Archives for: June 2009
On one Republican's advice to China about investing in America:
After helping get us into this current economic crisis by supporting President Bush's failed economic policies, Congressman Mark Kirk went to China and told Chinese officials that the American government was not to be trusted.
- - Ryan Rudominer, Democratic Spokesperson
The fellowship of Christ is a bit like a search party, led on a spiritual journey. We are sometimes criticized for being unable to face the uncertainties of life, and therefore embracing a certainty of knowing what skeptics see as being unknowable. That criticism is undeniably valid in many instances, but is becoming less so, as many of us try for a more mature faith.
The Apostle Paul spoke of God as not only unknowable, but beyond human imagination. I see that reflected further in his advocacy of love as the only real law, and his congratulations to the philosophers of Athens for their worship of an “unknown god.”
I think it is partly the lack of preachy certainty in a younger, newer Christianity that attracts those who seek a transformation in their lives. In baby steps, many worshipers are going back to their more humble roots, embracing an earlier humility. Spiritual needs are met in that fellowship.
So this from Associated Baptist Press is discouraging on so many levels:
BUENA PARK, Calif. (ABP) -- While most pro-life leaders condemned the May 31 murder of a controversial abortion provider inside his Wichita, Kan., church, one former Southern Baptist Convention official called it an answer to prayer.
"I am glad George Tiller is dead," Wiley Drake, the SBC's former second vice president, said on his Crusade Radio program...
Drake is sure about abortion. Dead sure. I'm all over the map on where being human starts. Sometimes I think it is at conception, often at viability. But the operative question is slightly different. I do not object to the good Pastor's certainty that a cytoblast is a baby. If he and his wife wish to base their lives on that certainty, I applaud them. I do object to Drake's corollaries. An adult woman is less valuable than a zygote, and that lack of value must be enforced under color of law. Therein lies what should be debate, not violence.
We see occasional blips on the public radar of right wing violence. Many of us predicted the trend, born of the discovery of powerlessness that shocked those who once thought themselves masters of the universe: A wayward nation has betrayed them. Cheerleaders of violence are in ample supply. O'Reillys and Hannitys are not deterred by the harm their words carry when taken to heart by the deranged. Drake lends violence the cover of Holy faith. We are left to pray that those who are repelled by Drake-type certainty do not reject a more faithful fellowship. "I would like to be a Christian," says a playful friend, "but I can't think of anyone I want to see assassinated."
More recently, Drake prays publicly for the death of President Obama.
...lone wolves and small terrorist cells embracing violent rightwing extremist ideology are the most dangerous domestic terrorism threat in the United States.
- - Page 7, April 2009 Intelligent and Analysis Assessment (pdf)
US Department of Homeland Security
Bryan Lee Peterson at Johnny No One: I Hope You’re Happy has words of wisdom and fault about recession, deficits, marijuana, and the New York State Senate.
Puma by design 001 believes the US should have notified Britain about the future of pro-American Chinese refugees unjustly imprisoned at Guantanamo. The are to be moved to Bermuda, a British territory
- David Everitt-Carlson of The Wild Wild East Dailies in Ho Chi Minh City has a video of internet guru Clay Shirky with wisdom about social and economic effects of the new technology.
Affirmative Action as Opposed to Jim Crow Segregation:
One prefers the old bigotry.
- - Pat Buchanan writing in Human Events
It was a dramatic moment in 1954. Joseph Welsh, a patrician lawyer from Boston was totally unused to the new medium called television. He faced a demagogue who considered himself made for the cameras, Joe McCarthy. McCarthy had destroyed people with non-existent lists and innuendo. Welsh was hired by the Army, McCarthy's latest target.
As Welsh needled Roy Cohn, McCarthy's assistant, who also appeared as a witness before a special Senate committee, McCarthy seethed. Finally the Senator from Wisconsin decided to hit Welsh where it hurt. He waved about evidence, actually made public by Welsh months before, that an associate of the lawyer had inadvertently allied himself while in college with a liberal organization. McCarthy called the fellow a subversive.
