Monday, February 22, 2010

Doubling Down?

I am one of those folks who never really thought of Grover Norquist as being the face of evil.  At least not evil in the Hellfire and Brimstone sense. And I don't think that Paul Krugman really think's he's evil either. But, Norquist and his ilk, despite having backed away from the deregulation fiasco--and none have yet acknowledged their policy advisements were in any way, shape, or form irresponsible or disastrous--do still represent a dire threat to our economic future. 

He isn't evil. He's just educated beyond his means of comprehension. Which is true for a good many of the Ivory Tower Elite who make up the NeoConservative "movement." Impractical idealists who are insulated from the effects of the very policies that they endorse, and insulated from the people that these policies affect. He is "evil" only in the petty, mundane, and all too common variety of selfish arrogance that allows folks who have never really had to struggle or work for that matter, to figure that they've managed this because they're so much brighter than everyone, and then figure that they can experiment with peoples' lives.

Insulated and unaffected, they don't see real consequence to the policies that they've endorsed, and thus, they really can't see where these policies will lead us. It is all theory and idealism, and if they are evil, it is a petty, blind, and banal ignorance of cause of effect sort of evil. They aren't dumb, they're just not bright enough to connect their policies with effects on real human beings. Just numbers, just theories.

Which, indeed can bare a great deal of sorrow in the world, and that they are ignorant to consequences doesn't absolve them of responsibility, but I can't call them Evil. Just a lot dumber than advertised.

Even Grover Norquist has backed away from the policy suggestions he gave the last Administration in order to dull his visibility, because the sad thing is, I think that many are beginning to realize 
exactly how wrong they were, but their ego won't let them leave it alone. Instead, you've got AEI fellows advising the Tea Party, to give them further deniability.

And until we take their toys away from them, these Boy and Girl Children will play until they break the economy, and the nation. And it is up to us to strip them of their fictional raiment of "small government" and "personal responsibility" while at the same time driving up our budget for nearly a generation,  and supporting policies that violate our privacy, and infringe on citizens' freedom of religion, and actively supporting policies that will bankrupt our childrens' futures. 

Crossposted to The Motley Moose.

Thursday, February 18, 2010


Zatoichi: The Blind Swordsman has been taking up a fair amount of my time lately, thanks to Hulu.

I grew up on these movies. Shintaro Katsu made this role his own, and turned these movies into his own legacy. Blending chambara and Yakuza movies into a seamless and both touching and brutal whole. 

The Blind Swordsman, or Ichi the Masseur, is a wandering gambler and sometimes masseur.  A  bakuto, a gangster and unlikely hero.  He embodies much of what makes Yakuza film great. Ichi has accepted his role in life, but he does so with dignity, grace, and without compromise. He is both a figure of rebellion, and lynchpin of justice. Which makes him classic Yakuza film goodness.

Yet, the films are chock full of the chambara, or samurai film conventions too. Tales of honor, but seen through the eyes of a wandering gambler and rapscallion.  An honorable gangster, Ichi gets into trouble, and fights his way out of it with a heavy heart. Not heavy for the fools who throw themselves at him, but for the waste of it all. 

There is the heart of the Ichi films right there. Ichi desires only to gamble, and drink, and maybe enjoy the company of the odd good time girl who finds his blend of wry humor, and self deprecation to be sessy, and somehow, trouble finds him, and those who want to use his prodigious skills with the sword. 

Shintaro Katsu played this role for years. 26 films in total. He pretty much owns the franchise. Played with a tenderness and often subtlety that Beat Takeshi's simply titled, Zatoichi, missed, it is a series of films, and even a television series that took the Blind Swordsman to adventures across Japan, and even to meet Yojimbo and the One Armed Swordman of the Shaw Brother's fame, I can't dislike the homage that Takeshi Kitano made in 2003. A big budget film, it still had the spirit of the Katsu films, of the reluctant swordsman, the gambler and wanderer. 

And, to be entirely fair, Takeshi Kitano's film has one of the best dance scene end credits of any film that I know of. 

