Sunday, April 30, 2006

today I become a Titans fan


Well, folks, there it is. For the second time this year, Vince Young has made a fool of all the talking heads in sports and outdone the much-vaunted Matt Leinart:
With the third pick, the Titans had three outstanding quarterbacks to choose from. Matt Leinart had worked under Titans offensive coordinator Norm Chow at Southern California, and Jay Cutler of Vanderbilt was the sentimental pick locally. They later picked up USC running back LenDale White in the second round.

Reese said Young's upside was the deciding factor.

"People want to make him out to be a Michael Vick. He's not that. He's different," Reese said.

"This guy, he led the nation in college as a junior in passing efficiency. This guy is special. Now we have to get him special in the NFL, and that's why it's going to take a little bit of time. And we realize that. It's a big jump."

I particularly like the fact that, in a way, Young is the hometown hero-- after all, not so long ago the Titans were known as the Houston Oilers.

Again we see how useless and myopic the vast majority of professional sportscasters are. I didn't read a single one who put Young higher than no.7 (several had him going to Oakland... yuck!) and they were pretty much all in agreement that Leinart would be in the top 3. Some of the same ones are now snickering at the Texans for passing on Leinart and Bush (despite the fact that QB and RB are pretty much the only positions they don't need) so that they could pick up a DE and, ya know, maybe try to fix the worst defense in the NFL.

One moron (whose mock draft article is, predictably, already taken down from Yahoo! sports-- you should've seen the reshuffling on their sports page after the Rose Bowl!) actually said that the Titans would never take Young because-- get this-- their offense would have to be totally redesigned. 'Cuz, ya know, if there was any quarterback in the NFL one could compare Vince Young to, it certainly wouldn't be Steve McNair .

There's a reason these guys aren't coaches or scouts, and it ain't because the money's better in professional wankery.

Friday, April 28, 2006

is there anything they haven't done?

And it all comes full circle:
Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal reported that the FBI is “investigating whether two contractors implicated in the bribery of former Rep. Randall ‘Duke’ Cunningham supplied him with prostitutes and free use of a limousine and hotel suites.” The Journal also said the investigators are exploring “whether any other members of Congress” are involved.

Last night on MSNBC’s Scarborough Country, Dean Calbreath of the San Diego Union Tribune – which recently won a Pulitzer Prize for its coverage of the Cunningham case – said that “as many as a half a dozen” members of Congress could ultimately be implicated in the prostitution scandal.

When Democrats get into scandals, it's about sex. When Republicans get into scandals, it's about money. And power. And, apparently, also sex (but not blowjobs).

But hey, at least it's never about murder:
Ed Rogers, GOP lobbyist on Hardball: Sure. Look, this is going to come out. Nobody is going to keep it a secret. Jack Abramoff is so radioactive—I've got Jack Abramoff fatigue already. I mean, good grief, he didn't kill anybody. Maybe that one guy in Florida.

There you have it, folks: Republican "valyews." Aren't you glad we've put those nasty Clinton blowjob days behind us?

the impotence of negativity

From AP:
A Senate inquiry into the government's Hurricane Katrina failures ripped the Bush administration anew Thursday and urged the scrapping of the nation's disaster response agency. But with a new hurricane season just weeks away, senators conceded that few if any of their proposals could become reality in time.
...
The senators concluded that only by abolishing the Federal Emergency Management Agency — which Sen. Susan Collins (news, bio, voting record), R-Maine, called a "bumbling bureaucracy" — and replacing it with a stronger authority could the government best respond to future catastrophes.

Digby has an interesting take on this, specifically that such governmental failure is, in fact, the Republican objective, because it plays into the Reaganite "government is the problem" perspective. When bureaucratic structures fail, Republicans can stand over the ashes and rubble and proclaim that they were right: government is utterly unable to do anything effectively. Nevermind that in some of these cases (FEMA being one such case), these apparatus worked just fine until the Republicans came into power and sapped their funding, packed their leadership with cronies and sycophants, shoved them deep into the bowels of larger and clumsier bureaucracies, etc.

Though it is true that FEMA and other organizations were corrupted and stultified by Republican mismanagement, I don't know if I'm quite willing to jump off Digby's bridge and say that Republicans actually intended for FEMA to fail (though I do think you could say that about John Bolton's torpedoing of UN reform). Instead, it seems to me merely to be the natural consequence of hiring people to do a job who fundamentally believe that the job can't be done.