Welsh answered sadly and solemnly, rebutting the charges, and talked of the harm to an innocent young man. Then, with two sentences, he ended the upward trajectory of McCarthy's career. "Have you no sense of decency, sir?' he asked the astonished Senator. "At long last, have you left no sense of decency?" McCarthy was finished. Censured by his colleagues, he lived out his remaining years in decline, and died of alcoholism.
Recently, liberal sites leaped all over Bay Buchanan. Two years ago, a young employee assaulted a surprised black woman, a stranger to him, on a Washington street. He shouted racial epithets as he beat her about the head before being arrested. The man is now the director of two anti-immigrant organizations established by Pat Buchanan and Tom Tancredo.
Bay Buchanan has published a frank and moving defense. She describes the employee as having been deeply depressed, going from doctor to doctor for unsuccessful treatment. He was exhausted and close to suicide, as he turned to alcohol and experienced a profound loss of sleep. "As he sat in my living room my heart broke," she writes. After the assault, the young man served his sentence and turned his life around, applying to law school.
She turned her guns on the liberal bloggers and others who picked up the story. "What happened next was a modern day lynching by a faceless, angry, ignorant mob who reveled in the collective assault on their victim." A group of students petitioned the school and his admission was denied.
Her reprise of the Welsh role pales 55 years after the real thing. The indignation seems misplaced. Her account strikes me as a good defense, based what must be legal insanity. She concludes with this: "He deserved a second chance -- as do all of us." Must we not emulate her compassion?
As she excoriates those who noticed the story, and declares the fellow to be the victim, perhaps some bit of that compassion might be devoted to the woman who suddenly was assaulted on a sidewalk for the color of her skin. If the young man was a victim of illness, she was a victim of racial violence.
On President Obama:
Them Jews aren't going to let him talk to me. I told my baby daughter, that he'll talk to me in five years when he's a lame duck, or in eight years when he's out of office.
- - Rev. Jeremiah Wright
To my thoughts on Hate Crimes, Tim McGaha poses a thoughtful dissent. His argument is, as usual, well reasoned. He objects on two grounds.
The first is conceptual. Tim does not want motive to establish a separate crime, although he thinks it often should be a factor at sentencing, pointing out that motive can be a powerful aggravating factor.
I don't have much complaint about using a provable motive as an aggravating factor in sentencing. That's just good sense. What I do object to is making that motive a separate crime all unto itself.
To expand on your example: there's a big difference between killing by negligence and killing with specific intent. The first is manslaughter, the second murder. But the difference between running someone down in the crosswalk because he's the rat your girl left you for and running someone down in the crosswalk because you have an irrational hatred of all people who look like that is a difference of degree, not kind. Both crimes are murder. The difference should be sorted out by the judge at sentencing, not by the prosecutor prior to indictment.
Tim is on shaky ground, I think, in regarding it as a departure from normal practice to use motive to establish separate criminality.
Cecil Price was a deputy sheriff in Neshoba County Mississippi in 1964. He helped to orchestrate and carry out a plan to murder three civil rights workers. He was never tried for murder, although charges were being prepared in 2001, when he died in a fall. Mississippi in 1964 did not easily tolerate murder charges against white men for killing civil rights workers, especially black civil rights workers. Price was convicted of depriving the three workers of their Civil Rights, a separate crime stemming from the same action, and one in which motive was a crucial component. In many cases in the 1960s and beyond, routine acquittal on murder charges was followed by prosecution on civil rights charges.
Tim is also apprehensive of overzealous prosecutors. I understand the concern. But, contrary to popular myth, a prosecutor cannot make his case simply on the basis of ethnic differences between victim and perpetrator. The offender must provide words or actions that clearly demonstrate hatred toward the targeted group was the motive for violence.