And while Rutger Hauer may not have had Katsu's grace, I did like his Blind Fury

If you get a chance, check out what Hulu has pulled together for a collection. They are a great series of films, and a great blend of styles, fun stories, touching performances, and a huge ball of fun and joy in film making. And check out Takeshi Kitano's homage when you get a chance too. 

Me, I'm deep in The Tale of Zatoichi Contiues...

Homophobia Isn't A Family Value

The Interfaith Alliance of Iowa Action Fund has gone to prove that hate isn't a family value.

Yes, Iowa went and legalized same sex marriage--though, there is still opposition, and the folks that say that they're all for "Family Values" except when it has to do with icky people are still gearing up to try to get up a Constitutional amendment to ban same sex marriage--and on Februrary 16th, the Interfaith Alliance of Iowa Action Fund sent out this letter in support of the state upholding the rights of its citizens.  

I especially think that this is important, because too many times we hear people of faith screaming about how terrible it is for folks to love one another, and use twists and turns of Biblical logic to try to support their claims, and worse, pass it off as if they are the ONLY folks of faith who count.  

This interfaith effort shows that not all faiths consider the right to marry to be a matter of strict dogma. It also underscores my own belief that we should oppose efforts to try to get our government to interfere in matters of marriage on what are essentially grounds of dogma, and interceding on the behalf of only certain ministries and congregations, which is a violation of the 1st Amendment, and one of our oldest principles of reasoned and fair governance. The move to use our government to restrict rights of citizens, especially under the aegis of protecting only some ministries, is in direct contravention of our legal tradition as well.  

If folks want to keep members of their own ministries or congregations, then they certainly have the right to refuse to perform those ceremonies, and I fully support their right to practice their religion in that fashion. It is entirely in each ministry's purview to approve or disapprove of the rites and services that they provide, and at no time should a ministry be forced to perform a ceremony that it does not believe to be valid. Which is why Baptists aren't required to perform a bris. Unfortunately, there are those who think that Baptists should have wide approval of what ceremonies and teachings that other churches and ministries subscribe to. And therein lies the rub.  

While the matter of equality under the law was addressed by the Iowa Supreme Court in this matter, I hope that we can strike down the arguments against same sex marriage with a much stronger case--and that is simply, that opposition to same sex marriage on what amounts to differences in theological dogma means that no law proscribing same sex marriage can be ratified in any state that ratified the US Constitution. Period.  

You don't want to have a gay marriage? Don't have one. But like my Grandma used to say: Don't like? Don't eat it. But never mind what anyone else has on their plates...  

Here's the letter that was sent, and good on them.  

February 16, 2010  

Dear Senators and Representatives,  

As clergy representing a broad spectrum of theological beliefs, we join together to state our public support of civil marriage equality for same-gender couples and our opposition to any current or future legislation diminishing the marriage rights rightfully given by Iowa’s Supreme Court. We are compelled by our deepest beliefs to stand for fairness in our common civic life. We oppose the use of sacred texts and religious traditions to deny equal protection and responsibility under the law for gay and lesbian couples.  

From a religious perspective, marriage is about a couple entering into a holy covenant with their God and making a long-term commitment to share life’s joys and sorrows. Moreover, as many faith traditions affirm, where there is love, the sacred is in our midst. This belief is the same for couples comprised of a man and a woman, two women, or two men.  

As such, a marriage based in love and commitment must be honored and supported. Civilly, marriage is commonly valued in society because it creates stable, committed relationships; provides a means to protect and be responsible for each other; and nurtures the individual, the couple, and children. All families must be supported in building stable, empowering, and respectful relationships. Marriage equality is a means to strengthen families and is especially beneficial to children who are raised by gay and lesbian couples.  

We affirm freedom of conscience in this matter. Marriage equality honors the religious convictions of those communities and clergy who officiate at, and bless, same-gender marriages. We recognize the state does not and should not require clergy or religious traditions who disagree with same-gender marriage to officiate at, or bless, the ceremonies of gay and lesbian couples. The state must respect the convictions of all religious groups and individuals, while also allowing the fundamental right of marriage to be granted fairly to all people.  

