firedoglake Archive Site
Saturday, April 02, 2005
Edwardpig (love that name) fills us in on the disposition of the case of Rogelio Maynulet, a US Army soldier who was convicted of shooting and killing an unarmed Iraqi civillian at close range. Two days ago, he was discharged from the army and allowed to walk free, with no punishment.
His defense? "Mercy killing." I shit you not. (Is my language getting worse? I think maybe it is.) "He was in a state that I didn't think was justified — I had to put him out of his misery," said Maynulet, according to the LA Times. He argued that the killing "was the right thing to do, it was the honorable thing to do."
I am ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN that Tom DeLay is FIT TO BE TIED over the whole thing, and the only reason we haven't heard him and all the other "culture of lifers" mewling over this presumptious decision to end a precious life prior to examination by Nobel Prize nominee Dr. William Hammesfahr is because Wolf Blitzer just hasn't said quite enough yet about the death of the Pope.
As soon as there is lull in the media action, I'm sure we'll hear all about DeLay's loud, public indignation. Do you suppose his vitriol about the judiciary is going to spread to military courts?
Ooooohhhh, are they gonna be SORRY when Hot Tub Tom gets his teeth in this one!!!!!
If you've been living under a rock or simply have a life that precludes you from caring about the internecine details of the blogosphere, there has been a bit of a brou-ha-ha over an upcoming panel on blogging at the National Press Club that includes everyone's favorite male prostitute, Jeff Gannon. Lots o'bloggers, including yours truly, signed a letter over at the Agonist, asking that AmericaBlog's John Aravosis be included on the panel as well.
Now, I happen to have signed on to that particular letter because I Like A Spectacle. And so far Jeff Gannon/JD Guckert has been carefully coached by his handlers and has not submitted to questioning by anyone who knows shit about what went down with his whole free ride to the White House Press Corps, and John Aravosis -- having been involved in the investigation from the start -- would certainly set his teeth on edge. And the dogs and I are always looking for a good l'affair du popcorn.
But some have lost sight of this fact and have decided to pig pile on Ana Marie Cox of Wonkettte, as if somehow being on said panel she does not have either the Appropriate Politics or the gravitas to represent the lefty blogosphere. Ana Marie and Steve Gilliard got into a snipe exchange, and Gilliard retorted :
I am expert on ONE thing. On how you keep making a fucking fool of yourself in public. People were once laughing at you, now you have over 70 people saying you suck in a public way.(emphasis mine)
Okay. Can I just say one thing? I love Wonkette. I never would've signed a letter that dissed her, and I'm pretty sure I didn't. I don't know who wrote the bible for liberal bloggers, but I didn't get one with my Blogger account, so maybe you want to send me one. Wonkette talks about sex and it makes people think she's not to be taken seriously? That her observations are not acute and her political insights not...well, insightful because she talks about drinking? People have been mixing drugs, sex and politics long before Wonkette came around, and one only has to look at the work of the Good Doctor to know that there is a serious double standard going on here. Wonkette knows her shit. No, she's not going to rip Gannon/Guckert, she's not an activist and never claimed to be. She is, however, fucking funny and sharp as a tack.
Women talking about sex make you uncomfortable? Good. Here's one for you. Dick dick dick dick dick dick dick dick dick. So what if she didn't earn the Collective Mutual Group Anoint by the Boys Club. (What, you think nobody noticed?)
And if you can't think of any joke to make about Wonkette that doesn't involve the tired and over-used subject of ass-fucking, hang it up. (yawn) Yer boring me to death.
Friday, April 01, 2005
AAAARRGGGHHHH!!!! I can't stand it any more. If any modern CEO had overseen a corporation that systematically protected child molesters and provided a haven for them for decades, in addition to obstructing all legal inquiries into the situation, even our lazy, shiftless MSM would've been all over them like flies on shit and hounded them relentlessly. We all saw how well the Sgt. Schultz "I knew nothing" defense worked for Bernie Ebbers.
Can anyone say "free ride?" I simply cannot listen to one more minute of CNN today.
Must take break...head over to Vinyl Mine... download MP3s of The Strugglers....
And we all look like this, too -- Biafra & DKs
From Chuck at To Be Determined, we learn that the 44 Democrat senators represent about 3.5 million more people than the 55 Republican senators do.
Update 4:55 pm: Over at Marching Orders they follow-up with some comforting math that lets us know things in the House are not quite so dire:
On average, Democrats in the House represent 645,032 people each, whereas Republicans represent 646,308 people each, a difference of only 0.2%. (By comparison, the difference in the Senate, where Democrats represent far more citizens per seat, is a hundred times bigger at a whopping 20%)If you and are so inclined you can check the math in an Excel file here . (I myself can't count past 10 with my shoes on.)
