Saturday, April 30, 2005


Bush is such a lovable kind of guy... He loved his WAR in Iraq, he was passionate about finding nonexistent WMD's, he was so in ecstasy over his tax cuts for the RICH and now he is absolutely head-over heals, gaga about his desire to change OUR (it certainly isn't his) Social Security... My goodness Bush is just loving (screwing) us to death!

(Please click here to watch an unbelievable flash movie on Bush's War)

On Thursday night, during his Press Conference, President Bush gave us all the Bush Poke, Pound, Punch, Rap, Slam, Slug, Smack, Sock, Thump, Thwack, Uppercut, Whack and Wallop right in the middle of our collective MUGS! OUCH!

With his second grade vocabulary he Stammered and Stuttered, Crackled and Barked, Spit and Sputtered, Yipped and Yapped and tried to make us all buy into his GREAT NEW VISION to change THE GREAT WORLD WE LIVE IN, TO A BETTER GREAT NEW WORLD minus any social programs! Because he left little doubt in any THINKING person's mind that, a little bit of
whittling here and there and he will rid our nation of those pesky little pain in the ass social programs that the less fortunate amongst us (i.e. middle class
of today) have come to rely on. But first he has to change one of the programs into a welfare program to accomplish this... SO BYE BYE SOCIAL SECURITY AND BYE BYE ANY HOPES OF RETIREMENT FOR THOSE WHO WORK THE HARDEST FOR THE LEAST COMPENSATION!

I was so sickened by his pathetic insincerity, the next morning, I immediately
tuned into the one TRUTH channel on my 300 channel satellite TV to get a glimmer of reliable NEWS... DEMOCRACY NOW came to my rescue.

Amy Goodman had Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA) on (via telephone) and this man shed so much light on the Bush plan that I choked up a bit. I had to wait for today to get a transcript and I am sharing it with you below. Please read Mr. Moran's words carefully, Representative Moran is telling us all, exactly what we are getting in the future with this Bush/Neocon administration, THE SHIT OF THE BULL, doubt in MY mind. Thinking Blue



Friday, April 29th, 2005
Bush Social Security Plan Cuts Future Benefits

During a nationally-televised press conference last night, President Bush proposed for the first time cutting Social Security benefits for future retirees.
The proposal - which is part of his plan to overhaul the retirement system
- would preserve benefits for low-income workers but cut benefits for
everyone else.

The prime-time news conference was the first of Bush's
second term and just the fourth of his presidency. It comes at the end of
a 60-day road show on Social Security in which the president argued that
the retirement system is headed for financial trouble and should be
overhauled to include private investment accounts.

The issue has turned out to be a politically divisive one in Washington over the past few months. Virtually every Democrat, as well as many Republicans, are opposed to the plan and a Washington Post-ABC News poll this week found 51 percent of Americans are against it.

In the hour-long news conference, Bush also acknowledged
the high price of gasoline and called on the Senate to pass his energy
program which includes drilling in a portion of the Arctic National
Wildlife Refuge. He declined to offer a timetable for the withdrawal of
American troops from Iraq and stood by his embattled nominee for United
Nations ambassador, John Bolton.

But it was Social Security that topped the agenda last
night. The president again outlined his plan to overhaul the system.

Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA) RUSH TRANSCRIPT this transcript is available free of charge, however donations help us provide closed captioning for the deaf and hard of hearing on our TV
broadcast. Thank you for your generous contribution.

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: When the baby boomers
start retiring in three years, Social Security will start heading toward
the red. In 2017, the system will start paying out more in benefits than
it collects in payroll taxes. Every year after that, the shortfall will
get worse, and by 2041, Social Security will be bankrupt. Franklin
Roosevelt did a wonderful thing when he created Social Security. The
system has meant a lot for a lot of people. Social Security has provided
a safety net that has provided dignity and peace of mind for millions of
Americans in their retirement. Yet there's a hole in the safety net,
because Congresses had made promises it cannot keep for a younger

As we fix Social Security, some things won't change. Seniors
and people with disabilities will get their checks. All Americans born
before 1950 will receive the full benefits. Our duty to save Social
Security begins with making the system permanently solvent, but our duty
does not end there. We also have a responsibility to improve Social
Security by directing extra help to those most in need, and by making it
a better deal for younger workers.

Now as Congress begins work on legislation, we must be guided
by three goals. First, millions of Americans depend on Social Security
checks as a primary source of retirement income, so we must keep this
promise to future retirees, as well. As a matter of fairness, I propose
that future generations receive benefits equal to or greater than the
benefits today's seniors get. Secondly, I believe a reform system should
protect those who depend on Social Security the most. So, I propose a
Social Security system in the future where benefits for low-income
workers will grow faster than benefits for people who are better off. By
providing more generous benefits for low-income retirees we'll make this
commitment. If you work hard and pay into Social Security your entire
life you will not retire into poverty. This reform would solve most of
the funding challenges facing Social Security. Variety of options are
available to solve the rest of the problem, and I will work with
Congress on any good faith proposal that does not raise the payroll tax
rate or harm our economy. I know we can find a solution to the financial
problems of Social Security that is sensible, permanent, and fair.
Third, any reform of Social Security must replace the empty promises
being made to younger workers with real assets, real money. I believe
the best way to achieve this goal is to give younger workers the option,
the opportunity if they so choose, of putting a portion of their payroll
taxes into a voluntary personal retirement account. Because this money
is saved and invested, younger workers will have the opportunity to
receive a higher rate of return on their money than the current Social
Security system can provide.
(Read The Whole Transcript Here)

    AMY GOODMAN: President Bush in his Prime-Time news conference last
    night. Joining us on the phone for reaction is Virginia Democratic
    Congress member, Jim Moran. Welcome to Democracy Now!

REP. JIM MORAN: Thank you. It's an honor to be on the station.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, thanks very much. Can you respond to President
Bush's plans for Social Security?

REP. JIM MORAN: First of all, Social Security is a national
insurance system. It's not an investment account. It's there in case the
breadwinner of the household dies. Their survivors will have at least
money to get by on, or if you become disabled, you can get those benefits.
Or when you are so old that you can't work any longer, there will be
retirement money available for you. But it's a minimum threshold. We have
retirement accounts, 401(K)'s, I.R.A.s, your passbook savings account. We
need a national insurance system. And I think what President Bush is going
to do is to means test it, which on the face of it makes a lot of sense,
except that it will lose the political support of the people who have the
power and the influence in this country.

The reason Social Security is such a popular topic now is that
everybody participates. If he cuts the benefits for the middle class and
upper class by 40%, which is what this plan entails, fewer people will
really care what happens to Social Security, and that's not in anybody's
interests. Last night we passed a budget resolution that took billions out
of the TANF program. Does anybody even know what TANF means? It's the old
welfare program. It’s assistance to needy families. But because there's so
little political support for it, it goes by without much discussion. The
Medicaid program, we took $10 billion from that last night, supposedly so
that we could afford the tax cuts of over $100 billion. But the only
reason people talk about Medicaid is because the States are upset they
might have to make up the money. It's a 50% State matching program. What
happens is that if you means test this, and it's only the poorer people
who have a vested interest in maintaining it, it won't be maintained. And
I think that's what President Bush has in mind.

You know, the only thing that is really fiscally solvent of any size in
this country is the Social Security Trust Fund. It's not going bankrupt.
Our country is going bankrupt. Last night, as part of the budget
resolution, they increased the debt ceiling to over $8 trillion. We have a
$10 trillion economy, but we have got debt of 80% of that economy. He
doesn't seem to be concerned about that. Our health care crisis is in
bankruptcy, but here he has taken on Social Security, which has a $1.7
trillion surplus. We're gaining surplus every year. And in 2018, we'll
have $4.5 trillion. Then from that time, for another approximately 35 to
40 years, there will be enough to pay out full benefits, and after that,
about 80% of benefits. That's not bankruptcy. And it's wrong to be telling
people the system is going bankrupt so that you can pass an ideologically
motivated plan basically to dismantle the whole system.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, Congressman Moran, I'd like to ask you, you
mentioned before that other Americans have a variety of retirement plans,
like whether it's 401(k)s or pensions but isn't this reform occurring
against a backdrop that many of the so-called classic pension plans, the
defined benefit plans are also experiencing enormous financial problems,
in the airline industry, in the automobile industry so that Social
Security is becoming an even more important sort of final safety net for
retired workers, because so many Americans now don't have defined benefit
pension plans, but are depending basically on 401(k)s or the stock market
itself to assure their retirement income?

REP. JIM MORAN: Well, the answer, I think, is yes and no. Under
his plan, if you earn over $25,000, your benefits are going to be reduced.
If you are under $25,000, then you will keep the same benefits, and it
will be based upon wage-based indexing. So, it goes up every year. But
that's not going to make up for the loss in pension. What we should be
doing with regard to pensions is making sure that these corporate raiders
can't come in and buy up companies and take advantage of all of that cash.
We should have better protections for pensions. We have some, but you
know, increasingly, we are yielding to corporate profit over the pension
guarantees. I think that this is all about dismantling a program that's
defining of what the Democratic Party was all about that was established
by Franklin Roosevelt. It's the one program that really is solvent, so why
should we make it insolvent by taking approximately $2 trillion over the
first ten years, $5 trillion over the next 20 years, and taking that money
out of the fund, fencing it off, putting it in private accounts?