As clergy, we stand together in support of civil marriage equality for ALL families. We ask for your support of civil marriage equality and ask that you oppose any resolution or attempt to diminish the marriage rights of Iowa’s families.  

Bishop Alan Scarfe; Bishop; Episcopal Diocese of Iowa  
Rev. Dr. Rich Pleva; Iowa Conference Minister; United Church of Christ  
Rev. Dr. Richard Guentert; Former Regional Minister of the Upper Midwest Region (retired); Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)  
Rev. Charles Ager; ELCA (retired); Strawberry Point  
The Rev. Alexander A. Aiton, Jr.; Rector, St. John’s by the Campus Episcopal Church & Student Center; Ames  
The Rev. Dr. James Altenbaumer; United Church of Christ; Cedar Falls  
Rev. Nancy L. Anderson; Zion United Church of Christ; Hubbard  
Rev. Michael N. Armstrong; Senior Minister; First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ); Davenport  
Rev. Paul S. Bengtson; ELCA (retired); Storm Lake  
Rev. Steve Bibb; First United Methodist Church; Fort Dodge  
Rev. Anna Blaedel; United Methodist Church; Osage  
Rev. Ramona S. Bouzard; St. Paul Lutheran Church; Waverly  
Rev. Dr. Walter C. Bouzard; Waverly  
Rev. Stephen L. Bowie; Member, Presbytery of Des Moines; Bloomfield  
Pastor Brad Braley; First Presbyterian Church; Cedar Falls  
Rev. Kenneth E. Briggs, Jr.; Chaplain, Lt. Col, USAF (retired); Altoona Christian Church (DOC); Altoona  
The Rev. Jeanette Brodersen; Associate Minister, Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ; Des Moines  
Rev. Barbara Bullock; United Church of Christ (retired); Ankeny  
The Rev. Dr. Sean D. Burke; Luther College; Decorah  
Rev. Christopher C. Burtnett; Schleswig United Church of Christ; Schleswig  
Rev. Linda M. Butler; Collegiate United Methodist & Wesley Foundation; Ames  
The Rev. Dr. Robert A. Butterfield; Urbandale United Church of Christ; Urbandale  
Rev. Eva S. Cameron; Unitarian Universalist Society of Black Hawk County; Cedar Falls  
Reverend Tom Capo; Peoples Church Unitarian Universalist; Cedar Rapids  
Pastor John Chaplin; Licensed Pastor; Central Association of the Iowa Conference of the United Church of Christ; Des Moines  
Rev. Kathleen Clark; United Methodist Church (retired); Des Moines  
Priest Richard Cleaver; Saints Ephrem and Macrina Mission, Orthodox-Catholic Church of America; Grinnell  
Rev. Dr. David Cline; Evangelical Church in America; Polk City  
Rev. Milton Cole Duvall; Episcopalian; West Des Moines  
Rev. Elizabeth Colton; United Church of Christ; Oskaloosa  
Dr. Rev. Robert Cook; Presbyterian Church, U.S.A. (retired); Des Moines  
Rev. William Cotton; United Methodist Church (retired); Des Moines  
Rev. Robert S. Crandall; Executive Director; Bidwell Riverside Center; Des Moines  
Pastor Michael Dack; United Church of Christ; Newton  
Rev. D. Mark Davis; Pastor, Heartland Presbyterian Church; Clive  
Rev. Pamela S. Deeds; Walnut Hills United Methodist Church/ Wesley UMC’s; Des Moines  
Rev. Dennis Dickman; ELCA (retired); Waverly  
Rev. Dr. Tim Diebel; First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ); Des Moines  
Rev. Elizabeth Dilley; First Congregational United Church of Christ; Red Oak  
Rev. Barbara Dinnen; United Methodist Church; Des Moines  
The Rev. Maureen Doherty; Cedar Valley Episcopal Campus Ministry; Cedar Falls  
Sondra Eddings; Minister; Christian Church (Disciples of Christ); Des Moines  
Rabbi Steven Edelman-Blank; Tifereth Israel Synagogue; Des Moines  
Rev. Dr. Brian Eslinger; Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Ames; Ames  
Rev. Peg Esperenza; Church of the Holy Spirit, MCC; Des Moines  
Rev. Faith Ferre’; Minister of Discipleship, Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ; Des Moines  
Rev. Jeffrey E. Filkins; Trinity United Church of Christ; Hartley  
The Rev. Travis M. Fisher; St. Mark Lutheran Church; Davenport  
Rev. Dr. Barbara Gaddis; Collegiate Presbyterian Church; Ames  
The Rev. Andrew G. Gangle; Peace Lutheran Church; Adel  
Rev. Fred R. Gee; retired, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ); Des Moines  