It's kind of a relief that the population-proportional house of Congress does, in fact, end up being population-proportional by party.
This takes nothing away from what a bummer it is that Democratic constituencies are so relatively disfranchised in the Senate.
Okay, ladies, back me up on this one -- ever date a guy who turned out to be just WAY TOO WIGGED OUT about homosexuality? I always call them the "don't touch my butt" crowd. They seem to be of the mind that this renders them ultra-heterosexual, but somehow that's never quite convinced me.
Any gay man will tell you that this brand of homophobia smacks of the lady doth protest too much, methinks. And it seems like science is now, er... backing them up. Rupert Murder over at Three P fills us in on a study at the University of Georgia:
The authors investigated the role of homosexual arousal in exclusively heterosexual men who admitted negative affect toward homosexual individuals. Participants consisted of a group of homophobic men (n = 35) and a group of nonhomophobic men (n = 29); they were assigned to groups on the basis of their scores on the Index of Homophobia (W. W. Hudson & W. A. Ricketts, 1980). The men were exposed to sexually explicit erotic stimuli consisting of heterosexual, male homosexual, and lesbian videotapes, and changes in penile circumference were monitored. They also completed an Aggression Questionnaire (A. H. Buss & M. Perry, 1992). Both groups exhibited increases in penile circumference to the heterosexual and female homosexual videos. Only the homophobic men showed an increase in penile erection to male homosexual stimuli. The groups did not differ in aggression. Homophobia is apparently associated with homosexual arousal that the homophobic individual is either unaware of or denies.So, Reverend Dobson, you were saying?
Thursday, March 31, 2005
The Green Knight has a great post called, quite aptly, Framing While the Earth Burns -- asking questions about the $350,000 fee George Lakoff negotiated to "reframe" the environmental movement. "So far, the results have been few," concludes the knight. This on the heels of the UN study on the state of the world that says the strain put on the earth by growing populations and expanding economic activity is extremely critical. "Much of the leadership of the environmental movement in the USA is now spending money and time navel-gazing and hoping for a set of magic words, while the world burns and ecosystems collapse," he says in his excellent rundown.
On the subject of framing -- I friggin' hate that word, and in large part I think it's just an intellectual beat-off. You can talk all you want to about how the right has been successful in "framing" its issues, but their real success can be attributed to a tremendous organizational effort that can only be mimicked through a lot of hard work that starts at a one-on-one community level. I have been witness to the most hair-splitting masturbatory verbal ping-pong matches on DKos over "framing" that wound up as nothing more than a gargantuan waste of time, the liberal equivalent of "how many angels can dance on the head of a pin." If all the effort that went into all their gassing were used instead to walk out their doors, shake hands with their neighbors and talk from the heart about how they could change their community for the better, something might actually get done.
So live, that when thy summons comes to join
The innumerable caravan which moves
To that mysterious realm, where each shall take
His chamber in the silent halls of death,
Thou go not, like the quarry-slave at night,
Scourged to his dungeon, but, sustained and soothed
By an unfaltering trust, approach thy grave
Like one who wraps the drapery of his couch
About him, and lies down to pleasant dreams.
- William Cullen Bryan, Thanatopsis
Judge Stanley F. Birch Jr. is one of the most conservative judges on the federal bench. He was appointed by George H.W. Bush and recently made himself really, really popular with the wingers by writing opinions upholding Alabama's right to ban sex toys and Florida's ability to prohibit adoptions by gay couples. He's been described as falling "pretty squarely in the Scalia/Thomas camp."
Why do I care?
'Cos when the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday decided to deny a rehearing to Terri Schiavo's parents, he took a moment to blast GWB right between those beady little coke-head eyes:
A popular epithet directed by some members of society, including some members of Congress, toward the judiciary involves the denunciation of “activist judges.” Generally, the definition of an “activist judge” is one who decides the outcome of a controversy before him according to personal conviction, even one sincerely held, as opposed to the dictates of the law as constrained by legal precedent and, ultimately, our Constitution. In resolving the Schiavo controversy it is my judgment that, despite sincere and altruistic motivation, the legislative and executive branches of our government have acted in a manner demonstrably at odds with our Founding Fathers’ blueprint for the governance of a free people — our Constitution. Since I have sworn, as have they, to uphold and defend that Covenant, I must respectfully concur in the denial of the request for rehearing en banc. I conclude that Pub. L.109-3 (“the Act”) is unconstitutional and, therefore, this court and the district court are without jurisdiction in this case under that 1 special Act and should refuse to exercise any jurisdiction that we may otherwise have in this case.All the claptrap about "sincere and altruistic motivation" aside (that's some CYA if ever I've seen it), he basically took the trouble to write a concurring opinion just for the purpose of saying that whole middle-of-the-night hootenanny was unconstitutional. Yes, even the winger judges have finally had a noseful of Congressional attempts to limit the role of the judiciary, and even they now see that in the Schiavo case they are clearly being set up by the right in an attempt to erode the checks and balances they provide for the executive and legislative branches of government.