And these private accounts, you know, are not going to amount to much
when people retire, because the Social Security system says it's going to
come back in and take out of those accounts the amount that Social
Security would have earned otherwise. The Goldman-Sachs economist just
estimated that Social Security will earn about 3.3%. It's actually earning
over 7% per year now, but it will earn about 3.3%, which is as much as
they estimate the stock market is going to be earning on average over that
period of time. So, they are going to be left with very little, but in the
meantime, we will have borrowed trillions out of the trust funds, then out
of the general fund to make it up to the trust fund. So, we're creating a
situation of fiscal insolvency in order to dismantle a program that is the
last one we need to worry about right now. We need to be worrying about
Medicare, we need to worrying about the federal budget and the hundreds of
billions that our kids are going to have to pay in interest costs on that
federal deficit. So, you know, I just think he has his priorities out of
order. I think this is all about ideology rather than fiscal

AMY GOODMAN: Congress member Jim Moran, I'm going to ask you to stay
with us for a minute longer. I want to ask you about rendition, his
response to that question, what some call kidnapping. Congress member Jim
Moran is from Virginia. He is going to be holding a town hall meeting
today on protecting Social Security in Falls Church, Virginia. And then
we're going to talk about Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's trip
throughout Latin America.


AMY GOODMAN: During the Thursday night news conference, President
Bush defended sending detainees to other countries for interrogation. Some
call it kidnapping, others call it extraordinary rendition. Here is the
reporter who asked the question.

Mr. President, under the
law, how would you justify the practice of renditioning, where U.S.
agents scoop up terror suspects abroad, taking them to a third country
for interrogation? Would you stand for it if foreign agents did that to
an American here?

    That's a hypothetical, Mark. We operate within the law, and we send people to countries where they say they're not going to torture the people. But let me say something. The United States government has an obligation to protect the American people. It's in our country's interest to find those who would do harm
    to us and get them out of harm's way. And we will do so within the law,
    and we'll do so in honoring our commitment not to torture people. And we
    expect the countries where we send somebody to not to torture, as well.
    But you bet, when we find somebody who might do harm to the American
    people, we will detain them and ask others from their country of origin
    to detain them. It makes sense. The American people expect us to do
    that. We -- we still at war.

      AMY GOODMAN: That's President Bush answering a question on what is
      called rendition. Congress member Jim Moran, Democrat of Virginia, your

    REP. JIM MORAN: Well, it's only lawful because they make their
    own law. It's wrong, and you know, if any of President Bush's family, if
    either of his daughters were ever arrested in any of those countries, he
    would move heaven and earth to get them out of there, because he knows
    they do torture. Those prisons are inhumane hell holes. And it's wrong to
    do that. And it's particularly disturbing the character of people who say,
    “Oh, I wasn't responsible,” when they are responsible for transporting
    them, knowing somebody else is going to carry out their dirty work. You
    know, we have had all of this rhetoric about how horrible these
    undemocratic countries are, but when we want to use them, we take
    advantage of the fact that they are undemocratic, that their people are
    powerless to express opposition to their policies, particularly their
    penal policies. I think that this is just more of the same, figuring they
    can get away with anything they want to because they have this supreme
    hubris, and I’m ashamed of my country that we would -- when we send people
    to countries knowing they're going to be tortured, because we don't want
    to be responsible for the actions that ultimately we are responsible for.
    It's wrong.

    AMY GOODMAN: Congress member Jim Moran, I want to thank you for
    being with us, of Virginia, again, holding a public town hall meeting in
    Falls Church, Virginia, today, with the former acting Social Security
    Commissioner, Bill Halter.

    To purchase an audio or video copy of this entire program,
    click here for our new online ordering or call 1 (800) 881-2359.


    Bush has the lowest approval rating of
    any president at this point in his second term, according to Gallup polls
    going back to World War II.

    Bush's erosion of support among independents in
    particular has helped bring his overall approval rating down to 45

    Forty-nine percent disapprove of his performance.
    Compare Bush's Gallup numbers taken in late March to
    poll numbers taken at the same point in the presidencies of the six
    previous men who served two terms:

    Clinton: 59 percent
    approval versus 35 percent disapproval

    Reagan: 56 percent
    versus 37 percent disapproval

    Nixon: 57 percent versus
    34 percent

    Johnson: 69 percent
    versus 21 percent

    Eisenhower: 65 percent
    versus 20 percent

    Truman: 57 percent
    versus 24 percent





    The tears fall each time young soldiers, die.
    For a lie…
    The tears fall as last breaths whisper, goodbye.
    For a lie…
    The tears fall, as exploding bombs, fill the sky.
    For a lie…
    The tears fall, filled with hate, questioning why?
    FOR A LIE!
    Thinking Blue

    this is a Proud Liberal Site
    Vote for me in

    Friday, April 29, 2005

    Perfumed Lies

    Last night, Bush tried his usual tactic of perfuming his lies. 'Oh what a wonderful Bush World we all live in' was his main theme. 'Believe in me and I will take you to Bush Utopia.'

    If the words that came from his lips were symbols they would look like this... "$$$$$$$" That's why, only those who speak and think "$$$$$$$" know exactly what he is saying. For the rest of us who don't understand this language, Bush hopes to lull us into thinking he really cares about our Earth and Humankind.

    THINK AGAIN! Beware of his words, they are not even within earshot of reliable TRUTH. On and on, he went about the Social Security crisis (same old rhetoric he has been touting trying to make us believe it's an emergency because he and his neocons are planning on dismantling it altogether). Also, how Extraordinary Rendition is protecting us, (Of course, sending fellow human beings, to other countries to be tortured is going to protect us??? Is this called leading by example, I hope not.) And how about his proposal to build more refineries and nuclear energy sites to lower gas prices (HUH? My God, this man thinks we are all dumbbells... what good will refineries be when the oil runs out; wouldn't it be wiser to promote using less energy? As far as nuclear energy goes... this is as old as his lying lies and a proven, potential disaster to our Earth!)

    I have searched the web all morning trying to find the right articles to wash away the perfume on his perfumed lies and allow the stink to come through... and perhaps allow some good fresh smelling truth to enter our intellect.

    We must all stand up against the DUMBING DOWN OF AMERICANS by getting informed; this is the best weapon against Bush's PERFUMED LIES! Thinking Blue

    The Perils of Bush's Social Security Plan Contact:
    Marilyn Watkins, Ph.D.
    George W. Bush has proposed a drastic restructuring of Social Security in order to “save” it. But he’s proposing radical surgery on a patient that has at worst a sniffle. Social Security is the best source of economic security for all America’s working families. Some minor reforms could make this highly successful program even better, but carving it up into private accounts isn’t one of them. Bush’s proposal will only make the rich richer and the rest of us poorer.

    Social Security isn't going bankrupt. In fact, with the baby boomers all retired and everybody living longer, both workers and retirees will have more in real income in 2030 and beyond than they do today. The so-called crisis is a phony one, produced by Wall Street interests hoping for huge profits from new private accounts, fed by politicians eager for a few more votes, and promulgated by a media obsessed with sound bites and scandal.

    We're often told that Social Security will run short of money by 2037, as if that were a fact. But it's a forecast, based on the assumption that the American economy of the 21st century will grow more slowly than it did during the Great Depression of the 1930s! This worst-case scenario is highly unlikely. In every decade for the past 50 years, our economic growth averaged 3.5% annually. According to the Social Security trustees, if the long term historical average holds for the next century, then Social Security will be able to pay full benefits through 2075 and beyond with no reforms whatsoever. If economic growth and technological innovation do permanently slow down, there are simple and risk-free ways to keep Social Security fully financed indefinitely. One of the easiest would be to eliminate the cap on taxable earnings. Currently, Social Security taxes aren’t collected on earnings above about $76,000, meaning that the wealthiest Americans actually pay the least into the system.

    Proposals to replace Social Security's retirement system with private investment accounts would replace guarantees to retired workers with guaranteed government handouts to Wall Street. Schemes to privatize Social Security share five major problems:

    Stock market fantasies - Privatizers claim Social Security will run out of money based on gloomy economic forecasts, while trying to convince us we'll all become millionaires playing the stock market. If our economy goes into a permanent stall, returns on investments will plummet. If our economy does stay strong, some will be lucky enough to retire when the market is up, others will lose their shirts when the market takes a nosedive – but then there won’t have been any need to “fix” Social Security.

    Cutting core benefits – The base Social Security retirement benefit, which is now guaranteed and increased annually for inflation, would have to be cut under Bush’s plan, by an amount ranging from 25% to 54%, according to most economists.

    Ignoring transition costs – If 2% of workers' pay that now goes to Social Security went instead into private accounts, money for the benefits of today's retirees, widows, orphans, and disabled workers would have to come from somewhere else. Taxpayers would have to fork over an extra $1 trillion over the next 10 years.

