Saturday, September 30, 2006

Do Americans Have a Death Wish? Congress Gives Bush Another $70 BILLION For War - Same Amount As Bush's Tax Cut for the Rich Last May ('06)

This week, Congress authorized another $70 billion in emergency funding to pay for Bush's wars in Iraq and Afghanistan through early next year, the same amount as Bush's tax cut for the rich this past May, 2006. Instead of paying for a war that directly benefits them and not the average American, the rich got to improve their lifestyles while eliminating the possibility of their becoming victims of terrorist acts. Nice scam, as laid out by CNNMoney.

This brings the total amount spent for Bush's wars of choice to $507 billion.

As lawmakers rushed to approve numerous measures before leaving to campaign:
. . . the Senate on Friday night passed and sent to President Bush a bill authorizing 700 new miles of fencing on the U.S. border with Mexico. No one knows how much it will cost, but a separate bill passed later Friday would make a $1.2 billion down payment on the fence. A 14-mile segment of fence under construction in San Diego is costing $126.5 million.

The fence bill was passed by the House two weeks ago. The Senate vote Friday night was 80-19.

In addition to money for starting work on the fence, a homeland security bill Congress completed on Friday includes $380 million to hire 1,500 more Border Patrol agents and money to build detention facilities to hold 6,700 more illegal immigrants until they can be deported.

"We have made giant steps in terms of our ability to control illegal immigration," House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) told reporters.

The fence bill became House Republicans' immigration focus in September after they abandoned Bush's call to bring millions of illegal immigrants into the American mainstream.

Democrats and immigration advocates say Republicans can hardly claim victory.

House Republicans failed to win measures for deporting immigrant gang members and empowering local police to enforce immigration laws. Their biggest obstacle turned out to be another Republican, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said the border security achievements trumpeted by Republicans don't measure up to the more comprehensive reforms her party backed. What the GOP calls achievements fall "very far short of what Democrats have proposed over and over and over again," she said.

The compromise defense bill passed earlier Friday provides $378 billion for core Pentagon programs, about a 5 percent increase, though slightly less than Bush asked for. The $70 billion for Iraq and Afghanistan is a down payment on war costs the White House has estimated will hit $110 billion for the budget year beginning Oct. 1.

The Iraq war continues to be unpopular with voters, according to opinion polls, but even Democratic opponents of the war voted for the Pentagon measure, which provides funding for body armor and other support for U.S. troops overseas.

"America is in deep trouble in Iraq," said Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.). "The continuing violence and death is ominous. ... Militias are growing in strength and continue to operate outside the law. Death squads are rampant."

The growing price tag of the Iraq conflict is partly driven by the need to repair and replace military equipment worn out in harsh, dusty conditions in Iraq and Afghanistan or destroyed in battle. Almost $23 billion was approved for Army, Marine Corps and National Guard equipment such as helicopters, armored Humvees, Bradley armored fighting vehicles, radios and night-vision equipment.

Lawmakers allotted $1.9 billion for new jammers to counter improvised explosive devices in Iraq and Afghanistan, and $1 billion is provided for body armor and other personal protective gear.

There are about 142,000 U.S. troops in Iraq and more than 20,000 in Afghanistan, and military officials say those levels will be necessary through the spring.

At this rate of spending, by the time Bush-Cheney leave office we will have spent/borrowed at least $1 TRILLION on Bush's wars - that does not include Bush's escalation of the war on terror into Iran and Syria.

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Friday, September 29, 2006

Republicans' `Do-Nothing' Congress Recesses

. . . . And what they did do was a travesty.

McClatchy Newspapers reports:
The 109th Congress recesses this weekend for November's elections having earned a reputation among scholars as a "do-nothing Congress" of historic proportions.

It failed to enact a host of once top-priority legislation on issues such as overhauling Social Security, immigration and lobbying laws. None of those is expected to be resolved in Congress' brief lame-duck session after the elections.

Lawmakers worked three-day weeks and took lots of time off. Both parties generally eschewed compromise. The Republican-led Congress conducted little meaningful oversight of the Bush administration and its policies in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Yet the do-nothing label belies at least three substantial legacies that this Congress will leave the nation:

_A surge in pork-barrel projects for lawmakers' constituents back home.

_Deference to a same-party president that shifted unchecked power to the executive branch and extended government's reach into people's private lives.

_New rules that permit the government to hold suspected terrorists indefinitely without charges, to use harsh interrogation measures on them if the president approves and to convict them using evidence that would be inadmissible in any other court.

Republicans tout some of Congress' accomplishments on the home front, including pension revisions and keeping taxes down. They blame the small number of legislative accomplishments in part on Democrats' obstruction and more pressing wartime priorities.

"The post-9-11 world is a hugely different world, and the way the Congress functions has changed fundamentally," said Senate Budget Committee Chairman Judd Gregg, R-N.H. "We're so overwhelmingly absorbed by the issue of our national security and keeping ourselves from being attacked again."

Democrats, for their part, accuse Republicans of politicizing national security at a cost to the nation's traditions of free expression and human rights. They say the Republican-led Congress is but a rubber stamp for Bush, and its actions haven't made America safer.

"This Congress does exactly what the president tells them to do; a complacent, complicit Congress," said Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland, the second-ranking Democrat in the House of Representatives.

Democrats deny that their "obstructionism" limited Congress' achievements. Instead they blame Republican infighting on immigration, stem cells, spending and treatment of detainees. They deride the Republican leadership's fixation on tax cuts and social conservatives' unpopular priorities, such as last year's legislative effort to prolong the life of Terri Schiavo, a Florida woman in a vegetative state.

Voters aren't happy with either party.

A New York University national survey released Friday showed that most Americans think that Congress either can't or won't fix long-term problems, such as global warming, Social Security, Medicare and even aging roads and bridges.

Two of Washington's most respected scholars of Congress - Thomas Mann of the Brookings Institution, a center-left think tank, and Norman Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute, a center-right research center - co-authored a new book on the legislature, "The Broken Branch." They argue that Congress is at a self-inflicted nadir.

They note that President Harry Truman first stuck the "do-nothing" tag on Congress in 1948. That year Congress was in session 110 days. This year Congress completes only 94 days of work before recessing for the elections.

Lawmakers typically are in Washington only from Tuesdays through Thursdays.

Mann and Ornstein say Congress' Republican leadership has taken traditional abuses of power farther than ever: They bypass committees, cut off floor debate, disallow amendments, force hasty votes on major bills that few have read and sometimes keep 15-minute vote counts open for hours while they browbeat junior members into supporting their position.

To be sure, there were instances when this Congress challenged the Bush administration, such as the Dubai ports deal and scrutiny of the Federal Emergency Management Agency after Hurricane Katrina. One committee investigated and publicized the activities of Jack Abramoff, a corrupt Republican lobbyist.

Three senior Senate Republicans - John McCain of Arizona, John Warner of Virginia and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina - convinced the White House to make some concessions over the detention and trials of suspected terrorists. But civil rights experts say the senators didn't force the White House to give up much.

That's consistent with U.S. history. Since the nation's start, executive power has grown during wartime, only to subside later, said John J. Pitney, a government professor at Claremont McKenna College in California. He worked for Vice President Dick Cheney when Cheney was a congressman from Wyoming.

"It's no accident that in the 1990s we were talking about the increase of legislative power over the executive," Pitney said. "That came between the Cold War and 9-11."

On balance, scholars say Republican congressional leaders ignored their duty to question decision-making and investigate corruption within the Bush administration. "They've done almost no oversight on the war or almost anything that matters," Ornstein said.

In contrast, in the 1990s Republicans in Congress investigated whether President Clinton had used the White House Christmas card mailing list to scout for donors.

"There were (more than) 100 hours of oversight hearings on alleged misuse of the Clinton Christmas card list, and 12 hours of hearings on Abu Ghraib. This tells you all you need to know," Ornstein said.