Funny enough, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino declined to address the Birch decision. But tomorrow, I fully expect to wake up to find that all of those talking heads who have been blathering endlessly about how all of the judges who have now heard this case are culture-of-death-mongering-liberals ARE TAKING IT ALL BACK.
Naw -- just kidding.
FUN FACT - Fred Vincy over at Stone Court points out that Pub. L 109-3 means that almost three months into the 109th Congress, which also sports an increased Republican majority, Congress has now passed a grand total of three acts -- tsunami relief, class action "fairness," and Schiavo. If anyone else had that kind of productivity it'd be raining pink slips from heaven.
Wednesday, March 30, 2005
TBogg: "If female pharmacists suddenly started refusing to dispense Viagra or Cialis to men, Congress would reconvene in the middle of the night and George Bush would make another midnight run from Crawford to sign the Tentpole Act of 2005 (also known as Bob Dole's Law)."
Professor B over at Bitch Ph.D. also has a great post about pharmacists who refuse to fill prescriptions. Bottom line? "If you have a problem providing health care to anyone, on moral grounds, then do something else for a living."
While liberals across the country rub their hands gleefully at the thought that the GOP has finally overreached itself on the Schiavo issue, the Village Voice is speculating that the Republicans may go into spin mode and save their bacon yet -- by putting the fear into baby boomers about what fate lies before them when they reach old age. Will they simply be expected to die when they become old, disabled, expensive and inconvenient?
Will the public remember that when George Bush signed the 1999 Texas Futile Care Law that gave hospitals the right to remove life support if the patient could not pay and there was no hope of revival, regardless of the patient's family's wishes, it was because the state did not want to pick up the tab? Or that with each new federal budget that comes down the pike, Medicare funding gets slashed again and again? No, the GOP is hoping that all they will remember is the middle of the night grandstanding "for life" in the Schiavo case. They are hoping once again that emotion trumps logic.
Nonetheless, there is a conversation that needs to be taken up about disabled people and the role they play in society. Many disabled individuals were made keenly uncomfortable as the nation's gaze rested on tapes of Terri Schiavo in her hospital bed and overwhelmingly came together in the pronouncement that "I'd rather be dead." A telling article was sent to me by John Huffman, written by a Harvard student with cerebral palsy:
Our country has learned that we cannot judge people on the basis of minority status, but for some reason we have not erased our prejudice against disability. One insidious form of this bias is to distinguish cognitively disabled persons from persons whose disabilities are “just” physical. Cognitively disabled people are shown a manifest lack of respect in daily life, as well. This has gotten so perturbing to me that when I fly, I try to wear my Harvard t-shirt so I can “pass” as a person without cognitive disability...Now, I don't happen to think the Schiavo case is a particularly good example of where the line blurs. But I can certainly understand that someone who has undergone a life experience like this can look at the national gaze and see something more than altruism in people's desire to see Terri Schiavo pass on. And the question must certainly arise in the minds of all of us who struggle on a daily basis with the expenses of health care -- how do we as a nation plan to pay for a future where life is valued, and people do not feel compelled to "just die" because they feel they have become a burden, financial or otherwise?
The result of this disrespect is the devaluation of lives of people like Terri Schiavo. In the Schiavo case and others like it, non-disabled decision makers assert that the disabled person should die because he or she—ordinarily a person who had little or no experience with disability before acquiring one—“would not want to live like this.” In the Schiavo case, the family is forced to argue that Terri should be kept alive because she might “get better”—that is, might be able to regain or to communicate her cognitive processes. The mere assertion that disability (particularly cognitive disability, sometimes called “mental retardation”) is present seems to provide ample proof that death is desirable....
Not Dead Yet, an organization of persons with disabilities who oppose assisted suicide and euthanasia, maintains that the starvation and dehydration of Terri Schiavo will put the lives of thousands of severely disabled children and adults at risk. (The organization takes its name from the scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail in which a plague victim not dying fast enough is hit over the head and carted away after repeatedly insisting he is not dead yet.)...
Besides being disabled, Schiavo and I have something important in common, that is, someone attempted to terminate my life by removing my endotracheal tube during resuscitation in my first hour of life. This was a quality-of-life decision: I was simply taking too long to breathe on my own, and the person who pulled the tube believed I would be severely disabled if I lived, since lack of oxygen causes cerebral palsy. (I was saved by my family doctor inserting another tube as quickly as possible.) The point of this is not that I ended up at Harvard and Schiavo did not, as some people would undoubtedly conclude. The point is that society already believes to some degree that it is acceptable to murder disabled people.