Reverend Tom Gehlsen; Episcopal Diocese of Iowa; Des Moines  
Rev. Randall E. Gehring; Bethesda Lutheran Church, ELCA; Ames  
Rev. Jaymee Glenn-Burns; Field Outreach Minister, United Methodist Church; Cedar Falls  
Rev. David Glenn-Burns; Wesley Foundation at UNI; Cedar Falls  
Rabbi Guy Greene; Congregation Beth Shalom; Sioux City  
The Rev. John H. Greve; New Song Episcopal Church; Coralville  
Rev. Chet Guinn; Methodist Federation for Social Action; Des Moines  
Rev. Elizabeth Gull; Universal Life Church; Nevada  
Rev. Susan Guy; United Methodist; Urbandale  
Pastor John Hagberg; St. Mark Lutheran Church; Sioux City  
The Rev. Jennifer L. Hall; Chaplain, Iowa Health; Metropolitan Community Churches; Des Moines  
Rev. Dawn Halstead; Chaplain, Hospice of Central Iowa; Des Moines  
Rev. Bob Hamilton; United Church of Christ (retired); Davenport  
Rev. George Hanusa; ELCA (retired); Windsor Heights  
Rev. Richard W. Harbart; United Church of Christ; Clive  
The Rev. John Harper; New Song Episcopal Church; Coralville  
Rev. Stephanie Haskins; Associate Minister, Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ; Des Moines  
Rev. Nicole Havelka; Iowa Conference United Church of Christ; Des Moines  
Rev. Mark Haverland; United Methodist Church; Ankeny  
Rev. Dave Heinze; Campus Minister; Graceland University; Lamoni  
Rev. Rich Hendricks; Metropolitan Community Church of the Quad Cities; Davenport  
Rev. Dan Herndon; United Methodist Church (retired); Waterloo  
Dr. Susan E. Hill; Associate Professor of Religion, UNI; Unitarian Universalist Society of Black Hawk County; Waterloo  
The Rev. Holly Horn, PhD; Tiffin  
Rev. Margaret Hutchens; First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ); Charles City  
Rev. Gerald Iverson; Associate in Ministry; ELCA (retired); Sioux City  
Pastor Steven M. Jacobsen; First Lutheran Church; Decorah  
Rev. Carlos Jayne; United Methodist Church (retired); Des Moines  
Rev. Eric Johnson; Reformed Church in America; Des Moines  
Reverend Patricia Johnson; Episcopal Deacon; Sioux City  
Rev. Paul A. Johnson; United Church of Christ – Congregational; Ames  
The Rev. Scott A. Johnson; Lutheran Campus Ministry at Iowa State University (ELCA); Ames  
Rev. R. Paul Johnston; Trinity Lutheran Church (ELCA); Sioux City  
The Rev. Dr. Judith Jones; St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church; Waverly  
Rabbi Henry Jay Karp; Temple Emanuel; Davenport Rabbi David Kaufman; Temple B’Nai Jeshurun; Des Moines  
Rev. Robert Keefer, PhD; Presbyterian; Clarinda  
Rev. Naomi Kirstein; Wellspring Community Church; Des Moines  
Rev. Bruce Kittle; Faith United Church of Christ; Iowa City  
The Rev. Dr. Kathryn A. Kleinhans; Wartburg College; Waverly  
Pastor Jim Klosterboer; Bethany Evangelical Lutheran Church; Elkader  
Rev. C. Eugene Koth; United Methodist Church (retired); Clive  
Rev. Mark W. Kukkonen; Intentional Interim Pastor; St. Stephen’s Lutheran Church; Cedar Rapids  
Rev. Carmen Lampe-Zeitler; United Methodist Church; Des Moines  
Rev. Martha E. Lang; Deacon; Trinity Episcopal Church; Muscatine  
The Rev. Torey Lightcap; Rector, St. Thomas Episcopal Church; Sioux City  
Rev. Kathleen Love, D.D.; Interfaith Minister; The Wedding Chapel; Des Moines  
Rev. James Love, D.D.; Interfaith Minister; The Wedding Chapel; Des Moines  
The Rev. William H. Lovin; Congregational United Church of Christ; Iowa City  
Rev. Ted Lyddon Hatten; Wesley Foundation, Drake University; Indianola  
Rev. Whit Malone; Collegiate Presbyterian Church; Ames  
Rev. Mary Beth Mardis-LeCroy; Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ; Des Moines  
Rev. Matthew J. Mardis-LeCroy; Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ; Des Moines  
Pastor Sam Massey; First Presbyterian Church; Iowa City  
Rev. Gene Matthews; United Methodist Church (retired missionary)  
The Reverend Benjamin Maucere; Unitarian Universalist Society of Iowa City; Iowa City  
The Rev. Jean McCarthy; Rector; Episcopalian; Des Moines  
The Rev. Diane McClanahan; Trinity United Methodist Church; Des Moines  