Reacting to the fatal shooting of a guard by a white supremacist at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
We condemn this apparent bias-motivated attack and stand with the Jewish community and with Americans of all faiths in repudiating the kind of hatred and intolerance that can lead to such disturbing incidents.
- - The Council on American-Islamic Relations
It wasn't much of a campaign. In fact it was more of a talking point. Playboy magazine made the news, arguing that rape should not be a crime. The reasoning was that assault and force were, in themselves, criminal. A sex act should not be. The proposal never quite caught on, no real groundswell was generated, and the argument went to a painless demise. It was apparent that assault and rape were more serious than assault alone.
Alexander Cockburn, an accomplished writer for the generally left leaning magazine The Nation opposes hate crime law. Cockburn begins by grousing about the "victims' lobby" and the suffering of child molesters who must continue paying for their crimes under Megan's Law. Those who have sexually attacked children must notify police of where they live and work, even after release from prison. The law is named after seven year old Megan Kanka, who was kidnapped, raped, and murdered by a violent repeat offender who had recently moved in across the street from the little girl. "Megan's Law ensures that they will go on paying for their crimes till the day they die," complains Cockburn. He tries for a bit of reductio ad absurdum, jokingly suggesting perpetrators of financial fraud be prohibited from living near ATMs.
After this reminder to readers that he is hilarious, he gets down to business. His target is the Matthew Shepard Act, which "creates a thought crime." The act would expand hate crime law to include those who target folks for violence because they are gay. At the heart of Cockburn's reasoning is our old friend, the slippery slope. "America is well on its way to making it illegal to say anything nasty about gays, Jews, blacks and women."
The day of the 9/11 attacks, my daughter and I wept together by telephone. Friends close to her at the college she attended near DC had lost family in the Pentagon inferno. A few days later, still in shock and mourning, her friends hid, afraid of attack in the nation's capital. The offense that made them targets was that they were Muslim. The danger to my daughter of some street attack is never to be discounted, but it was insignificant compared to the danger to her friends. Their peril was special precisely because of the irrational hostility by a significant minority of their fellow citizens.
If I drive carelessly and strike a pedestrian, I will be guilty of a crime. If it can be shown that I actually aimed for my victim, my actions will carry significantly greater penalties. Any argument that it is unfair to determine my mental state would be easily dismissed. Similarly, if I assault someone, I will be guilty of a crime. If I single out a victim for belonging to a group that my crowd hates, there should be a significant increase in criminality.
America is not about to make it "illegal to say something nasty about gays, Jews, blacks and women." America will and should make it illegal to target those folks or anyone else for violence because of accidents of birth. Oh, and by the way, rape should also remain illegal.
The single shot traveling at twice the speed of sound hit Aleesha, drove through her chest and exited, then nicked the ear of her half sister, 4-year-old Jailene Jones. The bullet then struck and killed Ashley.
- - St. Petersburg Times account of the killing of a six year old girl.
The shooter was outraged at Ashley's interracial family.
40 years ago, Laurence J. Peter published a seminal book that was originally intended as humor. It became a part of our language, a sort of linguistic precursor to an eye-rolling Dilbert culture. The Peter Principle. Peter's thesis was that competent people tend to be promoted. They then master new duties, perform competently, and are promoted again. "In a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence," he wrote. The subtitle of the book was "why things always go wrong."
When George W. Bush was elected, he was clearly not up to the job. That was okay. Conventional wisdom held that the success of a Presidency was dictated by astute advisers, not by a capable chief executive. The notion had been reinforced by a cadre of wise old men going back to Roosevelt. Richard Nixon seemed eclipsed by his Secretary of State. "What if something happened to Kissinger and Nixon became President?"
By the time President Bush left office, conventional wisdom had changed its collective mind. Competence did matter. The administration had been overrun by those ruled less by an intelligent measure of reality than by unexamined extremist passions. The ignored warning before 9/11, the cynical manipulation of the tragedy for political purposes, the ineptitude of federal response to national emergencies, the strangling of civil rights in the name of security, all bore witness to conservatism as a governing philosophy.
