Monday, November 29, 2004

Via flos carmeli I took a religion quiz and here are my results:

You scored as Christian. The Good News're a Christian.

You my friend are a non-denominational Christian. You strive to be a better person and are generally concerned about how your actions affect other people; however, you do struggle with disobedience as it may make life uncomfortable for you. Your greatest battle will be against lukewarmedness. Dude, fight the good fight.













created with


"You struggle with disobedience"? Who me? Don't tell me what I struggle with or what to do!!

I agree that I am more of a non-denominational Christian at heart than I am Catholic in many sense. Of course, there are many ways to test these things and doctrinal testing may be more accurate. I think this test measures one's disposition. But you can ferret out a lot by asking, "Will belief in the Blessed Virgin Mary condemn you to Hell?"

Saturday, November 27, 2004

I'm not an editorial reader. I can't stand them. I tend to think of them as bullhorns for elite snobs. Notwithstanding the fact that they often actually do say something of substance. I think my problem with editorials is that they are intrusive unsolicitated opinions that you could do without.

That said, the NCR editorial this week caught my eye. Bishops seek a reprieve. Here's a snipet

At their Nov. 15-17 meeting (it was to run to Nov. 18, but they managed to complete their agenda a day early), the body of bishops laid out plans for the future of their conference. Bottom line: less public discussion of pressing issues, more private time to contemplate such pastoral concerns as priestly formation and the centrality of the Eucharist, fewer statements on what many perceive as secondary issues, and tighter reins on their bureaucracy.

Less public discussion on pressing whatelse is new?

I have seen some discussions in Catholic blogshere about Church reform and the need to include laity, etc. I think the problem is that we are all offering up solutions without a proper diagnosis of the problem. The problem is one thing: power. Another way to say it is, self-preservation.

The Catholic Bishops have three types of power concentrated in each bishop. There is the sacramental power, there is ecclesial power and then there is secular political power. Sacramental power is the fact they have the utmost sacramental character and basically are the source of sacraments. If they don't ordain or give faculties, then no sacraments for anyone. Ecclesial power is the internal church political power. The fact that they have unchecked power over their dioceses, from 50,000 to millions of people, in the Catholic context. They can make any decision they want and not be accountable to anyone. Thirdly, there is the secular political power. That's the fact that they have secular political influence, which the Church has never shied away from.

This is all totally unchecked power and there is absolutely no way that the hierarchy can remain uncorrupted in the face of that power, from JPII down. And it is in fact horribly corrupted. If there is to be reform, there has to be checks on that power, which means the Bishops would have to allow the laity to regulate their power. It simply is not in human nature to allow for that, and we have seen Bishops rabidly protect their power at all costs.

In the final analysis, any measures taken such as lay councils, etc mean absolutely nothing because the power structure still remains the same. The only way for lay people to influence anything is through transparency and the media. Transparency offers automatic checks on power abuse. But as we see from the Bishops' recent conference, they want to kill transparency. Of course, they'd like to present it as streamlining, making things run better, blah, blah, blah, but the real truth is they want to preserve their power.

Significant reform is so far off that it is a waste of time to even talk about it. Of course, that's the pessimist in me talking. However, there are ways to chip away at that power--knowledge and independence. If lay people chose not to depend on sacraments for their spiritual nourishment, that would prompt a response. If lay people blunted the effect of ecclesial power by witholding money and re-directing it to other causes, that would prompt a response. If lay people learned and sought God for themselves and understood that sacramental mediation is not intrinsic to grace, that would prompt a response. If lay people countered the Bishops' inapproriate forays into politics, that would prompt a response.

When all is said and done, it is all about power to the people.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Dei Verbum I

In an earlier post, I had mentioned that one of my goals was to comment on Dei Verbum, one of the documents of the Second Vatican Council.

Why DV? I tend to like, it is the least Catholic of the Vatican II documents in that scripture is its focus. What I mean by that is the Catholic church, in light of Protestantism, seems quite uncomfortable with scripture. This document seems to acknowledge and promise a new direction, but history will record DV as a magnificent failure. Anoter case of all talk, no action, Catholic hierarchy.

Okay, on to the good stuff:


1. Hearing the word of God with reverence and proclaiming it with faith, the sacred synod takes its direction from these words of St. John: "We announce to you the eternal life which dwelt with the Father and was made visible to us. What we have seen and heard we announce to you, so that you may have fellowship with us and our common fellowship be with the Father and His Son Jesus Christ" (1 John 1:2-3). Therefore, following in the footsteps of the Council of Trent and of the First Vatican Council, this present council wishes to set forth authentic doctrine on divine revelation and how it is handed on, so that by hearing the message of salvation the whole world may believe, by believing it may hope, and by hoping it may love.

The brilliant thing about this document is the context. There is an insistence that before we even talk about Scripture, the ultimate context is necessary. First that a certain disposition of mind is required to profit from the Gospel of Christ and secondly, Jesus is the revelation of God and ultimately it is about seeing his face and less about texts and parsing traditions.

The Scripture quote, 1 John 1:2-3 is one of my favorite. John is saying, we heard the Word of God speak, we touched it, we saw it, so we know it and that which we have seen and heard is what we proclaim to you. Basically John is trying to let us into the same relationship they had with the Word. The key here is relationship and with a person. Thus the multifacetedness of a regular human relationship applies to our relationship with the Word. Note the first line is that we hear with reverence and proclaim with faith. This automatically precludes unbelievers from forging an authentic relationship with the Word. Also the teleology of our relationship with the Word is clear: "so that by hearing the message of salvation the whole world may believe, by believing it may hope, and by hoping it may love."

The relationship is for a reason. God defines our existence in that he ultimately is the goal of our lives. We come from God and return to him, or as Augustine puts it, "You have made us for yourself and our hearts are restless until they rest in you."

So the context for delving into scripture is found in a relationship with Christ, the true Word of God: it has a faith and worship context and has a purpose union with God. Absent of this relationship, Scriptural study is no better than study of poetry of literature or mythology.

Other quick points. This document is about divine revelation and how it is "handed on" (tradere-tradition). There is a story here about the relationship to Vatican I which I am not quite qualified to delve into, but suffice it to say that it was clear more needed to be said about the transmission and content of doctrine. A few things, the Council of Trent in the 16th century was when the Church last spoke comprehensively to the issues. Much had happened in the secular world since Trent. Vatican I was not a complete council due to circumstances, thus its attempts at addressing issues fell short. Most importantly, there was Darwin to deal with and literary and historical criticism, which threatened to undermine scripture. Thus, Vatican II had no choice but to address divine revelation in light of 400 years of developments and update the Church's (how do we say this) . . . articulation of its belief. For instance, Pius XII had opened the door to textual criticism and the issue of evolution, but still more needed to be done to give the lay of the land regarding divine revelation.

Next installment would begin with DV I.

Rev. Thrown Back says:

In spite of the outcry of pro-lifers and other conservatives, it now appears that Senate Republicans are preparing to give Specter the Judiciary chairmanship. In fact, one Republican senator, Robert Bennett of Utah, characterized pro-life opposition to Specter as a "tempest in a teapot." Remember that senator's name and his remark, people. We may need to remind that senator, and his Republican colleagues, who put them in office.

Before the election, a number of "Catholics for Kerry" derided pro-life Catholics for supporting President Bush and the Republicans, saying that the Republicans weren't really serious about opposing abortion. While their conclusion that it was therefore OK to vote for "the candidate of the abortion industry itself" was incorrect, the current behavior of the Senate Republicans leads one to believe they may have been right about a lack of seriousness regarding opposition to abortion.