Rev. James I. Meadows, Jr.; First Congregational United Church of Christ; Fort Dodge  
The Rev. Russell Melby; Iowa Director, Church World Service/CROP; ELCA clergy; Rev. Fritz Mellberg; United Church of Christ; Hiawatha  
John Miller; Commissioned Lay Minister; Unitarian Universalist Society of Black Hawk County; Cedar Falls  
Reverend Roger Mohr; Unitarian Universalist Fellowship; Burlington  
Rev. Mary Moore; Unitarian Church of Davenport; Davenport  
Rev. Allen Mothershed; United Church of Christ; Davenport  
Rev. Katherine Mulhern; Edwards Congregational United Church of Christ; Davenport  
Rev. Amy E. E. Murray, BCC; Urbandale United Church of Christ; Urbandale Pastor Vernon H. Naffier; Faculty, GrandView University; ELCA; Ankeny  
Rev. Peter T. Nash, PhD; Professor of Religion & Liberal Studies; Wartburg College; Waverly  
Rev. Gus Nelson; Presbyterian (retired); Des Moines  
Rev. Barbara Nish; Presbyterian Church, U.S.A.; Des Moines  
Rev. Patricia Adams Oberbillig; Minister of Pastoral Care (retired), Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ; Des Moines  
Rev. Delwyn L. Olivier; Augustana Lutheran Church; Sioux City  
Rev. Ronald Osborne; Des Moines  
Rev. James R. Pemble; United Methodist Church (retired); Des Moines  
The Rev. Doug Peters; Senior Minister, Walnut Hills United Methodist Church; Urbandale  
Rev. Oren Peterson; Unitarian Universalist (retired); Des Moines  
Rev. Ronald D. Petrak; United Methodist Church (retired); Des Moines  
Rev. Julie M. Poore; United Methodist Church; Granger  
Rev. Charles M. Pope; Rector; St. Paul’s Episcopal Church; Grinnell  
Rabbi Jeff Portman; Agudas Achim Congregation; Iowa City  
Rev. Robert Price; retired; Newton  
The Rev. Catherine Quehl-Engel; Episcopalian; Mt. Vernon  
The Rev. Julia Rendon; Crossroads United Church of Christ; Indianola  
The Rev. Charity Rowley; Unitarian Universalist (retired); Iowa City  
Rev. Nancy Ruby; Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Clinton; Clinton  
The Reverend Dr. David R. Ruhe; Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ; Des Moines  
Rev. Janette Scott; Presbyterian; Des Moines  
Rev. Michael J. Schmidt; Christ Lutheran/St. Peter; LeMars  
Pastor Victoria Shepherd; Denver  
Rev. Charlotte Shivvers; Unitarian Universalist (retired); Knoxville  
Rev. Deanna Shorb; College Chaplain; Grinnell  
Rev. Diana Jacobs Sickles; ELCA (retired); Des Moines  
Rev. Gary Sneller; First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ); Ottumwa  
Rev. Dr. Larry W. Sonner, D.Min.; United Methodist Church (retired); Urbandale  
Rev. Ron Spears; Retired clergy; Waterloo  
Pastor Sarah Stadler-Ammon; Denver  
Rev. Jerry Stevenson; Welsh Congregational Church UCC; Iowa City  
Rev. William Steward; Grace United Methodist Church; Des Moines  
Rev. Jane Stewart; New Song Episcopal Church; Coralville  
Rev. Gayle V. Strickler, Jr.; Adjunct Minister for Community Concerns, Urbandale United Church of Christ; Urbandale  
Rev. Mark Stringer; First Unitarian Church; Des Moines  
Rev. Cheryl R. Thomas; Calvary Baptist Church; Des Moines  
The Rev. Rachel Thorson Mithelman; St. John’s Lutheran Church; Des Moines  
Rev. Dr. James L. Wallace; Central Presbyterian Church; Des Moines  
Pastor Barbara Weier; Zion United Church of Christ; Hartley  
Rev. Dr. Susan K. Weier; United Church of Christ; Grinnell  
Pastor Kenneth C. Wells; Licensed Lay Pastor; First Congregational UCC Church; Onawa  
Pastor Mary A. Wells; Licensed Lay Pastor; First Congregational UCC Church; Onawa  
Rev. Jane A. Willan; Zion United Church of Christ; Burlington  
Rev. Dr. Dana Wimmer; Waterloo First United Methodist Church; Waterloo  
Rev. Angie Witmer; Minister to Young Adults & Youth, Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ; Des Moines  
Rev. Beverly J. Wolff; St. John Lutheran Church; Cushing  
The Rev. Jean Wollenberg; Executive Director/Chaplain, Hospice of Washington County; Washington  
Rev. Bob Wollenberg; United Presbyterian Church; Washington  
Rev. Mark A. Young; Wesley United Methodist Church; Ottumwa