Let me explain. Supposedly there is a tactic used in Buddhism to figure out the answer to a problem. They try instead to remember it, because to admit that there may not be an answer is to succumb to the crushing, self-defeating power of despair. In the West, we call it "the power of positive thinking," or "where there's a will, there's a way." People have an uncanny, almost preternatural ability to prove themselves right, so if they engage upon a task that they honestly believe they cannot accomplish, odds are, they won't.

Reaganite Republicans do not believe that the government is capable of working effectively. For them to admit that it can, and often does (even including some of their biggest bogeymen, like Social Security and Medicare), would undermine their entire political philosophy. Is it any surprise, then, that they have been a failure at governing, that nearly everything they've touched in domestic policy, from Medicare Plan D to FEMA and Homeland Security to FDA administration to the budget has been a disaster?

History utterly refutes Collins and Lieberman's conclusions that FEMA is hopelessly broken and doesn't work: it was a smashing success and the crown jewel of American disaster relief agencies less than a decade ago. It's just never worked effectively under Republicans.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

the Christian Right is neither

From the Washington Post (via Digby):
Amid all the partisan rancor of congressional politics, the softball league has for 37 years been a rare case of bipartisan civility, an opportunity for Democratic and Republican aides to sneak out of work a bit early and take the field in the name of the lawmaker, committee or federal agency they work for.

This year, the league will be missing something: a lot of the Republicans.

During the off-season, a group of Republican teams seceded from the league after accusing its Democratic commissioner, Gary Caruso, of running a socialist year-end playoff system that gives below-average teams an unfair chance to win the championship.

The league "is all about Softball Welfare -- aiding the weak by punishing the strong," the pitcher of one Republican team told Mr. Caruso in an email. "The commissioner has a long-standing policy of punishing success and rewarding failure. He's a Democrat. Waddya' expect?" read another email, from Gary Mahmoud, the coach of BoehnerLand, a team from the office of Republican Majority Leader John Boehner.

Digby notes that this softball game is, umm, relaxed: no balls or strikes so people can wait for their choice pitch to swing. He then opines:
Can someone tell me why these awesome GOP athletes aren't in Iraq instead of measuring their dicks in a slow-pitch softball league that a junior high girls team could easily dominate? Could it be because they are a bunch of pathetic, bedwetting chickenshits? I thought so.

A worthy question, indeed.

I had a bit of a different reaction, though. The sentiment that these future burglars and lobbyists emote has interesting, and ironic, parallels, especially for being from the "Christian valyews" party. I feel that I have license to consider their statements paradigmatic, as they echo the statements of many "conservatarians" I have known, and are emblematic of part of the core of the conservative ideal. The perspective of these kids is echoed by congressional leaders, Republican presidents, and the heads of many churches in this country.

Compare the above statement about the "weak" and "strong" to this: "Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you at the foundation of the world, for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, ... Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me." Not too similar at all, eh? That was Matthew 25:35-40, one of the foundational passages in Christian theology, considered by many the hard core of Christian ethics.

How about this: This figure describes his faith as "a brutal religion of elitism and social Darwinism that seeks to re-establish the reign of the able over the idiotic, of swift justice over injustice, and for a wholesale rejection of egalitarianism as a myth that has crippled the advancement of the human species for the last two thousand years." Now there's a matching sentiment!

The name of the figure who gave the last quote? Peter Gilmore.
His occupation? High Priest of the Church of Satan.

passing the savings on...to the oil companies


From AP:
Crude oil and gasoline futures fell Tuesday after President Bush gave the Environmental Protection Agency the authority to relax regional clean-fuel standards to attract more imports of gasoline to the United States and to make it easier for supplies to be moved from one state to another.

I'm sorry, are we supposed to be buying the argument that gas prices are high because petroleum companies spend so much on environmental safeguards? Seriously, in the era of the "Clear Skies Initiative" and record profits for oil companies, we're supposed to believe that consumers are getting screwed because ExxonMobil is hard up for cash?

Maybe they could reallocate some of Exxon CEO Lee Raymond's $49 million annual compensation.

Leaks


Here is a good post by Larry Johnson on the kind of hypocrisy coming from the Bush Administration and their faux-patriot toadies. Says Johnson:
There is a fundamental moral and ethical difference between someone who leaks information in order to serve the public good and someone, like George Bush, who authorizes leaks only for the purpose of saving his sorry political ass.