There's one area, however, in which scholars say members of both parties have excelled over the past two years: serving their constituents massive amounts of pork-barrel spending.

The taxpayer watchdog group Citizens Against Government Waste identified 9,963 special pork projects in the federal budget this year, collectively worth $29 billion. In 1996, the group found 958 projects worth less than $13 billion.

"Here, Congress has done a hell of a job, and every lawmaker has his earmark to show it," said Stephen J. Wayne, a government professor at Georgetown University.

The surge, Wayne said, tracks with trends in congressional redistricting that have made most seats in the House safe for one party or the other. One result of that is a polarized Congress. Another is that it gives lawmakers an incentive to tend to their own backyards and ignore national issues. "Congress is the only institution I can think of where the whole is less than the sum of its parts," Wayne said.

The ambition of Congress' agenda in its lame-duck session later this year will depend largely on whether Democrats capture either legislative chamber in November. That could compel Republicans to try to act while they still can, or Democrats to try to run out the clock.

"You want an irony of history?" Pitney said. "Everybody remembers the so-called `do nothing' Congress Truman ran against, but it was one of the most productive in history." It passed the National Security Act that reorganized the military, creating the Defense Department, Air Force, CIA and National Security Council. And it overrode Truman's veto of the anti-labor union Taft-Hartley Act.

This year, the case for a do-nothing Congress "is far stronger than it was in 1948," Pitney said. "But it's not a presidential election year. So the argument has to be made by (Democratic) members of Congress. And if Democrats talk about a do-nothing Congress, the danger is the public will find a plague on both their houses."


Sworn in in January 2005, the 109th Congress was poised to help President Bush carry out an ambitious agenda for conservatives on fiscal, religious and social issues. Republicans scored some victories, but had more mixed results or high-profile failures.


_More lenient rules for interrogating and trying terrorism suspects.

_Confirmation of two Supreme Court justices and other conservative jurists.

_Pension revisions.

_Funding for fence construction along U.S.-Mexican border.

_Renewal of the Patriot Act.

_Tax cuts for individuals and businesses.

_Bankruptcy and tort-law overhauls.

_Omnibus energy and transportation bills.

_Voting rights act extension.

_Allowing transport of cheap prescription drugs from Canada.


_Social Security and Medicare fiscal changes.

_Comprehensive immigration law changes.

_Comprehensive lobbying law changes.

_Passage of most annual appropriations bills.

_Constitutional bans on same-sex marriage and flag burning.

_Funding for new embryonic stem-cell research (vetoed).

_Repeal of estate tax.

_Minimum wage increase.

_Closing gaps in Medicare prescription-drug plan.

_Expanded offshore oil and gas exploration.

_Restrictions on president's warrantless wiretap program.

_Action against identity theft.

_Action to curb global warming.

Now watch them give themselves pay raises.

Repeat After Me: "I am not alone, we are not alone . . . ."

After the Senate disgraced us all and passed the Torture Bill (and don't dare let anybody get away with calling it `The Military Commissions Act of 2006'), I took a busman's holiday and wandered the net. Looking for the comfort of community, I found many of like-mind, but nothing that inspired a new approach to fighting the fascists who have taken over my country. That was until I paid a visit to Bookrate - "Christian Suicide Bomber - Possible?":
A ‘Christian suicide bomber’ attempted to blow up his car at an alleged abortion clinic on Tuesday by ramming his vehicle through the doors of the buidling and soaking it in gasoline. At the last moment, he decided not to light himself or his car on fire. Second degree arson is the charge.

David Robert McMenemy, 45, of Sterling Heights, Mich., is charged with second-degree arson. He's accused of driving his car into the Edgerton Women's Health Center about 4:30 a.m. on Monday.

Let’s conduct a thought experiment: A ‘Muslim suicide bomber’ attempted to blow up his car at a church on Tuesday by ramming his car through the doors and soaking it in gasoline. At the last moment, he decided not to light himself or his car on fire.

What do you expect the charge would be in that case? Still second degree arson? Or would Homeland Security have ushered him off in secrecy to a black site somewhere? Would he be in Cuba, in Eastern Europe, in Turkey? Would he have the right to counsel? Almost certainly not. We must ask ourselves why this man is not being classified as a terrorist — what specifically about his actions or his religion are excusing him from the horrid death sentence label of Terrorist?

Is it because he failed to light himself on fire or blow up his car? Certainly he had still done material damage to the façade of the building. Additionally, the administration glories in telling us of terrorist plots it disrupts when they are still in the planning stage, long before the perpetrators could have dreamt of driving a car into a building.

Is it because this is an alleged abortion clinic (in truth, it did not perform abortions)? Is it because this man is a Christian, or an American citizen? No sensible person would excuse him from the Label simply because he is a Christian, that’s simply prejudice. And American citizens have been held and extradited in the aforementioned fashion, as well as stripped of their Constitutional guarantees with the execution of a simple rubber stamp.

Or is it some other reason? Perhaps it is because he is a Christian, and perhaps this nation is so black-and-white, so prejudiced and so consumed of the “Us versus Them” mentality that they refuse to believe that one of their own could possibly be a Terrorist. A good chunk of the American populace, as well as the District Attorney responsible for charging this man, should rethink their arguments.

I've been trying to remember how Joe McCarthy was finally vanquished, and the short version is that the people of the United States got to hear him long enough and often enough to realize what a deranged petty tyrant he was.

And that's what has to happen with Bush-Cheney. They must be challenged at every turn, forced to defend themselves and their ideas over and over.

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Websites Worth a Gander :: A Page Out of Dispatches from the Vanishing World

Welcome to Dispatches from the Vanishing World
50 acres of tropical rainforest are said to be disappearing every minute. Millions of species of animals and plants around the world are going extinct at an ever-accelerating rate, many of them before they can even be identified or their existence is even known. (This particularly unfortunate type of extinction is known as Sentinelan extinction.) 2000 of the world’s 6000 remaining languages have less than 12 speakers and will be lost within this generation. The world’s cultural and biological diversity is under assault as never before in recorded history. What is the cause of the greatest extinction event in the last ten thousand years? Not a meteor strike or a volcanic eruption, or the advance or retraction of an ice sheet, but our very success as a species. Human population growth and the spread of modern culture are doing in the planet. Rapidly multiplying local people need land and its resources—wood for fuel, water, wild animals to eat, gold and diamonds and other minerals for income. The modern culture with its hunger for resources, its technology and seductive lifestyle— what Claude Levi-Straus calls “progress with a little p and in the plural,” the journalist Simon Elegant calls “the cancer of modern life” and the Persian intellectual Ahmad Fardid calls “Westoxication”—is wreaking no less havoc on ecosystems and traditional societies. Not that there aren’t many positive things about the modern culture—its respect for individual freedom, its protection of civil rights, its abhorrence of totalitarian oppression, the numerous benefits that its technology delivers. And as the events of 9/11 have brought home so horrifically, this culture is as vulnerable as the traditional ones it is destroying.

Dispatches from the Vanishing World is a forum for documenting and raising consciousness about the world’s fast-disappearing biological and cultural diversity. It provides first-hand, in-depth reporting from the last relatively pristine places on earth, identifies who and what is destroying them, and who is engaged in the heroic and often life-threatening struggle to save them. It provides foundations involved in environmental or cultural preservation with two services : 1) a full, independent assessment their program or cause, and 2) publicity by adapting the assessment for publication in one of the top American magazines or as a book.

