Prophetic Progressive Interfaith Spiritual Movement & Creating a National Network of Progressive Spiritual Activists with an Agenda to Transform American Society and Politics

Our goal is to energize and constitute an interfaith movement of progressive, prophetic spiritual activism and to give it a larger place in public consciousness. We propose a three stage process in building the network of Progressive Spiritual Activists. You can get involved in any or all of the stages.

1. July 20-23, 2005 Berkeley, California: Leadership and activist conference to begin a process of refining a prophetic spiritual agenda. Help us shape the ideas (see the conference agenda below). Register for the Berkeley conference by clicking HERE.

2. Febuary 10-13, 2006 Washington, D/C.: Building on the July conference in Berkeley, this will be the National conference to launch a prophetic spiritual politics agenda to the media and the politicians in D.C. and to train organizers who will take the agenda into their communities. Register for the DC conference by clicking HERE.

3. March - September 2006 Local campaigns: Regional conferences and meetings with:
a. Labor unions
b. Professional organizations,
c. Lay and local leadership of churches, synagogues, mosques, ashrams, etc.
d. Leadership and activists of social change and social service organizations on the local level
e. leadership of political parties.


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Hey Rove! It's About Security, Stupid!

from grannyhelen

There have been some pretty good hypotheses floating around these days, trying to understand why the American public has such a visceral hatred of Bush's social security privatization/private accounts/whatever-the-heck-ya-call-it plan.

Some folks think the GOP talking points have crumbled around them. Others think the Democrats have just done a really good job on message management. Now, although I'm proud of the Democrats for standing together to oppose Bush's social security scheme and I'd like to this is a sign of firm, new leadership at the helm...but at this early stage of the game I just don't think that's entirely it.

So, why is the social security debate something that even the formidable Mr. Rove can't manage?

One answer: the American people.

The GOP made a fatal flaw in the social security debate: they believed their own spin. From President Bush down, the Republican Party believes that their free-market, pro-privatization ideals won the day. They believe the American people gave them a mandate based on these ideals and in early January when they were putting together the President's budget they probably felt it would be welcomed by Americans, indeed that crowds of pre-screened citizens would be greeting them with rose pedals in the streets.

What they didn't understand was the emotion that drove the American people to vote the President a second term: the need for security.

It's strange that the GOP missed this one. After all, they ran on the war. Bush's campaign rhetoric had a laser-like focus on pronouncing that we were in the middle of a war against the evil doers, that he was a war-time President, that Saddam posed a threat to this country and how great it was that he was no longer in power.

All of this rhetoric made the American people place an inordinately large value on their personal security and the security of their friends, family and loved ones. President Bush at the end of the day won the argument on his vision of winning the "war on terror", and Americans felt their personal security was important enough to ride through another term with him.

So, what happened? President Bush switched the script. Once in office it was no longer about the war, and it was no longer about terrorism and Iraq. I mean sure, that's all still going on but it's pretty much on autopilot right now, I think, in the minds of most Americans. All they want is for the war to be over, the soldiers to come home and the President of the United States to tell everyone he's got the terrorists on the run.

They want the President to make good on his unspoken election promise to them to keep them secure.

But what does he do? He proposes getting rid of farm subsidies. He wants to make cuts in Medicaid.

And he wants to mess around with social security.

I just listened to a Bush shill today from some place called "For Our Grandchildren" (link above - a group that suspiciously no one's ever heard of before) on what is normally a great local radio show. He basically said that most Americans don't understand the stock market (and said that he didn't either, until a few weeks ago), and they just need to be educated more to be turned around to support Bush's proposals.

What a load!

Here's what Americans know about the stock market: it goes up. It goes down. If you invest in the stock market and you retire when the market is up, great. If you retire when it's down, sucks to be you. And everyone right now has a story of their cousin/aunt/coworker/friend/distant relative who just got burned on their 401K when the tech bubble burst. Most have their own stories of watching their portfolios tank not too long ago.

Maybe Americans have short memories about some things, but when it comes to our own money we're like Zip discs.

And unlike the super-rich operatives who designed Bush's social security scheme, most people don't have the expectation of being able to have that much control over when they're going to retire. Many of us will more often than not just have to accept retirement when it comes, and how much money we'll have to retire on is therefore pretty much a crap-shoot.

That's why Americans instinctively love social security and don't want it "privatized" or subjected to the whims of the stock market in any way, shape or form. It is our safeguard, and our security just in case our 401K's don't pan out as well as we thought they would.

George W. Bush, a man of inherited wealth, can never understand that. He simply will never be able to empathize with the word "security" in social security. It may as well be a foreign language to him.

So, Bush violated his campaign promise to the folks who voted for him. They thought he was going to provide them with more security, and instead he's taking it away.

What should Democrats do? Beat the security drum - not on the war, but on personal security. Personal security means being able to get medical care if you're between jobs and you don't have health insurance. It means being able to let your kids drink tap-water without worrying about pollutants, and eat fish without worrying about mercury poisoning.

Above all, personal security means that after you work day in and day out for over forty years that you won't be destitute, and that you'll have at least enough money to buy your food and prescription drugs...no matter what happens to the stock market.

If we can understand the emotion of personal security, and communicate it through our proposals and platforms, I believe Democrats have a great shot at winning big in 2006.


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Yahoo! News - House OKs Bill on Faith-Based Jobs

From the LA Times:
The House on Wednesday approved a job-training bill that would allow faith-based organizations receiving federal funds to consider a person's religious beliefs in making employment decisions.
...
The legislation, which now goes to the Senate, reauthorizes the Workforce Investment Act of 1998. It provides funds for training and vocational rehabilitation programs for adults and dislocated workers, as well as activities for low-income youth.

Its prospects are uncertain in the Senate, where Democrats are objecting to cuts in some programs and the religious discrimination provision.


Call your Senator. Let them know what you think.


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Sock puppety goodness

From huckster/bigot Lou Sheldon:

We’ll be hearing more from Jim Wallis, the Clergy Leadership Network, and other leftist religious leaders in the months ahead as atheist George Soros and his minions attempt to convince the American people that liberals also love Jesus. The “Jesus” talking points memos are being crafted inside liberal think tanks and will soon be rolled out to the sock puppets. Watch for the scripted “religious values” mantras on TV and radio talk shows in the near future.



