The Selling of America

It just astounds me, the pure arrogance of Bush and those in his administration. I think he must have thought that this sale of port management to a company from the UAE would just go unnoticed. That can be the only reason he’d go forward with something that virtually everyone in these United States would be against. Mr. Bush, you keep saying how important it is to remember the lessons of September 11th. Although you’d like very much for us to believe that it was Iraq that was the cause behind the tremendous horror of that day, might we remind you that 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudis? Not only that, but according to today’s New York Post, hardly the bastion of left-winged sentiment, a recent government report claims that Al Qaeda gave a heads up to the Saudi Government that it had infiltrated its ranks. And yet, Bush apparently has no qualms with this new port deal. Interesting, considering even the Department of Homeland Security was against the deal, but later, apparently “saw the light.”

I can’t imagine any issue that could possibly so unite most Democrats and Republicans. Will Sean Hannity defend this deal? How could he possibly defend something like this? If you hear his show on Monday, someone please let me know what his take on it is. My best guess says that Pat Buchanan will be steaming about it tomorrow on the McLaughlin Group. Indeed, this will be a good time to see which commentators in the pubic eye, and which news outlets are merely shilling for the administration. If ever I heard of an indefensible cause, this is it.

The score on one so-called “news” outlet is already in. I just went over to the FOX News website, and their whole front page doesn’t even mention Dubai, UAE, ports, or anything related. The big story over there is that weather may dampen the Marti Gras celebration. Other minor stories include Sunni and Shiite clerics calling for peace in Iraq, Bush offering support to Iraqi leaders, moving vehicles being banned in Baghdad, and the death of Don Knotts… R.I.P.

US Urges Iraqi Church/State Separation

You just gotta laugh, right? Imagine these Christian United States of America going off and telling the Prime Minister of Iraq, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, that we’re not all that jazzed about the fact that “democracy” in Iraq seems to be taking shape influenced by religion. Reuters is reporting that the Prime Minister essentially told the US and Britain to mind their own business after being reminded by Zalmay Khalilzad, US ambassador to Iraq, that “the United States, which led the 2003 invasion to topple Saddam Hussein, was investing billions of dollars in Iraq and did not want to see that money go to support sectarian politics.”

I just wish the US felt the same about American politics.

“An Open-Air Abattoir”

One of the best lines in George Romero’s “Dawn of the Dead” (the original), was spoken by one of the characters upon picking up a shiny new rifle in a locked-down gun shop inside a mall. “The only person that could miss with this gun is the sucker with the money to buy it…”

I’ll let that statement speak for itself, but it brings to mind Dick Cheney’s wild weekend once again. There were plenty of articles back at the end of 2003 that revealed Cheney’s love of canned hunts. During one particularly bloody outing at the Rolling Rock Club in Ligonier Township, PA, Cheney’s group of ten “hunters” killed some 417 pheasants out of 500 raised and released specifically for this purpose. Here’s a quote from the linked article:

“This wasn’t a hunting ground. It was an open-air abattoir, and the vice president should be ashamed to have patronized this operation and then slaughtered so many animals,” states Wayne Pacelle, a senior vice president of The Humane Society of the United States. “If the Vice President and his friends wanted to sharpen their shooting skills, they could have shot skeet or clay, not resorted to the slaughter of more than 400 creatures planted right in front of them as animated targets.”


I’m reminded of the Monty Python sketch as well, where several highbrow british hunters embark on a spirited hunt, large rifles tucked under their arms. They are all drunk, shooting in every which direction, hitting everything in sight (including each other). 417 birds is a lot of shooting. At one bird every thirty seconds, it would still take over three hours to shoot that many birds. That’s three hours of shooting with one bird killed every thirty seconds. I can’t even conceive of killing one or two pheasants for sport, let alone over four hundred.

It would seem as though on these trips, there is a hell of a lot of shooting going on, and it’s no wonder that someone eventually got hurt. Gotta be careful out there, folks. You never know where the vice president will be.

Liberal Christians

A fellow blogger and I exchanged links a while back. I don’t know if he still has my link on his site anywhere, but I’d like to call some attention to a project he is working on. I wandered over to Liberal Christians and noticed that work has started on The Liberal Christian Network. Reading through some of the resources over there, I was particularly impressed by the key points contained in the section on “Progressive Christianity,”. I’ll reprint them here without permission, but there are links on the original page which expound on each listing, so it’s definitely worth your while to take a trip over there.