    Ignoring higher administration costs – Keeping track of everyone's individual investments, and paying all the brokerage and investment fees would cost far more than administering Social Security. That's money for Wall Street, not workers' retirement.

    The rich will get richer, the poor will get poorer – Those who make the least during their working lives would lose the most with privatization. Social Security benefits replace a higher percentage of pre-retirement wages for low income workers than for high income workers. Private investments are the opposite – the more you invest, the greater the return. Under privatization, guaranteed benefits would be cut drastically for everyone, but moderate and low income workers would have built up much smaller personal accounts than the rich. Women, who generally make less and live longer, would be especially likely to face old age in poverty.
    Social Security guarantees workers that they and their family members will have a basic income in old age, and in the event of early disability or death. We're all better off knowing that we, our family members, and all our neighbors who work and contribute to our national prosperity can be assured of living in dignity, even when faced with life's adversities. Let’s keep it that way.
    Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.
    Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
    The Machinery of Mendacity Commentary: Given a public policy debate, conservatives have decided to forgo real debate entirely -- to adopt instead a radical course: denying reality itself.
    By Russ Rymer
    May/June 2005 Issue
    As The World Burns A Mother Jones special project on global warming In his article "“Some Like It Hot,” Chris Mooney pinpoints a critical distinction in the battle over global warming. The think tanks, crank scientists, and pseudo-journalists who dispute climate change with the aid of millions of corporate dollars are not just arguing the economics of the problem, as they sometimes pretend. That activity, engaging in a thoughtful discussion of politics and priorities, the wisdom of one or another course of action, could be considered honorable regardless of which side one argued from. Rather, the mouthpieces are ignobly contesting the very science itself, using any tactic, any slipshod fiction, that might throw doubt into the public mind and so deflect the dictates of hard fact. In other words, given a public policy debate, conservatives have decided to forgo real debate entirely—to adopt instead a radical course: denying reality itself.
    Mooney’s article and its companion pieces on the global warming wars, by Bill McKibben and Ross Gelbspan, appear under the banner “Climate of Denial.” That banner could be stretched over other stories in this issue as well. It would certainly describe the experience of Dr. David Graham of the Food and Drug Administration (“The Side Effects of Truth”). Hired to investigate the dangers of drugs on the market, Graham was punished for doing his job too well. When he spotted the deadly effects of Vioxx, his superiors chose to muzzle the messenger instead of affronting the pharmaceutical industry.

    More generally, “Climate of Denial” could serve as a title for the political times we live in. On issue after issue, this administration and this Congress continue to pursue policies that cannot stand the test of honest debate, and require a rewriting of basic facts. The dangers to the country are evident in myriad policy debacles: the illegal, expensive, and unnecessary war we were led into under false pretenses; the “reform” of Social Security based on the unfounded assertion that the program is in “crisis” (and pursued by ideologues pretending their goal is not to end it entirely); the economy plundered by fiscal improvidence; the budget busted by grand theft billed as tax relief.

    The danger is graver because the negation of truth is so systematic. Dishonest accounting, willful scientific illiteracy, bowdlerized federal fact sheets, payola paid to putative journalists, “news” networks run by right-wing apparatchiks, think tanks devoted to propaganda rather than thought, the purging of intelligence gatherers and experts throughout the bureaucracy whose findings might refute the party line—this is the machinery of mendacity. Its products are not the cherry-tree lies of embarrassed schoolboys covering up their misdemeanors, but the agitprop of a political ascendancy that considers the manipulation of truth an essential tool. There’s no embarrassment in it. The same partisans who clucked loudly during their impeachment of President Clinton about the need for a government so transparent that the most private details of a president’s personal life should be open to inspection have wrapped such a dense cloak of secrecy around the current president that even the roster of his administration’s meetings is withheld from the citizenry, under the expressed claim that the White House can’t do what needs doing if the American people are allowed to know what that is. The point here is not the hypocrisy involved, though that is egregious. The point is the downgrading of truth and honesty from principles with universal meaning to partisan weapons to be sheathed or drawn as necessary. No wonder the Bush administration feels no compunction to honor the truth or seek it; it conceives truth as a tactic, valuable only insofar as it is useful against one’s enemies.
    What are the ramifications for the left and the right?

    For its part, much of the left has spent the months since last November (really, it has been spending years) wallowing in insecure self-inspection; the Democratic Party has invited everyone from linguists to preachers to exorcise the internal flaw that could explain its ineffectuality. Party leaders might heed the formulation of W.B. Yeats in his poem “To a Friend Whose Work Has Come to Nothing”: “For how can you compete / Being honour bred, with one / Who, were it proved he lies / Were neither shamed in his own / Nor in his neighbours’ eyes?” The Democrats need to recognize that their biggest internal problem may be their inability to size up their external one. Simply put, they have an unscrupulous antagonist.

    The right faces a deeper threat. Its antagonist is fiercer than the one devouring the left, and it is indeed internal. Though it has always counted among its champions a truth-compromising cohort—read for evidence the Wall Street Journal editorial pages—the modern right was undeniably born of conviction. One of its motivating tenets, shared by both tightwad Midwestern Rotarians (feeling betrayed by FDR and LBJ) and former fellow travelers (feeling betrayed by Stalin and the ’60s), was the belief that the left had lost its senses in a festival of appeasement and softheaded idealism. The right prided itself on a mission: restoring the governance of the country to guidance by firm reality. Where does that leave them in their hour of victory? The movement born of principle has prevailed by renouncing it, and the former apostles of reality have prospered by purveying a potent mixture of wishful fantasy and outright lie. A few months ago a right-wing shill posing as a journalist, who for nearly two years had been allowed into White House press briefings, there to lob softball questions at President Bush, asked him, “How do you propose to deal with people,” referring to Democrats, “who seem to have divorced themselves from reality?” Hearing the foundational question of the neocon movement spilling from the mouth of a movement-sponsored charlatan must have sent chills up the spine of any principled conservative; the imposter was a herald. He shouted the unpleasant alarum that the American right is at a moment of extreme and self-inflicted peril.

    Lastly, and speaking from the self-centeredness of our offices, what does all this mean for Mother Jones? When the crisis at the core of our nation’s political decline is a direct attack on the truth, the institution that should take the lead in confronting and correcting that danger is the press. That means us. We have been, since our founding, a reported magazine, and would rather spend our resources ferreting out the facts of a matter than spend our breath expounding opinions. In the current climate, and facing the present danger, we do not find our political orientation to be inconsistent with our devotion to fact. We’re better positioned to honor objective fact because we aren’t insulted by the charge that we’re “liberal media.” We have offered space in these pages to the dialogue about constructive course corrections that might avail the left. But we won’t respond to the political winds by calibrating our message. We have looked at the problem, and decided that the answer is not to accommodate. In upcoming issues, you, our readers, will witness our rededication to this fight, and our confidence that reality is our ally. Considering the demonstrated belief of leaders on the right that furthering their agenda requires bludgeoning any inconvenient truth, we evidently are not alone in concluding that the facts are on our side.
    Dems shut out of REAL ID negotiations Thursday, April 28, 2005
    From Minority Leader Sen. Harry Reid's office April 27, 2005:Reid: Democrats Have Been Shut Out of Backroom Negotiations About REAL ID

    WASHINGTON, D.C.- Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid submitted the following statement as a conferee on the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Bill:

    "[...] I want to make clear my total opposition to including the REAL ID Act in this supplemental appropriations bill. I believe this legislation has no place on an emergency spending bill for our troops in Iraq and aid for tsunami victims.

    This legislation would make sweeping, controversial changes to our laws with respect to the environment, refugees, judicial review, the states? power to make decisions about their own laws, and other issues. This legislation has never been considered by the Senate. It has not been subjected to any hearings, debate, amendments, or any votes at all by this body.

    Democrats have been completely shut out of the backroom negotiations that I understand have taken place this week about the REAL ID Act. This is not the way the United States Senate should be doing business, and this is certainly not the way the American people expect that the laws that govern their daily lives will be produced. This is yet another example of the Republican leadership?s abuse of power.

    I am disappointed that the White House has urged conferees to include the Real ID Act in the final version of the supplemental appropriations bill. In October, during the conference negotiations concerning the Intelligence Reform legislation, the White House endorsed the Senate?s drivers? license standards over the rigid and unworkable House provisions, and it opposed the House?s restrictive provisions concerning asylum. Now, the White House apparently supports the same provisions it had earlier opposed, and it advocates the repeal of the drivers? license provisions it had earlier endorsed. The White House may suddenly feel the need to appease the extreme right wing of its party[...]"

    Here are the phone numbers for the Senate Republican conferees. Tell them you oppse the "Drivers' License Agreement" that sets up a tri-national ID card with Canada and Mexico.

