Better Angels

"...all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature." ---Abraham Lincoln, First Innaugural Address

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Just Who is this John Kerry You Speak Of?

Last night, watching the DNC on C-Span: Mr. B. cuts over to WGBH during a dull moment and I hear the question - Can John Kerry define himself for the American people on Thursday?

This morning, on the Connection: What do we want to know about Kerry and will that help him get elected?

In my mailbox this afternoon: Cover of Newsweek, "In Search of John Kerry."

Ok, ok, I get it. John Kerry is an elusive cipher, a whil-o'the-wisp, Mr. Cellophane himself. I have no idea what to think about him and I don't think I can make up my mind unless he drives to my house, settles in on the couch and personally tells me what it is he's all about.

At least, this is what the media would have us believe.

When did the "cuddliness" of the candidate and the transparency of his personality trump the substance of his intellect in presidential campaigns? Did post-Revolutionary voters lament the lack of intimate details about George Washington?

Dorcas: I know he is a great general, but pray, tell me of his pastimes and predilictions.
Constance: Marry, I know not, but mayhap we could secure an interview with his great friend LaFayette to discern the quality of his nature. I hasten to enquire.
Dorcas: Godspeed!

The fact is, what we do know about Kerry is enough to assure us of his fitness for the office of the President. He decided on public service at an early age, and has never wavered in that committment. He has a mind capable of seeing the nuances in complicated matters. He makes careful decisions and listens to advisors. He is willing to change his mind. He studies history.
Want details about his personal life? He is still close friends with people he met as a young man. His children adore him. His ex-wife speaks of him kindly. His step-sons are happily campaigning for him. He loves his wife.

On the Connection, the point was made that Kerry is more relaxed one on one and that Bush is more "comfortable in his skin" in public. But we all know that the most important moments of the presidency don't happen in public, they happen away from the cameras in tense negotiations and heated debates. They happen when the President presents his case to a foreign leader or brokers the support of the Congress. In the middle of the whirlwind of security and motorcades, of proclamations and gala dinners, surrounded by the Secret Service, his staff and the press, the President is, ultimately, alone. He shoulders the responsibility for protecting us and helping us prosper. He has to live with the results of his choices and decisions, good and bad. He is accountable to us.

We don't need a President who knows how to work a rope line and josh with the press. We don't need a President who needs the constant approval of syncophants to fuel him. We need a President who knows how to be alone with the issues, to grapple with the tough questions and face down the distractions, until the answers come to the fore. John Kerry can do that. What more do we need to know?

But on the other hand, I share a lot more DNA with this guy. Posted by Hello
The eldest wee-Biblio is seen here in his Kerry shirt, holding "Kerry" the Democratic donkey and the 32 dollars he saved for the Kerry campaign.  I am one proud progressive Mama.

My Cousin Andy

   My mother is involved with the Alden Kindred of America, an organization of people descended from John and Priscilla Alden.  The other day she told me about one of our newest members.  Ok, I already knew that I'm related to Dan Quayle, so I should have been prepared for this, but I wasn't.  Ok, ok, deep breath...

   Andrew Card.  There, I said it.  Andrew Card is my cousin.  Chimpy's chief enabler and I share DNA.  DNA, people!  And probably someday he's going to be struck by a terrible genetic disease and it will turn out that I am the only one who can save him and his life will hang in the balance as I decide...hmmm, will I let him live to spread more Republicanism throughout the land or will I leave him to die in the lonely knowledge that he and he alone could have said "C'mon Mr. Preznit, let's put the goat book down and go save the country?" 

   I confess: I would let him live to spin the spin on cable talk shows another day.  Because that's what liberals do! 

   Whew.  Sorry about that.  President Gore got me all fired up last night.

   Carry on.


Saturday, July 24, 2004


Here's the schedule for the Southern Baptist Convention's "ivotevalues" tractor-trailer truck tour.  If they're in your neighborhood, stop by and see how non-partisan they really are.

Friday, July 23, 2004

Senator Byrd on the Defense Appropriations Bill of 2005:

Deputy Defense Secretary Wolfowitz described the $25 billion which is contained in the conference report of the Defense appropriations bill now before the Senate as an insurance plan. That is the way Mr. Wolfowitz described it. Secretary Wolfowitz stated in his testimony to the Armed Services Committee that our troops would not run out of funds until February or March 2005. I didn't buy that line. The administration has fallen down on the job in budgeting for these wars, and his budget projections simply are not to be trusted.