Couldn't have put it better myself. The cases he's referring to are the leaking of the identity of Valerie Plame, a covert CIA operative working on, of all things, Iranian WMD counter-proliferation (as in, her job was to stop Iran from getting nukes) by administration officials Karl Rove and Scooter Libby, and the alleged leaking by Mary McCarthy of the fact that the CIA is torturing detainees in secret ex-Soviet gulags in Europe.

In the former case, the Administration intentionally leaked information to the press as a shot across the bow of a man who dared to debunk the false "Saddam is seeking uranium from Niger" story that W used to scare us into Iraq. In the latter case, the administration is doggedly trying to punish others for whistleblowing on the truly wicked policies Rumsfeld put in place.

There is no moral equivalence between intimidation and whistleblowing. Anyone who makes such a claim is lying to you.

The only standard being applied here is what is good for W. What is good for W should be done, what is bad for W should be punished. That is not ethics, or morality, or "family values" (unless by "family" in the same sense as the Mafia), or responsible policy-making, or smart military policy.

It is self-preservation at any cost. Even if that cost is the rule of law. The mantra of the Bush Administration.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

re: Jenny's post

Jenny made some good points in her comment on the "answers to Matt's q" post that I suggest you check out. I want to take a moment to continue those streams.

I can't find the link, but someone a lot smarter than myself said recently (paraphrasing) that it's a sad fact of this country that people whose ancestors have lived in California since it was part of the Spanish Empire get treated like "immigrants" by people who are the descendents of Okies. I imagine that has mixed effects on people: some feel a connectedness with illegals and want to help them, others feel like they're suffering for someone else's actions and resent them for it.

Even that notwithstanding, though, Jenny's 100% correct that it's stupid to assume that Hispanics represent some singular voting block in the way that African Americans or Christian conservatives do, because there's not as much holding that group together. Catholicism in America is pretty evenly divided along political lines, and there's really no reason to suggest that non-immigrant Hispanics (i.e. those who have assimilated into "mainstream" American culture) would necessarily share any political affinity with immigrants. It's sorta like saying that everyone of Polish or German ancestry in the US should have the same political proclivities as Polish or German immigrants or even immigrants in the general sense.

That being said, it does appear that Hispanic immigrants (and judging from pictures of various protests, immigrants generally) share an affinity with, or at least sympathy for, illegals. As Jenny mentioned, the protests were not comprised solely of illegals, and in all likelihood were not even majority illegals. This is a potentially huge voting block (immigrants, that is) that gets made into a whipping boy by nativist conservatives every time some foreign power scares the bejesus out of them (for a little light reading on this point, just google "Operation Wetback" to see a particularly disgusting former manifestation of what we're seeing now).

It's a subtle strain of racism that conflates "Hispanics" and "immigrants," and that racism appears both in Congressman Hayworth's defense of the Arizona proposition, and in my own inability to immediately recognize it for what it was.

This is a conversation, and an admission, that needs to be made on a national level if we are ever to deal honestly and seriously about the immigration issue.

lobbing grenades in the propaganda wars

Just in case anyone was confused by the latest Republican propaganda, the wicked House bill that Latinos are reacting to is a Republican bill, not a Democratic one. Republican Rep. James Sensenbrenner introduced the bill making illegal immigration and aiding/abetting a felony, and then an amendment was introduced to soften it to a misdemeanor.

So the story goes, the Republicans added the amendment because they didn't want to give illegals the right to an attorney and a jury trial that would be afforded them if accused of a felony. Judging from the recent media onslaught, however, it looks like there was more to this.

The amendment was a trap. It was sorta like asking the Democrats, "Yes or no, have you stopped beating your wife?" If the Dems voted for it, the Republicans would say they were for criminalizing illegal immigration and selling out their principles; if they voted against, they were for felonizing illegal immigration.

The Democrats did the smart thing; they knocked down the amendment, because the Sensenbrenner bill in its original, undiluted state was more likely to scare lawmakers away and fail to pass the House, and extremely unlikely to survive the Senate.

Thus, the Republican tripe on the airwaves right now is a pathetic and mendacious attempt to foist their own scapegoating and hatemongering onto the Democrats who actually protected illegal immigrants and their families.

Friday, April 14, 2006

answer to Matt's q

Matt asked a question about a republican pol on Press the Meat last week who said something about a majority of Hispanics supporting the House approach to immigration.