    Thad Cochran (R-MS) - Chair, 202-224-5054
    Wayne Allard (R-CO), 202-224-5941
    Robert Bennett (R-UT), 202-224-5444
    Christopher Bond (R-MO), 202-224-5721
    Sam Brownback (R-KS), 202-224-6521
    Conrad Burns (R-MT), 202-224-2644
    Larry Craig (R-ID), 202-224-2752
    Mike DeWine (R-OH), 202-224-2315
    Pete Domenici (R-NM), 202-224-6621
    Judd Gregg (R-NH), 202-224-3324
    Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), 202-224-5922
    Mitch McConnell (R-KY), 202-224-2541
    Richard Shelby (R-AL), 202-224-5744
    Arlen Specter (R-PA), 202-224-4254
    Ted Stevens (R-AK), 202-224-3004

    Extraordinary Rendition
    Feb. 18, 2005
    Attorney Andrew Cohen analyzes legal issues for and CBS News.

    "Extraordinary rendition" sounds like a phrase from Gilbert and Sullivan or Charles Dickens. But it is a controversial legal concept that is moving quickly to the front-burner of the legal and political world. Never mind the ongoing fight over the rights of the Guantanamo Bay detainees, the intensifying debate over the constitutional propriety of extraordinary rendition already looms as the most important battle of the year in the legal war on terrorism.

    Thanks mainly to the fine work of journalist Jane Mayer in the last issue of The New Yorker magazine, more and more people, including important lawmakers, are paying closer attention to the government policy wherein terror suspects are transferred from U.S. control into the control of foreign governments, so that interrogation methods that are not permitted under U.S. law may be applied to the suspects. In other words, when our government decides that a particular suspect may have information that is of particular use, and that this information must be obtained quickly, it farms the suspect out to governments that permit, or at least do not explicitly outlaw, torture. And apparently it does this despite a 1998 law that seems to prohibit the practice.

    For a long time, extraordinary rendition occurred covertly among the intelligence communities of the participating countries. The New York Times reported last week, citing unnamed former intelligence officials, that the practice has been "widely used" since the 1990s and that "perhaps more than 100 cases" have arisen since September 11, 2001. But it is covert no more. Some of the men who were the subject of extraordinary rendition have been released, presumably because they were not terrorists, and they are speaking out about what they endured in the name of the war on terror.

    Thanks to Mayer, CBS News' "60 Minutes," the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, and other reporters and outlets focusing upon the issue, the whole world now knows about people like Mahar Arar, a Canadian citizen who claims he was tortured after being subjected to extraordinarily rendition by and between the U.S. and, of all countries, Syria. Likewise, the whole world now knows about Ibn al-Sheikh al-Libi, who reportedly was taken out of FBI custody by the CIA and shipped to Egypt, where he promptly, according to Mayer, gave the U.S. bad information about the use of chemical weapons in Iraq. And now comes word that Congress and the CIA, increasingly aware of the legal, moral, ethical, political and practical pitfalls of such a policy, are contemplating changes to it.

    Earlier this month, the New York Times reported that the Senate intelligence committee now is considering a bipartisan investigation to determine "whether there was a sufficient legal foundation for the coercive interrogation methods, secret detention and extrajudicial handing over of detainees to other countries that the CIA has practiced." The effort, the Times reported, stems in part from the fallout of the now infamous government memorandum in August 2002 – a/k/a the "Gonzales Memo," named after the new attorney general – that narrowly "defined torture as acts that induced pain tantamount to organ failure." Now that the Bush administration has backed off that ill-advised memo and the odious practice it endorsed, the legislative branch of government wants to make sure that operatives in the field truly are backing off its directives.

    Then, just a few days ago, the Times reported more movement on this story. Now, apparently, the CIA itself is "seeking to scale back its role as interrogator and custodian of terrorist leaders who are being held without charges in secret sites around the world." In part, the Times' article reports, the CIA's change of tack is motivated by increasingly shaky legal support for the detentions, especially in the wake of the two terror-case rulings last June by the United States Supreme Court which recognized certain due process rights for detainees. Those landmark rulings – in which the justices famously told the president that "a state of war is not a blank check" – have spawned several lower court rulings that slowly but surely are stemming executive branch control over terror suspects.

    Moreover, the scandal last year at Abu Ghraib prison hardly helped the agency's political or legal position in favor of harsh and in many ways unprecedented treatment of certain prisoners. And the government's policy of detention and interrogation already has complicated, indeed stalled, the federal prosecution of Zacarias Moussaoui, the Al Qaeda operative who was captured before the terror attacks on America. Moussaoui's trial has been on hold now for more than three years in part because prosecutors, defense attorneys, Moussaoui and the judge cannot agree on whether and how Moussaoui should be allowed to use at trial the "testimony" of two Al Qaeda leaders, detainees who perhaps were tortured after perhaps being subjected to extraordinary rendition.

    But it isn't just the genuine (and warranted) fear of bad results in court that has intelligence officials and lawmakers looking to change its dynamic when it comes to detention, interrogation, and rendition. The CIA's newfound interest in washing its hands of these men also stems from practical considerations as well, the Times and others have reported. Many of the terror suspects they are holding now no longer have much intelligence value, yet they are still unlikely ever to be turned over to any prosecutor for trial. It's unclear whether they ever have committed any domestic crimes and, even if they did, the interrogation methods they purportedly endured surely would generate heartburn for federal judges. Now that they may have been tortured, in other words, they very likely cannot be successfully prosecuted.

    So instead of releasing the men or holding them indefinitely, the CIA is looking for ways to ditch them, preferably, the Times reports, to the FBI or even to other countries (which, in turn, could heat up new extraordinary rendition problems for the government). It's the ultimate game of Hot Potato. Now that the government has these men, has used them up as best it can, and has argued that there is no law that can protect them, it doesn't know what to do with them. If it keeps them, it has to spend the time and money guarding them. And, of course, keeping prisoners like this in these circumstances always can lead to a repeat of the shameful Abu Ghraib episode.

    On the other hand, if it sends the detainees elsewhere, it runs the risk that they will either be tortured or released – if the U.S. cannot afford to keep the men, why would anyone think that Syria or Egypt would? And if it sends them elsewhere and they are tortured, surely if they survive and ultimately are released they will come back, like Arar, and file a big lawsuit against the government. The government has always said that the war on terror would require a new way of thinking and acting toward this new breed of foes – part criminal defendant, part terror suspect, part political prisoner. Now that new thinking and acting requires a new solution to this growing problem.

    The courts for years have been evaluating the constitutionality of the government's detention and interrogation methods. That's nothing new. Extraordinary rendition is another matter. There is precious little case law on the issue and none since the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.The Arar lawsuit, first filed over a year ago, only now is nearly briefed. The government, predictably, has moved to dismiss the case on a number of grounds, including the fact that it would force the feds to reveal "secrets" that would impair their ability to win the war on terror. For his part, Arar claimed that his "rendition" violated his constitutional rights as well as his rights under the Torture Victim Protection Act, a federal law passed in 1991 that gave federal courts jurisdiction over lawsuit brought aliens (like Arar) alleging torture by a foreign nation.

    Moreover, as Mayer points out, there is a federal law that states that it is "the policy of the United States not to expel, extradite, or otherwise effect the involuntary return of any person to a country in which there are substantial grounds for believing the person would be in danger of being subjected to torture, regardless of whether the person is physically present in the United States." And then there is the United Nations Convention Against Torture, which has a slightly different definition for when a "rendition" becomes illegal. Those precedents, too, may make it into this case before it is through.

    In 2002, aside from the aborted trial of John Walker Lindh, the courts hadn't really even responded to the legal war on terror. In 2003, we saw the first major skirmishes in the battle over what rights Moussaoui would receive in his federal trial. In 2004, the Supreme Court final spoke, in the "enemy combatants" cases and the initial case about the detentions at Guantanamo Bay. You don't need to look any further for this year's big legal theme. It's here.


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    Tuesday, April 26, 2005

    "Justice Sunday" Derision of Faith

    Still trembling with anger from the "Justice Sunday" derision of faith i.e. who's faith is God faith and who's faith is not faith and my faith is better than your faith because if you don't believe my faith then you have NO FAITH ....

    I think Frist and the followers of his kind of faith need to look up the word faith... like many other words they use and don't have one ioda of a clue as to what they really mean.

    Below are several great articles about the evangelical "THINKER" Jim Wallis, who can help this great US ideological divide,
    (caused by Bush and his religious right) to better understand one another and therefore maybe unite together and stop allowing this regime to separate and conquer. Hallelujah! ThinkingBlue

    faith n. 1. Confident belief in the truth, value, or trustworthiness of a person, an idea, or a thing.
    God's Politics: Frist Fights Filibuster on Judicial Nominees in "Justice Sunday"
    Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist delivered a taped speech Sunday at an event called "Justice Sunday: Stopping the Filibuster Against People of Faith," in which he again threatened to ban Democrats from filibustering Bush's judicial nominees. We speak with preacher activist Jim Wallis, author of "God's Politics: Why the Right Gets it Wrong and the Left Doesn't Get It."
    The battle over President Bush's judicial nominees reached new heights this past weekend. Senate Majority leader Bill Frist delivered a taped speech in which he again threatened to ban Democrats from filibustering Bush's court nominees. While the Republican leader's rhetoric was the same, it was the venue of his address that grabbed national headlines.
    The speech was part of an event organized by Christian conservative groups called "Justice Sunday: Stopping the Filibuster Against People of Faith." It was held at a packed Baptist church east of Louisville, Kentucky and was simultaneously broadcast to churches around the country, as well as to 61 million households.