Full text from Sheldon below the jump.

Washington, DC – The morally confused Democratic Party is currently on a quest to get “Jesus” back into their talking points memos in preparation for the 2008 presidential campaign. After losing badly to Republicans on the moral values front, Democrats are apparently meeting in strategy sessions to figure out how they can start using religious language to regain voters.

The New York Times , for example, recently reported that Democrats have met with leftist author Jim Wallis to devise creative ways of using religion to regain political power. Democrats in the House tapped South Carolina Rep. James Clyburn to lead a “faith working group” that will “encourage lawmakers to sprinkle references to God and religion into their speeches,” according to the Times. And, Time magazine (2/7/2005) reports that the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank partially funded by financier George Soros, will hold seminars around the United States to introduce “faith” into policy discussions.

Democrats have apparently tapped Jim Wallis, head of the far left Sojourners organization and Call to Renewal, to become the “values” spokesman on TV and radio. He has been a ubiquitous presence on TV talks shows in recent weeks to proclaim that the religious right’s monopoly on moral values is coming to an end. Wallis claims that religious conservatives think that Jesus is pro-rich, pro-war, and only pro-American.

Wallis, of course, has had a long history of support for leftist causes and now condemns what he calls the “theology of war” that is allegedly being pushed by conservative Christians in churches and in politics.

In addition, Democrats will continue to call upon the leftist pastors who head the Clergy Leadership Network. This Kentucky-based organization has received most of its seed money from America Coming Together, one of numerous front organizations funded by militant atheist and one-world socialist George Soros.

In spite of his personal hatred of Christianity, Soros and his Open Society Institute are apparently willing to use liberal clergy for his political purposes including gaining financial control of the Democratic Party, legalization of drugs, the normalization of homosexuality in our culture, and other culturally subversive activities.

FrontPageMagazine has published a lengthy three-part series on Soros and his plans for America. Using religious left sock puppets is part of his long-term strategy to overhaul our entire culture into his bizarre vision.

We’ll be hearing more from Jim Wallis, the Clergy Leadership Network, and other leftist religious leaders in the months ahead as atheist George Soros and his minions attempt to convince the American people that liberals also love Jesus. The “Jesus” talking points memos are being crafted inside liberal think tanks and will soon be rolled out to the sock puppets. Watch for the scripted “religious values” mantras on TV and radio talk shows in the near future.



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1 John 4:20-21

Beloved, if any one says, 'I love God,' and
hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who
does not love his brother whom he has seen,
cannot love God whom he has not seen. And
this commandment we have from him, that he
who loves God should love his brother also.


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Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Moral Values and Black Pastors

  • Hillary Clinton hangs out with Eugene Rivers to talk faith-based initiatives.

  • The Advocate skewers the "Black Contract With America on Moral Values." It's a front for Lou Sheldon and the Traditional Values Coalition, sez the Advocate.


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    My God Does Not Need Government Help

    Ten Commandments case before the Supreme Court.


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    Shower of Stoles

    Those wacky liberals are at it again in Oklahoma:
    Each liturgical stole hanging in the fellowship hall at a northwest Oklahoma City church represents more than a piece of cloth worn during religious ceremonies.

    One stole was once worn by Jim Houk, a former United Methodist clergyman. Another belonged to the Rev. Kathy McCallie, once a United Methodist pastor who withdrew from the denomination because of its opposition to her performing ceremonies celebrating homosexual relationships.

    McCallie's vivid purple and red stole, like each of the others in the "Shower of Stoles" exhibit, represents someone who has been affected by the issue of homosexuality and faith.

    But here's the best part:
    Nance Cunningham is one of the deacons at Mayflower Congregational Church, where the stole exhibit is on display. She said the church's deacons chose to highlight the national exhibit because of the Sexuality and Scriptures Conference that will take place Thursday through Saturday at the church, 3901 NW 63.

    "We understand our responsibility as followers of Jesus to bring about honor, respect and help to those who have been marginalized," Cunningham said.

    Can't wait until the Republican National Committee starts running ads against a future presidential candidate from the Sooner state, denouncing him or her as being from a brie-swilling state out of touch with America's heartland values.


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    Let's show Gibbons our vales

    from grannyhelen - a faith forward exclusive

    "I say we tell those liberal, tree-hugging, Birkenstock-wearing, hippie, tie-dyed liberals to go make their movies and their music and whine somewhere else..."

    He added it was "too damn bad we didn't buy them a ticket" to become human shields in Iraq...


    Who said this? The Nevada Appeal reports it was Nevada Representative Jim Gibbons (R).

    There's a movement afoot in the blogosphere right now to contact this guy and let him know how reprehensible these remarks are.

    Here's my thought: let's show him the love of God. Let's reach out to him with the message of that a repentant sinner is always forgiven.

    Let's shower him with verses from the Torah, the Bible and the Koran, and quotes from folks like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Gandhi to show him why this thought process is so dangerous coming from a member of our country's government.

    In other words: let's show him that the place for religion isn't in the courtroom, but in the hearts and souls of all people, including birkenstock-wearing, tree-hugging, hippie-liberals.

    Below is how to contact Representative Gibbons in his Washington, D.C. office:

    Washington D.C.
    Congressman Jim Gibbons
    100 Cannon House Office Building
    Washington D.C. 20515
    202-225-6155
    Fax: 202-225-5679

    And the link to his online feedback form is here:

    http://wwwc.house.gov/gibbons/contact_feedback.asp

    Can someone sing me out?

    They will know we are Christians*
    By Our Love, By Our Love
    And they'll know we are Christians*
    By our Love.


    *and atheists, humanists, Buddhists, Muslims, Jews, Siekhs, Hindi, agnostics, Wikken, and all religious people everywhere


    Read more...

    Here we go...

    Archbishop Chaput in Denver. Tom Delay in Washington. Expect more things to come slithering out from underneath the rocks as the Ten Commandments case works through the Supreme Court.


    Read more...

    Whaddya expect from Bullskin Township?

    From the Harrisburg (PA) Patriot-News:
    4 charged in goat-for-crack crime

    Police at Mount Pleasant say four men stole, killed and butchered a pygmy goat so they could trade its meat for crack cocaine. Four Connellsville men are charged with theft, receiving stolen property, cruelty to animals and criminal conspiracy for an incident Dec. 24 in Bullskin Twp., Fayette County, about 35 miles southeast of Pittsburgh.