I say ``these wars'' because we are fighting two wars, one war in Afghanistan, which is the result of the al-Qaida attack upon the United States on September 11, 2001. That was an attack upon the United States by those individuals who had hijacked planes and flown them into the World Trade Towers, into the Pentagon, and into the field in Pennsylvania. That was one war. I supported Mr. Bush on that war. I support that war today. 

The second war is the Bush war, the war that is of Mr. Bush and his ring of people around him in the White House. That is the Bush war. That was an attack upon a sovereign nation which had not provoked us, which had not attacked us. That was an attack on a nation in support of the Bush doctrine of preemption. I did not support that war then, and I do not support it today.

It's nice to see someone saying something sensible, isn't it?  Byrd thinks so, too:

The administration would do well to listen--just to listen; get off its high horse, swallow its false pride, and listen--to this commonsense message. Stop the budget gamesmanship that only endangers the lives of our fighting men and women. Enough of the political posturing that denies that our military in the field may have urgent needs. The President of the United States must take responsibility for the fiscal mess that he has created.

I think the Dems smell blood in the water.    



Senator John Kyl of AZ has introduced a whopper of an anti-terrorism bill in the Senate.  I haven't read through all of it yet but a quick perusal yielded this:

IN GENERAL- Whoever, within the United States, or subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, willfully participates in or provides material support or resources (as that term is defined under section 2339A) to a nuclear weapons program, or other weapons of mass destruction program of a foreign terrorist power, or attempts or conspires to do so, shall be imprisoned for not more than 20 years.

I hope this is retroactive, cause I'm pretty sure some members of the current administration did
just that.

I can't wait to hear the debate on this one...

Sen. Mark Dayton of Minnesota introduced this bill into the Senate on Monday - "to ensure that Members of Congress do not receive better prescription drug benefits than medicare beneficiaries."

The short title is "Taste of Our Own Medicine Act of 2004."

Give Dayton some love here.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Denmark, Scourge of Scandinavia

I watched some of the Senate debate on the marriage amendment yesterday and was struck by Sen. Santorum's comments on Denmark:
"For example, the countries of Denmark, Sweden, and Norway have either marriage or civil unions for same-sex couples. Sixty percent of first-born children in those countries are now born out of wedlock. Now, that is equivalent to some of the poorest neighborhoods in our society. Remember, I talked earlier about how the breakdown of marriage has affected the poorest communities in our society and our culture, and in many of those cultures marriage is not accepted, and as a result the Government has to come in and bail out those communities because there are no unions, there are no families, there is no support network for these children? In middle-class and upper middle-class, socialistic, equality-driven Scandinavia, where there are no ghettos of poverty that we see in America, 60 percent of first-born children in these countries are born out of wedlock. Why? Because marriage is not important. It has no meaning. So people simply do not get married."

due, of course, to Denmark's legal gay almost-but-not-quite marriage. This is a common argument against gay marriage.

Since Santorum and his ilk insist that this amendment isn't about discrimination but about protecting children, I thought I'd do a little compare and contrast between the good ol' U.S. of A. and gay lovin', bastard birthin' Denmark.

Infant mortality rate:

US - 6.63 deaths per thousand born
DK - 4.63

Deaths due to abuse or neglect (averaged over 5 years):

US - 2.2 per 100,000 child deaths
DK - .07

Deaths due to abuse or neglect of a child under age 1(averaged over 5 years):

US - 1,889
DK - 8

Children living at or below the poverty line:

US - 22.4%
DK - 5.1%

Children in one parent families:
US - 16.6%
DK - 15.2%

Percent of those children living in poverty:

US - 55.4%
DK - 13.8%

Teen births:
US - 52.1 per 1000 women giving birth
DK - 8.1

The United states is one of only 2 states (Somailia is the other) that has not ratified the UN's Convention for the Rights of the Child

All Danish children receive health insurance. American children do not.

In Denmark, all mothers receive free prenatal care. Parents have a total 52 weeks of leave with a "subsistence allowance" guaranteed them following the birth of each child and each year receive quarterly tax-exempt family support payments for each child under 18. American parents get 12 weeks of unpaid leave and a child tax credit...unless they don't.