Crossposted to the Motley Moose

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

On the Subject of a Moral Compass...


Julia Baird of Newsweek brings us a thoughtful page on a possible silver lining to our current economic woes.

The current state of the economy does leave us with many "teachable moments." She cites Jon Stewart asking Jim Cramer, "Any time you sell people the idea that, sit back and you'll get 10 to 20 percent on your money, don't you always know that that's going to be a lie? When are we going to realize in this country that our wealth is work?"  

Ultimately, we are looking at what could be seen by many as a vindication of the flaws in our system, and of our national myopia in promotion of an economic system seen as morality. Baird asks the important question, Will the recession change us? Well, her, and author and Reverend, Jim Wallis.  

Not everyone is asking that question. Rather, they are looking to our system as flawed, rather than the ultimate question if we, as a nation and collective people went a bit awry in our expectations and our own behavior and, yes, if we let our own moral compass slide. We can look at our economic fortune as a curse, or since I'm a Buddhist, as a consequence of base causality. Actions have beget reaction. A loss of many touching base, or even passing knowledge, of business or personal ethics led us to the straits we find ourselves in. Not just with the Gordon Gecko sort of "Greed is good" mentality--which was supposed to be a warning, as opposed to a t-shirt logo--but the shallow sort of selfishness that we can dispense with such things like regulation and ethics, because they tear us from Dame Fortune's lap.  

