Religion/Politics

Give a Little Whistle



Last week at our General Assembly I attended a panel presentation celebrating the 35th anniversary of the publication of the Pentagon Papers by the Beacon Press. Amy Goodman moderated the panel which was made up of Daniel Ellsberg, former employee of the Rand Corporation, Mike Gravel, former Senator from Alaska and current candidate for President, and Bob West, former President of the Unitarian Universalist Association which owns the Beacon Press. Today, most of the panel discussion was aired on Goodman's Democracy Now. You can listen/watch/read it here.
Needless to say, it was quite a story and lifts up the true heroism of these three men, the whistleblower, the patriotic legislator, and the brave religious leader. What they did changed the world as we knew it and shed light on a series of secretive administrations and the lies they told to get us into and keep us in unlawful wars.

On this day when the current administration has flagrantly flouted the law and flipped the country and the Constitution the finger with a rousing F.U. we need brave whistleblowers now more than ever.

So if you or anyone you know has information regarding, lets say the CIA's damage assessment spelling out the consequences of the leaking of Valerie Plame's identity and blowing the cover of Brewster Jennings; or perhaps you have some documetation regarding who sat around the table when Darth Cheney met to develop the energy policy, or maybe you have some other information about the firing of the US Attorneys that will nail Abu Gonzo . . . . well, you get the idea. I'm sure that Sen. Leahy's office or Congressman Conyers' office might find a way of quietly welcoming you to into the light.

Just to remind us all of the words of the song above:

When you get in trouble and you don't know right from wrong,
give a little whistle!
Give a little whistle!
When you meet temptation and the urge is very strong,
give a little whistle!
Give a little whistle!
Not just a little squeak,
pucker up and blow.
And if your whistle's weak, yell "Juminy Cricket!"

Take the straight and narrow path
and if you start to slide,
give a little whistle!
Give a little whistle!
And always let your conscience be your guide

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It CAN Happen Here

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I preached a sermon on Fascism this morning. It was my last sermon in the church I am currently serving before I move on. This seemed to be an appropriate parting shot so to speak.

I tried to leave them with more hope than I really have. But that's my job.




More so than usual my brain is feeling overloaded with information. I’ve been reading a lot lately and a good deal of what I’ve been reading both scares me and comforts me. One of the books I’ve read—along with a lot of other people— is Sinclair Lewis’ 1935 Novel, It Can’t Happen Here. You know that something is happening the world when a lot of people are reading and writing about a novel that was written 70 years ago about a totalitarian take over of the US Government. Berzelius (Buzz) Windrip, is elected President in 1936 on a platform championing the Common Man while opposing welfare cheats, sex, crime, and a liberal press. He’s the Compassionate Conservative of the day with a strong dose of populism following the Great Depression and his platform is very appealing. His greatest supporter is a radio preacher, Bishop Prang. Yes, a lot of people have been reading and writing about a 70 year old book. Joe Conason has a book out titled It Can Happen Here. Chris Hedges has one out called American Fascists, The Christian Right and the War on America. It is hard to imagine the events that Lewis wrote about actually happening in our beloved democracy. Or is it?

Many of you know that Maria Harris was one of my all time greatest teachers. When I recently learned of her death I went to my file cabinet and pulled out the files from the classes I took from her. I found in one of the files a story called the
Third Wave written by a teacher named Ron Jones in 1972. I remembered it well. The article was in an education journal so I presume it was telling a true story. It was a chilling tale about a teacher who, in the midst of teaching about the Second World War found a strange way of answering a question posed by one of his students. The question was this:

“How could the German populace claim ignorance of the slaughter of the Jewish people. How could the townspeople, railroad conductors, teachers, doctors, claim they knew nothing about concentration camps and human carnage. How can people who were neighbors and maybe even friends of the Jewish citizen say they weren't there when it happened.”


Rather than try to answer the question directly Mr. Jones began an experiment that quickly spiraled out of hand. He began extolling the virtues of Strength through Discipline and taught the students how to sit with proper posture, how to answer a question promptly and courteously, how to behave in class. The discipline oddly appealed to them. Next was Strength through Community, then Action, and then Pride. Within the period of a week the students had come up with slogans, salutes, their own “elect” and the teacher had them thinking that they were part of a greater secret youth movement. They began spying on one another, deciding who was in and who was out, An idea that started as an answer to a question turned into a monster. Jones wrote:

“The school was alive with conjecture and curiosity. It affected everyone. The school cook asked what a Third Wave cookie looked like. I said chocolate chip of course. Our principal came into an afternoon faculty meeting and gave me the Third Wave salute. I saluted back. The Librarian thanked me for the 30' banner on learning which she placed above the library entrance. By the end of the day over two hundred students were admitted into the order. I felt very alone and a little scared.