No *&@^*! I suppose the sacramental character is not a precursor to common sense.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Dave Neiwert at Orcinus blog has an interesting post on homeschooling. Basically, it can be good, and on the other hand, it has become a breeding ground for racists.

The story opens with a horrifying anecdote that is familiar to many: The home-schooled child who refuses to participate with minority children. It goes on to explore the subset of white supremacists who populate home schooling's fringes:

... Home schooling has a strain of racism running through it that may reflect similar ideas held by others in the broader society. There are no studies or numbers to put racism and home schooling in perspective, but home-schooling laws that ensure that parents have the freedom to make socialization choices for their children also allow some families to completely withdraw from society.

In Texas, a librarian told the Beacon Journal that some home-schooling parents objected to the book selection on the shelves. They lobbied the library to bring back older editions -- books that depicted the United States in the 1950s, prior to the landmark 1964 civil rights legislation.

That idea is espoused on a number of racist Internet sites, where people who have a common hatred of minorities -- especially of African-Americans and Jews -- converse.

Stormfront, a white supremacist organization, has a Web site on "education and home schooling." The overriding theme is to home-school to avoid exposure to other cultures.

Among the discussions is one in which a member suggests stealing and destroying books from the public library -- a popular resource for home schoolers -- to eliminate material that portrays the United States as anything other than a white, Protestant culture.

Go read the whole post for context.

I do not feel strongly about homeschooling one way or the other. I do much prefer that kids learn to deal with the world by going out to school, but of course, if there are problems with a school system, one must do what one has to do.

I do reject the whole homeschooling attitude of superiority and self-righteousness. If one assumes that anything in the public sphere, even private schools, are by default, unacceptable, then that's a problem and it usually means that there is a hidden agenda.

That said, homeschooling is a good thing, my thoughts are more focused on the dark underbelly thereof.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Via Third Wave Agenda

Thursday, November 18, 2004

On Bishops' Conference and Stuff

I've been watching some late night coverage of the Bishops conference on EWTN. I don't watch EWTN. I have watched some Bishops coverage in past years, but not in the past three years.

A quick note about EWTN. Years ago, I used to watch the Jeff Cavins show "Life on the Rock." It was cheesy, but it was a good effort and those types of shows are cheesy by default. Now fast forward, I barely watch EWTN, but every now and then when the sci-fi channel is in commercials I sneak up a couple slots and I catch Life on the Rock and it is one of the Mother Anglica brothers now hosting it.

I don't know whose idea it was, but the brother priest has decimated that show. It's like he spends the whole show talking. The young adults, who Cavins had everywhere, giving it a young adult feel, are now condemned and relegated to the sides and you barely see them. There clearly has been a clericalization of the show to de-emphasize the lay and accentuate the clerics. And what's with the Friar Cam, no one can tell me they think it is cool. Like I said, there is a built in cheesiness to these shows, but Friar Cam? You've got to be kiddin'.

Anyway, back to the Bishops coverage. I note that this time they have Fr Stravinskas. He clearly has upgraded the commentary. There was some guy who they had last year who was a disaster. I worked at the USCCB then and it was clear that this guy had no idea what he was talking about. Stravinskas is a veteran of these Bishops meetings, so his insights are in a different ball park, definitely better quality. I get nauseated looking at EWTN for more that twenty seconds, but I find his commentary interesting. As for Arroyo . . . here's my theory. Years ago, he was Mother Angelica's guest on her live show and she chewed him out for doing a news story that wasn't from their persepctive. Well guess what, since then, objectivity, if there ever was, went flying out the window and the news operation became propaganda. It was always propagandish, but it presently is code red propaganda.

I've only been watching the conference a few minutes here and there, so I have no idea what's been going on. Apparently, there have been a couple of fireworks such as the surprise election of Bishop Trautman to liturgy. Basically, the conservatives were rejected and the liberal installed. I shurg my shoulders in utter apathy.

One interesting thing I heard with Arroyo and Stravinskas was the Monday night Bishops' Mass. The Mass was supposed to be a something of a celebration of the 25th anniversary of the US Bishops' document "Brothers and Sisters to Us" which was a letter about racism. The Mass was supposed to have an African American flavoring to it. Working in the office that dealth with African American issues, we were involved in initiating the idea and then, along with Bishop Bennett, we had to sell it to the Bishops' administrative committee, which determines the agenda for the conferences. That was one interesting day because the probability of success was anywhere from 20%-50%. It had never been done before. If I recall, as soon as Bishop Bennett made the presentation to the Bishops, Cardinal McCarrick was all over it like hot sauce on chicken wings. He noted that DC has a lot of great choirs, which it does, and he would be happy to host it. There didn't seem to be much resistance, nor was anyone bounding off the roof tops. Against some odds, the Mass was approved.

I had completely forgotten about the Mass because I would have really wanted to watch it. Being part of the very early discussions, it was going to be a herculian task to say the least. From what I recall, a committee of African American Catholics was put together to plan different aspects of the Mass. So how did it go? I have no idea. From what I gather with Arroyo and Stravinskas, they didn't like it and Stravinskas mentioned that many Bishops he spoke with afterwards didn't like it either. Although, that may represent a minority view. I haven't heard anything else about it, either way. But, it's not like I've gone looking for info either.

One thing that Arroyo complained about was that the choir sang "Give me that ol' time religion" as the Eucharistic hymn. Stravinskas said it was inappropriate and it is not a liturgical hymn, . . . I'm willing to bet more than a few bucks that the issue here is cultural. The people who didn't like it, don't like because of the African American emphasis. I dealt with these issues, and normally there are many different ways people display resistance to black culture in the liturgy and in the Church at large and usually they appeal to tradition, which is the problem!!! the tradition is European! or how shall we say it, er, white? So to say that a black spiritual is not a liturgical hymn is the same thing as appealing to traditon. Well the reason it is not a liturgical hymn is because of racism and the Catholic tradition is racist-no surprise there.

That said, I am surprised by the choice of song for the Eucharist. It's never been one of my favorites, I should add. If I had my pick, I would have suggested "come by here, My Lord" in a slow solemn arrangement. Now, Stravinskas noted that some Bishops complained that there was giggling and stuff. I guess that would be the sullen Bishops' interpretation of the joy of the Lord, but no one ever accused them of being happy. Another thing that was of interest to me, was that it seems that Stravinskas and Arroyo were looking for someone to blame and that some Bishops may be looking for a scapegoat in all this.

When I left the USCCB in March, planning was underway for this Mass. Over the years, I have planned quite a few Masses at the USCCB and you learn a lot of lessons. One key one was the the liturgy Secretariat had to sign off on every, and I mean, every thing. I'm talking liturgy readings, music, aids, artwork, design, environment, breathing space, everything. So I will confess surprise that "Give that ol' time religion" got through sensors. As a planner for these liturgies, you have to consider yourself a choreographer and make sure every single minute move is planned and vetted. The other thing you learn when working with the hierarchy, is that it is all about the feedback. Basically, you want to act so that you do not get negative feedback, otherwise known as complaints. As a result, it means you generally go conservative with your plans, so as not to offend. Also, you simply have to visualize the reaction of everyone involved, especially the Bishops and then move from there. At the end of the day, you feel like you've herded cats across the Great Plains.

The USCCB press release says the music was by the choir of Holy Comforter/st Cyprian Church in Washington DC. They are an excellent choir. I'd really be interested in what others thought about the Mass. Hopefully EWTN will replay it, unless the absolutely consider it anathema.