We have, for some time, had a reckoning coming. Less, I think from a divine sort of retribution, as much as direct causality from actions that we could predict, but many refused to see, because the lessons hadn't been inculcated, and the consequences had long been insulated against. Our regulatory structure that began as folks took a hard look at the Boom/Bust cycle that dominated the American economy for most of our history, after the Great Depression damn near killed us economically, and certainly, put a severe beat down on the populace worked well. Well enough, that economists and many others had never seen first hand the very real consequences of the kind of under regulated, or even totally unregulated markets that they had theorized would be a brilliant way to make a ton of cash, and without consequence.  

Baird posits, with reference to Wallis, that we have an opportunity to steer ourselves from the destructive memes that have dominated, not just our economy, but also our national discourse, and many of the woes that plague our communities and nation. Not just to chastise the greedy and reckless, and incompetent, but to remember why we installed a social safety net in the first place. Why we put regulation into place. Why we pulled together as a nation when so many suffered. Why we should value wisdom over glibness.  

The fly in the ointment, so to speak, come from reactionaries who see our economy and domestic policy as ideology, as opposed to actual platforms for regulation and legislation. Fear, perhaps, that the "Hopey-changey stuff" will muscle in on their own ideological message, and resentment, if not outright envy that a message of hope comes from ANOTHER party. That Palin mocked the idea of hope, while herself trying to campaign on change herself shows that fear.  

And the Religious Right has some reason to be fearful. Clinton did a number on the GOP when he co-opted the center and dragged the Democrats into that center-right position, and it forced the Republicans to take a harder right stance. It is a lesson that few in the GOP will ever underestimate again--which is why the centerist President Obama is attacked over and over and over again as a Leftist. In order to take back the center, they have to paint the opposition as being out of touch, and too far from good old fashioned values.  

Even if that means attacking those same values. Which the NYTimes derided our President for trying to keep.  

We are in a time, when we are near through the looking glass, with the sort of Neo-Calvinists who support the wealthy as being ordained by God, and more so, with our economic woes, as signs that those who retained wealth weren't just lucky, but blessed, throwing their support and trying to tear down anyone has any sort of similar success, but the wrong ideology. It is an oddly selective sort of moral compass that we find ourselves staring at. Between the Evangelical Right, the Family, and others who are looking to use a failure of foresight, or responsibility to advance an agenda that has some odd fellow travelers on it.  

As Baird and Wallis point out, we have an opportunity to regain a moral compass, but we also have a lodestone that threatens to skew that compass as well.

Crossposted to The Motley Moose...

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Scott Brown Has Learned His Free Press Lessons Well...

Yes, our shiny new Senator for Massachusetts has learned his lessons well

When called on a questionable piece of bluster, the best thing to do is to GO HARDER!  

Senator Brown got his national spotlight in an election that was, at best, laughable in itsineptitude on the part of the Democratic Party. In part, the handling of the empty Kennedy seat is one of the reasons why I simply cannot see myself ever joining the Democrats, even when my own party is embracing the Wing Nut Brigade harder and harder. Odder, is that no matter how you feel about the GOP and its current leadership, or the way the seat was ceded over to the Republicans, Senator Brown is still a Massachusetts Republican, which means as far as the Wing Nut Brigade is concerned, he is perhaps two steps away from being a Democrat himself, and possibly a Commie-Papist-Muslim in disguise as well. Well, to be fair, in the eyes of many of the Wing Nut Brigade,Democrat and Commie-Papist-Gay-Raping Muslim are well neighinterchangeable...  

But the tiff with the Vice President about lawyers illustrates a divide of fear that Brown has quickly learned to hop upon. Vice President Biden passed the bar a bit better than 40 years ago. Brown himself has been with the National Guard, and has served as a lead defense attorney with theGuard. Both are
accomplished legal tacticians, but I find it interesting that a defense attorney for the military would advocate military tribunals--though, to be fair, his argument was against spending money on a criminal trial attorney, which is a bit less damning than the usual rants to try terrorists away from the eye of the criminal courts. Still, the argument that we shouldn't try folks in our criminal courts seems odd, when we've been fairly successful with doing exactly that.  