    In his speech, Frist threatened again to use what is known as the "nuclear option," - changing Senate rules to ban filibusters of judicial nominees.

    Democrats have said they would retaliate by bringing most Senate business to a halt. But now, the Senate's top two Democrats - Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and Minority Whip Richard Durbin of Illinois said for the first time yesterday that they would consider a compromise in which some of the seven stalled nominees would be confirmed and the others withdrawn.

    While Frist didn't mention religion in his speech, others who were headlining the event did. Charles Colson, head of Prison Fellowship Ministries, said filibustering of court nominees is "destroying the balance of power, which was a vital Christian contribution to the founding of our nation."

    Religious groups and Democrats said Frist should have played no role in the heavily promoted broadcast which they say inappropriately brought religion into a political debate. Senator Chuck Schumer of New York said the move, "Clearly argues that people of one viewpoint have God on their side and all others are faithless."

    Frists speech comes as a new Washington-Post-ABC News poll finds that Americans are opposed to changing the Senate rules by a 2-1 margin. Meanwhile, the group,, says it will finance TV commercials criticizing the rule change and organizers will hold 120 rallies around the country on Wednesday, including one in Washington with a speech by former Vice President Al Gore.

    Jim Wallis , author of "God's Politics: Why the Right Gets it Wrong and the Left Doesn't Get It." He is a founder of the Sojourners Community and editor of Sojourners Magazine.

    FINDING MY RELIGION Jim Wallis on "Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn't Get It" - David Ian Miller, Special to SF GateWednesday, February 23, 2005
    With U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton extending an olive branch to abortion opponents in a recent speech and other congressional Democrats peppering their language with faith-based phrases, it's clear that some members of the party are trying to find their religious voices.
    Some might call that political pandering. But Jim Wallis, a left-wing evangelical Christian who believes Democrats need to affirm the role of faith in shaping public policy, sees these developments differently. He argues that conservative Republicans have taken control of the discussion about religion and morality in this country and have used hot-button issues like abortion and same-sex marriage to divide the electorate. Now, he says, Democrats need to get back into the conversation, and these recent moves could be an effective ice-breaker.
    Wallis -- who edits a progressive Christian magazine called Sojourners and founded Call to Renewal, an evangelical ministry that reaches out to the poor -- is the author of a new best seller, "God's Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn't Get It." He spoke with me recently by phone from Wichita, Kan.

    You're an evangelical Christian and a liberal. Isn't that sort of an endangered species these days?
    I'm what you might call a 19th-century evangelical born in the wrong century. Evangelicals in the 19th century were abolitionists who fought against the slave trade; they fought for women's suffrage and for child-labor reform. Of course, the civil rights movement led by black churches was pretty evangelical, too. So there's a long tradition of progressive -- that's the word I would use more than liberal -- thinking and action among evangelicals.

    For a while now, media pundits have portrayed the country as separated politically into two groups, one religious and the other secular. What do you think about the so-called blue-state, red-state divide?
    The myth is that the religious people are squeezed into the red states and the blue states are full of secular agnostics, and it simply isn't true. As Barack Obama famously explained during the Democratic convention, "We have an awesome God in the blue states." Yes, there are some religious fundamentalists on one side and some secular fundamentalists on the other side -- that's true. But the battle is not so much between religion and secularism. The battle is between different versions and visions of faith. I had two long debates on Fox this week with Jerry Falwell. Jerry Falwell and I have very different versions and visions of faith. That's the issue here: what kind of faith are we talking about?

    So, what do you think it means to be a person of faith in America today?
    Traveling around the country, I'm meeting all kinds of people. I'm meeting evangelicals who believe in the centrality of Jesus Christ and the authority of the Bible but don't want Jerry Falwell speaking for them. I'm meeting Catholics who don't want to be represented by right-wing bishops who instruct them to only vote on one issue (abortion) and ignore the whole rest of Catholic social teaching. There are mainline Protestants who feel like they've been left out of the conversation and disrespected, and people at black churches who feel like this has been pretty much a white conversation.

    What does all that say to you?
    It says me that the monologue that has been controlled by the religious right is over, and that it's time to have a better, broader dialogue.

    You argue that the Republicans have taken over the discussion about religion in America. Doesn't it anger people on the right when you say that?
    Actually, I use a stronger word -- hijacked. Yeah, I think the politicized religious right is going to come back at this hard because it really challenges their control of the conversation. That's why I invited Richard Land, the Southern Baptist leader, to my book launch to speak, because I wanted to have a dialogue. He's a principled and formidable religious conservative, but one who's capable of a civil conversation. I want to have that conversation.

    Do you think George Bush believes he's doing right by his faith?
    I think George Bush's faith is real. I don't doubt his piety. I challenge his theology. That's a very different thing.

    What do you mean?
    I think he's got bad theology on issues like poverty and the war on terrorism. I think his God is a God of charity and not a God of justice when it comes to poverty. Voluntary faith-based initiatives, which I supported, are not adequate to deal with rising poverty rates in America, the richest country in the world. They're certainly not adequate to deal with half the world's population living on less than $2 a day. The Bible, after all, speaks about justice and equity and fairness, not just charity.

    And the war on terror?
    If you can't see evil in the face of Sept. 11, you're suffering from some kind of postmodern relativism or something. But to say that they're evil and we're good is bad theology. Jesus said, don't see just the log in your adversary's eyes; see also the log in your own [Be self-critical. Don't just see how others are blinded by the truth].

    John Kerry didn't talk as much about religion during the presidential campaign. Why do you think that is?
    He seemed uncomfortable, like he'd rather talk about something else. When you do that, you concede the entire territory to the other side. It's no accident that the two Democrats who have been successful in recent history are Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, who were both very comfortable with the language of faith, and I don't think anybody ever thought Bill Clinton was imposing his religion on anyone when he would competently refer to biblical texts.

    But you supported Kerry in the election, didn't you?
    I voted for him -- not with much enthusiasm, I must say. I basically voted against the policies of George Bush. John Kerry was not inspiring on either domestic or foreign policy. He wasn't really inspiring about anything.

    Which Bush policies are you talking about?
    His utter failure to address the issues of poverty, and his stance on Iraq. I met with him before he came to Washington. I was supportive of what he said he wanted to do (with faith-based programs), but he is failing, utterly failing. And he's fighting a war that is not only a mistake but also a war that is making my children less safe, increasing the threat of terrorism in the world, and a war that was opposed by every major church body in the world except for the American Southern Baptists.

    Lately, Democrats like Hillary Clinton have been arguing that their party needs to soften its position on abortion. What's your view?
    I think what Sen. Clinton is saying is simply common sense. She's saying this is not ever a happy choice. It's a tragic choice. Let's do everything we can to prevent unwanted pregnancies. That's a mainstream American position of both pro-life and pro-choice people. The Democrats should make a commitment to drastically reduce the abortion rate. Supporting low-income women always lowers the abortion rate, so why can't we all do that together? There are going to be differences in the legalities, but let's talk about where the common ground is first and not just blame each other.

    I'll ask you one last question. What are you praying for these days?
    My primary concern is that all of us -- Democrats, Republicans, everyone -- are getting religion about the things that are closest to the heart of God, things like a silent tsunami that has taken the lives of 30,000 children each and every day from hunger and diseases related to hunger. I often ask people, "What do you think God is most preoccupied with, those 30,000 children dying every day or whether we call it civil unions or gay civil marriage? Which do you think God spends the most time worrying about?"
    Jim Wallis talks about 'God's Politics' and values – by which Wallis doesn't mean hate, greed, and war-mongering.

    Religion has to be disciplined by democracy. That means you don't enter the public square and say I'm religious so I ought to win. Or God has spoken to me directly and I have the fix for Social Security. You say my faith motivates me. It shapes my convictions or it compels me to act on behalf of the poor, or peace, or whatever. – Jim Wallis, God's Politics

    Christianity Today describes Jim Wallis as "an evangelical leader in the faith-based left and a frequent critic of George W. Bush." Is there any wonder BuzzFlash is drawn to him? Both preacher and down-in-the-trenches social justice activist, Wallis currently is touring the country as a New York Times best-selling author discussing and signing his book, God's Politics. Not surprisingly, Wallis' message of inclusion and involvement is reverberating with Christians who don't like the right wing's "holier than thou" approach to politics, with its narrow and divisive emphasis on abortion and gay marriage. BuzzFlash talked with Jim Wallis about progressive values, God, and good deeds.

    BuzzFlash: The subtitle of your book, God's Politics, states, "Why the right gets it wrong and the left doesn't get it." What do you mean by that?

    Jim Wallis: The right is very comfortable with the language of faith and values and God and faith. In fact, they think they own it sometimes, or almost own religion or own God.
    And then they narrow everything to one or two hot-button social issues, as if abortion and gay marriage are the only two moral values questions. And those are important issues and they need a deeper, wider conversation – kind of a moral discussion on all sides. That's fine.