So I did some digging, and here's what I found:

Last weekend Rep. JD Hayworth (R-AZ) was on the show, and he said:
As I write in my book, let’s take a look back to 2004. Proposition 200 on the ballot in Arizona, to deprive illegals of social benefits, and it passed overwhelmingly. And as the Arizona Daily Star reported, it passed with a majority of Hispanic votes as well. The fact is, Hispanics voted in greater numbers for Proposition 200 than they did for President Bush, who received 43 percent of the Hispanic vote in Arizona.

So it looks like it was actually an Arizona state bill, not the federal one, that he was talking about. Now, the next question from here is "what did the proposition say?"
From Wikipedia:
Proposition 200, an Arizona state referendum passed in November 2004 with 56% of the vote, requires individuals to produce proof of citizenship before they may register to vote or apply for public benefits in Arizona. The proposition also makes it a misdemeanor for public officials to fail to report persons unable to produce documentation of citizenship who apply for these benefits, and allows citizens who believe that public officials have given undocumented persons benefits to sue for remedies.

So the prop was harsh and racist in my opinion, but nowhere near making crossing the border illegally or helping anyone who did a felony, like the House bill. There's also something to be said for the fact that 43% of Latinos in AZ voted for W in 2004, so it sounds like AZ Latinos are pretty conservative, anyway. There are a ton of people, Hispanic and otherwise, who would support denying welfare to illegals but not shoving them through the highly expensive judicial system or throwing them in prison.

I was bothered by something when I read this, though, namely that Hayworth had said the bill passed "overwhelmingly," but here it says it garnered 56% of the vote, which is admittedly strong, but "overwhelmingly?" Not so much. So I decided to check and see just how many Latinos voted for it.

Apparently Rep. Hayworth didn't get his degree in math, unless there's a new school that says 47% is a majority.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Sargent on immigration

The beauty of cartoons is that they can distill an entire argument into a single, easily comprehensible and recognizable idea. Like this one, the brutally simple yet cogent rebuttal to Republican mean-spiritedness on immigration reform:

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Congressman Hostettler: fascist prick

From the Indianapolis Star:
The Indiana Republican who heads a House immigration panel criticized the Bush administration Tuesday for not cracking down on illegal immigrants at Monday's immigration rallies.


"It was stunning to realize that so many lawbreakers concentrated in one area were given a free pass by federal law enforcement," said Rep. John Hostettler, chairman of the immigration and border security panel on the House Judiciary Committee. "The administration demonstrated once again that it would continue not to take seriously its constitutional obligation to 'take care that the laws be faithfully executed' when it comes to the enforcement of our immigration laws.

Millions of Latinos and immigrants demonstrate peacefully against a wicked, unjust bill that would separate families and cripple the economy, and Hostettler is ticked because the feds didn't go into the protests and deport everyone without papers.

How incredibly American that would've looked!

Hey residents of IN-08: had enough of this jackass' antics? There's a solution to your problem: his name is Brad Ellsworth.

And by the way, a graf for all you other resident Hoosiers:
Spokesmen for Reps. Dan Burton, Mike Pence, Chris Chocola and Mike Sodrel said they continue to support the House approach.

That would be the "House approach" that makes being a illegal immigrant, or providing any aid whatsoever to an illegal immigrant, a felony. Not a misdemeanor, a felony. As in prison time, revoking your right to vote felony.

Support Joe Donnelly, kick the bums out.

Atrios is right: thank God the Republicans are so mind-bogglingly foolish as to alienate a group that is the largest and fastest growing minority in the country, as well as one that has been trending red for some time.

Iran

Josh Marshall joins a growing chorus shrieking about possible nuclear war with Iran. Josh, shockingly for such a perceptive dude, was played for a fool on Iraq (as in he was for it at one time, before he figured out that W would fuck up a bowl of cereal if there wasn't a picture of the finished product on the box), so maybe he's just overcompensating now.

God, I hope so.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

election in San Diego

Something to watch tomorrow: there's an election today in the newly convicted Republican scumbag Duke Cunningham's old district, CA-50 (which I believe covers San Diego). This solidly red district is having a special election to see who will take his place, and a Democrat, Francine Busby, holds a commanding lead. Chris Bowers at MyDD has a nice rundown of the race here. Whoever wins between the Democrats (so, Busby) and the 18 or so Republican contenders will face off in a run-off later this year. However, if Busby gets 50% +1 vote, she wins outright, and becomes the district's new congresswoman.