USA TODAY: Discovery Puts Humans in South Carolina 50,000 years ago

By Dan Vergano, USA TODAY
Artifacts found in a hillside along the Savannah River indicate that modern humans inhabited North America as long as 50,000 years ago, a discovery that challenges long-held theories on the migration of our ancient ancestors.

The find reported Wednesday by archaeologist Albert Goodyear of the University of South Carolina flies in the face of the conventional scientific view that homo sapiens — with the same bone structure and brain size as today's people — moved into North America within the past 12,000 years. Until then, a 23,000-year-long Ice Age was thought to have blocked travel across Alaska's Bering Strait.

"Fifty thousand years ago is mind-boggling. It challenges a lot of theories," Archaeology magazine's Eric Powell says. "All of our models of how humans migrated will have to be reconsidered if this holds up," he says.

Goodyear and his colleagues have been exploring the ancient flint quarry in Allendale County, S.C., since 1998, unearthing a hearth, flint blades and tool chips.

The age estimate of the deepest artifacts is based on measures of radioactive carbon traces found in oak, conifer, buckeye and other plants buried alongside them.

The report, awaiting publication and peer review in a scientific journal, is certain to be controversial among archaeologists because it means that the first people raced across the globe after migrating from Africa 100,000 years ago.

North and South America had long been considered the last continents settled by humans, but the find suggests Asia was just a rest stop for humanity early on. Goodyear says the tools resemble those found in early human sites in Asia from about the same period.

Recent evidence from sites in Chile and Oklahoma have suggested that modern humans inhabited the Americas as far back as 30,000 years ago. They are thought to have colonized Australia only 60,000 years ago and Europe about 45,000 years ago.

"Man is a traveler, an explorer," Goodyear says. "In retrospect, it's almost absurd to insist that people could never get into North America before the last Ice Age."

"The question is not the validity of the dates but what is being dated," says archaeologist Tom Dillehay of Vanderbilt University in Nashville. Skeptics will likely argue that the simple flint blades are natural in origin.

"At present, I don't think these new dates prove anything. It signals to us to keep the window of opportunity and possibility cautiously open," Dillehay says.

If proved, the dates still leave open the question of how people arrived in North America. A number of routes are possible:

• A land bridge between Siberia and Alaska may have existed before the last Ice Age.

• Boats may have brought coastal fishermen island-hopping across the Bering Strait.

• Early Australians may have kept going east.

The discovery will likely cause archaeologists to dig deeper at flint sites across the continent, Goodyear says. "It may be we haven't found these before because we haven't been looking."

Okay, I am officially confused, are you telling me that there were people here in North America before Christopher Columbus got here?

Does anyone else get tired of these stupid "this challenges all our previous models" nonsense. Anyone in this field with half a brain knows that just about 1 in 5 new discoveries will thrown everything off. Big deal!

As for how they arrived, I personally like the third option: "Early Australians may have kept going east."

My wife says that they came to America for the promise of equality and a better life. I'm so happy for them . . . but then, why South Carolina?

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Suicide and Euthanasia

Sad story from the Washington Post yesterday about a MD judge who committed suicide. I have no idea who this guy but the story struck me.

Basically, he was a lifetime bachelor and loner. As he advanced in years, he suspected Alzheimers and with no one to care for him, he decided to end his life in order to spare himself the indignity.

Despite Detailed Letter, Judge's Suicide Baffling
Md. Jurist Wrote He Feared Illness

By Allison Klein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, November 15, 2004; Page B01

BALTIMORE, Nov. 14 -- The handwritten suicide letter was 10 pages long, penned by an exceedingly private man who seldom shared his personal thoughts.

More deeply puzzling to friends and family, Robert I.H. Hammerman, 76, copied and mailed the letter to 2,200 people Wednesday, the day before the retired Baltimore Circuit Court judge shot himself in the chest.

His body was found in woods near his Baltimore County home.

"People are in shock," said Circuit Court Judge Joseph H.H. Kaplan, one of Hammerman's closest friends on the bench. "Nobody knew he was having problems. Bobby was not a person who confided in anybody. He was very much a loner."

Kaplan was among hundreds at a graveside service yesterday to honor Hammerman, a lifelong bachelor who served as a Baltimore judge for almost 44 years. Many came to ask why, to deconstruct the man they believed they knew before they received his letter -- the man who, even into his seventies, skipped up the marble stairs in the city's downtown courthouse two at a time.

Suicide, so often an impulsive act, did not mesh with Hammerman, whom friends and acquaintances described as anything but rash. Order, organization and rules of protocol were paramount in his life.

Lawyers who argued cases before him knew they had to follow a few rules: They were not permitted to be even one minute late, an unusual edict in the normally chaotic Baltimore Circuit Court. They were not to touch his bench. And they were not to go near the framed portrait of Hammerman's father -- who also had been a lawyer -- that the judge displayed on the left side of his bench.

Perhaps his meticulous nature is why Hammerman planned his death for almost a year and a half, according to the letter, and why he decided to offer such a public commentary on his reasoning.

Longtime Baltimore lawyer William H. Murphy Jr., a friend of Hammerman's since the 1970s, was one of those who received the letter. "How often do you get a letter like this?" Murphy asked. "I felt tremendous sorrow for him."

Hammerman's former secretary, Dana Amato, said she and her 14-year-old son were very close to the judge.

"I saw the man almost every day," said Amato, who said she last saw him Oct. 29. "He was in good spirits. He was very light. That's the point. There was no room for anyone to help him because there were no signs."

For more than four decades, Hammerman's presence loomed large in Baltimore's courthouse. When he retired from the bench in 1998 at the mandatory age of 70, he was the longest-serving trial judge in Maryland history. He helped settle civil disputes and protect the city from violent crime.

He was remembered as a man who regularly beat squash and tennis opponents 50 years his junior.

The Baltimore native graduated from Johns Hopkins University in 1950 and Harvard Law School in 1953. He became a Circuit Court judge in 1967.

After retiring, Hammerman saw his former colleagues often, continuing to preside over trials as a visiting judge until shortly before his death.

But in the letter, he portrayed himself as a man who felt quite alone. His memory often failing him, Hammerman feared he was suffering from Alzheimer's -- although the disease was never diagnosed.

"The thought of Alzheimer's is dreadful to me. I would need institutionalization," he wrote. "There are happily certain people who care about me -- but none able to care for me."

The letter described how desperately he wished for a heart attack so that he could die as his father had. "But my regular exams continue to show a very strong heart," he lamented.

And so, in his exacting style, Hammerman planned his suicide, going as far as obtaining a permit for a handgun and taking two training sessions at a police firing range so he would know how to shoot it properly.

Hammerman wrote that he crafted his suicide note in July 2003 at Dartmouth College's rare book library in Hanover, N.H., as looked upon a tree that he had planted in the name of his sister, Caroline E. Goldsmith.

"My deepest hurt at this moment is my dear sister, Caroline -- my only sibling -- 1 year and 8 hours older than I," he wrote. "I was her first birthday present."

He reflected in the letter on the long planning phase, which he described as a hardship, even though it forced him to place his affairs in order.

"Making the decision 16 months ago has had . . . one disadvantage. The disadvantage -- quite a burden to live with this, plan it and be fully active all the while in my two major pursuits -- the judiciary and the Lancers Club."

Hammerman wrote of the Baltimore-based youth service group he helped found in 1946. One of the most painful episodes in his life came in early 2000 after a Lancers Club activity, when a student at Gilman School, one of Baltimore's most prestigious private institutions, accused Hammerman of looking at him inappropriately while they were showering in a locker room after a tennis match. The judge denied acting improperly.

Friends who gathered yesterday at Arlington Cemetery of Chizuk Amuno Congregation preferred to remember the jovial and fastidious man who was punctual to a fault, a judge who fervently followed the rules of courtroom decorum.