    But did anybody really suggest or imagine these are the only two moral values issues? I'm an evangelical Christian and I find 3,000 verses in the Bible on the poor, so fighting poverty is a moral value too, or protecting the environment – protecting God's creation is a moral value. The ethics of war – whether we go to war, how we go to war, whether we tell the truth about the war – are fundamental moral and religious questions.

    So the right wing narrows and restricts, and a broader, deeper conversation would really challenge the agenda of the right which values wealth over work, and favors the rich over the poor, and basically in foreign policy, sees war as a first resort and not a last resort.
    The left, on the other hand ... well there was a Democratic Party a few decades ago that was vitally linked to a civil rights movement led by black churches. And every major social reform movement in America has been in part fueled by religion, by faith – abolition of slavery, women's suffrage, child labor law reform and, of course, civil rights.

    But now, in the last several decades, the Democrats have become increasingly uncomfortable with the language of religion, faith – even values sometimes – and they sound very secular. They even sound, to many, hostile to religion. I know a lot of religious people who share the Democrats' social agenda – in fact, I'm more progressive than the Democrats often are – but they feel disrespected by Democrats for applying their faith or their values.

    So Democrats have to recover their heart and their soul. They need to understand the separation of church and state does not mean the segregation of moral values and religious discourse – religious language, even – from public life. Where would we be if the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., had kept his faith to himself? He did it with a Bible in one hand and the Constitution in the other hand, and had a moral discourse on politics in a way that he made everybody feel invited and no one got left out.

    Let's move on to the issue of inclusion versus exclusion. If we look at the Bush administration and its fundamentalist supporters, they exclude anyone that they believe has not been "saved" by Jesus. In fact, you probably recall that both Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell indicated they thought the 9/11 horrific tragedy was a result of America having become a morally fallen nation. You [promote] the politics of inclusion – working with different denominations, and different religions. So, in a society where there is officially a separation of church and state, how does one work with different religions? And even though people pray to gods of their own religion, what brings the values together?

    Well, having had two debates this week with Jerry Falwell, I want to tell you that he excludes me. Listen – religion doesn't have a monopoly on morality, and that should be clearly stated. What we're finding in this book tour and in my book signings – from Austin, Texas to Dayton, Ohio to wherever we go – the usual reading to 50 people sitting quietly in their seats has grown to be town meetings with 400 people sitting on the floor.

    And they're not just large crowds, they're diverse crowds. You've got evangelicals who don't feel represented by Jerry Falwell. You've got Catholics who feel the bishops – the right-wing bishops who command them to single-issue voting only on abortion, and ignore all the rest of Catholic social teaching – they don't feel spoken for by them. You've got mainline Protestants who feel left out of the whole conversation and always disrespected. You've got black churches who feel like this is always a white conversation about religion. Latinos, Asian Christians, and a lot of Jews are coming out – rabbis and their congregations. A lot of the synagogues are having book studies on the book. And it's full of Mikah and Amos and Isaiah, and Abraham Joshua Heschel, as well as Martin Luther King, Jr. And a lot of the Muslims who are looking for a better, more humane, inclusive religion are coming out to this, too, of course.

    A lot of folks who are not religious but would call themselves spiritual are interested, and a whole lot of young people – a whole lot of young people who maybe saw me on Jon Stewart, on The Daily Show, and they are now saying we didn't know that Christians could care about poverty, the environment, or be against the war in Iraq. They didn't know a progressive religion option even existed.

    And while that's amazing and sad, it's now heartening that they see that one does exist. So they're coming out in droves – high school kids and college kids and students. We're having these great town meetings, basically. What was going to be a book signing became a town meeting in all these bookstores. And of course we're having it in churches and colleges, too. The country is hungry – hungry – for a new conversation, a better dialogue, on faith, values and politics. And the one thing that's true – I can say after four weeks on the road here – is in regard to faith and values and politics, the monologue of the religious right is now over and a new dialogue has begun.

    I'll paraphrase what you said on the Jon Stewart show. You said that Jesus, if He were here today and in the White House, wouldn't have begun His work by starting a war and lowering taxes for the wealthiest people in the country.

    Well, it was really kind of funny. Jon, and I made a nice connection on the show – I just liked him a lot. He said, 'So, Jim, you want to apply religion ... to politics?' And I could feel like millions of his audience saying, 'Oh, no – Jon's got some wacky right-wing evangelical. It's going to ruin my favorite show.' And I said, 'Well, Jon, I hardly think that Jesus' two first priorities would have been a capital gains tax cut and the occupation of Iraq.' And the audience started to relax and think, 'Yeah!' and cheered.

    At one point [in the show], my favorite – I cited the 25th chapter of Matthew, where Jesus says, "I was hungry. I was thirsty. I was naked. I was sick. I was a stranger. I was in prison. And you didn't come to see me. You didn't minister to me." And they say, we didn't know – "When did we see you hungry, thirsty, naked, sick, stranger, in prison?" And as He says, "As you've done to the least of these, you've done to Me." And so the audience – this young audience – cheered for Matthew 25. I thought it was great.

    And then I said, "How did Jesus become pro-rich, pro-war, and only pro-American?" And I'll tell you, the response from that youthful, pretty secular crowd of people in the audience and around the country has been just overwhelming. First of all, it shows you how many people watch Jon's show. Lots of people watch the show, and not just young people. But to have that conversation and break open the stereotype – this, in the cultural zeitgeist, the stereotype still is, religious equals right wing. And if this book helps to break that stereotype, I will be very happy indeed.
    I'm looking at parts three, four and five of your book – "When Did Jesus Become Pro-War?" "When Did Jesus Become Pro-Rich?" "When Did Jesus Become a Selective Moralist?" Within the Christian denominations and certainly vis-Vis President Bush and his fundamentalist supporters, there is a difference of opinion – a battle – over Jesus at this point. If you are a Christian, what are you to make of this?

    Well, I think, you know, the real battle is not between being religious and being secular. That's the old battle. The real battle is between very different versions of faith, very different versions of what it means to be religious. I don't quibble with George Bush's piety, his personal faith. I don't think it's fake or fraudulent. But I challenge his theology.

    And so basically we have a real debate about what faith means in the world. Like you said before, is it exclusive or inclusive? Does it support a prosperity gospel that basically says the rich are so because of God's blessing, and the poor are so because of their own failings and their own faults? Or is this a God who stands on the side of the poor, like the prophets do, and challenge the rich and powerful to change their ways and their policies?

    Is this a God who is somehow an American God who has called America to lead a war on terrorism, and even the president to do that? Or as Jesus said, don't just see the [splinter] in your adversary's eye, but also the one in your own eye. Just to see evil in the faces of Sept. 11 is one thing. Of course, anybody who can't see evil in the face of Sept. 11 is suffering from some kind of postmodern relativism, I suppose. But to say they are evil and we are good is bad theology. It's simply bad theology and it leads to bad foreign policy.

    I'm not quite sure of the implications of what you've said about moving from a secular to a a religious society. I regard a secular society as a society that includes all faiths or people who don't have faith. ... And it means, not that society is without religion, but that the government doesn't impose any one religion or religious interpretation ... on all the people of society because people have the right to believe in their own faith, or not believe in a faith. I just want to know if you are comfortable with that definition of secular.

    Yes. I was saying that, when I was growing up, it was often viewed as a real battle between religion – us – and secularism – secular humanism. That's always the big fight. I'm saying no – within the religious community, the real battle is what kind of faith are we talking about?
    There are different versions, different visions of faith that are really in a serious debate now, a serious dialogue. And in the religious community, there's a real debate about what they feel. I've had big debates, as I mentioned, with Jerry Falwell. We have very different visions and versions of the Christian faith – very different.

    Now we live in a democratic, pluralistic, very diverse society in which we believe strongly in the separation of church and state. And that means the government does not establish religion, does not establish one religion over others, or doesn't establish religion over unbelief. There's no distinction between whether a citizen is religious or not.

    In the public square, we have a moral discourse on politics. We don't vote for somebody who prays the most often or has learned the most Bible verses or goes to church the most often. We don't ask about the religiosity of a candidate. We ask about their moral compass – what is their moral sense of politics? And if faith shapes that, then it's fine to learn about how their faith shapes their moral compass, whether they're a Joe Lieberman or a George Bush or a John Edwards or Barack Obama.

    But in the public square, religion has to be disciplined by democracy. That means you don't enter the public square and say I'm religious so I ought to win. Or God has spoken to me directly and I have the fix for Social Security. You say my faith motivates me. It shapes my convictions or it compels me to act on behalf of the poor or peace or whatever.

    But then you say, here is my best offering on this question, and I have to persuade my fellow citizens. I have to persuade them that what I think is best for the common good – not that it's the best religious vision, but it's best for all of us.

    Martin Luther King had a wonderful vision of the beloved community, where everybody had a place at the table, and especially those who were left out and left behind had a front-row seat, you know? But then he said, now we need a civil rights law. And by 1964, he persuaded his fellow citizens and the Congress that this was good for the country. In 1965, we got the Voting Rights Act. So he had to persuade – he and all the civil rights religious leaders, they didn't say, you know, this should happen because I'm a Baptist or because I'm a Jew. They said this is best for the country. So religion has to operate under the democratic discipline and argue what's best for the common good.