In the latest poll, Busby is clocking 47%.

This race is worth watching b/c of its import for the November midterms. This race, though certainly not a bellwether, is sort of a political weathervane: if Busby takes home 47% in a district where only 30% of registered voters identify themselves as Democrats, it's pretty dire news for the Republicans heading into November. If she pulls off the win, expect to see serious political ramifications: swarms of turncoat conservatives and Republicans trying to wash their hands of the current government before it drags their careers down with it, flurries of media stories smearing the Democrats, Bush pulling a fair bit of political buckshot out of his rear, and maybe even some sudden and serious (but, of course, transient) attempts at actual governing.

You want more evidence that change may be at hand? How about this, from the Washington Post:
A majority of registered voters, 55 percent, say they plan to vote for the Democratic candidate in their House district, while 40 percent support the Republican candidate. That is the largest share of the electorate favoring Democrats in Post-ABC polls since the mid-1980s.

This grim news for the GOP is offset somewhat by the finding that 59 percent of voters still say they approve of their own representative. But even these numbers are weaker than in recent off-year election cycles and identical to support of congressional incumbents in June 1994 -- five months before Democrats lost control of Congress to Republicans.

People tend to be skeptical of the generic poll question, but notice, this doesn't ask who the respondents like more, or who they'll vote for generally, but who they'll vote for in their own congressional race. And I remind you, in November of '94 the Republicans gained 52 seats, while the Democrats in '06 only need 17 (16 if Busby wins).

Seriously, do you really think a political bloodhound like the Newt would jump ship if something wasn't up?

just one more...


Sorry, just had to gloat one more time.

It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood,
a beautiful day in the neighborhood...

Monday, April 10, 2006

"a Howdy-Doody looking Nimrod"

There is a great article by Amy Sullivan in the Washington Monthly challenging the traditional media narrative of "GOP strong, Democrats weak." She writes:
One clear indication that things had changed [after the 2004 elections] came in the fall of 2005 when Republicans went after Jack Murtha. Two years earlier, Democrats had stood silently by while the GOP viciously attacked Daschle, comparing him to Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden. But when newly-elected Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-Ohio) called Murtha a coward during a House budget debate, Democrats shouted her down and booed. Schmidt was forced to return and ask her remarks be stricken from the record, the parliamentary equivalent of eating her words. Later in the debate, when Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) taunted conservative Democrats as “lapdogs,” Democratic Rep. Marion Berry (D-Ark.) shot back, calling him a “Howdy-Doody looking nimrod.” As the House chair tried to gavel down the fracas that followed, shouting, “The House is out of order,” California Democrat Rep. George Miller could be heard yelling back, “You're out of order!”

Perhaps figuring they have little left to lose, Democrats have begun turning up the heat in countless small ways. When in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, Bush quietly suspended the Davis-Bacon Act in order to allow federal contractors to avoid paying the prevailing wage to workers involved in clean-up efforts, Miller led Democrats in handing the president a rare defeat. Appalled that “the President has exploited a national tragedy to cut workers' wages,” Miller unearthed a little-used provision of a 1976 law that allows Congress to countermand the president's authority to suspend laws after a national emergency. While it is usually nearly impossible for Democrats to get bills through the all-powerful House Rules Committee, Miller's maneuver would have bypassed that step and guaranteed an automatic vote by the full House. Bush, faced with a vote he was sure to lose, reversed his earlier action and reinstated Davis-Bacon.
...
So it is that Democrats can be “hopelessly divided” while voting together 88 percent of the time, according to Congressional Quarterly; just one percentage point lower than the vaunted lock-step Republican caucus. They can be “pathetically ineffective” while dealing a humiliating defeat to the president's biggest domestic policy effort. They can be deemed “weak” and “timid” while setting the terms of the debate for pulling troops out of Iraq.

It seems the only way this particular narrative is going to change is with a Democratic victory in November. “They'll have to pay attention to us if we win,” Slaughter told me. Taking back either house of Congress while battling the idea that they're a weak, ineffective party with no ideas won't be easy for Democrats. But stranger things have happened. Just ask Newt Gingrich.

There is also a shout-out to Josh Marshall, who used to write for the Monthly, and now runs TPM. That's right, folks, a news magazine article actually blew apart the traditional narrative of beltway journalistic cocktail-weenie addicts while, get this, citing a non-rightwing blogger in a good way.