    Read more...

    Values and Tactics

    This is literally from a political playbook for Republicans, devised by a high-powered consultant named Frank Lutz, and presented in weekly strategy sessions in Washington.

    Here's what Lutz had to say about "values" questions:

    6) The Democrats have attempted to redefine values and faith. - You can't let them. Several speakers at the Democratic convention addressed the value of faith -- but without overt religious appeals. In fact, they specifically attacked those who speak of religion or spirituality, an indirect assault on much of the GOP base. A majority of swing voters do not attend church weekly, and this appeal was, well, appealing:

    DEMOCRAT WORDS THAT WORK

    "My friends, we are constantly being told that America is deeply divided. But all Americans value freedom and faith and family."

    President Bill Clinton


    Democrat Vice Presidential candidate John Edwards took an even more direct route and it ended up being one of the top five sound-bites in his speech.

    EDWARDS WORDS THAT WORKED

    "Where I come from, you don't judge someone's values based on how they use that word in a political ad. You judge their values based upon what they've spent their life doing. So when a man volunteers to serve his country, and puts his life on the line for others – that’s a man who represents real American values."


    PAGE 12 ---

    It is perfectly acceptable, if not imperative that you address this values debate. Now it's your turn. The best way to communicate values is to use words and phrases that no Coke-drinking, apple-pie eating American could disagree with. Family, Freedom, Opportunity, Responsibility, Community. These are the true American values, and they should be used as part of a larger personal message. I know you don't like to talk about yourself, but if you get a values question, you need to explain what these "values" mean to YOU:

    "America is under attack from almost every direction. We have been attacked by murderous terrorists here in this great city. Our employers and Jobs are threatened by low-cost, highly skilled labor from abroad.

    American values are under attack from within.

    Hard work, personal sacrifice, education, integrity and the foundation of family have been and always will be the source of our strength.

    Throughout our history, when our country needed us, Americans have always stepped forward, standing up to every challenge. That's what our parent's generation did on the beaches of Normandy. We must step forward again today."

    -- Mass. Governor Mitt Romney


    Republicans need to enlarge the debate to include two of Americans' biggest desires today: strong families and healthy communities. Similar to the desire of Hillary Clinton and many Democrats to talk of support for our troops, Republicans can talk confidently about these things because the public knows that the President's formulation of a "compassionate conservative" agenda speaks to what Middle America wants - and does not want - from government.

    GOP WORDS THAT WORK

    "Morals, values, decency - all are essential in a civil society. Strong families, healthy communities - all are essential if we are to enjoy the fruits of our success. All are essential to the American Dream. We must not dismiss them or diminish them. Goodness matters. After all, what good is a stronger economy at home or victory overseas if we remain at war with ourselves?"

    PAGE 13 ---

    MORE GOP WORDS THAT WORK

    "The greatness of America has never been measured by the Dow Jones industrial average, the gross national product, or the combined value of our individual and corporate checkbooks. The strength of America, the true greatness of America, is in the moral fiber of her people, in the integrity of her leaders and in how we treat those who are least and most vulnerable in our midst. That is the greatness of America."

    A GOOD GOP VALUES RESPONSE


    It has often been said that America is great because America is good. And I believe that our goodness - our sense of right and wrong, our commitment to justice and equality - come from values. Values that are taught by parents to their children all across America. Values like opportunity and responsibility. Values like faith and community. And these are the values which our government must preserve and protect.

    Throughout my life I have seen the wisdom of these values. As a husband, as a father, as a member of a strong and loving community, I have seen how these values make America both good and great. My opponents seem to appreciate HOLLYWOOD VALUES. I guess I’m more old-fashioned. I appreciate American values.


    Read more...

    Tuesday, March 01, 2005

    More faith-based action...

    this time a prison program in Arkansas that will "work with certain inmates for up to 18 months before release to teach them 'how to live life according to biblical principals.'"

    It's run by InnerChange, a faith-based outreach of Chuck Colson's Prison Fellowship. InnerChange has previously run into problems in Iowa and Texas, and a similar, Colson-affiliated program in Arizona was shut down after a successful lawsuit by the Freedom from Religion Foundation.

    Mother Jones has a look inside an InnerChange program in Kansas, including this interesting paragraph:
    Data compiled by Texas' Criminal Justice Policy Council suggests InnerChange graduates have lower rates of recidivism. But as University of Arizona sociologist Mark Chaves notes, "Prison Fellowship claims amazing success rates, but in prisons where it exists, it's often the only rehab program. We don't have comparisons between PFM and secular programs; we have comparisons between PFM and nothing."

    An interesting aside (well, an aside anyway). While ruling in favor of the FFRF in the Arizona case, Justice John Shabaz turned them down in a separate suit against Emory University, which helped the Federal Health & Human Services Agency to distribute $900,000 in FBI money.

    It's a story with all kinds of personal connections for me: the family that leads the FFRF lived just up the street from our parsonage when I was growing up, and Shabaz (IIRC) was the father of a classmate in the Madison public schools. I received my M.Div from Candler School of Theology at Emory University, and last but not least, was born at Deaconness Hospital in St. Louis, which is run by the UCC-affiliated Deaconness Foundation, named in the FFRF suit.

    Small world.


    Read more...

    Gary Bauer goes ape

    So what else is new? This time it's on today's SCOTUS ruling striking down the execution of minors:
    Tyranny Of The Courts

    The Supreme Court has just ruled, by a 5-to-4 vote, that the Constitution forbids the execution of convicted killers who were under the age of eighteen when they committed their crime. The high court said such executions are unconstitutionally cruel. As a result of this decision the laws of 19 states have been struck down.

    Thus the Supreme Court, the same court that says our Constitution requires us to permit innocent unborn children to be destroyed at any time, even up to the moment of birth, has concluded that the Constitution would prohibit us from executing Dylan Klebold, one of the Columbine murderers, because he was 17-years old at the time of his murder spree.

    So far, so good. I don't agree that abortion is the murder of a child, but if I did, the ruling might set me off as well.

    But then Bauer gets down to what's really irritating him:
    But it gets even worse. Justice Kennedy, who was part of the majority once again, cited other nations as a partial basis for his decision. Here is the quote:

    “Our determination that the death penalty is disproportionate punishment for offenders under 18 finds confirmation in the stark reality that the United States is the only country in the world that continues to give official sanction to the juvenile death penalty.”