Denmark has outlawed the physical punishment of children, while in the U.S. physical punishment is legal except for in prisons and some schools.

98% of Danish mothers initiate breastfeeding. Only 70% of US mothers do. Denmark enforces the WHO International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes. The US does not.

So you see Santorum's point, right?
Me neither.

Saturday, July 10, 2004

Oh Yeah...

The Lilly Endowment gave NPR $125,000.00 last year for the coverage of religion. Which sorta means that BBH should put up the firewall between them and her, rather than jet-setting off to Florida to speak at a conference they funded, right?

More on the Lilly Endowment

A commenter below mentioned that I might have been too harsh in my desription of the Lilly Endowment at "right wing," mentioning that they funded quite a lot of programs, including enviromental ones. So I took a look. What I found is curious.

The Lilly Endowment is one of the largest, if not the largest non-profit foundation in America. I has a three pronged approach to grantmaking, funding organizations and programs in community development, education and religion. Grant preference goes to groups in the Indianapolis area or Indiana as a whole. Some of the grants are quite astonishing: In 2003 the Endowment gave 12 million dollars to the American Red Cross, over 8 million dollars to the Indiana Zoological Society and over 20 million to the United Way of Central Indiana. I want to acknowledge that this organization does yeoman's work in making Indiana a better, safer place to live.

That said, there is a strange subset of gifts that seem at odds with the Endowment's overall mission. In 2003, Lilly gave grants to the following organizations, all of which have ties to the Right:
American Enterprise Institute - 100,000.00
Atlas Economic Research Foundation - 500,000.00
Federalist Society - 150,000.00
Foundation for Research in Economics and the Enviroment - 100,000.00
Fraser Institute - 300,000.00
Freedom House - 100,000.00
George Mason University Foundation - 100,000.00
Hoover Institution at Stanford University - 125,000.00
Hudson Institute - 650,000.00
Institute for Research on the Economics of Taxation - 85,000.00
Intercollegiate Studies Institute - 125,000.00
Manhattan Institute - 200,000.00
National Center for Policy Analysis - 150,000.00
Pacific Research Institute for Public Policy - 175,000.00
Political Economy Research Center - 50,000.00
Reason Foundation - 225,000.00
Social Philiosophy and Public Policy - 100,000.00
That's 3,235,000.00 all together, which is small potatoes in terms of the money Lilly gives out annually, but still a significant amount in the grand scheme of philanthropy.

These grants are listed in the Endowment's 2003 annual report under "Community Development." The "guidelines" section of the Endowment's website states: "Our community development grantmaking focuses primarily on the quality of life in Indianapolis and Indiana, and we grant funds for human service needs, central-city and neighborhood revitalization, low-income housing, and arts and culture in Indianapolis. We also support facilities and programs that help advance the city's economic revitalization and community recreational opportunities. On a statewide level, we provide major support for the development of the endowments of community foundations and the advancement of United Ways." The above organizations certainly do not fit that description.

Moreover, the website states that "Outside Indianapolis. Requests usually are declined for building campaigns, elementary/secondary education, arts and culture, human service projects, general operating funds (emphasis mine)and neighborhood projects (except as part of invitational grant programs)." 16 of the above grants are listed as "general operating support" for organizations outside Indianapolis.

The bulk of these organizations have a libertarian/free market/anti-enviromental regulations slant. The three "enviromental" organizations listed, Political Economy Research Center, Foundation for Research on Economics and the Enviroment and Pacific Research Institute for Public Policy are actually "free-market environmental" groups with ties to the oil industry. Another thing these groups have in common is the fact that in addition to monies from Lilly, they have all recieved funding from the Bradley, Olin, Scaife and Koch foundations.

There were no grants made to left-leaning think tanks or legitimate enviromental groups, which leads me to conclude that in matters of humanitarian assistance, the arts and education the Lilly Endowment does fine work. In matter of national policy, however, they make grants to neo-conservative and libertarian organizations that are part of the right-wing infrastructure. What does this mean in terms of the Barbara Bradley-Hagerty speaking engagement? Not much, I suppose, except that she was compensated by an organization that does have a politically partisan slant. Unethical? Probably not. Ill-considered? Defintely.