Something strange is happening in Mediatown, USA.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

The Gospel of Judas


Unveiled this week at the annual meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature in Philadelphia was a papyrus fragment of the lost Gospel of Judas. There's been a lot of hooplah over the discovery, and even more discussion over its "implications" for Christianity. I want to take a second to add a little perspective on this.

The current narrative being profferred by way too many people is that this document lays bare facts long hidden by the insidious and secretive Catholic Church, and that we will come closer to learning "the Truth" about Jesus and the events of the Gospels.

This is bullshit, pure and simple.

For a century and more, we've been discovering works that had been lost since the Middle Ages and before, through the Dead Sea Scrolls, the treasury of texts found in Nag Hammadi, Egypt, and other places. We know of a plethora of "gospels" that do not appear in the canon, attributed to Peter and Mary and Thomas and all sorts of people. There was perhaps in some sense an effort by the churches (there was no monolithic "Catholic Church" until quite late in Antiquity) to consign this stuff to oblivion, but the reason these works got singled out in the first place is that people didn't put as much stock in them as the stuff that's now in the canon. They didn't weed out the works that were actually being used and taught in most of the churches. If the early Christians had found the Gospel of Judas to be particularly compelling, then it wouldn't have gotten tossed.

So the question now is, what is it? What's in it, and does it matter?

A little background: in the earliest centuries of Christianity there were a number of interpretations of the "meaning" of Christ's message. Eventually the interpretation we know today became dominant and aggressively assimilated the others, the "heresies" if you will.

Among these heresies was a belief system known as Gnosticism. The beliefs of Gnosticism are tough to pin down, as even that term is an umbrella encompassing a whole panoply of ideas, but it tends to include notions of having a secret knowledge of the truth, hidden from others. It often includes the belief that salvation lies not in deeds, or purity, or even faith, but in having this knowledge of the divine, given willy-nilly to some but not most for no particular reason. Sometimes it purports a dichotomy between matter, which is evil, and spirit or knowledge, which is good; the startling conclusion it draws is that the God of the Old Testament is then evil, because he made the world, an evil thing made entirely of matter. Jesus came as a savior from a higher God to break the tyrannical rule of the evil, spiteful Old Testament God, and although he preached to disciples and masses, he saved his true knowledge for one disciple alone (which one that is depends upon the attribution of the work: it's Thomas in the Gospel of Thomas, James in the Protoevangelion of James, etc.).

I know that, as an aspiring early Christian historian, I'm not supposed to say this, but I think it's obvious enough: most of this Gnostic stuff is wacko. Color me ideologically Darwinist, but I'd bet dollars to donuts that most early Christians thought that, too, and that's why Gnosticism disappeared long before many other heresies.

It sounds like the Gospel of Judas is another one of these Gnostic writings, though perhaps of a strain of Gnosticism closer to orthodoxy (as I said, Gnosticism, like orthodoxy, comes in many forms). It's Coptic (not important in itself, but a lot of Gnostic stuff came to us in Coptic form), and it involves Judas being given "real" knowledge that Jesus withholds from everyone else. The article I linked to above also seems to think it's Gnostic.

If this thing ends up being anything more than a blip on the radar, I think it's contribution to popular theology will be that, from the sound of it, it begs the question, "If God knows everything and everything happens according to God's divine plan, and Jesus is God, then Jesus must have intended the Crucifixion, and thus Judas' betrayal. If that's true, then what hand did Jesus have in Judas turning him over?"

It will be up to us, then, to decide if it matters, and what it means for us.

Friday, April 07, 2006

upcoming

Some pretty excited news here: it looks like Amber's going to be doing the job I did last summer-- teaching reading classes. It'll be a great experience for her, the chance to improve her own skills while giving kids a leg up on school and fostering a lifelong love of reading while making pretty damn good money. Plus, it will shatter her fear of standing in front of a classroom, which in my opinion is priceless.

Also upcoming is a post from me on this whole Gospel of Judas business. I suppose I should dust off the ol' Early Christian Studies hat and share a couple of my thoughts on the matter, but I want to take some time to do it, and I can't do that at work.

In the meantime, I'd like to draw everyone's attention to this post from a blog in Sugarland, TX that got pictures and video of some of Tom Delay's thugs intimidating people and beating on an older woman during a Nick Lampson rally (Lampson is the Democratic contender in that race, and the frontrunner). The worst part of it is that they have proof that this harassment was organized by Delay's campaign manager. And this is just a single day after Bars and Stripes Delay had the audacity to get all sanctimonious about Cynthia McKinney's misbehavior in the Capitol.