I can't imagine looking toward the grandstanders in the GOP for relief on this issue, but stranger things have happened. As the Democrats stand by and gloat at the lousy public approval ratings for the GOP, they would do well to take a proactive stance and heed the words of Barney Frank (D-MA), who said last Sunday on ABC: "I think Congress needs to do more. Because I've spoken with a lot of disability groups who are concerned that, even where a choice is made to terminate life, it might be coerced by circumstances."
Update 3:53pm: Just to clarify -- I don't think Terri Schiavo is an appropriate poster girl for the rights of the disabled, and I think the decision of many disabled groups to hitch their wagon to this case, the GOP in general and Bill Tierney specifically is a hideous, hideous mistake. The picture of Stephen Hawking is provided as it relates to the author of the piece in the Harvard Crimson, and not Terri Schiavo herself. I bring the subject up apropos of the Schiavo case only because I don't think we should be letting the GOP get away with this new PR spin that "they care so very much." They don't. And they never will.
"Compassionate conservatism?" Bollocks.
Tuesday, March 29, 2005
Everyone else is coming out Buddhist -- how did I come out a Pagan? They didn't ask the key question -- do you think your dogs are Boddhisatvas? I think that's where the confusion arises.
Take the quiz & post your results in the comments -- this I gotta see.
First she was one of the co-sponsors of the anti-consumer bankruptcy bill. Now she is one of the co-sponsors of HR 1295, a bill that would remove many state consumer protections against predatory lending practices. What the heck is up with Rep. Darlene Hooley (D-OR)?
The bill has civil rights leaders like NAACP Chairman Julian Bond, Jesse Jackson and Wade Henderson, the executive director of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights up in arms, and well it should. Predatory lending practices primarily target old people, minorities and immigrants.
Take the case of one African American North Carolina warehouse worker who borrowed $200 from Advance America, one of those companies who offer cash advances in strip malls. All he had to provide was a bank account, an income, and a driver's license. He wrote out a check and walked out the door 15 minutes later with cash in his pocket.
When payday rolled around two weeks later, however, he found (as most such borrowers do) that he needed his paycheck for weekly expenses. However, Advance America does not allow paying off the loan in weekly installments. They will instead "renew" the loan for a $35 fee, which does not go against the principal. In the industry people like this are known as "26ers," people who come in every payday and give up another fee to avoid defaulting on a small loan -- so called because they will renew the loan and pay another fee 26 times per year.
At one point the amount increased to $50, and he found that he was paying $50 each week to float the $295 principal. Five years later he had paid roughly $5,000 for one small loan, repeatedly renewed. His mortgage payments fell behind, and he wound up filing for bankruptcy.
In response to his and other stories, North Carolina actually enacted tough laws against predatory lending -- which Rep. Hooley's bill would wipe off the books. A competing bill, HR 1182, offered up by North Carolina Democrats Brad Miller and Mel Watt, along with Barney Frank of Massachusetts, is modeled on the tougher North Carolina bill passed in 1999, and it does not preempt state laws.
Industry groups are, of course, backing the Ney-Kanjorski bill, and say it is necessary to eliminate a "patchwork of state and local laws." Right. And how does Darlene Hooley, who otherwise has an excellent voting record on social and consumer issues fit into it? Well, she received campaign contributions of $10,000 from the National Association of Realtors, $10,000 from the Laborers Union, which strongly support the bill. You decide.
Other Democratic co-sponsors of the Ney-Kanjorski bill include Harold Ford of Tennessee (who's just looking worse and worse as a national candidate), William Lacy Clay (MO), Gregory Meeks (NY), Bennie Thompson (MS), Joe Crowley (NY), David Scott (GA), and Brad Sherman (CA).
You can find contact information for any of these reps here. Darlene Hooley can be reached at (503) 588-9100 (phone), (503) 588-5517 (fax), or you can email her here.
Over at Clownhall, Ann Coulter is calling for Jeb Bush to send out the National Guard "to stop an innocent American from being starved to death in Florida." Having already hipped a startled Canadian nation to the fact that they actually sent its troops to help the US in Viet Nam, she now hopes to inspire Jeb to turn his back on the rule of law using as his role model another lesson from history:
President Andrew Jackson is supposed to have said of a Supreme Court ruling he opposed: "Well, John Marshall has made his decision, now let him enforce it." The court's ruling was ignored. And yet, somehow, the republic survived.Does Ann know that the Supreme Court case she is referring to is the 1832 Worcester v. Georgia decision, which stated that the Cherokee Nation was sovereign and that the tribe could not be forcibly removed from the State of Georgia? Andrew Jackson decided to ignore this decision, and compelled the Cherokee to abandon their property and their homes in the middle of winter, sending them on a forced 800 miles march along the Trail of Tears. It is estimated that 4,000 people, or 25% of the Cherokee Nation, died during the march.