Friday, July 09, 2004

She Just Doesn't Get It, Does She?

Who here remembers the "outside work" section of NPR's Ethics Policy? Yes, that's right, it does state that
"NPR journalists may only accept fees from educational or nonprofit
groups not engaged in significant lobbying or political activity.
Determining whether a group engages in significant lobbying or political
activity is the responsibility of the journalist seeking permission, and
all information must be fully disclosed to the journalist's supervisor.
NPR journalists may only accept fees from educational or nonprofit
groups not engaged in significant lobbying or political activity.
Determining whether a group engages in significant lobbying or political
activity is the responsibility of the journalist seeking permission, and
all information must be fully disclosed to the journalist's supervisor."

So can somebody explain to me why Barbara Bradley Hagerty spoke at this conference at Pepperdine Universtity, a Christian college, sponsored in part by the Lilly Endowment? The very same Lilly Endowment that supports the American Enterprise Institute and the Hudson Institute among many other rightwing groups? How is that not political activity?
"Liberal bias" indeed.

Thursday, July 08, 2004

Pinky vs The Brain

The Atlantic Monthly has a great article this month on the upcoming presidential debates. The author, James Fallows, has analyzed hours and hours of video of Kerry and Bush speaking, both in debates and prepared speeches.

A teaser:
Clearly Bush has been content to let his opponents, including the press, think him a numbskull. Even his unfortunate puzzled-chimp expression when trying to answer questions may be useful: his friends don't mind, and his enemies continue to underestimate him.

It looks like we're all set to play the low-expectation game again. If Bush manages to string together two coherent thoughts without drooling, fainting or wetting himself, we'll all heave a big sigh of relief and ignore the tall, eloquent dude with the actual policy ideas on the other side of the stage. (Oh and by the way, his running mate is a trial lawyer. Did you hear? A dirty little girl of a trial lawyer. And he kills kittens. Cute ones.)

Or not.

Bashing Trial Lawyers

If you, like I, were wondering why the Right keeps harping on John Edwards being a trial lawyer, as though it were akin to being the guy who takes the lame horses behind the barn to shoot them, wonder no more: The Commonweal Institute has issued a report titled "The Attack on Trial Lawyers and Tort Law" and it will answer all of your questions. Like, for example: What could Richard Mellon Scaife possibly have to do with this nonsense?
Or: What has Grover Norquist stuck his nose into this time?
Or, perhaps, this stumper: How did Ken Lay and the tort reform movement help George W. Bush win the governership of Texas?
Every time I start to think I am turning into a total tin-foil hat conspiracy nut, I go and find some evidence that it's all true.

Faith-based Foolishness

Oh, I love these "ulterior votives!"

The Condi one is so purty...

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

FMA Watch

Congress is scheduled to begin debating this proposed amendment to the Constitution soon and I was heartened to discover that a group of religious organizations, including my own denomination, sent a letter to Congress opposing the amendment.

"It is not the task of our government and elected representatives to enshrine in our laws the religious point of view of any one faith. Rather, our government should dedicate itself to protecting the rights of all citizens and all faiths," they write and in two sentences hit upon the heart of the matter. No matter what emotional pleas either side may use in the debate, this is a church-state issue, plain and simple. Some religions believe that homosexulaity is a sin. Some don't. Why should one religion dicate the contents of our Constitution?

I find it particularly ironic that 3 of the sponsors of this bill, Allard, Brownback, and Inhofe also sponsored the Constitution Restoration Act of 2004, which, although it focuses on protecting elements or individuals in local government who acknowledge "God as the sovereign source of law, liberty, or government," has the overall purpose "to limit the jurisdiction of Federal courts in certain cases and promote federalism."

Huh. Federalism. Perhaps my memory is slipping, but isn't Federalism all about...state's rights? Wikipedia says "The Federalist movement seeks to return political power to the people by decentralising and devolving existing structures of government." Do these guys know their names are attached to this marriage amendment? Cuz, boy, if they want to promote federalism, amending the constitution to prohibit something the states are busy deciding for themselves just doesn't seem like something they'd get behind.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

YES! Posted by Hello

When in Doubt, Cry "Liar!"