    You live in D.C., where you have devoted yourself to empowering those who are poor, to try to move beyond their poverty into mainstream society and become productive citizens and move up the ladder of economic opportunity. In your deeds, you carry out your religious convictions. Do you think that, at least with the Jerry Falwells of the world, and the Pat Robertsons, there is a disconnect between the language of theology – their religious assertions – and their deeds? Do they seem more concerned with criticizing people who don't share their interpretation of the Bible than in doing the type of deeds that you are doing from day to day, such as helping the poor in D.C.?

    Well, in the New Testament, it says, "Faith without works is dead." So unless there are deeds – unless there is action to carry out faith, and even to show that it's real – then faith – that's a pretty strong word – is dead.

    I was asked to do a national television interview with Brian Williams on Inauguration Day. They wanted my perspective because God is almost always invoked when a president is sworn in. But I said days like this remind me of the prophet Amos when he said, 'Take away from me the noise of your solemn assemblies, but let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.'

    So I think religion has to be taken to the street. It has to be real on the ground. And I also think Christians ought to be those who lead by example. Religious people – I mean, the best rabbis I know, the best priests and pastors I know, the best lay people I know, are the ones who just do their faith. You know, they don't just proclaim their faith, they do their faith. St. Francis once said, 'Always preach the gospel, and use words if necessary.' You know, so he's making your point. He's saying it's what we do. That's the key. And then people say, 'Why do you do all these things?' And I say: 'Oh, it's because of my faith, because I think that's what Jesus is calling me to do and I'm trying to be a follower of Jesus.' So I think putting faith into action is critical.
    I also think the prophets had very strong words to say about kings and rulers and judges and employers and all the rest. They didn't hold back. But the people Jesus had the strongest words for were the hypocritical rulers, both religious and political, where people were just mostly saying what was wrong with somebody else. And I think religion has gotten into that too often, rather than calling us all to a higher standard. I always say the best way to find common ground is to move to higher ground.

    Let me close by paraphrasing something Susan Jacoby brought up in an interview we did recently, a famous statement Abraham Lincoln made about the Civil War. He said, in essence, I can't say whether God is on our side, but my great concern is to be on the side of God. That seems to be emblematic of much of what we're discussing. President Bush says God is on his side. He has said he was selected by God to be president, that he was leading a Crusade, although he backtracked on that comment, and that God had chosen him to lead this war against Iraq, and that God is on his side. This is pretty definitive. As you say, perhaps he indeed believes that. Lincoln, on the other hand, said we must hope we are on the side of God, which is a very different emphasis.

    Yes, you're right. These are the two ways of bringing God into public life. This is our American history. One is God on our side, and that leads to the worst things in politics. It leads to overconfidence and hubris – triumphalism – and often to bad foreign policy, often to wars, and in this case, now pre-emptive, unilateral war.

    The other way about worrying – praying earnestly if we're on God's side – brings into politics the things that we're missing today, like humility and penitence and reflection, and even accountability.

    Lincoln got it right. We don't claim God's blessing on our politics and policies. We don't claim that God is on our side. We worry, we pray, we just always examine ourselves to see if we are on God's side. And if Lincoln got it right, I think Martin Luther King did it best. With that Bible in one hand and the Constitution in the other hand, he really didn't pronounce, he persuaded. He didn't shut people out; he invited everybody in to a moral discourse on politics. And he said we can do better. We can do better than this by our democratic values, by our religious values.
    We have to ask what kind of people do we want to be, what kind of nation do we want to have, what kind of world do you want to leave for our children. And when every major progressive social movement in our nation's history was fueled and driven in part by religion, by faith, by moral values, we have a very powerful, prophetic and progressive religious tradition in America and around the world.

    I think of my friends – Desmond Tutu in South Africa and Oscar Romero in El Salvador, the Archbishop there set against the junta and the U.S.-supported military dictatorship – and all these movements around the world where religion has been progressive.

    I had a wonderful experience in Memphis recently. I wanted to get a cab, and a 23-year-old African-American woman who was a bellhop at the hotel was helping me find a cab. She sees the book under my arm and says, 'Oh, God's Politics, all my friends are talking about that book. Is it good?' Then the two older bellhops, who knew I was preaching in town, whispered to her that I wrote it. She said, 'Oh, I'm sorry.' I told her, 'Don't be sorry – that's great!'

    And the technicians who worked with me before a TV appearance said to me, we saw you on this, we saw you on that ... we don't normally listen to the people we wire up, but we're all listening this morning. When ordinary people are having this conversation about what faith and values mean to our politics, that's just the best!


    Tears of joy will fall when all people of faith realize that when it comes to FAITH, they really think as one and it's not the faith the "religious right's" who follows the FAITH of hypocrisy.

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    Monday, April 25, 2005

    Monday Morning Hangover From "Justice Sunday"

    It's the day after Majority Leader Bill Frist's attempted coup d'état on religious freedom and separation of Church and State. I wonder if he is having any hangover type second thoughts. Like anyone who makes a complete ass of himself one day and wakes up feeling quite queasy about the recollections of his absurdities of the day before.

    Dr. Frist, you won't be able to find a hangover remedy for the unpleasant physical effects you are feeling today because of your heavy usage of presumption yesterday... ThinkingBlue


    Radical Right Schemes to Control Judges

    The Senate has already
    confirmed more than 200 of President Bush's judicial picks. The battle is
    heating up, however, over a handful of the most radical, most extreme
    nominations. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, looking for political
    gain, has decided on a strategy to push these nominations through: Smudge
    the line between church and state, twist the issue by playing the
    religious card and use "piety
    for profit
    ." Radical right-wing evangelical leaders, in the
    meantime, are using Sen. Frist right back to

    push their agenda
    to bypass the federal
    system of checks and balances to exert more ideological control over
    judges. (Want to know more about the judicial battles? On Monday, American
    Progress is hosting an event to

    discuss the role of the filibuster
    protecting minority rights and providing an effective counterweight to
    presidential power, featuring: Sen. Robert C. Byrd (D-WV), Prof. Michael
    Gerhardt (William & Mary School of Law), and Norman Ornstein (American
    Enterprise Institute), with moderator John Podesta.

    RIGHT-WING RADICALS, CAUGHT ON TAPE: This past March, two radical right-wing
    evangelical leaders – Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council and
    James Dobson of Focus on the Family – met privately with supporters at a
    conference in Washington. The Los Angeles Times obtained an explosive
    audio recording of that meeting in which the two leaders laid out their
    strategy to stack the courts, bypass the Constitution and destroy the
    system of checks and balances in the federal government. As Perkins said,
    "There's more than one way to skin a cat, and there's more than one way to

    take a black robe off the bench
    Their idea? Perkins and Dobson want to skip the constitutional process of
    impeachment and remove judges who don't toe their ultra-right partisan
    line using a back door method: stripping funding from their courts to
    hamstring their work until they are forced out. Dobson spelled it out,
    saying, "Very few people know this, that the Congress can simply
    disenfranchise a court. They don't have to fire anybody or impeach them or
    go through battle. All they have to do is say the 9th Circuit
    doesn't exist anymore and it's gone."

    RIGHT-WING OBSTRUCTION: Perkins agreed cutting off funding is a great way to
    turn judges into puppets,
    saying instead of going through the deliberative process of impeachment,
    "just take away the bench, all of his staff, and
    he's just sitting out there with nothing to do."
    (Unless it's a judge who can work without a staff, of course. No wonder
    Tom DeLay finds it so
    "outrageous" that Justice Kennedy does
    his own research on the Internet.)

    DELAY ON BOARD: The plan the radical right-wing evangelical leaders are
    hatching isn't falling on deaf ears. Just after this session, House
    Majority Leader Tom DeLay showed he was on board, warning ominously,

    "We set up the courts. We can unset the
    courts. We have the power of the purse."

    FIRST THE COURTS, THEN THE CONGRESS: Luckily, many conservatives in
    Congress aren't so willing to go along with the plot. Perkins and Dobson
    went on the attack, accusing many of them of being "squishy" or "weak."
    Specifically targeted were: Sens. Olympia Snow (R-ME), Susan Collins
    (R-ME), Lincoln Chafee (R-RI), Arlen Specter (R-PA) and Chuck Hagel
    (R-NE). Perkins and Dobson groused that Sens. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and
    George Allen (R-VA) needed pushing, too. Dobson obviously felt he wasn't
    getting the influence he was paying for, ominously saying,
    "Sometimes it's just amazing to me that they seem to forget how they got here."

    FRIST HIJACKS FAITH: Frist is scheduled to appear in a telecast Sunday
    (sponsored by the far-right Family Research Council), beaming his
    accusation that opponents of President Bush's judicial nominees are
    "against people of faith" into churches and homes across
    the country. Melissa Rogers, a visiting professor of religion and public
    policy at Wake Forest University Divinity School charges, "Dr. Frist is
    wrong to seek political advantage through this event, and

    his error is compounded by his tacit approval of
    these illegitimate claims
    of persecution and the smearing of
    others as 'anti-religious' simply because they differ on certain political
    and legal issues." His fellow senators also disagree with his
    participation: Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) told CNN, "When we talk religion
    and government, neither should become an instrument for the other.