How touching that Ann would fondly bring up an incident that represents a blatant disregard of law for the purpose of inflicting untold cruelty and mass genocide. Thanks for the history lesson, Ann. And for reminding us what you're all about.
(thanks to funkyphd for the tip)
Monday, March 28, 2005
I was having an exchange with Dallas Doc over at DKos yesterday and we were talking about our crazy redneck winger relatives. Doc made the point that "Raw emotion, simple repeatable applause lines, and groupthink are their determinative mental processes. They function at the limbic level, and the neocortex is suspicious, unfamiliar territory for them. That's why Democratic appeals to high principle and rational self-interest generally make no dent in their thick skulls."
Doc is spot-on about this point. When Atrios first mentioned the WaPo article about the growing number of pharmacists who won't dispense contraceptives to women because of their religious beliefs, and the corporate pharmacies that support their decisions, my first liberal knee-jerk impulse was to fall back on all the high-minded feminist arguments and principles I know so well, and rational notions of organization, boycott, letter writing, etc.
Then I started wondering. Who are these people? The ones who won't dispense birth control pills to a woman who isn't even taking them for birth control, but to treat endometriosis? The ones who peevishly refuse to follow their own pharmacy's guidelines and won't even allow the transfer of the prescription so the woman can get it filled elsewhere?
So I decided to go limbic on this one. Ladies and gentlemen, without further delay I bring you:
Needle Dick the Bug-Fucker: Portrait of a Pro-Life Pharmacist
(apologies in advance to all the hard working, ethical pharmacists who may feel the incidental overspray of mud from the following):
Travel over to the uber creepy website for Pharmacists for Life and take a momentary stroll. You will see them painting a portrait of themselves as devout and reverent pillars of faith, radiant light pouring out their asses and a chorus of angels singing on high as they refuse to pass out pills to sinners. Like Jesus in the desert they struggle in a realm of worldly temptations spread out before them by the devil himself, but they alone have the moral rectitude to stand tall and deny these whores of Babylon the tools with which to ply their wicked craft of tempting the flesh.
And to that I say -- FUCK THAT.
Let me paint you another portrait. One of a churlish, bitter dude sitting in the 24 hour drive-up pharmacy window in the dead of night, reading GUNS & AMMO and popping Tic-Tacs as the rain pours down and he thinks about how he's going home later to a dinner of cold pizza and beat off to that chick with the (tastefully displayed) big rack on the 700 Club. He likes evangelical TV because women know their place there. They know that the man is the head of the household, and a woman must be subservient to him in all things.
Of course he hasn't found a woman who is willing to be Mrs. Needle Dick yet and be subservient in all things, and on the whole he'd rather wind up with someone who looks like the Makita Chain Saw girl, but that girl would never have anything to do with him. Not, mind you, due to any of his own shortcomings -- as evangelical TV is so quick to remind him -- but because she is a dirty whore. A godless, dirty whore. A godless dirty whore who needs a spanking --
Someone has pulled up to the drive-through window. A tearful young woman asks for the prescription her doctor called in. He notices she's kind of pretty, in that tear-stained, vulnerable way he likes so much. Why of course, ma'am, right away -- OH MY GOD, CONTRACEPTION! The bitch has SEX!!!
Mini-Jesus sitting on his right shoulder starts babbling...this is your chance Dick...you have the power...you can get them back for laughing at you in grade school. For laughing at you in junior high. For forcing you to choose abstinence rather than admit that abstinence has chosen you...and you can do it in MY NAME!!! I CAN HELP YOU!!!
Suddenly, Dick realizes he can, in this one grand act, not only punish every woman who wouldn't fuck him on a bet for a lifetime of humiliation, he can be a HERO in the eyes of the fundie elite! Might even get his name in the church paper. Hell, maybe even CBS news! Why, this could turn him into Super Fundie! HE'LL SHOW THAT PAULA ZAHN!!
The woman starts to plead that she's married. That a condom broke, that she needs the prescription within the next few hours to prevent pregnancy, and a baby is something she and her husband just can't afford right now...
Away wanton woman,says Jesus of the Shoulder...
Dick falls to his knees beneath a Claviomox poster and gives thanks to Pfizer and Glaxo Smith Kline for investing the Divine Power of the Lord in his hands. Why, HE ALONE may be responsible for forcing this lady to have the baby God intended her to have! That'll be the end of the job train for her. If only it could be that lesbian bitch the day manager who got the pay raise and the cushy hours instead of him... they said something about his "interpersonal skills" problem, but HE knows, it's all because they're whores...