  1. We are willing to be open to all the possibilities of who Jesus was said to be, and focus more on His life than His death. We may question His divinity, believe in the Trinity, or be Unitarian.
  2. We believe that the Bible contains truth but is not always literal. We believe that it is a map and not the final destination of our journey.
  3. We believe other faiths contain truths as well.
  4. We believe that asking questions is okay, and that there is rarely such a thing as a single black and white answer to those questions.
  5. We are seeking closeness to God, not points for following certain rules which will buy our way into heaven. We take Jesus’ admonitions to the Pharisees to heart and focus on the grace and compassion of God.
  6. We welcome other seekers regardless of who they are as God wants us to include people rather than exclude them.
  7. Many of us believe in universal salvation.

Wow. These days, I’d pretty much consider myself an atheist, having been subjected to a Catholic upbringing and having had the enlightening experience of attending both Catholic and Southern Baptist schools (topic for a different blog). However, in all religions which I have studied, there is the concept of free will — that humans are free to turn from god, are free to do what they wish. Exercising that free will must certainly include questioning the existence of god. Would a god who believes in free will punish those who question his existence and who are honestly looking for answers to theological questions? Would a god who believes in free will punish someone for selecting the “wrong” religion — Islam, Catholocism, Protestantism, Buddhism, etc.? And perhaps most important, and tying in with the purpose of this here blog, point number four above notes that there is rarely such a thing as a single, black-and-white answer to a question or issue.

In moving this blog over to its new home, I have had an opportunity to wander back through various articles I have written, and last night I was thinking once again about the death penalty. I thought I had lost the realmedia clip of Robert Nigh talking about Timothy McVeigh’s execution (to hear it, right click on that link and select “save as…”). I found myself on a forum where people were posting how all murderers and child molesters and rapists should be put to death. That is a difficult notion to argue with, but perhaps Nigh said it best when he noted that “there is a reasonable way to deal with crime that does not involve killing another human being.” We hear so often of the “culture of life” that this administration seems to believe in. Yet, it believes that there is a clear-cut, black-or-white answer to these issues. Someone kills someone? They must be executed. Someone molests a child? They should be executed. There must be a way to be tough on crime without resorting to murder. Mention that on one of these message boards, however, and you will be torn apart. I severely doubt that god’s answer to crime is killing.

I digress… My original point was to steer you to this new “Liberal Christian Network” and hope that it gives all of us some food for thought. The Bush administration makes a big deal of its compassion, it’s “Christianity,” it’s love of “freedom” and “democracy.” All nice buzzwords. The hackneyed phrase, “put your money where your mouth is” comes to mind. The Southern Baptists that taught at the school I attended as a child believed literally in the phrase, “by faith alone are ye saved.” By faith alone are ye saved. It would appear that Bush and his “followers” have taken this to heart, and that points #2 and #5 above would not register with them. Faith alone, I was told, means that good works are not enough to go to heaven. Only by accepting Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Saviour will you enter heaven. Literal translation, black and white. Good works don’t matter. So when the GOP endorses and passes laws that oppress the poor, show contempt for the working class, and generally prevent the “proverbial little guy” from getting one step up in the world, what does that mean? When he sits on his hands for days while the poor in New Orleans are stranded amidst the rising waters, what does that mean? When he appoints men to the Supreme Court of the United States who don’t believe in equality for all, what does that mean? And what does it mean of those who are sitting on the Supreme Court of the United States who call themselves god-fearing Americans, but have no problem re-interpreting the Constitution against those who at their last stop in search of some justice? Well, perhaps as an atheist I should not be quoting scripture, but I found this passage quite illuminating:
“Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees, to deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people, making widows their prey and robbing the fatherless. What will you do on the day of reckoning, when disaster comes from afar? To whom will you run for help? Where will you leave your riches?” (Isaiah 10:1-3)

The Adventures of Dick Cheney

When I first heard that Dick Cheney shot a hunting buddy, and that it took over twelve hours before he was willing to talk to the authorities about the incident, I immediately thought, “he must have been drunk…” This is two-DUI-Cheney we’re talking about. Although Bush claims that he, himself doesn’t drink any more (and made a big deal about it during his initial campaign for President), Cheney’s use of alcohol, or lack of it, has not been publicized. Keeping in mind his record of DUIs, one would have to assume that if Cheney didn’t come straight out and say he’s sober now, he must still be drinking. If you, like myself, grew up in an area of the country where hunting is a big deal, you already know what goes together with orange gear, red-and-black cross-patched clothing, pickup trucks, and shotguns. Can we all say “Beer?” Hunting and Beer… Two great American pastimes that go so well together.