    Kennedy went on to signal clearly that this is just the beginning. He points out that the Court is building a tradition of referring “to the laws of other countries and to international authorities as instructive for its interpretation” of the Constitution.

    Justice Scalia wrote a blistering response mocking the court’s majority decision, saying in part, “Because I do not believe that the meaning of our Eighth Amendment, any more than the meaning of other provisions of our Constitution should be determined by the subjective views of five Members of this Court and like-minded foreigners, I dissent.”

    My friends, don’t miss what is happening here. Even if some agree that juveniles should not be eligible for the death penalty, that decision should be made by the people of the United States expressing our will through our elected officials.

    As free men and women we have the right to fully debate the issue and then act accordingly in our states. Nineteen states have decided juveniles may be executed for heinous crimes. The rest of our states have decided that is not the approach they want.

    Under no circumstances should laws passed by the British Parliament, the French National Assembly, the German Bundestag or the European Union be a factor in deciding what is a permissible decision by the American people in our own self-governance.

    While we are nobly trying to expand liberty in the Middle East, inattention to these judicial outrages is in danger of undermining liberty here.

    Our only solution is a major change in who sits on the courts – a change unlikely to take place unless the White House and Congress move boldly to dismantle the Senate filibuster “road block” that threatens to stymie President Bush’s efforts to restore balance.

    Eliminating the filibuster of judicial nominees has been called, incorrectly, a “nuclear option,” meaning it is a radical solution. But the real radicalism is coming down on us from the courts, disguised in the cloak of judicial legitimacy.

    So what's the point here? Moral consistency or partisan advantage on judicial appointments?


    Read more...

    Bush Pushes Faith-Based Initiative

    Indeed, and we hear hardly a word in the report about the problems associated with the initiative. This isn't a matter of "the president vs. critics;" it's a matter of getting the administration to own up to the facts it has never denied (see the letter to the editor below for what we're talking about).

    --pastordan


    Read more...

    Do you hate evil?

    Dennis Prager, writing in the Jewish World Review, believes that hate can be a positive value:
    A core value of the Bible is hatred of evil. Indeed, it is the only thing the Bible instructs its followers to hate — so much so that love of G-d is equated with hatred of evil. "Those who love G-d — you must hate evil," the Psalms tell us.

    Leave to one side the idea that "hate" didn't mean the same thing to the ancient world as it does to us; let's see where Prager is going with this.
    In the contemporary Western world, most people who identify with the Left — meaning the majority of people — hate war, corporations, pollution, Christian fundamentalists, economic inequality, tobacco and conservatives. But they rarely hate the greatest evils of their day, if by evil we are talking about the deliberate infliction of cruelty — mass murder, rape, torture, genocide and totalitarianism.

    That is why communism, a way of life built on cruelty, attracted vast numbers of people on the Left and why, from the 1960s, it was unopposed by most others on the Left.

    Even most people calling themselves liberal, not leftist, hated anti-communism much more than they hated communism. When President Ronald Reagan called the Soviet Union an "evil empire," liberals were outraged — just as they were when President George W. Bush called the regimes of North Korea, Iran and Saddam Hussein's Iraq an "axis of evil."

    Ask leftists what they believe humanity must fight against, and they will likely respond global warming or some other ecological disaster (and perhaps American use of armed force as well).

    An interesting argument: liberals are wrong not because their political ideas or commitments are wrong, but because they despise the wrong things. Prager continues:
    In fact, the Left throughout the world generally has contempt for people who speak of good and evil. They are called Manichaeans, moral simpletons who see the world in black and white, never in shades of grey.

    As the leading German weekly magazine, Der Spiegel, recently wrote: "Mr. Bush's recent speeches have made no retreat from the good vs. evil view of the world that the Europeans hate."

    Patrice de Beer, an editor of the leading French newspaper, Le Monde, wrote that in the European Union: "The notion of the world divided between Good and Evil is perceived with dread."

    Entirely typical of the Left's view of good and evil is this series of questions posed on the leftist website Counterpunch by Gary Leupp, professor of history and of comparative religion at Tufts University: "Questions for discussion. Was Attila good or evil to invade Gaul? Saddam good or evil to invade Kuwait? Hitler good or evil to invade Poland? Bush good or evil to invade Iraq? Are 'good' and 'evil' really adequate categories to evaluate contemporary and historical events?"

    Western Europeans and their American counterparts loathe the language of good and evil and correctly attribute it to religious — i.e., Judeo-Christian — values. Among those values is fighting evil and "burning evil out from your midst." And to do that, you have to first hate it. Because if you don't hate evil, you won't fight it, and good will lose.

    Honestly, I'm at something of a loss here. What do you say to such a perspective?

    How about: hate is never a positive value, no matter how loathsome the object? Hate by its very nature degrades those who participate in it. It brings them down to the level of that which they despise--if not lower.

    And: Mr. Prager, your sources have it exactly right, and you have it exactly wrong. Shades of black and white are not adequate to describe the world around us, particularly its geo-political nuances. For what we have learned is that we are all children of the light and children of the darkness; to paraphrase Reinhold Niebuhr, the line between good and evil runs down through the human population, but down the middle of each and every last one of them.

    So to hate evil is to hate and fight oneself, to hate and fight that which makes us human, because we are so thoroughly intermixed: one with another, good with evil. And in that, to hate what is evil is to ensure that the good will lose.


    Read more...

    Somehow, we don't think so.

    Robert Novak claims to be doing the Lord's work:

    "I'm trying to tell the truth and taking positions that I hope are godly positions, positions that I hope are helpful to my fellow man," he tells Vanity Fair in a profile that hits the stands tomorrow. "And I don't think there's any law against enjoying myself in the process."

    The 74-year-old columnist and CNN commentator remains mum on a great mystery of the moment: his legal status in the Valerie Plame leak case. "While two other reporters, Matthew Cooper of Time and Judith Miller of the New York Times, face jail time for refusing to divulge their sources in the case," writes VF contributing editor David Margolick, "the man who broke the story apparently doesn't."

    Novak does talk about his lightning-rod reputation and even shares a recent hate e-mail: "Too bad you weren't on the beach when the tsunami hit," it reads. "You are a disgrace to journalism . . . partially due to your senility."