Suddenly the phone is ringing. One pharmacy after another is calling, trying to get the woman's prescription transferred over. Now, Dick knows that his pharmacy's official policy is that if he refuses to fill the prescription out of personal conviction, he is required to direct her to a pharmacy that will fill it. He didn't do that. Because TONIGHT HE HAS THE POWER!!!! No more Mr. Night Manager for him. He will be a STAR!!! A STAR, I TELL YOU!!!
He always knew the 700 Club was saving the chick with the (tastefully) big rack for him.
Disclaimer: The preceding is a fantasy composite, and not meant to represent any known person, living or dead.
HOWEVER, if you would like to follow the true stories of pharmacists who have refused to fill contraceptive prescriptions for women, the following are links:
The Chicago Tribune has a story about an Osco Drugs in Chicago that refused to fill a prescription for birth control pills. The Sun Times also has the story.
Suzanne Richards, the woman covered in the WaPo article who couldn't get the morning after pill from a pharmacist, evidently went to a Brooks Pharmacy in New Hampshire, according to the Feminist Majority Foundation.
A UMass student was refused birth control pills at a CVS Pharmacy in Amherst, Massachusetts, according to the Daily Collegian.
A woman who was taking birth control pills to treat endometriosis, not to prevent pregnancy, had her prescription refused by a Walgreens in Indiana because the pharmacist said it would violate his religious beliefs to fill it, according to WNDU news.
If you or anyone you know of has had a pharmacist refuse to fill a prescription, you can let Planned Parenthood know about it at a website they have devoted to documenting the problem. They promise to protect your anonymity.
And Atrios has said he will put up a Wall of Wankers of the names, places of business and business numbers of pharmacists who refuse to provide birth control, so please send him any you might know of. As he says, "they have rights, and so do we."
(BTW, "needle dick the bug-fucker" was the punch line to a joke that a friend of mine from college could never remember. If you recognize it & the joke is not too blue, please let me know what it is in the comments.)
recently discovered photo from the 1930s of the buddha bamiyan in Afghanistan before its destruction by the Taliban
This morning Atrios wondered why Pumpkinhead's Sunday morning interfaith squaredance was such a sausagefest. I wondered why there are never any Buddhist participants -- especially considering there are now more Buddhists in the US than Episcopalians. Well, I didn't really wonder exactly. As a practitioner of Zen for the past 16 years, I know it's difficult to get dragged into the conversation over faith and morality that Christians always want to have -- the very idea of such a discussion presumes a Judeo/Christian outlook, and a very dualistic western notion of faith.
Mumon over at Notes in Samsara has an interesting commentary on a NY Times article on the growth of MegaChurches, and I thought his comments coming from a Buddhist perspective were quite illuminating:
The idea of a group of people getting together and deciding as a result of a faith-based discussion what is right and wrong for everyone and for all time is completely antithetical to zen. If you want to have a secular discussion about what is good for the community, what works and what doesn't work, what is just and what isn't, I will happily participate -- indeed, I think it is the only productive discussion possible in a culture comprised of people of many differing faiths. But if you want to talk about the ultimate "morality" of abortion, or euthenasia, or stem cell research, or covering myself with daffodils and entering myself in the Macy's parade, and I respond by saying those things can only be decided by an individual based on their own personal experience at the time, I am not being an evasive liberal, or a permissive relativist -- that is the teaching that has come down to me. In a faith that has no God to look to for answers, one can only look inside one's self -- and what is right for you might not be right for me. Empirical morality is the realm of the mega-church.From the Times:There has been extensive adaptation of Buddhism for Americans, although many Americans wouldn't know it. Despite that, the main point of Buddhism, especially in its Zen form is still there: the emphasis on focusing inward, as opposed to drinking in and introjecting somebody else's message as your own.
Expanding the flock through evangelism is a core principle of Christianity, but the modern church-growth movement traces its roots to Donald McGavran, a Christian missionary who worked in India during the first half of the 20th century. What McGavran discovered and articulated in his 1955 book, ''The Bridges of God,'' was that churches can't operate like mission stations, rigidly insisting upon their ways and inviting people to come to them on their terms. Rather, they had to go into villages and make followers of Christ. There was simply no other way to build a dynamic Christian community, which McGavran considered a prerequisite for reaching the unchurched.McGavran's words were written for overseas missionaries who would be encountering people who knew nothing about Jesus, but they resonated powerfully in America. As the 60's progressed, a new generation came of age, one that felt increasingly alienated from the churches in which they'd been raised. At the same time, more and more families were relocating from the cities to outlying areas. It was clear to church leaders that if they wanted to capture these new suburbanites (and a little later, exurbanites), they were going to have to go after them on their turf. The problem was that most pastors had been taught plenty of theology at seminary, but very little about how to actually build a church. So church leaders turned to McGavran for guidance. A nascent industry of church-growth experts adapted his model, encouraging pastors to engage their local communities by treating potential worshipers as consumers.