This is a reader’s website. The Dispatches will be long and thorough, because often these places where species and/or cultures are down to the wire are remote and hard to get to and dangerous to move around in, and this may be the only detailed treatment they get. The Dispatches hark back to the open-ended “long-fact” piece developed by William Shawn, the legendary editor of the New Yorker. I was a practitioner of the genre during the last ten years of the Shawn era, which ended in l987, and for several years thereafter. I wrote about lemurs in Madagascar, pygmies in the Ituri Forest, the historical basis of the Amazon- women myth, a small, drab subspecies of butterfly that was holding up a dam in Colorado and generating a sixty- million-dollar environmental impact statement. The New York Times called me “consistently the farthest-flung of the New Yorker’s far-flung correspondants.” Later in the eighties and in the nineties I wrote for Vanity Fair Magazine about the murders of Dian Fossey and Chico Mendes, the destruction of Tibet by China, the kidnapping of the Panchen Lama, the race to find the Mexican overwintering grounds of the monarch butterfly. These and other pieces are posted in the Past Dispatches section.

In addition to the Dispatches, there are constantly updated bulletins from environmental and cultural hot spots, and links with other sites you can go to to find out more. (See Bulletins). There are also sections devoted to Tibet, the Amazon, Central Africa, Music, Butterflies, Mushrooms, the Adirondacks, and other subjects that I have a long-term, special interest in.

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Another George Allen Teammate Recalls Deer Head Incident

If you're asking, "What deer head incident?", let's take a moment to review:
A noted political scientist joined one of Sen. George Allen's former college football teammates in claiming the senator used a racial slur to refer to blacks in the early 1970s, a claim Allen dismisses as "ludicrously false."
Larry J. Sabato, one of Virginia's most-quoted political science professors and a classmate of Allen's in the early 1970s, said in a televised interview Monday that Allen used the epithet.

Sabato's assertion came on the heels of accusations by Dr. Ken Shelton, a radiologist who was a tight end and wide receiver for the University of Virginia in the early 1970s when Allen was quarterback. He said Allen not only used the n-word frequently but also once stuffed a severed deer head into a black family's mailbox.

Separately, the Washington Post reported that Christopher Taylor, 59, an anthropologist at the University of Alabama, said that during a visit to Allen's Virginia home in 1982, Allen referred to turtles in a pond on his property and said that only "the [racial slur] eat them."

The newspaper quoted Allen adviser Chris LaCivita as saying Taylor was lying. LaCivita described Taylor as a liberal activist.

The Post also interviewed two former Virginia athletes who asserted Allen frequently used racial slurs during his college years. The athletes were not identified.

Allen's campaign released statements from four other ex-teammates defending the senator and rejecting Shelton's claims.

LaCivita said Allen and Sabato were not friends nor did they associate with each other in college.

"Larry is obviously relying on words he heard from someone else," he said. "We believe it's completely inaccurate."

Sabato, director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics, would not tell the Associated Press how he knew Allen used the n-word. He told Chris Matthews on MSNBC that he did not know whether it was true that Allen used the word frequently while in college.

"I'm simply going to stay with what I know is the case and the fact is he did use the n-word, whether he's denying it or not," Sabato said.

Allen, a Republican, has been mentioned as a possible presidential candidate in 2008. Questions about racial insensitivity have dogged him during his re-election bid against Democrat Jim Webb.

Allen's use of the word "macaca" in referring to a Webb campaign volunteer of Indian descent in August prompted an outcry. The word denotes a genus of monkeys and, in some cultures, is considered an ethnic slur. But the senator insisted he did not know that and had simply made up the word.

Allen vehemently denied that he used the n-word.

"The story and his comments and assertions in there are completely false," Allen said during an interview with AP reporters and editors. "I don't remember ever using that word and it is absolutely false that that was ever part of my vocabulary."

Shelton said Allen used the n-word only around white teammates.

Shelton said the incident with the deer head occurred during their college days when he, Allen and another teammate who has since died were hunting on a farm the third man's family owned near Bumpass, Va., 40 miles east of the university.

Shelton said Allen asked the other teammate where black families lived in the area, then stuffed a deer's head into the mailbox of one of the homes.

"George insisted on taking the severed head, and I was a little shocked by that," he told the AP. "This was just after the movie `The Godfather' came out with the severed horse's head in the bed."

Shelton said he came forward because of Allen's presidential prospects and the "macaca" incident.

"When I saw the look in his eye in that camera and using the word `macaca,' it just brought back the bullying way I knew from George back then," he said.

Shelton described himself as an independent who has supported Democratic and Republican candidates. He said he regretted that he had not spoken against Allen in the early 1980s, when he first entered politics. Shelton said he began writing down his recollections as Allen's career "ascended to heights I never could have imagined."

Other former teammates rushed to the senator's defense.

Charlie Hale, a college roommate of Shelton's and an Allen campaign volunteer, said that he had hunted often with Allen, and "there was not even a rumor on the team" about the alleged deer incident.

Doug Jones, another Allen campaign volunteer who said he had roomed with Shelton, also dismissed the allegations. "I never heard George Allen use any racially disparaging word, nor did I ever witness or hear about him acting in a racially insensitive manner," he said.

Another former teammate, Gerard R. Mullins, said he recalled nothing racist about Allen.

"George had a strong personality, and I guess that's why he was a quarterback," Mullins, who is not close to Allen, said in a telephone interview.

Allen was sometimes confrontational with teammates, he said.

"He would kind of pick on everyone a little just to get a reaction," said Mullins. "From a football standpoint, if you were black or white it didn't matter. If you dropped a pass, he'd have something to say to you."

Shelton's claims came a week after a debate in which Allen bristled at questions about his Jewish ancestry. Allen later acknowledged publicly for the first time that his grandfather, a prisoner in a Nazi concentration camp, was Jewish, and on Monday he said both his maternal grandparents were Jews.

Explaining his initial reaction, Allen has said his mother swore him to secrecy when she told him about his ancestry last month.

Allen's father, the late George H. Allen, was a legendary football coach with the Los Angeles Rams and the Washington Redskins. Allen transferred from the University of California, Los Angeles, to Virginia when his father took the Redskins job.

Allen's defense is, "It didn't happen (the deer head in the mailbox), it's my word against Ken Shelton's, because the third person that Shelton claims was there (but I maintain there never was a hunting party) is dead."

Another witness comes forward to corroborate a portion of the deer head story:
A second former college football teammate of U.S. Sen. George Allen is disputing Allen's truthfulness about an early 1970s hunting trip that has become an issue in this year's election.

George Beam, now an executive at a nuclear engineering firm based in Lynchburg, was not part of the hunting party. But he told the Associated Press that one of the hunters, his now-deceased roommate, Bill Lanahan, described the incident to him later over a beer.

"Billy Lanahan told me they cut the head off a deer and stuffed it in a mailbox. He didn't say whose idea it was, and he didn't say, at least not in my presence, anything about a black family or a black neighborhood," Beam told the AP.

Allen insisted Monday that "The deer head story is... pure fabrication, absolutely false." The senator and several of his former classmates also have denied allegations that he routinely used the "n" word to refer to blacks.

Beam did not return several calls Wednesday from The Virginian-Pilot.

Beam's account partially supports claims by the third member of the hunting party, Hendersonville, N.C., physician Ken Shelton.

He has told reporters that it was Allen's idea to decapitate the deer and leave the head at a black household.

Dick Wadhams, Allen's campaign manager, insisted Wednesday that there is no evidence to support Shelton's claim and called Shelton and Beam "sad and pathetic" for bringing Lanahan, who died earlier this year, into the dispute.

"The incident did not occur. This gentleman is just piling on to a false story," he said of Beam, adding later that "I have no idea why he would do it."

The disputed hunt apparently took place on land owned by Lanahan's family in Louisa County, east of Charlottesville.

Maj. Donald Lowe of the Louisa Sheriff's Department said Wednesday that a search this week of department records failed to produce any evidence of a complaint concerning a deer's head.

The county's record-keeping in that era was spotty, Lowe added.