Most of my fear emanated from the incidence of "tattletaling". Though I formally appointed only three students to report deviate behavior, approximately twenty students came to me with reports about how Allan didn't salute, or Georgine was talking critically about our experiment. This incidence of monitoring meant that half the class now considered it their duty to observe and report on members of their class. Within this avalanche of reporting one legitimate conspiracy did seem underway .…

Three women in the class had told their parents all about our classroom activities. These three young women were by far the most intelligent students in the class. As friends they chummed together. They possessed a silent confidence and took pleasure in a school setting that gave them academic and leadership opportunity. During the days of the experiment I was curious how they would respond to the equalitarian and physical reshaping of the class. The rewards they were accustomed to winning just didn't exist in the experiment. The intellectual skills of questioning and reasoning were non existent. . .

In telling their parents of the experiment they set up a brief chain of events. The rabbi for one of the parents called me at home. He was polite and condescending. I told him we were merely studying the German personality. He seemed delighted and told me not to worry. He would talk to the parents and calm their concern. In concluding this conversation I envisioned similar conversations throughout history in which the clergy accepted and apologized for untenable conditions. If only he would have raged in anger or simply investigated the situation I could point the students to an example of righteous rebellion. But no. The rabbi became a part of the experiment. In remaining ignorant of the oppression in the experiment he became an accomplice and advocate.

By the end of the third day I was exhausted. I was tearing apart. The balance between role playing and directed behavior became indistinguishable. Many of the students were completely into being Third Wave Members. They demanded strict obedience of the rules from other students and bullied those that took the experiment lightly.”


A classroom experiment in the early 1970’s. No, it can’t happen here. Or can it? Two years ago I remember listening to “Morning Sedition” which was my favorite show on the Air America radio network. Marc Maron, the host, was talking about a sermon that had been given by one of our Unitarian Universalist ministers, Rev. Davidson Loehr called “Living Under Fascism.” It was all over the internet. I looked it up and read it and it was chilling. I’m sure it has brought him a lot of publicity both good and bad. He used the “f” word. Right from the pulpit. It has more power in today’s world than the other “f” word which is also not used from the pulpit. It is a word we don’t want to use for obvious reasons. It inflames fear and passions. It conjures up images of concentration camps and thuggery and the abandonment of the democratic rule of law. It is a frightening word. It is meant to be and we don’t use it lightly, ever.

I’ve been with you for a year and a half now. This is my final sermon. Some of you will not at all miss my rhetorical ventures into our political system preferring topics of a more spiritual nature. Others of you will miss my rants having found them affirming and perhaps even motivating. I have felt the need to venture into the territory of denouncing the “f” word from the pulpit for a while and as my parting shot, so to speak, I wish to leave you with a heightened awareness of both the fears and hopes I have for our country. If nothing else, I want to leave you with your eyes wide open and paying attention to the world around us. In his sermon Loehr lists the fourteen identifying characteristics of fascism gleaned from D. Lawrence Britt, a political scientist. I abbreviate them here:

1. Powerful and Continuing Nationalism
. . constant use of patriotic mottos, slogans, symbols, songs, and other paraphernalia. Flags are seen everywhere, as are flag symbols on clothing and in public displays.
2. Disdain for the Recognition of Human Rights 
Because of fear of enemies and the need for security, the people in fascist regimes are persuaded that human rights can be ignored in certain cases because of “need.” The people tend to look the other way or even approve of torture, summary executions, assassinations, long incarcerations of prisoners, etc.
3. Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats as a Unifying Cause
The people are rallied into a unifying patriotic frenzy over the need to eliminate a perceived common threat or foe: racial, ethnic or religious minorities; liberals; communists; socialists, terrorists, etc. 
4. Supremacy of the Military
Even when there are widespread domestic problems, the military is given a disproportionate amount of government funding, and the domestic agenda is neglected. . .
5. Rampant Sexism
. . .Under fascist regimes, traditional gender roles are made more rigid. Opposition to abortion is high, as is homophobia and anti-gay legislation and national policy.
6. Controlled Mass Media
Sometimes the media are directly controlled by the government, but in other cases, the media are indirectly controlled by government regulation, or sympathetic media spokespeople and executives. Censorship, especially in war time, is very common.
7. Obsession with National Security
Fear is used as a motivational tool by the government over the masses.
8. Religion and Government are Intertwined
Governments in fascist nations tend to use the most common religion in the nation as a tool to manipulate public opinion. Religious rhetoric and terminology is common from government leaders, even when the major tenets of the religion are diametrically opposed to the government's policies or actions.
9. Corporate Power is Protected
The industrial and business aristocracy . . often are the ones who put the government leaders into power, creating a mutually beneficial business/government relationship and power elite.
10. Labor Power is Suppressed
Because the organizing power of labor is the only real threat to a fascist government, labor unions are either eliminated entirely, or are severely suppressed. 
11. Disdain for Intellectuals and the Arts
Fascist nations tend to promote and tolerate open hostility to higher education, and academia. It is not uncommon for professors and other academics to be censored or even arrested.
12. Obsession with Crime and Punishment
The people are often willing to overlook police abuses and even forego civil liberties in the name of patriotism. . .
13. Rampant Cronyism and Corruption
Fascist regimes almost always are governed by groups of friends and associates who appoint each other to government positions and use governmental power and authority to protect their friends from accountability. . .
14. Fraudulent Elections
Sometimes elections in fascist nations are a complete sham. Other times elections are manipulated by smear campaigns against or even assassination of opposition candidates, use of legislation to control voting numbers or political district boundaries, and manipulation of the media. Fascist nations also typically use their judiciaries to manipulate or control elections. 


Naomi Wolf with a forthcoming book titled
The End of America wrote an essay that appeared in the Guardian UK last month titled “Fascist America, in 10 Easy Steps.” She lists the easy steps as follows:

1. Invoke a terrifying internal and external enemy
2. Create a gulag
3. Develop a thug caste
4. Set up an internal surveillance system
5. Harass citizens' groups
6. Engage in arbitrary detention and release
7. Target key individuals
8. Control the press
9. Dissent equals treason
10. Suspend the rule of law


Does any of this sound at all familiar? It does to me. You might be questioning at this point what this all has to do with religion, at least with our religion. Historically religion has been used either to manipulate a population in order to enable fascist regimes, or minority religious people have been branded as the enemy or scapegoat. Also religious leaders have been singled out for persecution when they stood up against such regimes. When we look to our bedrock core Unitarian Universalist Principles, everything about such regimes or administrations goes against what we stand for. Our faith is nothing if it is not about freedom. Constant vigilance is the price we pay to hold on to our democracy. In Ron Jones’ classroom, in Sinclair Lewis’ America, in our time in this place there are signs that should give us pause.
Naomi Wolf explains her sense of alarm:

. . . what I need to convey is that a 'fascist shift' in a democracy is incremental.
It does not progress like a diagonal line going straight across a chart; it progresses in a buildup of many acts assaulting democracy simultaneously that then form a critical mass, that suddenly erupts the nation into a different kind of reality; the nation `stablizes'; then this process begins again at that elevated level of suppression; and eventually there is no turning back. It is more like a series of `tipping point' progressions than an arithmetic one. If you mapped it on a chart it would look more like a series of steps.
Each critical turning point marks a vertical line in a 'step'.
Historian Richard Evans points out that the Nazi ascension to power came about in a series of tactics, and that there were many points early on at which the German people could have said, 'enough!' and together derailed the escalation. Needless to say, that didn't happen. Evans also points out that part of this passivity had to do with the fact that no one in the Germany of 1933 could see what was coming later in the decade.”


Whether or not you know it, we are in the midst of a Constitutional Crisis. Fortunately, we have dedicated legislators who are beginning to wield the power of the majority to do oversight. Henry Waxman and John Conyers have been holding hearings in the House. Patrick Leahy has been holding hearings in the Senate. This appeared in Think Progress on Friday:

“Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), chairman of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, has announced a series of hearings titled “The Constitution in Crisis: The State of Civil Liberties in America.” Topics to be covered by the hearings include:

– The
National Security Agency’s wiretapping program and proposed expansions;
– The erosion of Habeas Corpus through the Military Commissions Act;
– The sanctioning of torture through the Military Commissions Act and other government policies;
– The practice of “extraordinary rendition,” or government sponsored kidnapping;
PATRIOT Act threats to privacy rights, including the FBI’s abuses of the National Security Letter authority and intrusions into Americans’ “Freedom to Read”;
Government surveillance of First Amendment-protected activities; and
– The gutting of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights and Voting Rights Divisions.“


Where is the hope you ask, since we are nothing if not a hopeful people? The first sign of hope was the election in 2006 where the country decided it had had enough of this misbegotten war and “compassionate conservatism.“ Because of the last election cycle I have hope. Because of the integrity and bravery of a new crop of whistle-blowers I have hope. Because of the internet and citizen activism I have hope. We are lucky to have Charlie Savage writing for the Boston Globe about warrentless wire taps, about presidential signing statements, and just yesterday about the White House’s new plan to maintain government in case of an attack or natural disaster. How sinister the plan is, we don’t know—most of it is classified. But we have Charlie Savage writing about it which gives me hope. Because of congregations filled with passion for freedom and human rights I have hope. Because of the support for my wild-eyed activism that I have been given by you and other congregations I have served, I have hope.

But hope is not enough. This fragile democracy has been entrusted to us. If we wish to maintain the freedoms that we cherish, we must be aware of what is going on around us. We must be vigilant and lift up our voices to defend democracy. I hope you will keep up your vigilance long after I have left you. If we, the citizens of this great country do not, then ”It” CAN happen here. It is up to us to see to it that “It” doesn’t happen here.

UPDATE:

as I mentioned at the top, I have less hope than I expressed in church. Chris Hedges, author of American Fascists, The Christian Right and the War on America appeared on the Book Salon at Firedoglake today. I asked him where to find the hope. Here's the answer he gave:

Hope must come not with what we can do, but with continued resistence. We must, onthe one hand, face the gravity of the moment and not sugar coat it with false hope. It is not good. But to give up is to be defated, not just in a material sense, but a spiritual sense. For me real spirituality comes with resistence, even when times are bleak. This is what gives life meaning and integrity. Martin Luther King and Bonhoeffer wrote about this eloquently. To fight, no matter what the odds, is to win, to give hope, so sustain the divine spark which is love and compassion and tolerance. Chris

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Blog Against Theocracy

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There has been a "blogswarm" against Theocracy going on this weekend, a time when Christians are observing Good Friday and celebrating Easter and Jews have been observing and celebrating Passover. Though this was planned a couple of weeks ago, little did we know that the Department of Justice would be imploding and part of the implosion has a lot to do with the threat of theocracy that has been quietly infused into our system of Justice. Charlie Savage, a sainted (in my opinion) reporter for the Boston Globe is on the story. (Charlie is the one who was following the story of the signing statements and the Imperial Vice Presidency. His work has been absent from the Globe for many months. It turns out, he's been working on a book)

Scandal puts spotlight on Christian law school
Grads influential in Justice Dept.

By Charlie Savage, Globe Staff | April 8, 2007

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. -- The title of the course was Constitutional Law, but the subject was sin. Before any casebooks were opened, a student led his classmates in a 10-minute devotional talk, completed with "amens," about the need to preserve their Christian values.

"Sin is so appealing because it's easy and because it's fun," the law student warned.

Regent University School of Law, founded by televangelist Pat Robertson to provide "Christian leadership to change the world," has worked hard in its two-decade history to upgrade its reputation, fighting past years when a majority of its graduates couldn't pass the bar exam and leading up to recent victories over Ivy League teams in national law student competitions."


snip

"It used to be that high-level DOJ jobs were generally reserved for the best of the legal profession," wrote a contributor to The New Republic website . ". . . That a recent graduate of one of the very worst (and sketchiest) law schools with virtually no relevant experience could ascend to this position is a sure sign that there is something seriously wrong at the DOJ."


snip

In a recent Regent law school newsletter, a 2004 graduate described being interviewed for a job as a trial attorney at the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division in October 2003. Asked to name the Supreme Court decision from the past 20 years with which he most disagreed, he cited Lawrence v. Texas, the ruling striking down a law against sodomy because it violated gay people's civil rights.

"When one of the interviewers agreed and said that decision in Lawrence was 'maddening,' I knew I correctly answered the question," wrote the Regent graduate . The administration hired him for the Civil Rights Division's housing section -- the only employment offer he received after graduation, he said.