I submit the following for your judgment of the issue. First, you can read the police report here (it’s a PDF file). The police were basically told to go away for twelve hours, and were also told specifically that “no alcohol” was involved. However, Cheney himself noted that he had downed one beer, at lunch. Now think about this… If you’re going in front of a judge, and he asks you, “were you drinking when you had the hunting accident,” and assume you have been drinking, which are you more likely to tell the judge:

  1. Yes, your honor, I had one or two beers
  2. Yes, your honor, I was pretty wasted
  3. No, your honor. No one was drinking

If you watch any of the daytime court shows, you know that the first answer is the one usually given to the judge. Why? Because people think “no drinking” makes it look like you’re lying. Of course you were drinking when you were hunting. Anyone who says they weren’t has to be lying, right? If you say you were wasted, you’re admitting responsibility. So the “correct” thing to do is say you only had one or two beers. That makes it look like, ok, you had one, so you’re not just outright lying, but no way was I drunk enough to shoot someone, right? So Dick Cheney says he had one beer. The police were told that no alcohol was involved. The police were told to go away, and that Dick Cheney would be available for questioning at 8:00am the following morning. I ask you, does this pass the “smell test?” The White House is trying to make it look like a “minor PR goof,” and claimed that McClellan wanted the report released earlier than the twenty hours it took to inform the press of the incident. So you can keep that in mind, that it might have all been just another horrible PR goof. I think we’re up to almost 300-350 horrible PR goofs now for this administration. With the tight control that Rove keeps on this administration, it’s amazing how many goofs, eh? You either believe they’re goofs, or these people are just criminals who don’t feel they have to answer for anything.

Tying in with all this, and asking a few other good questions about the incident, Al Franken was on Scarborough Country the other day, and they had an enlightening chat. Franken prefaced this exchange by noting that he was friends with a doctor who was also a coroner in some small town. The doctor had told him that when it comes to hunting accidents, “before 11am, it’s either stupidity or geriatrics… After 11am, it’s “drunk.” But you be the judge… Read on…

SCARBOROUGH: There are a lot of people I can guarantee you right now who are very angry, saying ‘how could you all even talk about or allow anyone to come on your show and suggest that the vice president may have been drinking when he fired the shot,’ and to those people I say had the vice president stepped forward immediately, had people been able to come in and investigate it right up front, we wouldn’t be having this discussion because we would know. When you’re the Vice President of the United States — whether you’re a conservative or liberal, republican or democrat — it really doesn’t matter whether Tucker Carlson says… Tucker says this, god bless him… ‘If you’re the vice president and you shoot someone on your property, that’s your own business.’ I respectfully disagree. If they had done it right up front, we wouldn’t even be having this discussion now.
FRANKEN: You have to ask yourself the following questions: why didn’t he go to the hospital? If he went back to the ranch and had dinner, now if you’re so worried — he said he didn’t get the story out because he wasn’t sure how serious this was — if you’re so concerned about how serious this is, you go to the hospital. When he was asked by Brit Hume in this very softball interview, ‘did you go in the ambulance,’ he went ‘well, no, it was very crowded and they didn’t need another body…’ There’s plenty of vans that he could’ve gone to the hospital in.
SCARBOROUGH: You’re making a good point, that had I, had you shot someone, we certainly would’ve rushed to the hospital even if we were the Vice President of the United States.
FRANKEN: Yes, you’re not eating dinner at the ranch. You maybe get something from the vending machine in the hospital. It’s inconceivable that you don’t go to the hospital unless there’s a reason you don’t go to the hospital. Now, if you had been drinking, you wouldn’t go to the hospital. Or, you’re amazing jerk, or both. I shoot someone accidentally, and I’m certain this is an accident, you go to the hospital and you sit there out of respect to the guy you shot… And especially your friend. You have your secret service detachment with you, you go to the hospital… They take you.
SCARBOROUGH: When you’re the Vice President of the United States, do you not think there may be some obstacles to him acting like you or I would act in a similar situation?
FRANKEN: No… I mean, he’s giving some of the Chappaquiddick defense to say he’s so shocked that he didn’t go. This is kind of blowback for him not telling the truth a lot. I saw him on Friday, this is before he shot his friend, and he was on [Jim] Lehrer, and Lehrer said ‘do you regret saying that the insurgency is in its last throes eight months ago,’ and do you know what Cheney said? He said, “um… no.” And Lehrer just said well wait a minute, we just heard on this show from the Inspector General in charge of reconstruction that the reason they can’t do the reconstruction is that the insurgents keep blowing it up… He has to regret saying that, and he has not been honest with the American people on so many tings, or with the press corp, and this is blowback for that. You can’t trust this administration

Now I ask you, if you had shot your friend, would you have gone to the hospital? If you’re a man of honor, even if you’re the vice president, you go to the hospital. How does the notion of not going even enter your mind? And then you go on FOX News to defend your actions? What happened to ‘ushering in a new era of accountability?’

Moving done…

OK, the whole site has been officially moved, and the site’s name has been changed to “Blue State Update.” If you’re looking for hosting, has totally delivered the goods so far. I’m not getting any kickbacks promoting them, I just think they have a great service. Thanks to Frank for steering me their way…