The modern master of church growth is Rick Warren. In the early 1980's, Warren, a fifth-generation Southern Baptist, applied McGavran's philosophies to his Orange County church, Saddleback. Warren's community was cut from a very different cultural cloth than his own family's; things like altar calls, a Southern Baptist staple in which worshipers are exhorted to come to the front of the church and accept Jesus, would never play in the wealthy suburbs of Southern California. Instead, Warren set about building a profile of ''Saddleback Sam''; once he had a sense of his average worshiper's likes (i.e. contemporary music) and dislikes (preachy, guilt-inducing sermons), he built Saddleback to accommodate him. A result was the so-called seeker-sensitive church.
Maybe it's my ex-New York Catholic upbringing, but so much of this "seeker sensitive megachurch" stuff just rings so phony to me; when you market to me you lose any authenticity about you.
We let true Dharma continue by being ourselves. If you want to know about Buddhism, I can tell you my experience with it, but if you don't want to know, it is better for me to focus on my practice rather than trying to fool you with slick advertising and marketing techniques to try to get you to practice something for which you don't see a need, though you suffer.
Which is probably only one of many reasons why they're never going to ask anyone like Bernard Glassman or Pema Chodron to discuss the matter on Pumpkinhead's show. But I think as a matter of daily practice that either of them sets more of a living example of what "right action" looks like than Jerry Falwell could ever hope to. I mean, I'm trying not to be condescending here, I suppose he provides a great deal of comfort to many people. You'll have to forgive me if I just can't look at the guy and think he represents the face of God for anyone. And if you want me to have a conversation with him over faith and morality -- I'm sorry, at this point in my spiritual evolution I just don't think that's possible.
Jim over at Vinyl Mine has an unbelievably great psychadelic early 70s Flamin' Groovies song, Slow Death, available for free download on his site Vinyl Mine. (I've mentioned before -- Jim has incredible downloads of really rare stuff and I go there almost every day). Also, Oliver over at Soul Sides, my other must-visit music site, has an amazing downloadable recording of Coke Escovido's I Wouldn't Change a Thing from 1975.
Something nice to start off the new week with -- here's hoping it's a good one for everyone.
Sunday, March 27, 2005
I was sitting here watching a photo essay on CNN of Wolf Blitzer hangin' with the troops in Iraq with Bob Seger's Against the Wind playing over it. And I'm thinking to myself, that song has to be 3 1/2 minutes long, they just wasted all that Sunday morning airtime on that crap? Who watches this shit?
As if inspired by heaven, almost simultaneously I stopped by News Hounds ("We watch FOX so you don't have to") and the answer was provided. They get a surprisingly large number of emails intended for the love beasts of Fox News over there, and in one brilliant missive, a letter intended for Sean Hannity, the author accuses him of being way too liberal:
SUBJECT: You need to read this and ask for forgivness Mr Hannity!This is the GOP base, these are the people who are coalescing on the hospice lawn in Florida, where -- if you've been watching -- every unhinged wingnut in creation is gathering to bloviate and whip up the crowd. Rove must be sweating, the numbers are not good (a CNN poll poll released today say Bush's approval ratings are plummeting, and primarily among men, conservatives and churchgoers) and these ego-driven loons will NOT SHUT UP. I would be singing "oh happy day" were it not for the fact that this situation is extremely explosive and has the potential to end up in abject catastrophe.
Are you all afraid? you want to know Gods will? Well it comes through me not your namby pamby ignorant filled messages. How can you call yourself a real republican? I am offended that you think your right wing. God is finally getting this country back on track with Brother Bush leading the way, while you act as if you support him I sense underneath you think you could do better. I am here to tell you that George W. Bush is anointed and appointed
By God himself, he will lead us to Victory over the ignorant Muslims and anti-Christ like Insurgents. We asked our followers to Vote republican and they did, GOD HAS Spoken on the issue through me and I think its time America and Mr. Hannity heard what the Lord really thinks, are you afraid to hear Gods words? I can prove that I heal folks, can you? What have you done for anyone lately Mr. Hannity?
