Sunday, April 30, 2006

Newell on Celtic Spirituality in Lexington, Ky, April 2006

Philip Newell and Celtic Spirituality, Lexington, Ky, April 28-30, 2006.

I was invited to be one of the co-sponsors to help bring Philip Newell to Lexington, by Dr. Pearl Rutledge. I listed my ecclesiastical affiliation, the Celtic Christian Church as one of the sponsors. Already familiar with the concepts and having taught workshops to psychologists and laity on Celtic Spirituality, I was interested here in the metaphors Newell chose and the manner and goals of his teaching. We began at Christ Church on Friday evening, followed by a full day workshop on Saturday.

N. outlined three themes he would address: Love of Christ, Love of Creation and then These two loves are One. (In the latter, he used many quotes from Teilhard)
I do not propose these as the remarks of the speaker or an accurate summary of his teaching, but only the perceptions of this imperfect and wounded man. We can hear only what we are ready to hear, see only what we are prepared to see. (This always differs, which is one reason why we need each other for wholeness.)

LOVE OF CHRIST

"Each moment is from God, therefore when we miss the moment, the uniqueness of that opportunity, we have missed God." His favorite and rich metaphor are “Listening� and the “Heartbeat of God.� We need to learn to listen deeply within ourselves and all things to the Heartbeat of God. There is a new birthing of Christ's presence in the world, many signs of God's continuing creating and redeeming, and the oneness and inseparable connection of all life. "

Christ is our freedom, our life, our wisdom and teaching us, leading us into the Listening to the Heartbeat of God, to be found everywhere. He contrasted insights from the Secret Book of John, with the Imperial Church of the Mediterranean. Humanity has forgotten who we are, Christ comes as our memory , as the memory of wholeness. We suffer from forgetfulness. We have forgotten that which is the deepest within us: the Image of God. We have been asleep, in the bondage of forgetfulness.

(Dr. John Parks, Muslim for 12 years remarked that the Muslim word for man, humanity, is one who has forgotten).

There are three marks of our forgetfulness: 1) we are imprisoned in a false self; 2) we lack Wisdom and 3) our lives are marked by anxiety and fear of error and insecurity.

Christ says I am the memory of Wholeness. How are we to be awakened? Christ is the Awakener. Which leads us to a radically different view of the Cross. Not atonement, not substitutionary payment (which is not found in the Gospel of John) not the Celtic view. Instead the Cross is a showing of Self-Giving, a Gift to God. God does not require a payment. This view is responsible for great error in religious history. That there is suffering in love is from God, The Cross therefore is a kind of Icon of God, Love means suffering. If we prefer not to suffer, we should choose not to love. Because Love has the greatest of costs, of returning to our Truest Self. We shall find our depth and our meaning to the extent that we give ourselves away.

What we are being invited to is an Awakening, Here the story of Lazarus was expounded upon as a metaphor for our own awakening. What are we being invited to wake up to in our suffering and that of the world. What is the stench of decay in us and around us, What is the Tomb, what is the Binding, the loosening we need. Jesus says "Unbind him, let him go." We should pray, Christ, show us your wounds among us?

LOVE OF CREATION. N. Interspersed his teaching with meditative chants played from tapes, and prayers taken from the Celtic traditions.

Here he spoke of Creator loving the wildness of creation, the untameable, the boundless. He began with quoting Genesis. There was darkness, Let there be Light. How do we discern the falseness within us? Always what cannot be said is greater than what can be said, about God, about anything. We are surrounded by unspeakable mystery. Light, sun, moon. Moonlight draws us better into mystery, what cannot be said or realized, but only imagined.

Whatever we say or can say about a human being, none of these express the mystery of Who we are, and who we are called to be. Once we assume anything about anyone, we move into a Lack of Reverence. Power of Anam Cara, (my reference is also I and Thou, Buber). The Soul Friend is one with whom we share everything and hide nothing. We need to be heard from one another, and it is only as this happens can we become whole, and move into the wholeness of Life.

Everything we most deeply need was planted in that first spark of life within our Mother’s womb. (Here I have a story of how the Guardian Angel given each of us marked us for forgetfulness, so that we could individually, one by one, undertake the road to discovery, the journey to healing.) Nature is the Gift of Being. Grace discovered is the Gift of Well Being.