    And I see drifting here in different directions that
    are, I don't think, healthy for our country.
    " Sen. Lindsey
    Graham (R-SC) concurred, calling Frist's planned speech "
    very dangerous precedent.
    That goes to a level where the Senate
    has never gone before. It is a very unhealthy turn of events." But, as the
    St. Petersburg Times wrote:

    Frist Shows No Shame


    Many true religious leaders are offended at Frist's
    attempt to score political points by hijacking faith. The National Council
    of Churches has criticized his participation in the so-called "Justice
    Sunday" telecast; so has the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism.
    Even the top official of the Presbyterian Church USA (of which Frist is an
    "active member"), Rev. Clifton Kirkpatrick, has come out against Frist's
    manipulation of religion, saying, "Elected officials should not be
    portraying public policies as being for or against people of faith."

    A SPECTER OF REASON: Sen. Arlen Specter stood up yesterday to urge his
    colleagues not to make a grievous mistake by invoking the nuclear option.
    The senator appealed to his fellow party members to "vote their
    consciences independent of party dictation." He also warned of the dire
    consequences of their actions, saying:

    "If we fail, then I fear this Senate will descend
    the staircase of political gamesmanship and division."

    FORCING A FILIBUSTER: Specter's appeal aside, the right wing of the Senate
    is edging closer to activating the nuclear option by possibly forcing a
    filibuster. It could happen sooner rather than later, as two of President
    Bush's most extremist, radical nominees just cleared committee: Judges
    Priscilla Owen and Janice Rogers Brown. Owen has a long record of
    extremist decisions and, as then-Texas Supreme Court Justice Alberto
    Gonzales put it,

    unconscionable acts "of judicial activism
    Brown, who was characterized by the New York Times as waging a "
    on mainstream legal values that most Americans hold dear
    ," also
    has a record of ideological extremism.
    For example, she
    characterized seniors on Social Security as people who

    "blithely cannibalize their grandchildren

    As Sen. Dianne Feinstein put it, "In my days on this committee, I have never seen
    a nominee who expresses such extreme views, views that are clearly out of
    the mainstream of American thought." (For more on Brown,

    check out this from ThinkProgress


    Dems Note 'Most Outrageous Things
    Conservatives Said' on Justice Sunday

    ( - Sen. Bill Frist should "stop dividing Americans along
    religious lines" and "stop trying to do away with the filibuster as we
    know it," Democrats said on Monday, one day after Frist addressed
    conservatives about the Democrats' unprecedented filibuster of judicial

    In a Monday-morning message to supporters, the
    Democratic Senatorial
    Campaign Committee
    singled out "some of the most outrageous things"
    conservatives said at a Justice Sunday event, which was beamed to churches
    around the nation.

    The DSCC said
    the following quotations "show you how out of the mainstream these people

    "The majority on the Supreme Court are unelected,
    unaccountable, arrogant, imperious, want to redesign culture according to
    their own biases, are out of control, and I think they need to be reigned
    in...I agree with Majority Leader Tom DeLay." --
    Dr. James
    Dobson, Founder and Chairman, Focus on the Family

    "Judges find in the Constitution what's not there." --
    Albert Mohler, President, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
    On the other hand, Democrats said they were pleased to hear Frist, in
    his videotaped remarks to the Justice Sunday event, "repudiate" comments
    about retaliating against federal judges.

    Democrats have blasted Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) and Sen. John Cornyn
    (R-Tex.) for some of their statements on judges.

    The day after Terri Schiavo died, Rep. DeLay made waves by saying
    "the time will come" when the judges "responsible for this" would
    have to "answer for their behavior."
    assassins out there interested)

    DeLay later denied accusations that he was making a veiled threat
    against judges.

    And Sen. Cornyn raised concerns that "recent episodes of
    courthouse violence in this country" may be linked to frustration over
    activist judges. Cornyn later clarified that he was not trying to justify
    courthouse violence, as his critics claimed; he said he was making the
    point that "the judiciary is losing the respect it needs to serve the
    interests of the American people."
    (calling all evangelical, anti-pro-choice, gun slingers)

    In its Monday-morning message, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign
    Committee thanked the 25,000 people who
    DSCC said the Associated Press took note of the
    opposition in its reporting on Sen. Frist's Justice Sunday speech.

    "We cannot let up now," the
    said. "Just because Frist chose his words a little
    carefully last night doesn't mean that he's not still planning to bring
    forward the nuclear option in the next few weeks."

    The message tells Democrats to "be ready" for the next phase of the
    campaign to retain "200 years of Senate tradition."

    A vote on changing Senate rules -- to get around Democrat filibusters
    of judicial nominees -- could come this week.

    DSCC races to watch


    Conservatives Launch, Liberals Assail Justice Sunday

    Christian liberal faced off against Christian conservative on Sunday
    evening with thousands rallying on either side for and against
    judicial filibusters at the Senate.

    Monday, Apr. 25, 2005 Posted: 6:15:45AM EST
    Christian liberal faced off against Christian conservative on Sunday evening with thousands rallying on either side for and against judicial filibusters at the Senate.

    Some 2,000 conservative Christians packed into the Highview Baptist
    Church in Louisville Ky. for the highly-anticipated “Justice Sunday:
    Stopping the Filibuster Against People of Faith” event – a nationwide
    television simulcast hosted by the Federal Research Council and Focus
    on the Family.

    While hundreds of liberal Christians protested the broadcast outside
    the church and across the nation, conservatives inside applauded the
    evangelical heavyweights who mounted an attack against the
    democrat-led judicial filibusters on President Bush’s nominees.

    The telecast, which made its way into 61 million households in 44
    states via Christian radio, television and Internet, drew heavy
    criticism from liberal Christians and democrats because of its
    endorsement by Senate majority leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) and its
    implication that “people of faith” should counter filibusters with by
    banning the practice.

    According to the New York Times, liberal groups “stepped up their
    attacks on Dr. Frist and the proposed rule change” that same evening.
    Before a crowd of nearly 1,200 at a nearby Presbyterian church,
    liberal Christians that same evening called Justice Sunday “a
    declaration of a religious war” and “an attempt to hijack religion”

    In light rising tensions and controversies, Perkins began the Justice
    Sunday telecast by declaring on the outset: “We are not saying that
    people who disagree with us are not people of faith."

    Perkins told the audience that minority Democrats were forcing members
    of the judiciary to choose between public service and their Christian
    views by denying them a vote.

    Sen. Frist meanwhile delivered a six-minute taped speech that made no
    reference to faith but called on the Senate to let the stalled
    nominees receive a vote.

    "Emotions are running high on both sides, and it reveals once again
    our country's desperate need for more civility in political life," he
    said in his taped message,” he said in his message. “I don't think
    it's radical to ask senators to vote."

    Along the same line of argument, James Dobson, chairman of Focus on
    the Family and one of the nation’s most influential evangelicals,
    criticized the majority of the Supreme Court for being “unelected and
    unaccountable and arrogant and imperious and determined to redesign
    the culture according to their own biases and values, and they're out
    of control."

    Dobson, speaking from the pulpit, said the majority of the high court
    does not care about the sanctity of life, and that the matter of
    judicial tyranny had to stop.

    Meanwhile, throughout the telecasted program, the names and phone
    numbers of several senators scrolled across the screen as speakers
    urged viewers to call.

    Other speakers at the event included Dr. Albert Mohler, President of
    the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
    and Chuck Colson, President
    of Prison Fellowship Ministries

    For more information on Justice Sunday and the FRC, visit:

    Anthony Le Fleur

    Post Contributor


    Frist sacrifices his integrity for the umpteenth time

    Posted by


    on April 24, 2005
    11:47 PM (See

    all posts by Leoniceno

    Filed under:


    In Frist's speech at Dobson's function:

    Now if Senator Reid continues to obstruct the process, we will
    consider what opponents call the “nuclear option.” Only in the United
    States Senate could it be considered a devastating option to allow a
    vote. Most places call that democracy.

    The phrase was coined by Republicans, who were probably grinning and
    cackling maniacally at the time. Now they're taking it back: "Just
    kidding, it won't be that bad. Certainly not nuclear. It's just democracy,

    I'm annoyed with Frist for a number of reasons.

    1) He's speaking at an event hosted by James Dobson, of Focus on the
    Family. I've expressed my opinion on Dobson on this blog in the past. Just
    in case you were wondering what a 'good Christian' should think, here's
    Dobson's convenient webpage,
    which lays out exactly what Focus on the Family would like you to think.
    See, if you follow this page, you never need to think for yourself again
    for the rest of your life!

    2)He's lying and he knows he's lying. He also lied and knew he was
    lying when he made his video diagnosis of Terri Schiavo. He's lying now
    because the Republicans coined the phrase and he knows it. Frist is more
    than willing to mislead the ignorant masses, and those that have
    sacrificed their power of thought to the religious right.

    I expect leaders to act based upon their own knowledge of what is right
    and wrong, not based on what they can get away with, and what they can
    write off.

    High-Tech Lynching in Prime Time


    Tears fall for freedom of religion lost.

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