(BTW, while GWB is
In the NYT, Bobo Brooks draws the battle lines in the Terri Schiavo case between social conservatives who basically see her as a giant fetus, and social liberals who can't see that they are making pragmatic arguments for murder:
The core belief that social conservatives bring to cases like Terri Schiavo's is that the value of each individual life is intrinsic. The value of a life doesn't depend upon what a person can physically do, experience or achieve. The life of a comatose person or a fetus has the same dignity and worth as the life of a fully functioning adult.Brooks' argument is completely specious, and it has no relevance to the case at hand. The controversy is not centered around whether the life of anybody in a vegetative state has value, nor has it ever been. The fact is that even most evangelical Christians think that the feeding tube should not be reinserted, so opinions simply do not break down along the theological lines that Brooks would have you believe.
Social conservatives go on to say that if we make distinctions about the value of different lives, if we downgrade those who are physically alive but mentally incapacitated, if we say that some people can be more easily moved toward death than others, then the strong will prey upon the helpless, and the dignity of all our lives will be diminished...
The core belief that social liberals bring to cases like Ms. Schiavo's is that the quality of life is a fundamental human value. They don't emphasize the bright line between life and death; they describe a continuum between a fully lived life and a life that, by the sort of incapacity Terri Schiavo has suffered, is mere existence.
On one end of that continuum are those fortunate enough to be able to live fully - to decide and act, to experience the world and be free. On the other end are those who, tragically, can do none of these things, and who are merely existing.
Social liberals warn against vitalism, the elevation of physical existence over other values. They say it is up to each individual or family to draw their own line to define when life passes to mere existence.
The central weakness of the liberal case is that it is morally thin. Once you say that it is up to individuals or families to draw their own lines separating life from existence, and reasonable people will differ, then you are taking a fundamental issue out of the realm of morality and into the realm of relativism and mere taste....
If you surveyed the avalanche of TV and print commentary that descended upon us this week, you found social conservatives would start the discussion with a moral argument about the sanctity of life, and then social liberals would immediately start talking about jurisdictions, legalisms, politics and procedures. They were more comfortable talking about at what level the decision should be taken than what the decision should be.
The argument seems to be between the people who believe her family, who say Terri is treatable and would have wanted extraordinary measures taken to prolong her life, and those who side with her husband, who say she is in a persistent vegetative state, and that she would not have wanted such measures to be taken. Twenty-two judges have now found that the husband is credible, that he is acting in accordance with her wishes, and that he has the right to do so. They have further found that the parents case is based on faulty science, and have rejected all their petitions.
Nowhere has anyone stepped up to claim that extraordinary measures should be taken in ALL cases to prolong life whenever possible, which would be the natural conclusion one would reach if Brooks' characterization of the argument had any validity. Of the 2.3 million people in this country who die every year, 500,000 die with hospice assistance, foregoing all extraordinary measures. It would cause a health crisis of catastrophic proportions if the government suddenly said they did not have the right to make that choice, which is probably one of the reasons, cynical or otherwise, that nobody is making it.
I'm sure Brooks would dismiss me as one of those liberal pragmatists, but the fact remains -- nobody is making the argument he claims they are. The controvery is, has been and always will be -- is she treatable, and is her husband credible? Brooks is in the wilderness howling alone on this one.
Another Take on the Bobo article from John Huffman, who I think is more persuasive in his argument:
I obviously find the Brooks argument more substantial than you do. So I guess Brooks isn't in the wilderness howling alone -- I'm with him.
I'm in favor of hospice care for anyone who is conscious enought to make that decision which, and this is an assumption, is probably the vast majority of those who are in (or have been in) hospices. And, of course, the definition of "extraordinary measures" is going to vary from person to person.
Having said that, Brooks' treatment of the question of morality as it relates to the conservative and liberal positions is an interesting one. One of my major problems with current liberal thought is how relatively unhinged it has become from moral standards. I'm just old enough to remember that in the Sixties the liberal appeal was essentially a moral one: for social justice, equality of oppportunity and for the country to live up to the ideals both implicit and explicit in its founding documents. So much of liberalism now seems to be based on indulging any and all appetites while shunning personal responsibility and demonizing those who call for retraint.
Don't take that as a blanket indictment of all liberals or even liberalism in general, but as an observation about what I (and I think many Americans) find unsettling about the current state of liberalism.
Meanwhile, I'm not thrilled with conservatives who think making a profound contribution to society is putting a rock with the ten commandments chiseled into it in every public courthouse. Or who would string up every convicted murderer they could instantly after trial -- or before the trial. Or who believe homosexuals ought to be forced to never express affection, hide their true nature in shame, be restricted in employment and face prosecution for consenting acts between adults. That's cheap, easy, mean-spirited morality that doesn't really speak to contemporary life.
Liberalism needs to reclaim its moral heritage, and conservatism has to unhook itself from a dopey social issue agenda that's a dead-end for the way Americans really live.
(Photo courtesy stock.xchng)