Go read the whole thing. They have upped their standards for admittance and their average for passing the bar. It was reported that over 150 Regent grads are now populating the DOJ, most in career positions. They will be very difficult to ferret out of the system, but it must be done.

Christy has more on the subject as does Josh Marshall.

Now the Constitution of the United States of America itself says little or nothing about religion, for or against. But the First Amendment states the following:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.


Though I am a Unitarian Universalist and I warm to the words of Thomas Jefferson's
"best–remembered religious prophecy, that every child born in his enlightened time "would die a Unitarian" I can't imagine any religion being promoted or favored in this country. Even mine. That's not what we are about. We are about pluralism, inclusion, welcoming. At least we used to think we were. Though throughout the history of this country waves of immigrants came to these shores, many of them unwelcome, we still picture ourselves the land of the free and home of the brave. We still use the Statue of Liberty as a symbol of that ideal of hospitality with Emma Lazarus' words

The New Colossus
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

There is nothing in those words that have a religious test, a creed, an implication that one faith should or would find favor over another. The actions that this administration have taken are all about power over, authoritarianism, and, of course, money. It. Must. Stop. Now.

We have work to do and cannot rest until we restore the Constitution to what it was intended to be and rid ourselves of the theocrats who are insidiously trying to take over the country. End of sermon for today. Of course, there will be more.

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The State of the Union, in my dreams.

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There have been several monumental "State of the Union" addresses throughout history, but most have not been. As we prepare to hear the SOTU this week, here is a little historical context, some inspiring words and thoughts from the past, and what I'd LIKE to hear, but no doubt will not. Yesterday I preached to my congregation about the State of the Union. The sermon version is
here. I include some of the info here just for a little historical perspective.

Article II Section 3 of the Constitution of the United States:

“He shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient;”

The Constitution has provided from it’s inception a mandate that the executive leader of the country in essence, “check in” with the legislature. This Tuesday evening, those wishing to tune in will witness the State of the Union speech given by the President of the United States. A response will be given from the point of view of the opposing party. This year it will be given by the new Senator from Virginia, Jim Webb. Throughout the history of this country, there have been addresses given, either written or in person, that have produced varying results in their wakes.

Most of the addresses were not the things of which history is made, but there are some very outstanding exceptions. In 1823, President James Monroe used his State of the Union speech to proclaim what became known as the Monroe Doctrine which warned the European nations from any further colonizing in the Americas and stated that the United States would only venture into European affairs if they directly related to interests of the United States. Lyndon Johnson, used his State of the Union speech in 1965 to proclaim the “Great Society.” He said:

“ . . we are only at the beginning of the road to the Great Society. Ahead now is a summit where freedom from the wants of the body can help fulfill the needs of the spirit.
We built this Nation to serve its people.
We want to grow and build and create, but we want progress to be the servant and not the master of man.
We do not intend to live in the midst of abundance, isolated from neighbors and nature, confined by blighted cities and bleak suburbs, stunted by a poverty of learning and an emptiness of leisure.
The Great Society asks not how much, but how good; not only how to create wealth but how to use it; not only how fast we are going, but where we are headed.
It proposes as the first test for a nation: the quality of its people.
This kind of society will not flower spontaneously from swelling riches and surging power.
It will not be the gift of government or the creation of presidents. It will require of every American, for many generations, both faith in the destination and the fortitude to make the journey.”

He then went on to lay out the proposed agenda:

A NATIONAL AGENDA

I propose that we begin a program in education to ensure every American child the fullest development of his mind and skills.
I propose that we begin a massive attack on crippling and killing diseases.
I propose that we launch a national effort to make the American city a better and a more stimulating place to live.
I propose that we increase the beauty of America and end the poisoning of our rivers and the air that we breathe.
I propose that we carry out a new program to develop regions of our country that are now suffering from distress and depression.
I propose that we make new efforts to control and prevent crime and delinquency.
I propose that we eliminate every remaining obstacle to the right and the opportunity to vote.
I propose that we honor and support the achievements of thought and the creations of art.
I propose that we make an all-out campaign against waste and inefficiency.”


It was a bold new agenda. The forward push of its thinking was the kind of far reaching rhetoric normally reserved for inauguration addresses. Some of the institutions that grew out of the Great Society were Medicare and Medicaid, Head Start, The National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities, and the Dept. of Housing and Urban Development. It should come as no surprise that one of the people who gave both voice and substance to the Great Society initiatives was then presidential assistant, Bill Moyers. The proposals given in this address are those that liberals and progressives in this day wish were at the top of the agenda. Fortunately, many are.