What a snake.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Libby trial reaches the oval office

Oops, looks like Libby decided getting out of the clink trumps keeping W's skeletons in the closet. Via Josh Marshall:
A former White House aide under indictment for obstructing a leak probe, I. Lewis Libby, testified to a grand jury that he gave information from a closely-guarded "National Intelligence Estimate" on Iraq to a New York Times reporter in 2003 with the specific permission of President Bush, according to a new court filing from the special prosecutor in the case.

The court papers from the prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald, do not suggest that Mr. Bush violated any law or rule. However, the new disclosure could be awkward for the president because it places him, for the first time, directly in a chain of events that led to a meeting where prosecutors contend the identity of a CIA employee, Valerie Plame, was provided to a reporter.

I don't think the sheistiness or the hypocrisy or the implications that W had a hand in the Valerie Plame matter need to be pointed out. (Remember, Plame was the covert CIA operative working on counter-proliferation of WMDs who was outed by Libby as a way of shutting up/visiting revenge upon her husband, Ambassador Joe Wilson, who spoiled W's "Iraq is seeking uranium from Niger" line in the State of the Union address, essentially undermining W's case for war against Saddam.)

Is anyone really still convinced that W has any claim whatsoever to the slightest hint of honesty?

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

BC

What's up with today's BC comic? Am I missing something here, because I thought BC tried to be, ya know, funny, and not so serious. Am I not getting the joke?

new signs from Homeland Security

My understanding is that the signs are real, the commentary is not. The funniest thing about the signs, though, is their ambiguity: can you imagine someone in the middle of a terrorist attack stopping to figure out what the hell some of these mean?

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Merry Christmas, America!!!

From Reuters:
Republican U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay of Texas, one of the most powerful members of Congress, is now ready to call it quits in the face of mounting legal problems and a tough reelection campaign.

Twelve years after helping Republicans win control of the House of Representatives, the former majority leader, long called "The Hammer" for his hardball political tactics, intends on Tuesday to announce he is ending his bid for a 12th term and will leave Congress as early as next month, party aides said.

DeLay's decision highlights the problems faced by President George W. Bush's fellow Republicans in the scandal-rocked Congress.

"Tom DeLay's announcement is just the beginning of the reckoning of the Republican culture of corruption that has gripped Washington for too long," Democratic Party spokeswoman Karen Finney said.
...
"The fear of the party losing the seat was a driving force in his decision," another aide said.

I would be positively giddy right now, if it weren't for all the work and time it's gonna take to undo all the damage this jackass has done to our national reputation, character, and discourse. If there is any "justice" in the "justice system," the founder of the infamous K-Street Project will have some serious hard time to do to repay society.

Merry Christmas, America!!!

From Reuters:
Republican U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay of Texas, one of the most powerful members of Congress, is now ready to call it quits in the face of mounting legal problems and a tough reelection campaign.

Twelve years after helping Republicans win control of the House of Representatives, the former majority leader, long called "The Hammer" for his hardball political tactics, intends on Tuesday to announce he is ending his bid for a 12th term and will leave Congress as early as next month, party aides said.

DeLay's decision highlights the problems faced by President George W. Bush's fellow Republicans in the scandal-rocked Congress.

"Tom DeLay's announcement is just the beginning of the reckoning of the Republican culture of corruption that has gripped Washington for too long," Democratic Party spokeswoman Karen Finney said.
...
"The fear of the party losing the seat was a driving force in his decision," another aide said.

I would be positively giddy right now, if it weren't for all the work and time it's gonna take to undo all the damage this jackass has done to our national reputation, character, and discourse. If there is any "justice" in the "justice system," the founder of the infamous K-Street Project will have some serious hard time to do to repay society.

Monday, April 03, 2006

academic McCarthyism

Here is an important story from the Guardian, in the UK, on a subject no one in our media wants to talk about for fear of the dreaded accusation of "liberal bias":
Few would argue there are direct parallels between the current assaults on liberals in academe and McCarthyism. Unlike the McCarthy era, most threats to academic freedom - real or perceived - do not, yet, involve the state. Nor are they buttressed by widespread popular support, as anticommunism was during the 50s. But in other ways, argues Ellen Schrecker, author of Many Are the Crimes - McCarthyism in America, comparisons are apt.