    But the piece describes Novak as a formidable, hardworking columnist -- "he has courage and foresight," writes Margolick -- and notes that "despite spinal meningitis, three types of cancer, two broken hips, two broken wrists and a broken ankle," the man hasn't slowed down. How long will Novak last? "Well, I think probably it's God's will," he tells the mag.


    Call us silly, but we're not sure that the Almighty asks columnists to out undercover CIA agents, thus jeopardizing their lives and livelihoods, then allow colleagues to take the rap.

    Just guessin'.


    Read more...

    Monday, February 28, 2005

    We write letters

    In response to a very vague editorial in the Lancaster Sunday News, Don Eberly, who helped to create the Bush administration's Faith-Based Initiatives program:

    I am disappointed that the Sunday News would run an editorial by a Bush administration official without any supporting context or differing perspective. Even though you note that Mr. Eberly writes as a "private citizen," the fact remains that he is arguing in favor of a government policy that he helped create. Readers deserve to have more than a politician's word that such a program works as well as advertised.

    Because, despite Eberly's praise of the power of volunteerism in civil society, many questions remain about the administration's Faith-Based Initiatives program. Here's what Eberly left out of his article:
    • The first director of the program, John DiIulio resigned in frustration, saying that the administration put the program's effectiveness second to its political impact. David Kuo, deputy beliefnet.com article that the administration had woefully underfunded the program, despite its promises to the contrary, despite congressional Democratic outreach achieve adequate support for the initiatives' aims. On more than one occasion, the administration proposed funding particular programs at a certain level, only to later cut the appropiations or simply refuse to spend the money.


    • The current director of the program, Jim Towey, admits that there is no way to determine exactly how much money is spent in faith-based initiatives. Congress has been frustrated with the lack of oversight on the disbursement of funds; poor accounting and controls makes it nearly impossible to determine if the money has been spent effectively. In fact, tracking of faith-based money has been so poor that when 2003 grants were disclosed early this year, it was discovered that many had been made to local government organizations, not faith-affiliated groups.


    • The money that has been spent--and tracked--was disbursed in swing states in the 2004 election. Towey declared a nonpartisan stance for the program, then promptly went on a tour of those same states to lead seminars on accessing program funds. While on this tour, he charged that were John Kerry to win the election, the program would be "relegated to the Smithsonian." Several grants were made to groups with strong ties to the Republican party.


    • To date, the only non-Christian group to receive faith-based funds is the Unification Church, led by the Rev. Sun Myung-Moon. Moon controls the Washington Times, and has been active in American conservative politics since the 1980s.


    • Under existing executive orders, organizations receiving faith-based initiatives funds are allowed to discriminate on religious grounds in their hiring practices, and may include

    Don Eberly may be right. Faith-based initiatives may help unlock the power of volunteerism and philanthropy. But just as easily it could be cynical patronage politics by another name, using government funds to subsidize the activities of favored friends. At this point, there's simply not enough information to say, one way or another.

    But this is certain: we deserve to have our questions about this program answered. This is true for no one more than Christians, who deserve better than vague appeals to their compassion as proof that their faith is not being used as a pawn in someone else's political game.


    Read more...

    Talon News: Anatomy of a Kerry Smear, October Surprise

    from grannyhelen - again, due to my embed-link challenges, to view links to all articles mentioned please click on the title which will take you to my cross-post at Daily Kos.

    This is the final installment of the Anatomy of a Kerry Smear series. Part 1 covered Talon News 2004 campaign "articles" from June 16, 2003 through April 9, 2004. Part 2 covered "articles" written from May 21, 2004 (chronologically the next article in our timeline) through September 29, 2004.

    In Part 3, we're going to look at Talon News' repeated attempts to engineer a smear against John Kerry in the last month before the November elections.

    Why is this important?

    To quote from a Talon News article, CBS, Kerry Campaign Hit With FEC Complaint, authored by Jeff Gannon (and mentioned in Part 2) he reported that:

    ... Under the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law, media organizations are exempt from provisions barring corporations from engaging in "electioneering communications" within 60 days of a general election. But the Center argued that CBS forfeited its exemption by illegally coordinating a partisan attack on the president only 55 days before an election.


    So, if Talon News was coordinating with the Republican Party to launch a partisan attack on John Kerry less than one month before the election...that's illegal. This could be a big reason why Talon News scrubbed ALL of its articles - even those not written by Jeff Gannon - from its website.

    Our first article is written by Bobby Eberle, who reports on CBS's "questionable reporting". Cynicism, it seems, has a happy home in the radical right wing of this country.

    September 30, 2004
    CBS Again Under Fire for Questionable Reporting By Bobby Eberle

    Paul Rodriguez, the managing editor of Insight Magazine, said in an

    online column (web site), "Frankly, I'm beginning to wonder if CBS News is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Democratic National Committee -- or at least a satellite office for John Kerry's campaign committee."

    Rodriguez added that he now wonders whether other CBS stories aired over the years "contained laws, errors, bad judgment and perhaps even purposeful deceit."

    "As a consumer of news I should never harbor such thoughts," Rodriguez said. "But now I do...because of CBS."

    ...Despite the fact that both presidential candidates are on record opposing a draft and no evidence exists that a draft is likely, CBS pursued a draft story based on urban legends and the opinion of a staunch anti-draft activist. At the same time, CBS withheld Cocco's background while she helped raise the issue of a possible Bush draft.


    And on that same day Talon News reports:

    Kerry Claims Fatigue, 'Inarticulate Moment' Spawned Infamous Iraq Funding Comment By Jimmy Moore

    ...Kerry told Sawyer that he simply misspoke.

    "It just was a very inarticulate way of saying something, and I had one of those inarticulate moments late in the evening when I was dead tired in the primaries and I didn't say something very clearly," Kerry admitted to Sawyer.

    Yet the speech Kerry gave on March 16 at Marshall University in Huntington, West Virginia was held in the middle of the day at noon, not at a late night hour as he suggested in the interview with Sawyer.

    Chad Clanton, a Kerry campaign spokesman, told CNSNews.com that the Democratic candidate "simply got the time of day wrong."

    "Campaigns are long, grueling things," Clanton surmised to CNSNews.com. "It's like one continuous blur."...