Here's a list of folks that are currently serving in ADX Florence, our Go To SuperMax in Colorado that seems to be a repository for Ebbil.  

Ramzi Yousef-Captured in Pakistan, convicted for role in Bojinka plot in 1996, convicted for role in 1993 WTC bombing.  

Wali Khan Amin Shah-Captured in Manila, convicted for role in Bojinka plot.  

Abdul Hakim Ali Hashim Murad - Captured in Manila, convicted for role in Bojinka plot.  

Eyad Ismoil - Captured in Amman, extradited to US, convicted of role in 1993 WTC bombing.  

Khalfan Khamis Mohamed-Captured in Cape Town, convicted of 1998 Embassy bombings.  

Mahmud Abouhalima-Captured in Egypt, convicted of 1993 WTC bombings.

Mohamed Rashed Daoud Al-Owhali-Convicted of 1998 Embassy bombings.  

Mohammed Odeh-Captured in Karachi, convicted of 1998 Embassy bombings.  

Mohammed A. Salameh-Convicted of involvement in 1993 WTC bombing.  

Mohammed Ali Hassan Al-Moayad-Captured in Germany, convicted of federal crimes related to funding Hamas.  

Even the Shoe Bomber got his day in a civilian court.  

This move to classify terrorists as something more than regular criminals is an odd thing. Especially when advocated by my own party, because it plays directly into their hands. By abandoning our legal principles, and making these criminals into something special, we allow these asshats to succeed. They have wanted to cause us fear, and they have wanted to show that we will abandon principle when faced with terror. I am tired of our elected officials doing exactly that. Not just falling for the fear, but using that fear themselves to borrow political ooomph. Which, is what Brown is doing. It is an attempt to borrow gravitas and appear tough and unbending, but by abandoning our legal system, to try folks who have NO military ties in such courts, because it's easier in some minds, is preposterous. Worse, it is insulting to the hard working folks who have toiled on these cases. We have created special categories of criminal and "enemy combatants" as a legal fiction to protect those who flouted the legalities in capturing, and interrogating, and holding folks for years. It had to be done because these folks were just THAT evil, is the argument.  

The problem is, that the law doesn't recognize Evil. And last I checked, we were a nation of laws.  

I understand why the last Administration built scaffolds of legal fiction. They handed over what should have been a law enforcement investigation matter, and gave it to the military and our own CIA and other intelligence branches. Very good organizations when you want people dead, people destroyed, things burned to the ground, or wrecked beyond use. Not so good at getting people into court though. And if we had simply decided on the Scorched Earth sort of policy that Israel adopts, that would have been fine enough--lots of dead Taliban and Al Qaida. Hit them hard, hit them quiet and loud, and dismantle their organizations by blowing pieces off of them until they cannot operate any longer. The CIA and US military would have been precisely the tools to use for those sorts of operations.  

The problem is, somewhere along the line, someone got the bright idea to claim that we wanted to capture and try folks. As soon as that got into the pipe, things got muddy. Because when you use the CIA and US military to try to do dual duty as ass kickers AND law enforcement, you run into problems. Neither are particularly adept at preserving chains of evidence. Neither are particularly adept at preserving the rights of those apprehended--and the change over to a capture and try strategy, when you've already rolled in with a military strategy, it didn't go well.  

Those who argue against trials, they are essentially trying to cover the mistake that was made by the previous Administration, and that was the confused strategy that wanted to straddle both legal and military success.  

More, Senator Brown has staked his territory as being "tough" on terrorists. Which is ultimately what most of the folks who posture on the issue are doing. They aren't actually involved in the trials, they have only a tangental stake in the trials as citizens themselves, and in continued polarization of issues that are less about party, but dammit, they'll try to shoehorn some in. In that, Senator Brown is assuming a role--less about principle, than looking good for the cameras and in the press...

Crossposted to The Motley Moose