INTEGRAING LOVE OF CHRIST AND CREATION

Just before the lunch break and for two hours I had to leave to witness a wedding. When I returned, N. was talking about the life and pilgrimage of Teilhard de Chardain, and how he arrived at the oneness of the Birthing of Christ and Love and Creativity in the world. The Cross was not a symbol of expiation, but the disclosure of God, God's nature.

[Insert brief meditation here. I have tried to conceive and talk about how if God is love, if the nature of God is love, then this must include Suffering, as one cannot love without suffering. My traditional Catholic friends have rejected this possibility whenever I have tried to present it]

One sign of the new birthing of God is the yearning for Oneness, for community, for Unity in love today, but this Oneness is a costly journey, because we must leave all our boundaries and presumptions. So much of what we Christians have done is DOMESTICATE GOD, try to tame the untameable One, signified mainly by the Imperial Mediterranean style of religion, emphasizing Original Sin and therefore the implicit need for hierarchy, teachers, moral codes and creeds.

What fundamentalists fear is the Costliness of leaving boundaries and moving into the Oneness of God and of Creation. The Celtic view is that nothing in the cosmos is profane for those who know how to see. Yet in embracing the riskiness of loving, e can be saved only by becoming One with the Universe,

Here N. spoke of the celibate Teilhard's long relationship with a woman, Lucille, I believe was her name. He wrote about the fragrance of the feminine, and found that his love for her made him more truly himself. T. wrote that our yearning for union, for commingling was holy in itself, as the core of every creature was its power to love. Although the relationship with Lucille was over a decade and she invited him into a physical relationship, T. refused.

Application. For the rest of us, we must save Christ from the literalists so that the world can be served. The next step for the journey was to Listen to the People of the Earth. Although the workshop was scheduled to end at 4 p.m., we ended shortly after 3, with these comments being the summary conclusion.

The manner of conducting this workshop was speaker oriented, with chairs in a semi-circle. He accepted Q and A. after each of the three sessions. He spoke in a low quiet voice which invited those present into a meditative stance of receptivity, quiet attention and wonder. His presentation really drew the participants into a contemplative state. I found his teaching style unique and impressive. I think his audience was moved and persuaded to the richness of the Celtic view. His metaphors were well chosen and well - delivered.

I will offer a critique of his teaching method in another post. Unfortunately he did not use his time to practice what he preached, and lost a wonderful opportunity to seize the moment to evoke authentic learning and application of these powerful metaphors. I shall offer these comments later. Once more I do not presume to have accurately or substantially presented N.'s teaching but only my perceptions from my own notes.

Paschal Baute
Sunday, April 30, 2006.

Friday, April 28, 2006

"Living With War" lyrics by Neil Young

When "Living with War" starts streaming on www.neilyoung.com on Friday, my guess is the servers will overheat. The real test will come next week, when the album is available for downloading on several sites.

For now, though, here are the lyrics many parents are going to be hearing their kids singing in the next few days. Young has been clever enough to write the catchiest protest song since Country Joe and the Fish's anti-Vietnam ditty, "I Feel Like I'm Fixin' to Die."

Here, for the first time, the lyrics to Neil Young's "Let's Impeach the President":

Let's impeach the president for lying
And leading our country into war
Abusing all the power that we gave him
And shipping all our money out the door

He's the man who hired all the criminals
The White House shadows who hide behind closed doors
And bend the facts to fit with their new stories
Of why we have to send our men to war

Let's impeach the president for spying
On citizens inside their own homes
Breaking every law in the country
By tapping our computers and telephones

What if Al Qaeda blew up the levees
Would New Orleans have been safer that way
Sheltered by our government's protection
Or was someone just not home that day?

Let's impeach the president
For hijacking our religion and using it to get elected
Dividing our country into colors
And still leaving black people neglected

Thank god he's cracking down on steroids
Since he sold his old baseball team
There's lot of people looking at big trouble
But of course the president is clean

Thank God. . . .

Thursday, April 27, 2006

IMPEACHMENT?

"I was going through old books and papers and throwing away a lot of stuff when I came across a book I had bought after I had returned from Viet Nam. It brought me to reality about Viet Nam as a war that was started based on lies (Gulf Of Tonkin)-Just Like IRAQ (WMDS).

When the Viet Nam wall was built I went there to see the names of some of my friends that came home in Body Bags. I stood in front of the wall and cried. Not for the friends I had lost but for the waste of lives and the anger that had built up because of lies our government told us about going to war.