Lowe said the sheriff's department also has interviewed several deputies from the early 1970s as well as with black community leaders at the time. None recalled any complaint concerning a deer's head.

Questions about Allen's racial attitudes have dominated his re-election drive, boosting Democratic challenger Jim Webb and hobbling Allen's aspirations for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination.

My favorite part of this story is the Sheriff's Department comment. As if a black person in early 1970s Virginia, after discovering a deer head in his mailbox, is going to report it to the police.

Racism is so deeply engrained in our culture, that I wouldn't be surprised to learn that even today a black person might not notify the police after finding a deer head in his mailbox. Particularly in a southern state. Even Virginia. Because while it's true that out of all the southern states, Virginia had the fewest lynchings, the practice of lynching began there. It's roots are deep. The purpose of lynching was to threaten and intimidate through terror. On slaves, on whites who objected to the lynching of slaves, and on anyone who dared to raise the question. Lynching generally meant hanging, but it invariably included torture.
“To know what was in the minds of individual lynchers is extremely hard to get at,” [historian W. Fitzhugh Brundage] said.

Frankie Y. Bailey, a Danville native who is now an associate professor of criminal justice at the University at Albany in New York, agreed.

“Lynching is a really complex phenomenon,” she said.

For some, the memory of this extra-legal method of exacting justice and meting out punishment evokes images of a more or less “sober-minded affair,” Brundage said.

“There would be a sort of mock trial, followed by the issuing of a sentence,” he said of what were less typical lynching scenarios. “The alleged criminal might be allowed to offer a confession and … might be hanged as though it were a formal execution.”

There is a resistance to acknowledge what were more likely “bacchanalias of torture and violence,” Brundage said.

“Much more often, the lynching victim was dragged out of jail, tied to a telegraph post or tree and then the gathered mob riddled the lynching victim with gunshots,” he said.

“Less often, but perhaps more important for the memory of lynching, were burning victims alive and lynchings involving extended torture of the victim.”

Brundage said about half of all lynchings were related to purported crimes between a black man and a white man and about a quarter had to do with miscellaneous issues such as moonshining territoriality or property disputes.

About a fourth of lynchings involved alleged sexual offenses, he said.

“That’s an extremely broad definition of alleged sexual offenses,” Brundage said, adding they ranged from being a pickpocket to snatching a woman’s purse if you were a black man. Accusations of sexual offenses were sometimes used to cover up consensual relationships, he said.

Bailey recalled a time when the “reckless eyeballing” of a white woman by a black man was considered a punishable crime.

“There was the myth of the black rapist,” she said.

Bailey said that as black men were freed from slavery, a fear seemed to develop in white society that blacks would “regress” toward what some believed to be the state of “savagery” they had been in when they were brought over from Africa.

She said another wave of lynchings in the 1920s may have resulted in part from black veterans returning home from World War I with what was believed to be a newly acquired knowledge of how to use guns.

In many lynching cases, “Whether or not a crime was committed was another matter,” Brundage said.

What is striking, he said, is that the majority of victims were taken from the hands of law officers. People were often lynched after they had been sentenced for a crime, he said.

Bailey said lynching had a profound psychological effect on the black community in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

“Lynchings created a sense of terror for blacks,” she said.

It was not uncommon for photos of lynchings to be made into postcards or for grisly souvenirs gathered at the scene of a lynching to be sold, she said, spreading an awareness of lynchings from community to community and causing blacks to modify their behavior.

They might lower their eyes when encountering a white person on the street or even step off the sidewalk to let the person pass, Bailey said.

Virginia had fewer lynching incidents than other southern states, but both Brundage and Bailey said this was not reflective of an absence of racism in the state.

“It’s not as though white Virginians were less committed to white supremacy,” Brundage said.

Rather, social and economic structures didn’t create the need to resort to violence as much in Virginia, he said.

Virginia’s post-Civil War economy was more diverse than some in the deeper south, and tobacco production, unlike that of cotton, allowed blacks a degree of distance from whites, he said.

“In Virginia, white southerners didn’t have to - or chose not to - maintain the intrusive supervision of their black workers,” Brundage said.

Southside Virginia in particular “stands out as one of those regions … where violence was not a consistent theme or element in labor relations,” he said.

Bailey said she believes the relative infrequency of lynchings in the state had to do with an elitist mentality on the part of Virginians and a tendency toward a conservative position on law and order.

“There was a perception that violence was kind of a lower-class thing,” she said.

Yet numerous lynchings did occur in Virginia, and Bailey said it had to do with a need on the part of the region’s collective psyche “to figure out the status of blacks” in society.

Whatever explanations may be offered for what southern society was trying to accomplish in the late 19th and early 20th century through the lynchings of a subset of its population, the brutality of the phenomenon seems incomprehensible.

“A society can’t lynch people who are viewed as equals,” Brundage explained.

“Whites used language frequently to refer to young, black males as threats to civilization,” he said.

Somehow, “it was possible to imagine that black men were savage, brutal and immoral,” he said.

Lynchings did not occur because people thought the law was ineffective or because they couldn’t trust the courts, he said.

Some people, he said, simply felt that blacks “weren’t worthy of the consideration of the law.”

In the wake of the U.S. Senate’s apology in June to lynching victims, survivors and their descendents, historians have sought to explain why that body never passed federal anti-lynching legislation.

Bailey and Brundage both said they believe the legacy of lynching has potent implications today.

“The image of whites being out of control in terms of extralegal violence - there’s a sense that the legacy is still there,” Bailey said.

For example, blacks may perceive this when they see a pickup truck with a Confederate flag decal and a gun rack, she said.

Brundage echoed Bailey’s thoughts.

“Lynchings have implications for contemporary race relations in as much as most white southerners younger than 50 have only the vaguest idea about the history of lynching in the South. But within the black community, there’s a much deeper memory,” he said.

“For African Americans, the history of lynching, capital punishment and the fairness of the criminal justice system are all woven together.”

“For Americans as a whole - especially white southerners - it’s worth pondering what could have driven them to take the law into their own hands and with such ferocity,” Brundage said. “One would hope that’s a question people would ponder.”

Especially in these days following the U.S. Congress' passage of the Torture Act and the Bush administration's practice of 'rendition,' and the maintenance of secret prisons around the world by our government.

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Thursday, September 28, 2006

WSJ: "Disillusioned Republicans Want Democrats To Win Control of Congress"

These are the Republicans that the DLC is hoping to replace the liberal base of the Democratic party with, and move the Democratic party farther to the right.

As the White House and its Republican allies on Capitol Hill work to retain control of Congress in November's elections, a small but vocal band of conservative iconoclasts say they would prefer to see their own party lose:
The array of former members of Congress and officials from Republican administrations dating to the 1970s are using opinion articles, speeches and interviews to make the surprising -- and, to many of their friends and colleagues, near-heretical -- argument that it would be better for the country if their party lost. Some say they plan to vote Democratic for the first time in their lives. The Republican rebels say the modern Republican Party has so abandoned its conservative beliefs that it deserves to be defeated by the Democrats.

Three factors are driving the conservative backlash against the Republican-led Congress. Fiscal hawks are furious about the growth of the federal government. Conservative lawyers such as Bruce Fein, who worked in the Nixon Justice Department and Reagan Federal Communications Commission, are upset that Congress allowed President Bush to claim expansive powers to eavesdrop on American citizens and detain suspected militants without trial. Others say the war in Iraq is a costly diversion from the war on terror.

Other Republicans couch their desire for Republican losses in political terms, arguing that Democratic control of Congress for at least two years would increase the chances of Republicans retaining the presidency in 2008, by giving Republican candidates high-profile Democratic targets.

"Every Republican I know thinks Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid are the best things they have going for them," wrote Bruce Bartlett, a Treasury Department official during the presidency of Mr. Bush's father, referring to the top-ranking Democrats in the House and Senate. "Giving these inept leaders higher profiles would be a gift to conservatives everywhere," he added in an essay, part of a series by conservatives published recently in Washington Monthly magazine, under the heading: "Time for us to go."