    ...The Bush campaign says this is yet another example of how Kerry has been indecisive and unclear about his position on the issues.

    The Republican National Committee took this latest explanation of the comment from Kerry about his "inarticulate moment" and sent a message to supporters entitled "Perhaps His Watch Was On Paris Time?"


    Republicans? Cynical? Naw!

    October 10, 2004 CBS, NY Times Appear to Plan 'October Surprise' Regarding Missing Iraqi Explosives by Bobby Eberle and Jimmy Moore

    At the heart of the controversy are reports that both CBS and the New
    York Times were working on news stories which would focus on the missing explosives in the context that the explosives disappeared due to inadequate security provided by coalition forces following the fall of Baghdad. The segments would thus be critical of President Bush and his handling of post-war Iraq.

    According to CBS News executive producer Jeff Fager, an announcement by the interim Iraqi government to the International Atomic Energy Agency that a cache of 380 tons of explosives in a storage depot at Al Qaqaa have been missing since former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was ousted from power was going to be revealed on this Sunday's episode of "60 Minutes."

    "[Ou]r plan was to run the story on October 31, but it became clear that it wouldn't hold," Fager said in a statement.

    The New York Times beat CBS to the punch by releasing their story on Monday. Under the headline "Huge Cache of Explosives Vanished From Site in Iraq," the New York Times said that Iraqi interim government warned the U.S. and the IAEA that the explosives were missing from "one of Iraq's most sensitive former military installations."

    In a statement which implies that coalition forces did not provide adequate security, the story reads, "The huge facility, called Al Qaqaa, was supposed to be under American military control but is now a no man's land, still picked over by looters as recently as Sunday. United Nations weapons inspectors had monitored the explosives for many years, but White House and Pentagon officials acknowledge that the explosives vanished sometime after the American-led invasion last year."

    The news story goes on to credit CBS News and "60 Minutes" by stating, "This article was reported in cooperation with the CBS News program "60 Minutes." "60 Minutes" first obtained information on the missing explosives."

    Many political observers believe CBS was planning to unveil this as an "October surprise" in an effort to defeat President Bush in the November 2 election by airing the segment on Sunday, October 31.


    And that same day...

    Below is an article that was posted on the Bush-Cheney 04 campaign site. You can view the original link posting here:

    http://www.bush2004.com/environment/

    The article was scrubbed, of course, but the cache still exists (by the way, if anyone wants to do a screen grab of the post on the BC04 website, I'd be most appreciative).

    For those of us who went to the BC04 website throughout the campaign and saw entire sections devoted exclusively to attacking Kerry, this little write up is a hoot!

    WASHINGTON (Talon News) -- The official weblog for the Bush-Cheney 2004
    reelection campaign was opened this week to help keep the public informed about the major campaign issues and activities.

    The new Bush blog, the term commonly used for a weblog, located on the Internet at www.georgewbush.com/blog launched just weeks after the controversial new Democrat Party blog entitled "Kicking Ass."

    As previously reported by Talon News, the Democrat blog contains mostly negative stories and postings about President Bush and members of his administration. Also, it has suppressed opposing viewpoints in its comment section. Conversely, the new Bush-Cheney '04 blog contains positive entries regarding the strength of the economy as a result of the tax cuts, the continuing progress made in the war on terrorism, and the war in Iraq as well as news and notes from the campaign.

    The Bush blog was created specifically to inform supporters of the President about "breaking news" on the campaign when it hits. Additionally, regular news alerts will be sent out to subscribers via e-mail when they sign up for them on the blog.

    One difference between the Bush blog and other blogs is that a discussion feature is not located at the end of each blog entry. While the blog is still in the early stages, that feature may be added in the coming months as more and more people become interested in the political process. There are a few interesting features of the Bush blog.

    First, there is a categorized list of the major issues on President Bush's agenda, including the economy, compassion, homeland security, health care, education, national security, and the environment. Clickable links to each of these issues are located at the top of the blog and will send you to a webpage detailing the president's stand on each of the issues as well as the progress he has made on each one since being in office.

    Second, in anticipation of the election taking place on November 2004, there is a countdown calendar image on the blog. There is also a link for others to put the countdown calendar on their website.

    Third, a daily travel log of where the president and members of his administration will be each day is posted on the blog.

    The Bush blog is meant to work in tandem with the Bush-Cheney reelection website located at www.georgewbush.com.


    And an article covering Grover Norquists views on Kerry's health care plan. Gannon just forgets to mention Norquist's connections to the Republican Party.

    October 11, 2004
    Group Says 'Kerry Care' Would Cost Staggering $1.5 Trillion By Jeff Gannon

    Americans for Tax Reform (ATR), a Washington-based taxpayer advocacy group, estimated the cost for Kerry's plan at $1.5 trillion over 10 years. The candidate's proposal would hike taxes $969 per taxpayer, or nearly $10,000 over the next decade.

    ATR President Grover Norquist said, "John Kerry wants to implement a bloated, government-run healthcare program and stick American taxpayers with the bill."

    Norquist believes much of the benefit would be wasted since almost 60 percent of the plan's cost would be used to pay for people who already have health insurance. The average person will receive a benefit of $451 dollars, which is more than offset by the increased tax burden.

    "Kerry has made empty promises about preserving President Bush's middle class tax cuts, but the fact it is, he needs to raise taxes to fund this big government boondoggle," Norquist said. President George W. Bush took issue with his opponent's strategy to cover the cost of 'Kerry Care' during last Friday's debate. He pointed out that Kerry's tax increase, estimated to be somewhere between $600 and $800 billion wouldn't cover the $1.5 trillion price tag.

    Bush said, "It's just not credible ... there is a difference: what he's promised and what he could raise ... either he's going to break all these wonderful promises he's told you about, or he's going to raise taxes. And I suspect, given his record, he's going to raise taxes."

    At a campaign stop earlier in the week, Bush criticized Kerry's approach to expanding access to health care.

    Bush said, "My opponent's proposal would be the largest expansion of government-run health care ever. His plan would put bureaucrats in charge of dictating coverage, which could ration your care and limit your choice of doctors. ... He's putting us on the path to Hillary care."

    The president pushed for health savings accounts (HSAs) where individuals pay for current health expenses and save for future qualified medical and retiree health expenses on a tax-free basis.