So Jerry Falwell and Barry Lynn were on CNN's Capitol Report on Friday, talking about the Bush campaign's effort to get support from right-wing churches. Lynn is the executive director of Americans United for the separation of Church and State and Falwell is...I'm sure you know who Falwell is.

Here is a bit of their conversation:
Rev. LYNN: Let me respond to this. You know, Jerry Falwell, you lost your own tax exemption for "The Old Time Gospel Hour" for one year in 19...

Rev. FALWELL: Never. Never. Never. Not one minute.

Rev. LYNN: ...wait a minute, '86 and '87.

Rev. FALWELL: Not one second. You are wrong.

Rev. LYNN: You had to pay...

Rev. FALWELL: Not one second.

Rev. LYNN: Excuse me, Let me finish.

Rev. FALWELL: Not one second.

Rev. LYNN: Fifty thousand dollars was paid to the federal government.

Rev. FALWELL: Never one second did we ever lose our tax exemption.

Rev. LYNN: So I don't think people ought to be taking tax advice from Jerry Falwell on this very sensitive matter. This is very serious.

Rev. FALWELL: You are telling a lie right now, Barry.

Rev. LYNN: We're not trying to go scare anyone, we're trying to tell the truth.

Rev. FALWELL: You are lying publicly right now, Barry. And, come on, be honest. "Old Time Gospel Hour" is not a church, by the way.

Rev. LYNN: No, it isn't.

Rev. FALWELL: But it has never lost...

Rev. LYNN: It's supposed to be a charity.

Rev. FALWELL: Listen. It has never lost its tax exemption. Thomas Road Baptist Church I've pastored 48 years. We've never even been challenged by the IRS nor has any other church in America.

Rev. LYNN: I didn't say you were. I talked about one specific incident.

Hmmm...Old Time Gospel Hour DID retroactively lose its tax-exempt status for 1986-87 though, and Falwell WAS fined $50,000.00. Why accuse your opponent of lying about something so easily verified?

No, really?

From the June 25, 2003 BUCHANAN & PRESS on MSNBC

Pat Buchanan and Christopher Hitchens discuss the situation in Iran:

BUCHANAN: But that's not our problem...

HITCHENS: No. As long as they leave us alone and find out for themselves that you can't run a society out of a holy book, that's fine...

Funny, that's exactly how I feel about Christian Fundamentalists! Wow, I've never agreed with Hitchens before. I feel so dirty.

Monday, July 05, 2004

I'm confused...

If Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, is so concerned about maintaining the wall between church and state, then why would he offer his support for this?

Then again, why would he advertise products from David Barton and Wallbuilders, an organization which works against the separation of church and state?

'tis a puzzlement.

Sunday, July 04, 2004

More on the Southern Baptists

So they're all mad at the Bush Campaign right now for interfering with the church. They're appalled! Appalled, I tell you!

So, how much you wanna bet that this little interactive tool never actually makes it to their website? Do you think they'd really design an applet that'd tell you to be a democrat?

In other news, there's a big old ivotevalues truck heading your way. Stop in and see if they match you with the right party.

Happy 4th, folks!

Saturday, July 03, 2004

My 4th of July Shirt Posted by Hello

Secular Schmecular

Ok, let me get this straight...Little Sammy Brownback and his chums what to chip away that church-state wall with this, but they also want to encourage "legislation designed to help create a democratic, secular government in Iran" with this.

Brownback has a history of consorting with Dominionists. He was the recipient of the Distinguished Christian Statesman of the Year Award in 2000 from the D. James Kennedy Center for Christian Statesmanship. Kennedy, you may recall, was one of the original signers of the Coalition on Revival's Manifesto, which had all sorts of good ideas for implementing theocracy in the U.S.

So, I guess from Brownback and Co.'s POV, theocracy is ok, as long as your theo ain't coming from the Mullahs.

Thursday, July 01, 2004

Oh, Good Lord!

My good friend Senator Sam "brown-nose" Brownback doesn't just sponsor legislation designed to drag our country into ill-conceived wars. Nosiree, he also likes to sponsor legislation to beat us all over the head with our "Christian Heritage." Yes, my friends, Sam and his buddies Zell "R-GA" Miller, Jim "Outrage" Inhoffe, and Jeff "VICTORY Act" Sessions came together last February to propose a special time for us to sit back and reflect on the Biblical origins of this great nation. Oy Vey.