"Republicans need a wake-up call," Joe Scarborough, a former Republican congressman who now hosts an MSNBC talk show, says in an interview. "We ran in 1994 against runaway spending, exploding deficits and corruption. But with Republicans in charge of both sides of Pennsylvania Avenue, what do we have? The same runaway spending, record deficits and culture of corruption." He uses his show as a forum for those views and has published two essays on the theme.

Most Republicans, of course, don't think it is time for the party to go anywhere and are irked at those who suggest otherwise. Mr. Scarborough says that after his essay was published in Washington Monthly, his invitation to serve as master of ceremonies at a congressional fund-raiser with President Bush was revoked under White House pressure. A White House spokeswoman says the administration decided "that there were better options for an emcee" at the event.

Even many conservative critics of the current Congress say they plan to hold their noses and work to retain Republican majorities in the House and the Senate, arguing that Democrats can't be trusted to keep the country safe from terrorism or to sustain economic growth.

And White House officials wouldn't welcome the stream of subpoenas and investigations that could come from Democratic-controlled congressional committees.

The Club for Growth, a conservative economic-policy advocacy group, says it will give $20 million this election cycle to Republicans who share its antitax beliefs, regardless of the candidates' chances of winning a general election. The group backed conservative challenger Steve Laffey's unsuccessful primary campaign against moderate Republican Sen. Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, despite the Republican establishment's belief that Mr. Laffey was unelectable.

Pat Toomey, president of the Club for Growth, says the group would be happy to see Republican moderates lose -- Club for Growth declines to support Mr. Chafee in what is expected to be a tight race against his Democratic challenger -- but stops short of campaigning against Mr. Chafee and other Republicans in the general election,

"Being Republican has to stand for more than having an 'R' after your name, and if that puts some seats in jeopardy, so be it," Mr. Toomey says. "But accept losing the Republican majority altogether? I just can't quite go there yet."

Mr. Scarborough, for his part, says he can "build a strong intellectual argument" for voting Democratic but can't bring himself to actually do so.

For the moment, Democrats appear less fractured than their rivals across the aisle. Many Democrats are so eager for an electoral victory that they are pragmatically backing candidates they once might have shunned.

Some Republicans, by contrast, having tasted congressional power for 12 years now -- and control of the House, the Senate and the White House for nearly six -- are ready to try being the opposition. Mr. Fein, the former Reagan and Nixon appointee, describes himself as a lifelong conservative who has voted for Republican candidates all his life and is disgusted by Democratic support for affirmative action -- which he sees as institutionalized racism -- and economic populism.

But he says that congressional Republicans have forfeited their right to control both chambers by failing to confront Mr. Bush over his expression of executive power, his interpretation of due process and habeas corpus, and his willingness to ignore legislation that he sees as an infringement of his war-fighting powers.

"A Democratic Congress will obviously not be promoting a conservative agenda, but at least they'll have the incentive, which is critical right now, to exercise oversight and restraint on the president," he says. "And that's much, much more than you can say for the Republicans who currently run Congress."

Mr. Fein recently bought a home in Florida and says he is scrambling to register to vote there in November, when he plans to do something he has never done before: cast a ballot for a Democrat. He says Democratic candidate Christine Jennings, who is running to fill the House seat vacated by Republican Senate candidate Katherine Harris, is "just the type of moderate I like."

Republicans are running as Democrats.

Throughout American history, political parties shift from left to right, and back again. One hundred and forty years ago, today's liberals would have been in the `party of Lincoln' (Republican). The Dixiecrats (the southern Democrats of fifty years ago) are today's Republican party. Politics has always been a business of pragmatism. When Republicans couldn't shut environmentalist groups down, they joined the organizations in massive numbers in order to control these groups' policies and agendae through their votes as members. The same strategy occurs within the Democratic and Republican parties, only these days it's moderate Republicans escaping the religious fundamentalist takeover of the Republican party.

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`Iraq for Sale' - Worldwide Screening Week

October 8th - 14th, 2006

Iraq for Sale: The War Profiteers is the story of what happens to everyday Americans when corporations go to war.

Acclaimed director Robert Greenwald (Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price, Outfoxed and Uncovered) takes you inside the lives of soldiers, truck drivers, widows and children who have been changed forever as a result of profiteering in the reconstruction of Iraq. Iraq for Sale uncovers the connections between private corporations making a killing in Iraq and the decision-makers who allow them to do so.

Find a screening, host a screening.

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Wednesday, September 27, 2006

"Ve Haf Our Vays"

So, there will be a mote around Baghdad, a fence around America, and torture as an interrogation technique. As Digby noted:
The bill introduced Monday dropped the words “outside the United States,” which Democrats said meant that prosecutors could ignore American legal standards on search warrants within the country. The bill also broadened the definition of an unlawful enemy combatant, from anyone “engaged in hostilities against the United States” to include anyone who “has purposefully and materially supported hostilities against the United States.”

I fully expect that this will be used on us, leftwing bloggers, before the decade is out.

Republicans will construe 'speech' (and writing) that they perceive as critical of them to be 'supporting and assisting' terrorists.

Do you remember this? I had forgotten that this was also Joe Lieberman's group.
On the day that McCain, Warner and Graham were huddling with Dick Cheney on this legislation, I wouldn't be surprised to learn that Lynn Cheney had a hand in the "compromise" that wasn't.

To the DLC, we on the left are the scourge of the Democratic party. They see us as the skunk at their garden party. We get in the way of their having a dandy time at their workplace, enjoying the power that comes with their offices (despite their minority status in Congress) with their counterparts across the aisle. Check out the society magazines in D.C. sometime, and see who is partying with whom. See what goes on outside the view of CSpan's cameras. This is what rarely gets reported outside the beltway. Politics in Washington is like high school, where everyone secretly would like to hang out and be accepted by the `cool and popular' kids. Including the journalists. It is the most incestuous lot, and journalists see nothing wrong with socializing with their subjects. They honestly do not think that it affects their being able to cover them objectively and without bias. `Embedded' doesn't just apply to the battlefield in wartime.

The very idea that anybody in either party in America (much less the Democratic party), would consider legislation like this says it all about the individuals themselves, who they are and their values. They can sign on to such legislation because they don't see themselves as ever having to be subject to it. They're above it, they're no longer one of the people. That's the danger of career politics and no term limits.

USSC to Decide On Use of Union Fees for Politics

The WP reports:
The Supreme Court announced yesterday that it will decide whether states may require organized labor to ask some workers for permission to spend their union fees on political activity.

The case addresses the agency fees that some states require workers to pay to labor organizations for representation, even if they chose not to join the unions. The court said it would review a Washington state Supreme Court ruling that struck down a state law barring the use of those fees for political purposes without workers' consent.

The case pits the state of Washington and national right-to-work advocates, backed by campaign finance reformers, against organized labor. At stake, potentially, is much of the money that unions rely on to help fund their state-level political activities.

The law had been adopted by Washington voters as part of a referendum on campaign finance reform. But the state's high court ruled 6 to 3 earlier this year that the law violated unions' First Amendment rights because it presumes workers would object to labor leaders' spending choices.

Washington's state government and a group of five teachers appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. They argue the real free-speech violation lies in spending teachers' mandatory contributions to their union on candidates or causes they do not necessarily support -- and Washington's law is an appropriate means of preventing that.

The teachers in the case do not belong to the Washington Education Association, but they are represented by the union in collective bargaining and they receive the benefits and pay called for in the union's contract with the state's public schools. For that reason, Washington law requires them to pay the union an "agency fee" in lieu of union dues.

The specific question in the case is what the union must do before it spends those nonmember "agency fees" on politics.