    He signed legislation last year that established the innovative health care funding program. Amounts contributed to an HSA belong to individuals and are completely portable. Every year the money not spent would stay in the account and gain interest tax-free, just like an IRA. Unused amounts remain available for later years.

    Bush has also aggressively promoted small business health care reform. He has repeatedly called on both houses of Congress to pass a law allowing association health plans (AHPs), so small businesses could band together to negotiate and purchase health coverage for their employees. In his 2004 State of the Union address, Bush again pressed for legislation to help make health insurance more affordable.

    He said, "On the critical issue of health care, our goal is to ensure that Americans can choose and afford private health care coverage that best fits their individual needs."

    Legislation that would allow AHPs has passed the House of Representatives but has been obstructed in the Senate by the Democratic minority that includes both Kerry and his runningmate, Sen. John Edwards (D-NC).


    Below is the link to the now-infamous "article" written by Gannon on Kerry becoming the "first gay President". For folks in the media who have called this article "tame", I would point them to this timeline so they can see for themselves the entirety of what Talon News was writing about John Kerry in October, 2004. In this context the "article" is properly viewed as a smear piece.

    October 12, 2004
    Kerry Could Become First Gay President By Jeff Gannon

    Yes, every act of violence against the BC04 campaign MUST have been committed by the unions...or at least this is the impression you're left with after reading this "article".

    October 12, 2004
    Bush Campaign Protests Union Violence Against HQs By Jeff Gannon

    The campaign chairman noted that the protests organized by the union came on the heels of a number of other serious incidents. Laptop computers were stolen from the Washington State Bush-Cheney '04 executive director and the state Republican Party 72-hour director during a break-in at the Seattle office. Another break-in Sunday night at the Canton, Ohio Bush-Cheney '04 headquarters forced a staffer to lock herself in an office while the invasion was in progress. The facility was seriously damaged, and property was stolen.

    Gunshots have been fired into Bush-Cheney '04 offices in West Virginia, Florida, and Tennessee. Windows were broken in West Virginia, and campaign staffers were threatened. In Wisconsin, a supporter of the president had a swastika burned into his front yard simply because he had a Bush-Cheney '04 lawn sign.

    Racicot called on Sweeney to put and end to the union's threatening and violent protest activities. He said that he would hold the AFL-CIO and its leadership accountable for the actions of its members. The Chairman challenged Sweeney to immediately discontinue the intimidation of people who hold different political views from his union's membership but share an equal right to be involved in the political process.

    On Monday, Bush-Cheney '04 established a hotline for victims to report incidents of voter intimidation at 1-888-303-7125.


    October 13, 2004
    Kerry Spokesman Appears to Threaten TV Network Set to Air 'Stolen Honor' By Jeff Gannon

    WASHINGTON (Talon News) -- Chad Clanton, a spokesman for the Kerry campaign appeared on a Fox News program Tuesday and suggested that the Sinclair Broadcasting Group might regret airing a documentary that focuses on the Democratic candidate's antiwar activities. He announced that pro-Kerry activists were organizing to protest the network.

    "We've got thousands of people now very mad jackballed up calling these stations, protesting, threatening boycotts of their sponsors," Clanton said.

    As reported Tuesday by Talon News, Sinclair is set to air "Stolen Honor," a documentary about John Kerry's protests against the Vietnam War and how his 1971 testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee impacted American soldiers held as prisoners of war by the Viet Cong. The film features several survivors of the prison camps who tell stories of torture and how Kerry's words were used to extract confessions to war crimes from them.


    Here's an interesting piece. I found it on a website for the "Student Movement Coordination Committee for Democracy in Iran". Now, you don't think this "movement" has anything to do with the US Government, CIA or military intelligence, do ya?

    October 15, 2004
    Kerry Taking Campaign Contributions from Pro-Iranian Group by Jeff Gannon

    WASHINGTON (Talon News) --The chairman of a pro-Iranian democracy group
    is charging that the campaign of Sen. John Kerry has been accepting political contributions from a lobbying group promoting the agenda of the mullah rulers of Iran. Aryo Pirouznia, leader of the Student Movement Coordination Committee for Democracy in Iraq (SMCCDI) says that backers of the regime in Tehran are channeling hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Kerry campaign.

    During a press conference in Washington on Thursday, Pirouznia identified several individuals who have close ties to the Democratic presidential candidate. The most prominent of them is Hassan Nemazee, a New York investment banker and a member of the board of the American-Iranian Council (AIC). A chief goal of the lobbying group is the removal of U.S. sanctions against Iran.

    Once nominated by President Bill Clinton to be U.S. ambassador to Argentina, Nemazee has raised more than $100,000 for Kerry. Nemazee withdrew his name from consideration following allegations of improper business dealings.

    On March 19, 2004, Nemazee was listed as a vice chairman by the Kerry campaign, and on June 18, 2004, CBS News reported that Nemazee was part a group that raised more than $500,000.

    Other key Kerry fundraisers with similar ties include Susan Akbarpour, a recent immigrant from Iran whom the campaign lists as raising between $50,000 and $100,000 and her husband, Faraj Aelaei, a telecommunications executive raising the same amount.

    Iran has been alternately threatening to develop nuclear weapons and insisting that it needs uranium for energy production. During the first presidential debate, Kerry suggested that he would provide nuclear fuel to Iran.

    Kerry was critical of President George W. Bush, who called Iran a member of the "Axis of Evil" along with North Korea and Iraq when it was controlled by the regime of Saddam Hussein. Kerry lamented that the U.S. passed up an opportunity to join the Great Britain, France, and Germany in engaging Iran.

    Kerry said, "I think the United States should have offered the opportunity to provide the nuclear fuel, test them, see whether or not they were actually looking for it for peaceful purposes."

    The Democrat's web site reiterates the "global test" he proposes for the mullah government.

    Kerry's plan is to "call their bluff by organizing a group of states to offer Iran the nuclear fuel they need for peaceful purposes and take back the spent fuel so they cannot divert it to build a weapon. If Iran does not accept this offer, their true motivations will be clear." In one of his public statements about Iran, Kerry said, "I will be prepared early on to explore areas of mutual interest with Iran, just as I was prepared to normalize relations with Vietnam a decade ago."