The book was by Dalton Trumbo - Source: "Johnny Got His Gun"

This is the passage I will never forget and caused me to fight a government that lies and lies and lies.

If they talk about dying for principles that are bigger than life you say mister you're a liar.
Nothing is bigger than life. There's nothing noble in death.
What's noble about lying in the ground and rotting?
What's noble about never seeing the sunshine again?
What's noble about having your legs and arms blown off?
What's noble about being an idiot?
What's noble about being blind and deaf and dumb?
What's noble about being dead?
Because when you're dead mister it's all over-It's the end.
You're less than a dog
less than a rat
less than a bee or an ant
less than a maggot crawling around on a dung heap.
You're dead mister and you died for nothing. You're dead mister. Dead.

IMPEACH BUSH THE MURDEREE AND LIAR
.

HOWARD

Take action -- click here to contact your local newspaper or congress people:
Stop the murder of American Soldiers

Howard Boyer: I served 29 years in the military, US Marine Corps-6 years, Us Army National Guard-7years, Air Force Reserve-23 years, I also worked for 29 years at General Motors Corp. I have a Masters Degree in Human Resources Admininstration.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

True Patriotism is not the blind acceptance of presidential deceit.

Robert Scheer: Top Spy's Story on Prewar Intel Is Finally Told
http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/20060425_prewar_intel_iraq_iran/
Posted on Apr. 25, 2006

By Robert Scheer

"The policy was set. The war in Iraq was coming and they were looking for intelligence to fit into the policy."
-Tyler Drumheller, formerly CIA's top spy in Europe

Confession time: In fall 2004, during a crucial presidential election campaign, I made the mistake of playing by corporate media rules that amount to self-censorship.

Specifically, I joined other journalists in denying the public the right to learn of a definitive investigative report by CBS' "60 Minutes" on President Bush's disregard for the truth concerning the weapons-of-mass-destruction threat allegedly posed to the United States by Iraq. Having received an advance copy of the devastating segment, I honored CBS' proprietary request not to write about the news it carried until after it aired.

Only, it never aired. CBS got cold feet, probably because of Dan Rather's troubles over an unrelated story critical of the president. The suppressed story was solidly reported and, by exposing the Bush administration's utter disregard for the truth concerning Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction, should have been made available to the public before the November election. Now, no one seems to care.

The segment finally aired this past Sunday, in a more robust form. Unfortunately, the response has been tepid; it seems the media, at least, have become jaded with all the endless examples of the president's perfidy. But the CBS story remains very important as further evidence of the depths of the Bush administration's deception.

Perhaps most damning is an interview, added for the broadcast version, with Tyler Drumheller, a CIA veteran of 26 years’ service who was the agency’s top spy in Europe until his retirement a year ago. According to him, before the war Hussein's foreign minister had been "turned" and was talking secretly to U.S. intelligence. At first excited by this rare inside look at Hussein's regime, the top dogs at the White House dropped the issue like a hot rock as soon as his information contradicted their overheated rationale for "preemptive" war. "The policy was set," Drumheller told CBS correspondent Ed Bradley. "The war in Iraq was coming. And they were looking for intelligence to fit into the policy, to justify the policy."

That's how more than three years later, after at least two major governmental investigations into prewar intelligence on Iraq and countless journalistic post-mortems, we are only just now finding out that a highly placed double agent in Iraq was poking a huge hole in the Hussein-as-WMD-bogeyman story.

"They were enthusiastic" at first, said Drumheller, "that we had a high-level penetration of Iraqis." CIA Director George Tenet reported the news that Hussein's foreign minister, Naji Sabri, was working covertly for the United States to a White House meeting attended by President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Their initial enthusiasm, Drumheller says, quickly turned to cold indifference when Sabri told them the opposite of what they wanted to hear.

"He told us that they had no active weapons-of-mass-destruction program," said the ex-CIA official. "The [White House] group that was dealing with preparation for the Iraq war came back and said they were no longer interested. And we said 'Well, what about the intel?' And they said 'Well, this isn't about intel anymore. This is about regime change.' "

The White House refused to comment for the "60 Minutes" report, but CBS noted that Rice has said Sabri was just one source, and therefore not reliable. It was ironic, considering how heavily the Bush administration relied on the now infamous Iraqi defector "Curveball," whose statements so informed the main administration allegations concerning Iraq’s biochemical weapons.

Drumheller was in contact with the German intelligence agency CIS, which had detained the man with the apt code name, and says he himself informed the top CIA officials that Curveball was an outright fraud.