Laurence J. Peter was a master of pithy sayings, a few even original. I thought of a few of them as I reviewed public statements by, and investigative revelations about, former Vice President Dick Cheney.
It is now apparent that the Vice President did not follow the evidence concerning Iraq. He ordered it to be created. He badgered the CIA to come up with the conclusions he wanted concerning everything from an Iraq-al Qaeda connection to Weapons of Mass Destruction. He dictated that the interrogation of even those terrorist captives who were cooperating must be interrupted in order to torture the right evidence out of them.
He insists that the administration was following the best legal advice available to keep "enhanced interrogation" within the limits of the law. But it is now apparent that the administration ordered the Department of Justice to come up with the desired conclusions.
"When I want your opinion I’ll give it to you," Peters said to laughing audiences 40 years ago, in mimicry of the approach of some executives. Decades later, that was the precise approach of the Bush administration.
Peters had another famous saying that seems to me applicable to the former Vice President's more recent pronouncements.
"If at first you don’t succeed, lie, lie again."
You can read more about "why things always go wrong" and how to plan accordingly, maybe, right here by buying "The Peter Principle" (your purchase also helps support this site!).
A little over thirty years ago, the leaders of Egypt began to get fed up with the continuous war against Israel. They had fought enthusiastically enough, with a resolve to drive the Jewish nation into the sea. And they had borne the brunt of each defeat. They began to view with cynicism the holy resolve of their allies. Other countries only on the periphery of actual combat were, in the words of one official in Egypt, "willing to fight to the last Egyptian."
It occurred to Egyptian President Anwar Sadat that killing every Jew in the region might be an unworthy national cause, and he initiated contact that began peace negotiations with US President Jimmy Carter and Israel's Prime Minister Menachem Begin. Begin was an unlikely negotiating partner, elected as more conservative than any Prime Minister ever before. He once instigated a riot in an attempt to violently overthrow the elected government.
The treaty was essentially a land for peace deal. Israel turned over land won in the six day war back over to Egypt. Egypt stopped military moves against Israel. Peace was opposed by some on both sides, who said that God was against it. Sadat was eventually assassinated by fundamentalist fanatics.
Seven years ago, Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma laid out seven reasons that Israel should reject all peace efforts. The reasons have become a mainstay of conservative thought. Some of the reasons were indistinct from each other. For example, one was that history showed Israelis had been on the land 3000 years ago, while another reason was that archaeology showed that Israelis had been on the land 3000 years ago. Some reasoning was stereotypical. Israel was owed the land because "the Jewish people, the bankers," had financed allied war efforts in 1914.
Besides, the Senator said, God opposed land for peace treaties. He quoted Genesis to back his claim that any attempt by Israel to replicate with other countries the success of the peace treaty with Egypt would go against God.
Inhofe suggested that Jewish people needed an historic homeland, having experienced efforts to wipe them out. He failed to show how peace would violate that. President Obama, before an Arab audience, more eloquently pointed to the holocaust as a reason for respecting Israel's right to exist.
Inhofe also proposed a novel reason for Israel to reject peace. Israelis, he said, had earned the additional land by maintaining their racial purity, something occupants of Egypt had failed to do. Racial purity. "Even the Egyptians of today are not racial Egyptians of 2,000, 3,000 years ago. They are primarily an Arab people. The land is called Egypt, but they are not the same racial and ethnic stock as the old Egyptians of the ancient world."
Last week, Senator Inhofe again made news. He declared President Obama's speech in Saudi Arabia to be unAmerican.
Race and Gender Being a Special Concern in Confirming a Latina Woman:
In the months ahead, it will be important for those of us in the U.S. Senate to weigh her qualifications and character as well as her ability to rule fairly without undue influence from her own personal race, gender, or political preferences.
- - Senator James M. Inhofe in a statement about Judge Sonia Sotomayor