His sister said that when she went to his condominium after his death, she found notes in each room detailing his best-loved items -- including a favorite trash can -- and an outfit he had worn as a 4-year-old. "Please treasure it," he wrote.

Hammerman planned out the memorial service, even writing instructions for Rabbi Mitchell Wohlberg, his friend, about how to proceed. On Nov. 1, Hammerman left Wohlberg a note that began, "In the unlikely event of my demise."

Wohlberg read aloud that note, as he was instructed by the judge. " 'You would have thought that my passing would have finally shut me up,' " Wohlberg read, causing the crowd of mourners to chuckle.

The judge said he wanted no eulogies.

After the reading, Hammerman's pine coffin with a single red tulip atop was lowered into the ground.

The people who knew the judge best still don't know why a man who didn't seem to care what others thought of him would craft such a letter and send it to more than 2,000 people.

In the middle of the letter, though, Robert Hammerman seemed to try to answer the question himself.

"Some may say of me that it is an act of a coward," he wrote. "So be it. It is so easy for one outside the ring to tell the fighter how to fight his fight."

Suicide is one of those things that I do not have any strong feelings against. The Church considers suicide a sin, I don't. I think the Church is, again, confusing cultural norms with moral norms. Suicide is definitely a dark moment in any community and never something I encourage.

I should make it clear that I am not speaking of suicides spurred on by mental illness, deppression, etc. I'm speaking more of calculated act like this one with rationale and by a responsible person.

This naturally leads to the issue of Euthanasia, which I am not opposed to. Of course, there are always boundaries and borders beyond which these practices become unacceptable and a frequent tactic of opponents of Euthanasia or suicide is to push situations to logical extremes and then ridicule such positions.

I think the antipathy towards suicide may have to do with western attitudes. But there is a tradition of suicides in many other cultures. We see it with the Japanese and also in African cultures. For instance, a few years ago, I read about a pre-slavery African process of democracy in what is now the western and southwestern part of Nigeria. The government of the kingdoms were structured as a monarchy, but with input of the people through a council. And when the people lost faith in their ruler, they would express it to the council who in turn would take the chopped head of bird, place it in a calabash and offer it to the king. The signal then was clear, the king was no longer wanted and he had to commit suicide.

I suppose the point here is that in cultures in which there is a tradition of suicide, suicide is not an easy escape from problems but has cultural significance and is tied to notions of identity and honor. I'm not advocating for the Church to be permissive of suicides, quite frankly, I don't care what the Church thinks about suicide. I do think, though, that Euthanasia should be permitted for the chronically ill who are predicted to pass in a short time frame.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Take the "Not All Americans are Stupid" Quiz.

Here are my results:

You answered 15 questions correctly out of 20.

For an American, your knowledge of the world and its history is surprisingly good. About the same as the average school-age person in any other country. If you are at school, congratulations. If you are an adult, try harder. Read books, visit other countries, and watch less television. Learn to understand the world better and you could become an ambassador for your country, demonstrating that Americans are not all stupid.

CIA in Turmoil Under Porter Goss

By Dana Priest and Walter Pincus
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, November 13, 2004; Page A01

The deputy director of the CIA resigned yesterday after a series of confrontations over the past week between senior operations officials and CIA Director Porter J. Goss's new chief of staff that have left the agency in turmoil, according to several current and former CIA officials.

John E. McLaughlin, a 32-year CIA veteran who was acting director for two months this summer until Goss took over, resigned after warning Goss that his top aide, former Capitol Hill staff member Patrick Murray, was treating senior officials disrespectfully and risked widespread resignations, the officials said.

Yesterday, the agency official who oversees foreign operations, Deputy Director of Operations Stephen R. Kappes, tendered his resignation after a confrontation with Murray. Goss and the White House pleaded with Kappes to reconsider and he agreed to delay his decision until Monday, the officials said.

Several other senior clandestine service officers are threatening to leave, current and former agency officials said.

I had some thoughts in earlier posts about Porter Goss when he was being proposed and confirmed. It was clear that he was going to be a shoo in. I think everyone thought things would improve with him. So far it's been terrible.

Anyway, there were a couple more passages in this article that caught my attention.

Now, what's wrong with this?

In one of those confrontations, on Nov. 5, Murray raised the issue of leaks with the associate deputy director of counterintelligence. Referring to previous media leaks regarding personnel, he said that if anything in the newly appointed executive director's personnel file made it into the media, the counterintelligence official "would be held responsible," according to one agency official and two former colleagues with knowledge of the conversation.

All three sources gave the following account:

The associate deputy director of counterintelligence, a highly respected case officer whose name is being withheld because she is undercover, told Michael Sulick, the associate deputy director of operations, about the threat. Sulick told his superior, Kappes, and both sought a meeting with Goss to complain.

So much for being undercover, we can rule out men I guess, and in a field with even fewer women . . . 2+2 ain't that difficult.

Michael V. Kostiw, who was Goss's first choice for executive director -- the agency's third-ranking official -- withdrew his name after The Washington Post reported that he had left the agency 20 years ago after having been arrested for stealing a package of bacon.

I am very concerned. What were his intentions for that bacon? Did he share any of it with the Russians? How can we be sure our national bacon supplies are safe?

Red Patch in Blue State: God Created the World in 168 hours and then Aged It

Rural PA District Approves Creationism

School board OKs challenges to evolution
Controversial step taken in rural Pennsylvania district

By Martha Raffaele
The Associated Press
Updated: 2:52 p.m. ET Nov. 12, 2004

DOVER, Pa. - When talk at the high school here turns to evolution, biology teachers have to make time for Charles Darwin as well as his detractors.

With a vote last month, the school board in rural south-central Pennsylvania community is believed to have become the first in the nation to mandate the teaching of “intelligent design,” which holds that the universe is so complex that it must have been created by an unspecified higher power.

Critics call the change in the ninth-grade biology curriculum a veiled attempt to require public schoolchildren to learn creationism, a biblical-based view that credits the origin of species to God. Schools typically teach evolution, the theory that Earth is billions of years old and that life forms developed over millions of years.

The state American Civil Liberties Union chapter is reviewing the Dover Area School District case. Its Georgia counterpart, meanwhile, is fighting a suburban Atlanta district’s decision to include a warning sticker in biology textbooks that says evolution is “a theory, not a fact.”

“What Dover has done goes much further than what’s happened in Georgia,” said Witold Walczak, legal director of the Pennsylvania ACLU. “As far as we can tell, Dover is the first school district that has actually mandated intelligent design.”

From farmland to suburbs
The district enrolls about 2,800 students. It encompasses the small, rural community of Dover borough, about 20 miles south of Harrisburg, and a patchwork of farmland and newer suburban developments in several surrounding townships.

The revision was spearheaded by school board member William Buckingham, who heads the board’s curriculum committee.

“I think it’s a downright fraud to perpetrate on the students of this district, to portray one theory over and over,” said Buckingham. “What we wanted was a balanced presentation.”

Buckingham wanted the board to adopt an intelligent-design textbook, “Of Pandas and People: The Central Question of Biological Origins,” as a supplement to the traditional biology book, but no vote was ever taken. A few weeks before the new science curriculum was approved, 50 copies were anonymously donated to the high school.

Although Buckingham describes himself as a born-again Christian and believes in creationism, “This is not an attempt to impose my views on anyone else,” he said.

Dissenters resign
Two of the dissenting board members, Carol Brown and her husband, Jeff, were so upset that they resigned after the 6-3 vote on Oct. 18.