In 1941, President Roosevelt was preparing the nation to engage in war. His State of the Union speech spoke of this and more. This is where he so eloquently named what has become known as the
“Four Freedoms.”

“In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms.
The
first is freedom of speech and expression--everywhere in the world.
The
second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way—everywhere in the world.
The
third is freedom from want—which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants—everywhere in the world.
The
fourth is freedom from fear—which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor--anywhere in the world.
That is no vision of a distant millennium. It is a definite basis for a kind of world attainable in our own time and generation. That kind of world is the very antithesis of the so-called new order of tyranny which the dictators seek to create with the crash of a bomb.
To that new order we oppose the greater conception--the moral order. A good society is able to face schemes of world domination and foreign revolutions alike without fear.”


Which brings us to the year 2003 and sixteen words that have changed the course of history, and not for the better: Four years ago the current President in his State of the Union Address uttered these words: “The British Government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa .” These are the words that were used to set the wheels in motion for war. These are the words that began a tale of spies and intrigue that lead to the top levels of the White House. These are the words that underlie the trial just beginning in the Federal District Court of Judge Reggie Walton where the charges are perjury and obstruction of justice, but the underlying as yet uncharged crime is the “outing” of an undercover CIA agent. Almost four years later, more than 3000 American deaths and unknown hundreds of thousands of Iraqi deaths, one and one half billion dollars spent per week, and all of this traced to sixteen words in a State of the Union Address used to justify an unjustifiable war. For those wishing to learn more about the finer details of the Irving (Scooter) Libbey story, I recommend to you the book Anatomy of Deceit by Marcy Wheeler which should begin to appear in book stores this week.

So now we have a new congress led by Rep. Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Harry Reid. Things will change. They will have to. The rubber stamp and lack of accountability of the last six years is about to end. In that light, this is what I would like to hear in Tuesday’s State of the Union Address (though I am absolutely under no illusion that any of these thoughts or concepts will be echoed):

To the citizens of this proud Nation. I apologize for the shameful way I have conducted the affairs of this country for the past six years. I hereby pledge the following priorities for the next two years or however long it takes:

The war in Iraq, at least our part in it will end forthwith. We will put in place all the operational personnel and equipment needed to affect a swift and careful redeployment of our troops. We will work with neighboring nations and the UN to help them establish a peace-keeping force to stabilize Iraq and allow for the rebuilding of that devastated country. At home we will provide for the needs of our returning military by fully funding the Veterans Administration and see to it that the physical and emotional needs of our brave service men and women are provided.

The rule of law will be re-established respecting the worth and dignity of every person. The Attorney General will be directed to reinstate the honest hard working prosecutors who have been dismissed because they have been attempting to investigate members of congress and the administration who have been committing crimes. The right of habeas corpus will be extended to all on our shores and in our care abroad. Every detainee will be treated with respect and have access to council. Those for whom we have a reason to believe have committed crimes against this country will receive fair trials according to the Constitutional rule of law. Those for whom we have no solid evidence will be released from custody with our apologies and transportation to their homes. Should restitution be needed, we will provide for it.

We will begin the serious work of diplomacy and peace-making between nations. We will call upon the most gifted and talented among our citizens to help in this endeavor. We will listen with open hearts and minds and work unsparingly to find common ground and equitable solutions to the problems that nations around the world are facing. We will work with the World Bank to find ways of alleviating poverty, firstly in the war torn nations as we know that poverty leads to despair and often to violence.

We will begin immediately with implementing the programs of the Apollo Alliance that have outlined a ten year plan to make this country energy self-sufficient. This will involve industries and creative thinkers across the board re-imagining how it is that we create and use power. If we can combine our efforts to send a man to the moon, we can do this as well. This program will also include the reduction of greenhouse gasses to pre-1990 levels. It is time to begin the long process of reversing the damage we have done to the environment.

We will concentrate efforts in scientific discovery in the prevention and fighting of disease. With that we will also begin the planning of a single-payer health plan modeled after Medicare so that every man, woman, and child in this nation will have access to excellent medical care without worry about the cost. Prescription drugs will be available to all in need through a plan that will set fair prices and reasonable costs.