"In some respects it's more dangerous," she says. "McCarthyism dealt mainly with off-campus political activities. Now they focus on what is going on in the classroom. It's very dangerous because it's reaching into the core academic functions of the university, particularly in Middle-Eastern studies."

Either way, a growing number of apparently isolated incidents suggests a mood which is, if nothing else, determined, relentless and aimed openly at progressives in academe.

Earlier this year, Fox news commentator Sean Hannity urged students to record "leftwing propaganda" by professors so he could broadcast it on his show. On the web there is Campus Watch, "monitoring Middle East studies on campus"; Edwatch, "Education for a free nation"; and Parents Against Bad Books in School.

In mid January, the Bruin Alumni association offered students $100 to tape leftwing professors at the University of California Los Angeles. The association effectively had one dedicated member, 24-year-old Republican Andrew Jones. It also had one dedicated aim: "Exposing UCLA's most radical professors" who "[proselytise] their extreme views in the classroom".

I think the chilling effect these kinds of actions have on academic freedom should be readily apparent. It should be equally obvious that the cogency of a certain group's arguments must be weak when they have to intimidate the most astute among us into keeping quiet.

The article discusses many different fronts in this all-out war on progressive professors, some of which are pretty scary, as well as legislative battles over the cynically Orwellian "Academic Bill of Rights" (it's one of those "Clear Skies Initiative" type of names) which calls for things like requiring universities to hire quotas of conservative professors. I guess affirmative action is ok as long as the beneficiaries are conservatives. Seriously, though, the whole point of academic objectivity is lost when you start hiring based on political allegiance, especially when you're hiring people for their politics to counter people hired for their professional credentials.

Channeling Atrios, you don't balance professors with conservatives.

irony (cont.)

And while we're on the subject, I submit to you that, contrary to the opinion of Alanis Morissette, "a black fly in your chardonnay" and "a traffic jam when you're already late" and all the things in that song are not, in fact, ironic. They're just bad luck.

However, a musician writing a song called "Ironic" and laying out a series of events, all of which are implied as being ironic but none of which are actually ironic, is, in fact, ironic.

oh, the irony!

A couple of points about this paragraph from the New Republic's Peter Beinart:
". . . Prominent Republicans don't talk much about Clinton's impeachment today; it doesn't quite square with their more-in-sorrow-than-in-anger fretting about Bush hatred. But I don't know of a single major Republican politician or conservative pundit who has admitted the obvious: that impeaching Clinton was a farce and a disgrace, the likes of which we should pray never to see again. The Republican strategy on Feingold's censure effort is to keep calling it absurd without engaging it on the merits. But, on the merits, Feingold's case is much stronger. As former Reagan-era Deputy Attorney General Bruce Fein has put it, Bush's actions are "more dangerous than Clinton's lying under oath, because it [Bush's claim of nearly unlimited executive authority] jeopardizes our democratic dispensation and civil liberties for the ages." If Republicans want to keep suggesting that censure (let alone impeachment) is a singularly extreme act to be taken only when our constitutional system is in peril, then they need to apologize for what happened in 1999. I'm not holding my breath."

Possibly the biggest irony of the Bush Administration, and certainly its greatest contribution, has been that it rehabilitated the presidency of Bill Clinton. Despite his general success and the respectable amount of good that he did, Clinton left office loathed by half the country, the poster boy for moral turpitude and the butt of late night talk show jokes for aeons to come. Meanwhile, every time Bush screwed something up at first, every Republican hack would immediately say, "But what about when Clinton..."

Unfortunately for them, that trick lost its potency when it became clear to everyone (except the DC establishment and their media whores, apparently) that Bush was clearly a less politically capable, mentally agile, and emotionally mature president than Slick Willy. Then all of a sudden, a funny thing happened: wide swathes of the electorate starting looking affectionately back at the days of the late '90's and a president that was indisputably intelligent, well-spoken, and responsible with the levers of military power. And here's the kicker: looking back at someone they could trust.

So here we are, 6 years later, and many people have long ago accepted as fact what Beinart and his establishment buddies are just now figuring out: that Clinton's impeachment was not, in fact, about values or role-models or even the law, and furthermore, that the willingness to misuse of such a powerful congressional weapon has been detrimental to the political process and discourse in this country.

If things play out the way they're looking now, Bush may manage to do what Clinton could not: lay the deathknell to the Republiccan juggernaut.