The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld agency fee arrangements in general. But it ruled in 1986 that unions must tell those who pay an agency fee how much of it goes to non-collective-bargaining purposes and offer them a refund for that amount.

Washington's law, though, goes further, in that it places the burden on unions, not individual workers, to make sure that no agency fees are being used contrary to fee-payers' wishes.

That was the feature of the law that the Washington Supreme Court majority found unconstitutional.

The Washington Education Association, urging the court not to review that decision, said its impact would not extend beyond the state.

But a friend-of-the-court brief filed by the Campaign Legal Center, a D.C.-based nonprofit group that supports campaign-finance regulation, argued that the Washington decision, if left in place and followed by other state courts, could be used "as authority to strike down state law 'opt-in' restrictions on labor union political activity" in 14 other states.

The court will hear two consolidated cases, Washington v. Washington Education Association , No. 05-1657, and Davenport v. Washington Education Association , No. 05-1589. Oral argument is expected to take place in December, and a decision should come by July.

How about a lawsuit by shareholders challenging corporations spending company assets on politics?

CNN is Giving Away National Security Secrets & Bush Doesn't Mind

Barbara Starr, CNN's correspondent at the Pentagon, is reporting that spy satellites have picked up "increased activity in a mountainous region of Pakistan where activity is usually `predictable'". This is why, Starr says, the U.S. believes that reports of Bin Laden "ill from a waterborne illness" may be true, in addition to a source claiming to have caught a glimpse of him. Or, the increase in activity (and truck tire marks) could be due to the Taliban's being pushed back across the border by Afghanistan troops.

Bush can't declassify and release the whole of the NIEs for fear of exposing U.S. intelligence gathering methods, but the Pentagon is blabbing about the information that they're getting from spy satellites and `sandals on the ground.'

Press secretary Tony Snow said releasing the full reports, portions of which Bush declassified on Tuesday, would jeopardize the lives of agents who gathered the information, risk the nation's ability to work with foreign governments and to keep secret its intelligence-gathering methods.

Uh huh.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Keith Jarrett, `When You Wish Upon a Star'

The `America' Crib Sheet

Liz at BlondeSense writes, `Diplomacy Doesn't Pay':
I rented "Why We Fight" and watched it yesterday. It was a pretty good dot connecting movie for me. I am obsessed with the cold war and life in the 1950's so I thought it would be a good movie to see. We grew up afraid of the enemy. It was always in the background.

The movie was inspired by Eisenhower's warning of the Military Industrial Complex in his farewell speech of 1961. It turns out that even Eisenhower didn't even know all that was going on behind the scenes. There is another force at work (surprise surprise). Fear mongering and war mongering go together and it's really not because the US wants to spread freedom, it's because it makes certain people rich and powerful.

After WWII when the rest of the world was rebuilding from ashes, the US remained the only country unwrecked by the war, yet the fear mongers realized just how much money could be made from continuous military interventions, the "defense" industry grew, millions of people were employed in defense all across the country, the propaganda movies were made and the American people were scared into submission without a clue as to why this was going on. People were working and they didn't ask questions.

The movie asserts that so much goes on behind the scenes that the American people are left out of the loop. When 9/11 happened, we wanted to know why. No one ever told us why and no one will. The powers that be deliberately disconnected foreign policy from the American people. We were just told since WWII, that there was an enemy and the enemy must be stopped. Troops were sent all over the globe to keep "peace".

Gore Vidal calls us the United States of Amnesia because we've forgotten how many times the US intervened unilaterally throughout history. When they put up the world map, it all became clear. Our priorities are set by corporate interests in world domination and it has nothing to do with political parties. Independent contractors are doing what soldiers used to do (thanks to the KBR) and corporations that depend on wars are finding new ways to make money aside from creating weapons. It all became clear to me why we bombed the hell out of Iraq and destroyed their infrastructure.

Why are we in this mess now? In 1992, Dick Cheney gave Kellogg Brown and Root the job to write proposals in order to privatize the services industry. This was after he and Wolfowitz decided a year earlier that the US should be the only world power. They had it all planned out in advance and on 9/11/01 it was all implemented. US corporations could get rich in other countries. And that's what it's all about.

There's a lot more about the movie here with many clips from the movie. Do check it out.

To supplement that I recommend this.

Then set up camp at Robert Parry's website, Consortium News, and don't leave until you've read everything there, and (bought his book).

However, in the spirit of full disclosure, be careful what you wish for (be certain that you want the knowledge, to learn what the hell is going on). Because you will lose all of your cherished illusions about what America is really about, and, you can never go home again.

Jane Harman: "There is a 2ND NIE, That is Only About Iraq . . . "

According to Chris Matthews on Hardball today, in addition to this redacted NIE (the chutzpah of this administration, to presume they deserve the benefit of any doubt, automatic trust, is just spectacular), representative Jane Harman (ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee) has announced that there is a 2ND NIE that is strictly about Iraq and how the threat to the U.S. is made worse, and that NIE has been stamped `DRAFT' so that the House Intelligence Committee can't see it. Harmon is calling for Bush to declassify that one:
Representative Jane Harman of California, the senior Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee said the administration is withholding a newer draft report on Iraq that is ``highly negative.''

``I have written to Negroponte asking him to send it up to Congress,'' Harman said in an interview.

Matthews spent the better part of his show today eating crow. I think of days like today as `window opportunities,' when it's possible to get through to journalists like Matthews. Today, Matthews was visibly shaken over the new reports of George Allen's racism. Matthews was talking about how he had pushed the idea of George Allen as a 'short list contender' for the Presidency in 2008, and how clueless he'd been assessing Allen's character. It won't last long, the window will close, but while it's open it's a good time to take advantage of it.

Every once in a while, Chris Matthews seems to channel a line from somewhere deep inside himself that crystallizes the situation in a way that reasonable people on both sides of the aisle come to rally behind. Last week it was that "Bush began a war that he couldn't finish."

That really is how politicians, particularly Presidents, need to decide the agenda for their administration. "What can I do in my term (4-8 years)?" If you're thinking about your legacy, as the media seems to force modern Presidents into considering in the last years (even though a good 25 years needs to pass before history can begin to judge), "What can you comfortably get done?"

But that's the bigger picture, and something for ruminating over when we aren't facing imminent moves by this deranged and corrupt administration and the Republican party behind it.

CNN Goes to Romania to Avoid Talking About U.S. Election Issues

Now that the `Osama Bin Laden is dead' story has fizzled, and all that is left to discuss are the conditions in the U.S. and the staggering incompetence and corruption of the Bush administration and the Republican party, CNN is in Romania. CNN is trying to whip up an American audience for the problem of abandoned physically and mentally disabled children in Romanian orphanages.

Here's a story for the American audience:

Army explores issue of living wills as more return from war in comas:
A growing number of troops are returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with severe brain damage, prompting the Army to examine whether living wills or other care directives from soldiers ought to be available to battlefield doctors.

The issue was raised this summer by wounded soldiers and families of casualties during a symposium sponsored by the Army's Wounded Warrior Program.

“With technology as good as it is, they can keep that soldier alive, but they can't put their hands on a digitized piece of paper” containing a do-not-resuscitate order, says Ed Salau, a former Army lieutenant who lost his left leg during combat in Iraq. He was one of 40 people at the June symposium.

The Army say it plans more symposiums to hear from wounded soldiers and their families, but it makes no promises about what steps it might take.

From January 2003 through July, the Pentagon identified at least 250 troops who returned from war with head wounds that left them — at least initially — comatose or unable to care for themselves or respond to people. Brain injuries, most from roadside bombs, are the signature wound of the Iraq war.

The number is a small part of the 20,000 troops wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan, but it is “unprecedented,” says Dale Smith, professor of medical history at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Md. “All of these (comatose) people died in former wars before they got home.”