“We have a vocal group within the community who feel very strongly in an evangelical Christian way that there is no separation of church and state,” Carol Brown said. “Our responsibility to is to represent the viewpoints of all members of the community.”

Statewide science-curriculum standards approved by Pennsylvania’s state Education Board merely ask students to “analyze data ... that are relevant to the theory of evolution.”

When the standards were revised three years ago, the board considered language that would have required students to consider evidence that did not support evolution, but the board dropped the idea after critics alleged it would have led to the widespread teaching of creationism in public schools.

Creationism repackaged?
Critics of intelligent design contend it is creationism repackaged in more secular-sounding language.

“Creationism in a cheap tuxedo,” said Nicholas Matzke, project information specialist for the National Center for Science Education in Oakland, Calif., which advocates for the teaching of evolution.

Even the Seattle-based Discovery Institute, which supports scientists studying intelligent-design theory, opposes mandating it in schools because it is a relatively new concept, said John West, associate director of the institute’s Center for Science and Culture.

“We’re completely against anyone who says you should downgrade or limit the teaching of evolution,” West said.

Uncertainty in school
Dover biology teacher Jennifer Miller said the curriculum changes have left her uncertain about how to approach her evolution lesson.

“If you put the words ’intelligent design’ into my curriculum, then I have to teach it,” said Miller, a 12-year veteran. “I’m not sure what that means as to how in-depth we have to go. ... I’m looking for more direction from the school board.”

Neither Assistant Superintendent Michael Baksa, who oversees the district’s curriculum, nor Superintendent Richard Nilsen responded to telephone calls and e-mail messages.

Jonathan Tome, whose three sons attend Dover schools, applauded the measure.

“You can’t be hypocritical with these kids, teaching them one thing but not another,” said Tome, 43.

But sophomore Courtney Lawton said she didn’t have a problem learning only about evolution in biology class last year.

“I just think they should keep it the way it is, and they shouldn’t add anything about a higher power,” said Lawton, 15. “People who believe differently, they might feel like they’re being segregated.”

© 2004 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

These are steps backwards. If anyone believes in the hand of the creator, it is I. I unabashedly proclaim belief in God's creative action. However, it is not science. At best it is philosophy, in fact, it is faith.

This is the problem with the conservative mindset, black or white. "It's 7 days and dammit, everyone else must believe it is seven days."

I think a subtle difference between liberals and conservatives is that conservatives have a hard time committing intellectually what they don't believe. So for instance, a liberal may not personally believe proposition X, but understands that the proposition is plausible and perhaps the responsible position to hold. Thus the liberal holds two propositions, proposition Y which there is a heatfelt, probably unprovable commitment to, and then there's proposition X, which is understood and the more plausible. The next step is simple to find out what the connection between both propositions, if there is one, is.

I think the conservative mindset can't hold both propositions and commit to them, either it is X or Y, but both must not co-exist.

Broad brushes, but this is the mindset of the present conservative wave. These creationist impositions are sprouting up proudly everywhere. There is no reason to teach creationism as science. At best, you may introduce it in philosophy. But this is the wave that 59 million people have proudly chosen, a reasonless faith over a reasonable faith.

Friday, November 12, 2004

"Abortion is not a Heinous Crime," Says new Bush Attorney General.

Bush's new AG is "personally opposed" to parental notification but believes he shouldn't legislate his personal morality. Where have I heard criticism of that before . . . oh, that's right, from the hypocrites on the Right.

Gonzales Nomination Angers Abortion Foes

"As a Texas Supreme Court justice, Gonzales' rulings implied he does not view abortion as a heinous crime," said Judie Brown, president of the American Life League, in a written statement.

Bush announced Wednesday that he had chosen his long-time friend to replace Attorney General John Ashcroft, who is stepping down. (Bush picks Gonzales to head Justice Department)

Gonzales has worked with Bush since he was the governor of Texas -- serving as Bush's general counsel, then as Texas Secretary of State before Bush appointed him to the state's highest court. (Gonzales political fortunes tied to Bush's)

As a member of the court, Gonzales ruled with the majority that some teenage girls should not be required to get parental permission for an abortion.

In his opinion on the ruling, Gonzales wrote, "While the ramifications of such a law may be personally troubling to me as a parent, it is my obligation as a judge to impartially apply the laws of this state without imposing my moral view on the decisions of the legislature."

Brown said that "choosing not to rule against abortion, in any situation, is the epitome of denying justice for an entire segment of the American population -- pre-born babies in the womb."

She also cited a 2001 interview with the Los Angeles Times in which Gonzales was asked whether his personal view of abortion would play a role in his vetting of judges.

He responded, "There are no litmus tests for judicial candidates. ... My own personal feelings about (abortion) don't matter. ... The question is, what is the law, what is the precedent, what is binding in rendering your decision. Sometimes, interpreting a statute, you may have to uphold a statute that you may find personally offensive. But as a judge, that's your job."

Said Brown, "Gonzales' position is clear: The personhood of the pre-born human being is secondary to technical points of law, and that is a deadly perspective for anyone to take. ...

"Why is President Bush betraying the babies? Justice begins with protecting the most vulnerable in our midst. Please, Mr. President -- just say no to the unjust views of Alberto Gonzales."

Got this in an email:

"As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron."

-H.L. Mencken, journalist and satirist (1880 - 1956)

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Interesting discussion going on at Kevin Drum's Washington Monthly site about the Bible and abortion.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

President Bush and the Culture of Life: Fallujah Edition Contd.

Fallujah creating a humanitarian ‘disaster’
Aid workers say Iraqis dying because they can't get access

Updated: 10:16 a.m. ET Nov. 10, 2004

FALLUJAH, Iraq - Fighting in Fallujah has created a humanitarian disaster in which innocent people are dying because medical help can’t reach them, aid workers in Iraq said on Wednesday.

In one case, a pregnant woman and her child died in a refugee camp west of the city after the mother unexpectedly aborted and no doctors were on hand, Firdoos al-Ubadi, an official from the Iraqi Red Crescent Society, told Reuters.

In another case, a young boy died from a snake bite that would normally have been easily treatable, she said.

“From a humanitarian point of view it’s a disaster, there’s no other way to describe it. And if we don’t do something about it soon, it’s going to spread to other cities,” she said.

About 10,000 U.S. soldiers and 2,000 Iraqi troops are fighting to wrest control of Fallujah, 32 miles west of Baghdad, back from insurgents.

At least 2,200 families have fled Fallujah in recent days and are struggling to survive without enough water, food or medicine in nearby towns and villages, she said.

Some families have fled as far as Tikrit, about 95 miles north of Fallujah.

But the biggest concern is people in and around Fallujah itself — they can’t be reached because U.S. and Iraqi forces have set up a wide cordon around the city to prevent anyone from entering and any insurgents from fleeing.

No supplies, no help
Between a nightly curfew and the danger of venturing onto the streets, many are effectively trapped at home.

“We’ve asked for permission from the Americans to go into the city and help the people there but we haven’t heard anything back from them,” Ubadi said. “There’s no medicine, no water, no electricity. They need our help.”

The Red Crescent Society has teams of doctors and relief experts ready to go into each of Fallujah’s districts with essential aid, but needs U.S. approval first.

The U.S. military was not immediately available to comment on the aid agency’s request, but has said its first priority is to defeat the rebels holed up in Fallujah.

An offensive was launched late on Monday and in furious street-to-street fighting since, U.S. forces backed by Iraqi troops have battled their way into the heart of Fallujah’s most rebellious district.

Commanders say they are doing everything they can to minimize civilian losses, but it is not always possible.