We will respect your privacy in all matters. Who you choose to love and marry, how and when you choose to have children, how and where you choose to pray will be matters dictated by your own conscience without interference of the government.

We will introduce the federal funding of elections so that candidates no longer have to spend a large portion of their time raising funds for reelection. They will no longer be beholden to the corporations. We will also federalize the machinery used for elections. There will be verifiable paper trails for all voting machines and the source code will be open for inspection. Voter harassment or intimidation will be met with stiff fines and jail terms. Election fraud will not be tolerated.

The FCC will be further empowered to do all within its purview to reverse the media consolidation that has led to a dominance of the airwaves by one side of the political spectrum. We need to hear all voices and all opinions as we wrestle with the difficult challenges facing us. We will also move to restore the Fairness Doctrine providing equal time for the airing of issues and the interviewing of candidates.

There is much more to do, and things I forgot to list, but this is a start. And knowing that everything that is laid out above is antithetical to who I am as a human being and to the principles adhered to by the current administration, therefore I further announce that I, the Vice President, and the entire Cabinet are submitting our resignations so that a new administration can be elected to carry out this work.


That’s what I’d like to hear this Tuesday night. Perhaps in my dreams I will. A girl can dream, can’t she?



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Moral Values

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All of the ongoing media circus and feeding frenzy that is focussed on the Mark Foley scandal is about moral values. Not the moral values that the Radical RIght has been pushing on the unthinking American public for lo these many years. The party of so-called "traditional values" has used their "values voters" for at least two decades now. Yes, USED them. And though we on the progressive side of the scale would like to think that finally, FINALLY, the people who have been blindly following the republican leadership like sheep have been awakened by the blinding light of the truth—the truth that they have been used by greedy, power-hungry fascists, I think we are going to be disappointed.

One thing that I learned from George Lakoff through is books, Moral Politics, and Don't think of an Elephant, and from John Dean's Conservatives Without Conscience is that people will hear what fits their world view. If facts come out that don't, those facts, no matter the truth, will just not enter their consciousness, they will be filtered out. That is the bad news. The good news is that the Foley episode, like none other has gotten through the filters enough to sow some seeds of doubt. That is big. Hopefully big enough to keep a lot of those new doubters home on election day.

But let's talk about moral values, the moral values that we progressives care about.

Justice
Fairness and Equity
Empathy
Responsibility
Honesty
Respect for Differences
Community

Those are a few, boiled down into teeny tiny soundbites. It is time for the party of real moral values, the party that stands for the above to start shouting them from the rooftops and remind the people in this country what it once stood for and can again, if we change the cast of characters who have tried to flush all that is good about this country down the toilet. We can only do that if we work for the candidates who have pledged to do just that. And this year there are plenty of them.

Start here and go from there! Much to do and time is running out.
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Whose Words Will You Hear?

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There have been lots of people writing about this for the past several days. Last week when talk of the three "principled" republicans was all over the news assuring us that they would keep the President from allowing legalized torture, deep down in my heart I knew better, just as I know that Sen. Specter will cave on habeas corpus.

The blogs have been abuzz with outrage for good reason. Now they are looking for the "right" moral words, the "right" moral voice to rise above the fray in a way that can be heard. Sadly, tragically, that won't happen. Since when do we need some magic words to replace the simple statement that "We don't torture people. It's inhuman and Unamerican?" Will religious or scriptural words say it any better? Will they have more meaning? if so, to whom? Who is eager to hear them besides the liberals and progressives that are already outraged beyond belief?

The people who want to legalize torture and do away with habeas corpus also want to absolve all who have tortured or taken part in the cover up of their legal "sins." Well, that's to be expected from the gang who have been running this country into the ground for the past almost 6 years. God forbid anyone should be held accountable to anyone for anything.

This is the week of the Jewish New Year. One of the classic readings in the liturgy is this:

Let us proclaim the sacred power of this day;
it is awesome and full of dread.
For on this day Your dominion is exalted,
Your throne established in steadfast love;
there in truth You reign.
In truth You are
Judge and Arbiter, Counsel and Witness.
You write and You seal, You record and recount.
You remember deeds long forgotten.
You open the book of our days,
and what is written there proclaims itself,
for it bears the signature
of every human being.