Troops can fill out living wills instructing doctors to withhold care. Those at the symposium recommended that troops be better educated about the process and that the wills be accessible to doctors.

Today, field surgeons unaware of last wishes say they often keep soldiers with crippling brain injuries alive and fly them to the USA. That allows families a chance to get closure and to make decisions about organ donation, says Brett Schlifka, an Army neurosurgeon. It also might leave relatives to decide whether to withhold life support.

Not every family member favors a move toward living wills. Sarah Wade, whose husband, Ted, suffered a major head injury from a roadside blast in Iraq in 2004, says she has mixed feelings. If her husband had a living will, he might have directed doctors not to take the steps that saved his life, she says. Since he was sent back to the USA, his condition has improved, she says. “I'm leaning against it,” she says of giving combat surgeons access to do-not-resuscitate orders.

Army Col. Mary Carstensen, director of the Wounded Warrior Program, says the concerns raised at the symposium are being sent to appropriate offices within the Army, Pentagon and Department of Veterans Affairs.

“There was so much emotion behind each one of these issues that we know we have to do something,” she says.

Care directives and living wills are not discussed with our fighting men and women in the military before they are sent into battle?? In a business where it's not "Are you willing to fight for your country?", but "Are you willing to die for your country?"

Don't you think that Bill Frist and the Bush brothers should weigh in on this? I would think that Randall Terry's group would want this publicly debated, too.

Come on, CNN, deliver to your audience.

Survey on How People See God

Factors that determine which type of God people believe in:
How a person thinks of God is influenced less by Scripture and more by race, gender, education, income, politics and even where a person lives.

Moreover, researchers say the type of God people believe in can predict their political and moral attitudes better than just looking at their religious tradition.

This finding is part of the Baylor Religion Survey released last week the most extensive survey of religion ever in the United States.

“American Piety in the 21st Century: New Insights to the Depth and Complexity of Religion in the U.S.” was conducted by the Baylor Institute for Studies of Religion and Baylor University’s Department of Sociology, involving 1,721 respondents across the country.

The survey included 29 questions about God’s character and behavior, which researchers said reveal two clear and distinct dimensions of belief in God.

They can be summed up in two questions: What is your belief about how directly God is involved in the world and your personal life? And do you believe God is angry about sin and tends toward punishment and wrath?

From this, researchers concluded that Americans see God in four ways:

Type A: Authoritarian God (31.4 percent): These are believers who tend to think God is highly involved in their daily lives and world affairs. They tend to believe that God helps them in their decision-making, is responsible for global events, is quite angry and capable of meting out punishment on the unfaithful and ungodly.

Type B: Benevolent God (23 percent): These believers tend to think that God is active in their daily lives but are less likely to believe that God is angry. Instead, God is mainly a positive influence in the world and less willing to condemn and punish.

Type C: Critical God (16 percent): Believers in this grouping tend to think that God does not interact with the world but observes the world unfavorably, that God’s displeasure will be felt in another life and that divine justice may not be of this world.

Type D: Distant God (24.4 percent): People who believe this way tend to think that God is not active in the world and not especially angry, that God is more a cosmic force who sets the laws of nature in motion and does not do things in the world nor hold clear opinions about individuals’ activities or world events.

The remaining 5.2 percent of those surveyed say they are atheists.

Stephen J. Andrews, Old Testament, Hebrew and archaeology professor at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, said surveys often simplify conclusions, and categories often represent extremes.

“This appears to be true of this survey,” he said. “The trouble is that religious faith, which includes the human perception of deity, is far more complex and sophisticated.”

The Bible presents a picture of a God who is somewhat of a paradox, one who is just, meting out punishment, but also benevolent, caring for people, he said.

“I wonder if there had been another mediating option between ‘A’ and ‘B’ if the survey results would be different. I think they would.”

Warren Carter, New Testament professor at St. Paul School of Theology, wondered what role Scripture plays in forming people’s views.

“It’s interesting that ‘B’ is the closest to the emphasis of the New Testament writers, though aspects of ‘A’ are also present,” he said. “Generally, views ‘C’ and ‘D’ are not prominent in the New Testament.

“This suggests that for some people the New Testament texts, along with other factors, are important in shaping their perceptions of God, while for others the experiences of their own lives and of what is happening in the world play a greater role in their images of God.”

The survey says it’s possible to look at demographic and religious factors of an individual and conclude which view of God that person is likely to hold.

For example, women tend to believe in a God who is more engaged in their lives (Types A and B) and men tend toward less engaged images (Type D). The majority of African-Americans (53.4 percent) believe in an Authoritarian God.

People with less education and lower incomes tend toward the more engaged images of God (Types A and B), while those with college degrees and incomes of more than $100,000 tend to believe in a Distant God or are atheists.

Geography also appeared to shape views: Easterners tend toward belief in a Critical God; Southerners, an Authoritarian God; Midwesterners, a Benevolent God; and West Coasters, a Distant God.

People with more engaged images of God (Types A and B) are more likely to attend church weekly and pray several times a day. God’s anger (Type C) does little to inspire religious practice and participation.

Catholics, mainline Protestants and Jews tend to believe in a more Distant God, while evangelical Protestants and black Protestants tend to believe in a more Authoritarian God.

People who feel strongly that God is a “he” tend to believe in an Authoritarian God.

Are those who believe, "God-fearing" or "God-loving"?

Museum Field Trip

The Amazing Art of Julian Beever:

Monday, September 25, 2006

Army Warns Rumsfeld: "We're Billions Short"

An extraordinary action by the chief of staff sends a message - The Pentagon must increase the budget or reduce commitments in Iraq and elsewhere:
The Army's top officer withheld a required 2008 budget plan from Pentagon leaders last month after protesting to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld that the service could not maintain its current level of activity in Iraq plus its other global commitments without billions in additional funding.

The decision by Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker, the Army's chief of staff, is believed to be unprecedented and signals a widespread belief within the Army that in the absence of significant troop withdrawals from Iraq, funding assumptions must be completely reworked, say current and former Pentagon officials.
Schoomaker failed to submit the budget plan by an Aug. 15 deadline. The protest followed a series of cuts in the service's funding requests by both the White House and Congress over the last four months.

According to a senior Army official involved in budget talks, Schoomaker is now seeking $138.8 billion in 2008, nearly $25 billion above budget limits originally set by Rumsfeld. The Army's budget this year is $98.2 billion, making Schoomaker's request a 41% increase over current levels.

"It's incredibly huge," said the Army official, who, like others, spoke on condition of anonymity when commenting on internal deliberations. "These are just incredible numbers."

Most funding for the fighting in Iraq has come from annual emergency spending bills, with the regular defense budget going to normal personnel, procurement and operational expenses, such as salaries and new weapons systems.

About $400 billion has been appropriated for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars through emergency funding measures since Sept. 11, 2001, with the money divided among military branches and government agencies.

But in recent budget negotiations, Army officials argued that the service's expanding global role in the U.S.-declared war on terrorism — outlined in strategic plans issued this year — as well as fast-growing personnel and equipment costs tied to the Iraq war, have put intense pressure on its normal budget. [Read the rest of the story...]

And now with an NIE that concludes that the war in Iraq has increased the threat of terror, there are very few choices left for us. More borrowing (increasing the deficit), reinstating the draft, raising taxes - the list of options (for continuing on the Bush-Cheney roadmap) is short and bleak. I suppose that they could raise the stakes, try to make themselves look dangerously unstable and insane (more than they already are) by dropping nuclear payloads over Iraq (and Iran). Wasn't that our rationale for dropping `Fat Man' and `Little Boy' over Japan? To "shorten the war"?

Yes, it can get much worse with Bush-Cheney in charge.