On Tuesday, a 9-year-old boy died after being hit in the stomach by shrapnel. His parents were unable to get him to hospital because of the fighting and so resorted to wrapping a sheet around him to stem the blood flow.

But he died hours later of blood loss and was buried in the garden of the family home.

“We buried him in the garden because it was too dangerous to go out,” said his father, teacher Mohammed Abboud. “We did not know how long the fighting would last.”

Food and water shortage
The International Committee for the Red Cross says there are thousands of elderly and women and children who have had no food or water for days. At least 20,000 have gathered in the town of Saqlawiya, south of Fallujah.

“The Red Cross is very worried. We urge all combatants to guarantee passage to those who need medical care, regardless of whether they are friends or enemies,” spokesman Ahmad al-Raoui said. “They must be allowed to return home as soon as possible.”

There are no precise figures, but it is estimated about 150,000, or half the entire population, have fled Fallujah since the U.S. military began shaping up for its offensive in October.

Aid workers say there are still hundreds of families left in the city, which has been pummeled by sustained aerial bombardment and artillery fire in recent days.

“We know of at least 157 families inside Fallujah who need our help,” said Ubadi.

For some it is already too late.

One mother and her three daughters had intended to flee but their home was hit by a bombardment earlier this week and all died, neighbors who escaped told aid workers.

Copyright 2004 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of Reuters content is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Reuters.

And our danger, at present, is this, that a man's having a general character for religion, reverencing the Gospel and professing it, and to a certain point, obeying it, so fully promotes his temporal interests, that is difficult for him to make out for himself whether he really acts on faith, or from a desire of this world's advantages.

John Henry Newman, Plain and Parochial Sermons, Vol 1 Sermon 5 "Self Denial the Test of Religious Earnestness."

To the question of Church and State

To the question of the Marxist socio-economic solution at the expense of religious hope

To the issue of self-righteous and certitude in own's righteousness and faith

When does our earnestness fade into self denial?

You are safer when there is no reward for truth or conviction.

Monday, November 08, 2004

My favorite pieces of music change from time to time, depending on where I am in life and all that.

By far, Handel's Messiah is unsurpassed, (I've had quite a few versions in the past and the only two that get an A grade are Bernsteins, mad genius-he speeds everything up and it works and Sir Colin Davis.)

Quincy Jone's Soulfoul Messiah, is as compelling, but it is not the original, nuff said. QJ is unbelievable, too bad he didn't translate the whole thing.

Mendelssohn's "Hear my prayer" (I haven't heard it in German, in fact I just found out it was originally written in German. But German and English are equally harsh, so I imagine I'd like the original just as well). One word: haunting. As is usually the case, everything depends on the singer and arrangement.

Anything by Andre Crouch. At the present time it is "Tell Them" from his Live in London CD.

"One Hundred Ways" James Ingram

Miles Davis, "Someday, My Prince will Come"

There are calls to End Red-state Welfare. Conservatives don't like welfare, so I invite conservatives to join in with us.

The Angry Liberal has a post agreeing with Andrew Sullivan on the religious right and the moral values thing.

It's not just that the evangelical/born-again vote was a big contributor to Bush's win, but also that this block of voters is like money in the bank. Karl Rove is fully aware of how to nail down their votes, quick and easy. Throw them some red-meat Bible issues (gay marriage, abortion) and presto, you have their vote no matter what else may happen in the world. It's robotic in nature. The economy, Iraq, the environment, healthcare -- it all means zilch to this voting block as long as you line up correctly on those few religious issues.

The fact is that the Religious Right is so well and tightly organized that it takes relatively little money to get the message out among them in force. When you have the 700 Club every afternoon and the Praise the Lord on Trinity Broadcasting Network, every night, and then the myriad of televangelists preaching the Gospel of Bush, you've got it made. It's an avalanche--all you need do is get it started.

One problem that I have had with all this analysis is that I'm not sure the pollsters asked the right questions. I haven't checked them, but it is different if you ask whether morality had anything to do with your decision than if you ask whether moral values were the sole reason for one's vote.

The reason is that the moral values could have very well have been the hook for Bush to get a hearing in the months prior to the election. That way he could sell his platform as a moral man. So some may then claim terrorism was the main reason for their vote, but it only got that way because they heard their pastor speaking glowingly about Bush's anti-terrorism efforts.

The other thing is the evangelistic culture. Christian fundamentalists believe it is their mission to spread the Gospel and they have learned to do it everywhere and at anytime. They preach what they believe, ardently. If you can sell Bush to them, they will sell it to others, unsolicited and free of charge.

I agree, not only is this block of voters money in the bank, it carried a hell of a lot of interest with it.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Open Letter to God,


You owe me, big time!

There are very few things you can do to make up for a Kerry loss.

But here's a start: Bills 22 Jets 17

Here is where you can make it up to me,Lord. This is non-negotiable.

-The Bills will make it into the playoffs (Nope, that doesn't get you off the hook)

-Buffalo Bills win Super Bowl



President Bush and the Culture of Life: Fallujah Edition

10,000 marines and army soldier have surrounded Fallujah for an all out assault to put an end to th enerve center of the Iraqi insurgency.

Fallujah is a city of 300,000 people. Women and children are being allowed to leave. Let's assume that's 200,000 people. No men under the age of 45 are being allowed to leave.

By the way, the US has been telegraphing this assault for weeks and in classic guerilla fashion, the insurgents have gradually filtered away to other parts of Iraq, reducing the numbers of insurgents in Fallujah.

It is agreed that there are 2,000 to 5,000 insurgents in the city.

So the bottomline is this. If we assume that there are 60-75,000 men under the age of 45 who are not allowed to leave and 5,000 of them are insurgents, what then happens to the other 55,000? You guessed it. They are going to be wiped out.

What option do these innocent men have? None. If they try to escape, they'll be captured or killed. If they stay, they'll be killed. The only option they have now is to fight and if they do,then their deaths will be justified. I'm really loving this culture of life style--what to us is the death of 55,000 muslim arabs? after all, they are nothing but terrorist dogs worthy of nothing but death.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Blue States and Terrorism and other interesting numbers

What is it with Red states and terrorism? Think about it, Indiani, Wyoming, Alabama, Mississippi, and the list goes on, are not in danger of being hit by terrorists. But all the states that have known and proven terrorist targets on their backs, NY,DC,VA, MD, CA, IL, WA, NJ are all blue. NV is a few thousand votes short of blue.

We in the blue states are the ones most at risk of a terrorist strike, for us it is not simply a scare tactic, it is real and we overwhlemingly voted for John Kerry. That says something, don't you think?

Another interesting number I noticed has to do with education level. Kerry won the post-graduate vote by 10 points or more. Bush won on the college grads and high school grads, but here's what's very fascinating-Kerry won the vote among those with no high school degree. So it doesn't follow that it was all about education.

BTW i saw this chart about red state, blue state average IQs. I had to laugh. Of course, blue states are all higher and red states bring up the rear. I don't think that is all surprising. It was the numbers that were surprising. Average IQ in Texas is 90? Come on! 90 is close or in Idiot range (Perhaps, GWB is single handedly responsible for that figure). I don't doubt the general idea, but the numbers are low. Besides there's all that stuff about different intelligences etc, for the record, George Bush is dumb regardless of what test or standard you use. He makes up for his lack of abilities by lying with conviction.

There's the story of two girls walking in the woods and come across a hungry bear. One girl does the math at lightning speed and calculates that they are doomed because they can't outrun the bear. As she turns to her friend, she sees her removing her shoes. "What are you doing?" smart friend asks. "I don't have to outrun the bear," less-smart friend says, "I just have to outrun you."