On Rosh Hashanah it is written,
on Yom Kippur it is sealed:
How many lives shall pass on, how many shall come to be;
who shall live and who shall die;
who shall see ripe age and who shall not;
who shall perish by fire and who by water;
who by sword and who by beast;
who by hunger and who by thirst;
who by earthquake and who by plague;
who by strangling and who by stoning;
who shall be secure and who shall be driven;
who shall be tranquil and who shall be troubled;
who shall be poor and who shall be rich;
who shall be humbled and who exalted.

But REPENTANCE, PRAYER, and CHARITY temper judgment's severe decree.


For a religious person, this might make sense. But the people serving in the highest offices in the country are not religious people. They have no faith, no hearts, no souls. They care only about power and wealth and will do anything to hold on to them.

As Rosh Hashanah gives way to Yom Kippur, tradition says that the book of life is opened and God makes decisions about who shall live, who shall die, who shall see ripe old age, who shall not, etc. This is the week those decisions are made. This is the week for believers to get their spiritual houses in order. This is the week for making amends. BUT, and this is a huge caveat, people cannot ask forgiveness of God for the sins they have committed against one another, only for the sins committed against God. Face to face atonement is required before sundown on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.

There will be nothing this Administration can do that can forgive them for what they are about to do. And there is nothing the compliant Congress can do either if they let this travesty happen and I speak of the Democrats as well as the Republicans. There are no perfect words of morality that can be uttered to stop them if they don't get it deep in their own hearts and souls. And if they don't, there is no hope for them. Not in this world or in the next (if there is one).

This is not about protecting the American people from terrorists and EVERYONE knows it. The question is who will stand up and put a stop to it?

Is there no one left that has the moral fortitude to stop this?


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Another book I will not use

Marc Gellman writes good children's books.

'Tis a pity because he just branded himself a pompous ass. He seems to think that Holy Joe Lieberman lost his race to Ned Lamont because the Jews didn't stick together and vote for Joe. And
Newsweek printed that tripe!

"I simply do not understand why so many Jews bailed on Joe. I cannot understand why Joe's percentage of the Jewish vote was not in the high 90s instead of the 54-57 percent range (according to Lieberman’s campaign). I have opinions on way too many things I don't know nearly enough about, but I know about Jews. I am a professional Jew, and yet if you asked me to explain why Jews did not vote for Joe the way blacks voted for Barack Obama or Catholics voted for John F. Kennedy I would not know what to tell you."


Maybe I'm crazy, but I'd like to think that democrats had put that nonsense to bed long ago. Yes, to some degree people vote their identities. Thomas Frank wrote about that in his book, What's the Matter with Kansas? But the people who tend to do that do so because they are not well informed voters who care about the issues. Democratic primary voters in CT are not that. They knew who they were voting for and they also knew who they were voting against. By November, they will really get to know Ned and then, there will be no contest.

Perhaps Rabbi Gellman has never let go of the immigrant thinking where "a people" need to stick together. I don't know what's wrong with him, frankly. He supports Bush for God's sake! I haven't spoken with the jewish side of my family for years and years because they turned out to be bigots. They may have voted for Bush too, but they are in the minority.

So he supports the war. So what? The actual difference between intelligent people's positions on the war in Iraq is between those who know we must leave eventually but do not want to embolden our enemies and weaken our friends by telling them when we will leave, and those who also know we will leave eventually and also do not want to set an arbitrary timetable, but who really, really, really want everybody to know that we will be leaving. Those who want to bring all the troops home by next Monday, and those who want to “nuke the bastards” are both nuts. So among reasonable non-rabid people, the differences over Iraq are just not that big. And for this we dumped Joe? It just makes no sense to me and it ought to be a huge embarrassment to all card-carrying Jews whether they agreed with Joe or not.


I consider myself a reasonable non-rabid person and I want our troops out of Iraq ASAP. Fo this, I devoted time, energy, and money to go to CT to do all I could to add to the effort to dump Joe. You see for me it wasn't only about the war. It was about the "gang of 14" that wants to sell out our courts. It was about the Alito cloture vote that Joe screwed up. It was about him saying that rape victims who are taken to Catholic hospitals who receive federal money could just take a "short ride" to another hospital to get emergency contraception because the hospital staff should be able to follow the vatican's dictum that would deny the patient a legal available drug that would not compound the
rape victim's tragedy by adding pregnancy to the equation. It was about not interjecting the federal government into Michael Schiavo's already awful situation and prolonging a life that was not longer there.
It really is too bad that I won't be able ever again to use Rabbi Gellman's books because I kind of liked them.

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