Not a Good Sign

Edwards Concedes to Wynn in Fourth District

County registrars have finally tallied up the votes (absentee and provisional ballots) in Maryland, only two weeks after the primary:
Donna Edwards is accepting defeat after a spirited Democratic primary challenge to Rep. Albert Wynn in Maryland's Fourth District.

Edwards tells The Washington Post she believes votes in the district, which includes parts of Prince George's and Montgomery counties, have been counted "to the extent that they will be."

Unofficial results show Edwards trailing Wynn by more than 2,700 votes. The results will be certified Monday.

Edwards says she remains "really troubled" by "multiple layers of failures" in the election. But she's no longer considering legal action.

Voting in many Montgomery County precincts was disrupted for hours because access cards weren't provided at many polling places.

Wynn says of the close election, "I certainly appreciate the support of the people who voted for me, and I'm going to work harder to do a better job."

As published earlier in TCA, this race is an early bellwether for the November election. Although a Democrat, the incumbent (Albert R. Wynn) is the Joe Lieberman of Maryland - he supported Bush and Republicans on several key bills, the Bankruptcy Reform Act and the Iraq War among them. There were many irregularities in this election and Wynn's having won legitimately is unlikely. Donna Edwards' comments following her concession shows that she has nowhere to go to contest. If the electronic voting machines, with no paper trail, are being hacked, then there is nowhere to go for satisfaction.

Due to these problems and irregularities of the primary in Maryland, even the Governor of Maryland (a Republican) is calling for paper ballots for the November election, but the Democrats who control Maryland's Board of Elections are resisting.

Democrats had better start talking openly about the very real probability of election fraud and theft before the elections, because after will be too late.

Magical Underground World Discovered

Just-discovered cave in Sequoia National Park said to house astounding rock formations, clues to region's geologic history.

Four amateur cave explorers in Sequoia National Park have discovered a vast cave formed 1 million years ago, a labyrinth that stretches more than 1,000 feet into a mountain and features some of the most beautiful rock formations ever seen.

Millions of crystals along its walls shimmer like diamonds. Translucent mineral "curtains" hang from the ceiling. Flowstones that resemble spilled paint dot the floor. A lake that might be 20 feet deep fills one of the cave's five known rooms, and passages leading into darkness suggest there is still much more to see.

The discovery has excited geologists and cave explorers nationwide because although caves are discovered with almost mundane regularity -- 17 of the 240 caves in Sequoia and Kings Canyon parks have been found since 2003 -- it is rare to find one so grand. The cave, named Ursa Minor, has been called one of the most significant finds in a generation.

"There are things in this cave that could really open windows into our knowledge of geologic history and the formation of caves throughout the West," said Joel Despain, the parks' cave manager. "We're just beginning to understand the scientific ramifications of this."

Park officials will not pinpoint the cave's location, saying only that it is in the Kaweah River watershed and will probably never be open to the public. Explorers from the nonprofit Cave Research Foundation discovered it on Aug. 19. Through good luck and better eyesight, they happened upon Ursa Minor while headed to lunch.

While most people envision caves as big holes in the ground, cave mouths are usually quite small -- in this case, about the size of a softball. Scott McBride, an explorer from San Andreas (Calaveras County) who has discovered 50 caves since 1994, spotted it, loosely filled with dirt and rock. Fissures around the opening, something a casual observer would miss but a seasoned caver knows might suggest a cave entrance, suggested it was worth a closer look.

"It looked interesting to me, so I broke out my flashlight," he said. "Sure enough, I could see darkness in the hole, which is a good sign."

He kept digging, and when the mouth was just big enough, he poked his head inside. The hole kept going, so he called out to his colleagues to bring shovels. Within a couple of hours, they'd opened up a hole big enough for McBride to squeeze through.

He scooted 25 feet or so down a slight incline, his headlamp lighting the way. He landed in a room so big he couldn't see the other side.

"By that point, I could see that it went back at least 35 feet, and I thought, 'OK, this is a cave,' " he said. "I knew pretty quickly that this was significant."

McBride climbed out to tell his friends. They went for lunch and returned with climbing gear. After 90 minutes of digging, they'd opened up a bigger hole. McBride went first, followed by Mike White.

They made it to the room McBride had already seen, turned a corner and discovered the passage descended 90 feet straight down. Excited, they rappelled into the void, their headlamps lighting the way. They called back to their colleagues, Allen Hager and Tom LeFrank, from the bottom.

No one heard them. They were too far down.

"They'd been yelling at us for 10 minutes, and we couldn't even hear them," said Hager, a caver from Los Angeles.

When they finally got the word, they too went into the hole. The four men spent about an hour exploring the cave in awe before climbing out to alert park officials.

"I was absolutely floored," Hager recalled. "Stunned."

Cavers have a tradition of allowing the person who discovers a cave to name it, and McBride chose "Ursa Minor" because they found a bear skeleton inside and because the cave shimmers like the stars of the Little Dipper.

"I've never seen a cave sparkle like this one," McBride said. "When you shine your light around the room, all the facets reflect your light like a million diamonds."

The four explorers have joined Despain and other geologists in mapping the cave, but they haven't found the end. The cave features five rooms -- the biggest is about 200 feet wide and 50 feet tall -- and at least five leads, or passages, leading farther underground.

"We think we've seen about 1,000 feet of cave passage, but there are areas we can see but haven't explored," Despain said. "We don't know how big this cave is or how much more there might be."

Those who have seen Ursa Minor -- only a dozen people have been allowed in -- said the most impressive thing about it isn't its size but its features. The floor is covered with stalagmites and flowstones that Despain said look "like someone poured taffy on the floor." Thin, hollow stalactites called soda straws hang from above; the longest are 6 feet.

There are long, thin blades of rock called cave curtains, which are formed by water flowing from overhangs. Some are translucent; others are red, orange or brown. Here and there are piles of cave pearls, calcified balls of sand as large as cherry tomatoes.

"You stand in one of these rooms and it's just jaw-dropping," Despain said. "It's just beautiful."

The cave is littered with animal skeletons and teems with spiders, centipedes, millipedes and other invertebrates. Experts believe Ursa Minor will feature unique species found nowhere else, adding to the 27 never-before-seen species discovered during a recent study of invertebrates in the park's 239 other caves.

Park officials are inviting experts in various fields from throughout the West to help explore the cave, and many are jumping at the chance to visit a pristine cave and see a portion of the Sierra Nevada from the inside.

"Ursa Minor is a very important discovery that likely will help us to understand how caves in the Sierra Nevada form, and perhaps even tell us something about the mountain range itself," said Greg Stock, a geologist at Yosemite National Park who is among those invited to tour the cave.

For now, the top priority is thoroughly mapping the cave and installing a gate at its mouth to keep sightseers and vandals at bay. No more than a few dozen people will ever see Ursa Minor, and those who have said they'll never forget it.

"It was exhilarating and overwhelming," McBride said. "You constantly look for these things, and cavers always joke about finding the big one. To find the one we always joked about is just amazing. This is the creme de la creme of finding caves."

I love caverns.

Going into a cavern is the closest thing I have ever experienced to being on another planet - it's a landscape unlike anywhere else on earth. It's like seeing exotic tropical fish for the first time, in a salt water tank or diving in the ocean. Or a peacock.

There are caverns all over the country that have been developed for tourists, with comfortable walkways and ramps - even those who are disabled can enjoy them.

My favorite one is Luray Caverns in Virginia:

Deep inside Luray is the `StalacPipe Organ,' a man-made wonder that everyone should experience before they shuffle off this mortal coil.

Luray has an extra attraction for American history junkies: On the grounds above the caverns is `Natural Bridge':

It's spectacular on its own, but it also boasts some cool `graffiti': In 1750, young George Washington surveyed the Natural Bridge site for Lord Fairfax. Landmarks remain of the work and on the wall of the bridge where he carved his initials.

For more, visit `Virtual Cave.'