BTW, I believe that we need to end red state welfare. If they want to vote for GWB, then damn it, we are not going to keep supporting them.

Friday, November 05, 2004

As a latte drinking liberal, I decided two days ago, that perhaps I should have my first latte ever. Yuck! No one told me it was all basically milk! Disgusting. I do have to say, though, that I let it sit for hours because I couldn't bring myself to drink it. I did sip occasionally. But as it cooled down it actually was quite pleasant. But needless to say, no more lattes for me.

I informed a fellow Kerryite about my disdain for the latte and said I'll return to drinking Cafe Mochas. Well, "that's worse," she says. Cafe Mocha's are the pinnacle of elitism. The whole notion of chocolate in one's coffee is so European and refined and does push the latte, French speaking, refined liberal to the limit.

Further on the election, I've learned more about the five stages of grief in the past two days than in my whole life. The interesting thing about this election is that I know of no one, absolutely no one, who voted for Kerry, and wasn't devastated. Even non-political types were crushed. It speaks volumes about the direction of the country.

I have tried to diagnose where I am on the DABDA five stages of grief chart, but I am all over the map. There is just that measure of disbelief that people were that irresponsible with their vote, in my view. Everyone, I know, including myself, voted for Kerry because we were and are all affected by this administrations policies and would have been positively impacted by Kerry's proposals, so to see our hopes dashed is not simply, "we lost," it is more akin to dispair. Dispair maybe too harsh a word for everyone, but for so many that I know, the next four years are bleak: people are having kids and paying hundreds a month in insurance cost, Bush will do absolutely nothing for them. Seniors on fixed income are now at the mercy of the Pharmaceuticals who raise drug prices 15% or so a year: no reimportation relief, no ability for Medicare to negotiate bulk prices to bring down medication costs. These were tangible proposals that Kerry was going to act on in his first days.

On healthcare, Bush's proposals are tort reform, health savings accounts and small business group health initiatives. First of all, Bush does nothing to address the 40 million without insurance, so they remain screwed. Tort reform, the stopping of frivolous lawsuits, according to the Congressional Budget Office, only accounts for 1% of health care costs. So that does nothing for health care cost, but is bonanza for Insurance companies: guess whose stock is on the up and up. Doctors are legitimately getting squeezed and Kerry/Edwards had a good tort reform plan. The issue is not frivolous lawsuits, it is the insurance companies who are for-profit entities looking for excuses to raise rates whenever they can. Tort reform would not make them reduce premiums, it may give them less of an excuse to raise rates, but they'll find ways. That's how they make money. (A side note is the issue of hurricaines. When there are hurricaines the insurance companies drool because they have an excuse to raise rates. It is important to note that they do not NEED to raise rates due to payouts, etc, but the tragedies sure as heck give them cover.)

Health savings accounts are where people create the account and put money in it and then the money pays for their healthcare. The idea is that if people are personally responsible for their healthcare choices, then they would take better care of themselves and not waste money on useless and unnecessary tests. First off, the class of people who can afford HSA are the wealthier people, who generaly are healthier. The less wealthy or poorer you are, the less you can take care of your health. These HSAs, again, do nothing for the uninsured, period. They also take the healthiest people out of the risk pool, which means that premiums go up for everyone else! Interesting because Kerry had proposed the opposite. Kerry's proposal was that the Feds would take over catastrophic cases and take the $50,000 cases out of the risk pool, which would bring down premiums. There again, Bush is helping out the wealthy and Cheney says to the rest of us _____ (you know what Cheney says). The other thing is that I don't see how HSA cover costs. I know of some wealthy seniors who went through tough medical times and you would not believe just how quickly their savings, which were in the hundreds of thousands, dried up. So even HSA are not a panacea for those who can afford them. They will dry up.

As for the small business group health plans. Well, I own a small business and I can say "baloney" with some degree of certainty. Again, Bush is for the big guns. A 75 person firm with revenues of $4 million is considered a small business, go figure. Small Businesses like mine, with annual revenues ranging from $50,000 to $500,000, can't even afford to offer health insurance. Even when they do, the costs are crippling and even forming alliances would not bring down costs significantly. It may reduce the rate of growth of costs, but the burden would still be crippling. But that's even if a small business can afford to offer health insurance.

As you see, nothing Bush does helps the presently uninsured, or the smaller businesses who need the relief or the middle class who are facing rising healthcare costs quarterly. His proposals benefit the insurance companies, the pharmaceuticals, the million dollar revenue "small" businesses, wall street firms who would manage these HSAs, but not the people.

Bush has no comprehensive preventative measures in his plan to encourage a culture of preventative medicine. It's all FUBAR.

55 million of us, the largest number of people to ever vote against a president, who were hoping for real healthcare, can hear Dick Cheney and the culture of lifers speaking to us. What are they saying? You ask. Listen, they are saying . . .

"Go ____"

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Soul Searching in Liberal Blogsphere

I think there is way too much soul searching going on in the liberal blogsphere, you'd think that we had just been handed another Mondale or McGovern.
Looking at the numbers, these numbers aren't disemble-and-restructure-from-ground-up numbers, these are we're-right-there numbers.

In Virginia we're at 45% (Kerry did predictably well in Northern Virginia, but he got 47% in South East VA which is military territory)
In North Carolina we're at 45% (could be Edwards effect)
In Arkansas, we're at 46%
In Iowa, New Mexico, Nevada, and Ohio, we are within 3 points.

These are good building-on numbers. Remember, when Bush lost the popular vote, Rove didn't tear down Rome, he just simply asked, where can we get 4 million votes to put us over the top?

All we need to do is ask how to build our coalition.

When all is said and done, We simply need to ask whom we lost or who did not show up and why. We need to search for group with conviction that will be a steady perfomer.

I suggest that group is Catholics. Catholics were 27% of the electorate, compared with being only 20% of the population. Bush won the OH Catholic vote by 55-44 and the FL Catholic vote by 57-42. However, Kerry won the Catholic vote in IA, NM (63%), MN, MI, PA, WI and was only -1% in MO. The states in which Kerry won the Catholic vote are not that different from OH and even FL. The only difference, it seems, was the FL campaign did not take the Catholic thing head-on and neither did OH (I think). OH was more about guns and jobs.

It seems there was a strong Catholic radar in IA, WI, MI, MN as we specifically sought to counter the anti-Kerry Catholic campaign. But OH dropped off the Kerry Catholic radar.

In IA, NM, NV, and OH, we can build an effectve Catholic coalition that will consistently deliver for us. These are moderate Catholics who agree with Democrats on most things with the exception of Roe v Wade, which is an issue that can succesfully addressed. All the party needs to do really, is to soften its edges. It has a winning platform, the party just appears to people on the outside looking in, like a freak show in halloween.

I hope we don't go overboard with this soul searching. There is no need to revamp the party, we're right there on the cusp. We need to reach out to moderate and liberal Catholics and we can form a winning coalition.

As for where the party is going in the immediate future: the Dean people are the most vocal and are calling for Dean and an unabashed move to the left. They've always argued that going left will bring in more new people and offer a distinct choice. It doesn't work and never has. Kerry was a clear enough choice.

Here's my take on the future of the Democratic Party. There's going to be much talk about getting a candidate from the South or midwest, etc. The fact is that there isn't anyone who comes to mind who could step in and be ready for 2008. The 2008 potential candidates are Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, probably Biden, Bill Richardson and maybe Tom Vilsak of Iowa . . . Hillary would go nowhere, I do not think the party will embrace her. Vilsak would be an attractive candidate, but his lack of foreign policy would be his problem. Bill Richardson is very well suited and of course, there is John Edwards, who'd be out of the Senate. In this crowd I don't see who the next spark is.