    Following Kerry's advocacy on behalf of the communist government of Vietnam, Hanoi awarded a contract to Boston real estate firm Colliers International. At the time, the senator's cousin Stuart Forbes was head of the company. The Kerry campaign won't comment on the individuals in question.


    October 26, 2004
    Rehnquist's Cancer Reminds Voters Of Election's Importance By Jimmy Moore

    Just throwing these last two post-election articles in the mix...

    January 18, 2005
    Kerry Blames 'Suppressed' Voters In His Defeat To Bush By Jimmy Moore

    February 4, 2005
    White House: Washington Post Article 'Flat Wrong' By Jeff Gannon

    It comes as no surprise to dKos readers that this is not about Gannon, and in fact I believe that Gannon's latest media escapades, including his website launch, have been done to divert media attention away from Talon News's actions during the 2004 campaign specifically, and refocus it on the train wreck of Gannon's zany comments and wondering what he'll do next.

    Once again, to quote Mr. O'Reilly, "what say you"?


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    BTK

    I'll be writing more on this later in the week, but serial killing suspect Dennis Rader was a member of a Lutheran congregation in Wichita for over 30 years. Understandably, the other members are shocked a bit creeped out.

    Just more proof, if any was needed, that you never can tell--even in the cozy world of the church.


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    This is bad

    From a link-rich story in The Nation, via Yahoo News:
    It's been an inauspicious start for Scott Bloch, head of the government's Office of Special Counsel (OSC), the agency charged with protecting federal whistleblowers. After moving from the Justice Department (news - web sites)'s Office of Faith-Based Initiatives in January 2004, Bloch suggested that federal employees could essentially be fired for being gay. Then, directly contradicting his organization's purpose, Bloch complained of "leakers" within the OSC and issued a gag order for employees. In a speech last fall Bloch admitted he knew little about the Counsel's work before Bush nominated him. Now he's pushing forward a controversial agency "reorganization" plan that watchdogs liken to a purge.

    If this is the kind of hackery Bloch's been participating in at the OSC, what kind of damage did he wreak at Faith-Based Initiatives?

    And why am I still surprised by the depths to which Bush administration officials will sink?

    pastordan


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    Sunday, February 27, 2005

    Brothers and Sisters,

    in peace, and for the peace of the whole world, let us pray*:
    • For the troubled nations of the Middle East: Egypt, Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Iran; that they may know peace and security from outside belligerence;

    • For all nations with nuclear weapons, that this evil may not proliferate;

    • For the countries of Africa, Asia, and Latin America struggling under the burden of debt;

    • For the communities in the United States terrorized by a serial killer.

    In love, and for the love that over and around us lies, let us pray:

    • For migrant workers and all who are exploited in their labors;

    • For Pope John Paul II and the Catholic Church, that they may reclaim the legitimacy of their moral leadership;

    • In thanksgiving for all children everywhere, that they may find safety and nurture as they grow;

    • For all who face racial prejudice and discrimination;

    • For all those who bear hate in their hearts, that their souls may be redeemed;

    • For the Earth and all its gifts.

    For the fulfillment of our hopes and needs, let us pray to the source of all hope:

    • For those in our community who have experienced great loss recently: a friend, a loved one, a favorite pet;

    • For those who struggle with ongoing illness, especially those who live with HIV and AIDS;

    • For those who find it difficult to find their place in society, particularly those who are ostracized for their political beliefs;

    • For those who have experienced heartbreak, job loss, family conflict, and grief.

    With thanks and praise, we lift up our prayers in confidence, knowing that our hope will not be put to shame.


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    Word for the Week

    Romans 5:1-11


    I mentioned in last week's introduction that the Christian lectionary has a way of creating "happy accidents". This week's text is a fine example of how that works.


    It's a transitional paragraph, a scrap of a reading--but an important one. Because the switch Paul is making here is from talking about how Christians are saved to what salvation means in their everyday lives.


    His answer gets to the heart of his ministry: reconciliation. When the apostle looked out on the world, he saw a place torn apart by sin, in desperate need of a unifying force. His belief was that Christ's atoning death and resurrection provided that unity: though humanity did not deserve a second chance, yet God offered one in Christ, and through it, restored us to friendship with the almighty.


    But though reconciliation begins and ends in God for Paul, humanity also plays a role in the process. Like Jesus, Paul had a keen eye for divisions: Jews vs. "Greeks," or Hellenized Roman society, slaves and masters, rich and poor, male and female. Both Jesus and Paul understood the corrupting influence of power in social relationships, and both called the faithful to work to overcome division by freely giving up their power to live in equality with one another.


    Yes, it was as radical an idea then as it is today.


    No, neither Jesus nor Paul were completely able to live up to the ideal.


    Still, in an age as beset with divisions as ours, there's something to the message of reconciliation. Good people of all faiths and no faith want to participate in what Jews call tikkun olam, "the healing of the world."


    And here's where the serendipity comes in. I had originally intended to talk about the need for reconciliation between the rich and the poor in US society, using Ron Sider's recent beliefnet.com article "State of the Union on Poverty" as a springboard. Sider is no less than prophetic when he declares:

    For the richest nation in human history-a nation which claims a Judeo-Christian heritage-[income inequity] is a moral outrage. Surely there ought to be a moral consensus across all religious faiths and political parties that every American who works full-time year-round in a responsible way will escape poverty and enjoy affordable health coverage.


    Instead, what I found myself thinking about at the end of the week was the apparently growing schism in the Anglican communion. What fuels that schism? You guessed it: homosexuality, in the form of the openly gay bishop Gene Robinson and blessings for same-sex unions permitted in some dioceses.


    As a person committed to Christ's prayer "that you all may be as one," it saddens me to hear about division in any church. But the Anglican rift is particularly troubling. As the Archbishop of Capetown is reported to have said, "the church has far more urgent problems to talk about than sex".


    That's true for Americans as well, whether inside the church or not. Our "far more urgent problems" include: a continuing war, political estrangement, an economy that's limping along, stubborn racial divides, and yes, egregious disparities in the distribution of wealth.


    Yet here's the Anglican communion being torn apart because certain people have the nerve to want to be in stable, committed relationships with one another.


    What's wrong with this picture?


    Paul writes that Christians should have hope "because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us," and it is this hope that allows us to participate in the work of reconciliation.


    He's right, and it's time for Christians to start acting like it. Let's begin with focusing on the truly urgent problems.


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