What I envision is that after four years of Bush/Cheney and their extreme agenda, the nation will long for more common sense and a fresh start. I think time will work well for John Kerry, who'd still be in the Senate. As the years go by, I think people would reflect more on his proposals, his steadiness, his common sense, his solutions, and people would be more comfortable with him. I think there would be a ground swell to have Kerry run again. Why? Because people would feel like the know him better, everyone would have had time to evaluate his proposals, especially against the backdrop of the Bush Cheney policies. He wouldn't need to spend time introducing himself, rather, he can launch into the issues. I think after four more years, we would long for an articulate statemans, who desires to make us strong both at home and abroad, I think that he would fit the mold.

The other factor to consider is that Kerry bowed out of this contest gracefully, like Nixon did in 1960. He has left a good taste in people's mouths and has put the country's interests before his.

So basically, in my dreams, I am seeing Kerry/Edwards run again in 2008. Of course this is so premature it is not even funny. But it is a distinct possibility. Reagan ran in 1980 after a crushing loss to Ford in the primary. I'm sure in 1976, it felt like the end of the road, but life is funny sometimes. Nixon lost by hundreds of votes in an election filled with irregularities, only to come back eight years later and win the presidency. So a future run is not impossible.

As for the next four years, I have wondered what I can look forward too.

--Supreme Court nominess in the mould of radical Clarence Thomas types with histories of race issues
-Environment: more "clear skies," "logging galore," "drilling in ANWAR," no alternative fuel initiative, more oil drilling of our coasts, the continued relaxation of EPA standards, etc
-Economy and Taxes, more tax cuts for the wealthy, stagnating economy
-War of Terror, more Iraq, possible move to Syria or Iran, a possible draft
-Healthcare: group plans for small business, which do nothing about cost at all, health savings accounts-again, these benefit the wealthy at the expense of the poor, the current crazy Medicare plan, nothing to bring costs down, no drug re-importation, no plan for people not covered etc
-Education: more of NCLB, more mandates, more costs, less funding, more bizarre
-Foreign Policy: this is where it gets quite interesting, I think China and the EU are going to emerge in their own right as developing countries seek to avoid the US and realign with other growing powers in terms of trade relations and security issues. Our friends would be Britain, Australia, Poland, Israel, everyone else gets the stiff arm. The Palestinian road map is done, the UN is toast, Kim Jong Il gets more agitated, etc
-Military--possible draft, VA funding problems, 15-20% of Iraq vets with PTSD, more deaths, a bad to worse Iraqi situation, an unstable middle east
--trade: free trade pact galore with no labor standards and nothing to discourage outsourcing, which they believe is good for the economy
--Social security--privatization of accounts, with no current funds to fund the $2 trillion in transition costs=more deficits
--Deficits--I know of no plan on the president's desk at this point to address this
I'll stop there. As you see, I don't expect it to be a wonderful next four years.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Four more years?? God Almighty!!!

or is . . .


The Kerry campaign thinks so. They argue that between uncounted votes, provisional ballots and absentee ballots, there are about 400,000-500,000 uncounted votes. Ken Blackwell, OH Secretary of State, says the recount begins in 11 days.

That said, it is difficult to see how we pull this one off. It is possible but very unlikely.

This election will come down as one of the most interesting in history, in that a nation believes that it is on the wrong track and the President's approval is below 50% yet, it overwhelmingly re-elects him. We'll know more later, but it seems the country would rather the devil you know than that you don't.

Kerry may still very well win Ohio, when all the votes are counted (slight chance), but the more interesting question is the mood of the country. Even if Kerry wins, Bush has the popular vote and it speaks to what the country wants . . . George Bush. I can't think of any reason why, but that is it.

In addition to future posts that I had indicate earlier, I am going to post on where I see the Democratic Party going. Even if Kerry pulls off an upset, the present Democratic formula did not work to win the popular vote. I think it is more out of fear than mandate, but our agenda was not convincing enough. Already, many are saying we should have moved even more left and brought in new people, blah, blah, blah. Anyway, I have to think more about it.

I also wonder about my future interest in politics. I've always been a Democrat in my soul, but uninterested in the political proces. It was because i saw the opportunity to elect an exceptional man in Kerry that I got excited about this particular election. We'll see if with Kerry out of the picture, whether I'd remain interested in party activism.

Anyway, looks like Bush one. Very dissappointing and I think the world, with the exception of Israel, Australia and Poland, sees this as a sad day. But we'll all get over it. As Paul says, "In everything, give thanks."

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

As I suspect, there wasn't much of a wait in at our polling place. My area is Democratic, but more the conservative/moderate Democrat type. In fact, I think I read a news article not too long ago that there were discussion about taking evolution out of the curriculum. I ignored it, I just don't see that happening in Maryland. But tells you what we sometimes deal with down here.

Maryland is Kerry country, but it felt good to go out and vote. Yesterday was terrible--the waiting and all. I felt like that scene in Saving Private Ryan, just before the big nasty battle to save the bridge at the end--the eerie calm before the storm.

When we pulled up to the polling place, there was a KE guy handing out little flyers with all the Democratic names and faces and there was a guy for the Republican Senate challenger, Pipkin is his name, I believe. The Kerry guy seemed in good spirits and why not, almost everyone in the polling place had one of these cards. On the voter register with my name, I noted that the entire page was full and everyone had voted (9:30 am) and they were all Democrats.

Turnout is going to be huge everywhere, most especially OH and FL. Final polls out are looking good for Kerry especially in NH and IA. I'm looking for positive surprises in NM, CO and NV. I'm nervous about Michigan and WI, but feel pretty good about Florida and Ohio. If we win FL and OH, we win. I think we are in very good shape.

I can't wait to see the voting states and the internals. I am so curious about the catholic vote. Conventional Wisdom (CW) says that it mirrors nationwide vote, but somehow, I think it may swing more one way or the other, this year. It was already favoring Kerry and I don't see anything to mute that swing.

(I'll put my foot in my mouth if it is otherwise) Bush, at his Dallas, TX, rally, last nite, looked subdued. I think they are all bracing for very bad news. For instance, Kerry leads in early Fl voting by 16 points and 30% of the electorate has voted. This would mean that Bush would have to win the election day vote by almost 7 points which is highly unlikely. Especially since the Miami Herald has noted that Miami-Dade county, heavily Democratic, has added about 90,000 new Kerry supporters to the rolls. These are votes that Bush already has to make up elsewhere in Florida. Also the trend is that 2% of Democrats are voting for Bush, but 5% of Republicans are voting Kerry, and Kerry holds a substantial lead among Independents in Fl and nationwide. So ultimately, Kerry is looking in good shape in FL. The same holds true for Iowa, but IA is less important at this point, unlike OH and Fl split and are a wash.

I think the Bush team understands its situation. Even in the most skewed of polls, the Gallup and Fox polls, which vastly over sample Republicans, Bush is not doing well and is stuck at 46-48%, which are very bad numbers for an incumbent. Undecideds generally break for the challenger and incumbents rarely get a point or at most 2 points higher than their approval ratings.

The contrast is Kerry, who spent the night in Wisconsin and will be out and about in the battle ground states today. Kerry, knows that this election is his to lose and Bush may know that it is lost, which is why he wasted an evening at a rally in Dallas stomping for the Republican Sessions.

Then again, I may be eating crow tomorrow morning, but I am very optimistic. I just spoke with a lady today who said, "We NEED Mr Kerry, NOT WANT, but NEED." I say "Amen" to that.