"They certainly took information that came from single sources on the yellowcake story and on several other stories with no corroboration at all," Drumheller said.

No wonder this man, who risked his life gathering intelligence for our country, has become a critic of the Bush administration. He is clearly unwilling to allow what the president has described as a permanent war to destroy our democracy. True patriotism is not the blind acceptance of presidential deceit.

Imperial ambition turns truth-tellers into enemies, by default, because their goal is not the exaltation of the leader's power. No wonder so many national security professionals, be they top generals or intelligence officials, have gone public recently to denounce how the Iraq war has been sold and fought: The Bush administration's willful ignorance and buck-passing mock their dedicated service to the nation.

"It just sticks in my craw every time I hear them say it's an intelligence failure," Drumheller said. "This was a policy failure."

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Kidnapping and Torture by Your USA Government.

Our Dirty War
by Bob Herbert
The New York Times
April 20, 2006

I said, "Some of these folks have never been heard from again, right?"

"Yup," said Curt Goering. "That's right."

Mr. Goering is the senior deputy executive director for policy and programs at Amnesty International USA. We were discussing a subject -- government-sanctioned disappearances -- that ordinarily would repel most Americans.

In past years, stories about torture and "the disappeared" have been associated with sinister regimes in South and Central America. The attitude in the United States was that we were above such dirty business, that it was immoral and uncivilized, and we were better than that.

But times change, and we've lowered our moral standards several notches since then. Now people are disappearing at the hands of the U.S. government.

"Below the Radar: Secret Flights to Torture and 'Disappearance' " is the title of a recent Amnesty International report on the reprehensible practice of extraordinary rendition, a highly classified American program in which individuals are seized -- abducted -- without any semblance of due process and sent off to be interrogated by regimes that are known to engage in torture.

Some of the individuals swept up by rendition simply vanish.

"This is a kind of netherworld that people disappear into and don't frequently emerge from," said Mr. Goering. "It's a world that's outside the reach of law. These individuals might as well be on another planet."

There is no way to know how many people have been seized, tortured or killed. Since there are no official proceedings, there is no way to know whether a particular individual who is taken into custody is a legitimate terror suspect or someone who is innocent of any wrongdoing. But we have learned, after the fact, that mistakes have been made.

You may not be familiar with the name Khaled el-Masri, but the Bush administration sure knows who he is. Mr. Masri, a German citizen of Lebanese descent, was arrested while visiting Macedonia in December 2003. A few weeks later, he was handed over to a group of masked men dressed all in black -- in the so-called ninja outfits frequently worn by the rendition cowboys.

Mr. Masri's clothes were cut off and he was drugged, put aboard a plane and flown to Afghanistan, where he was held in a squalid basement cell for five months.

It turned out, as noted by Dana Priest of The Washington Post, who was awarded a Pulitzer Prize this week for her reporting on the government's covert counterterrorism programs, that "the C.I.A. had imprisoned the wrong man."

Ms. Priest wrote:

"Masri was held for five months largely because the head of the C.I.A.'s counterterrorist center's Al Qaeda unit 'believed he was someone else,' one former C.I.A. official said. 'She didn't really know. She just had a hunch.' "

Someone had a hunch that Maher Arar was a terrorist, too. A Canadian citizen who had been born in Syria, he was snatched by American authorities at Kennedy Airport in New York on Sept. 26, 2002, and shipped off to a nightmare in Syria that lasted nearly a year. He was held for most of that time in an underground, rat-infested cell about the size of a grave.

No one, not even among the Syrians who tortured him, was ever able to come up with any evidence linking Mr. Arar to terrorism. He was released and returned to his family in Ottawa. Shunned and emotionally shattered, he seems a ruined man at just 35 years of age.

The cases of Khaled el-Masri and Maher Arar are among the handful that we know about. Most cases remain concealed in the lawless netherworld that Mr. Goering spoke of.

The Amnesty International report describes various acts of torture and other forms of mistreatment that are alleged to have been inflicted on victims of rendition. According to the report, Vincent Cannistraro, a former director of the C.I.A's Counterterrorism Center, said the following about a detainee who had been rendered to Egypt:

"They promptly tore his fingernails out and he started telling things."

The Bush administration will never do the right thing when it comes to rendition. Congress needs to step in and thoroughly investigate this program, which is nothing less than a crime against humanity. Congress needs to investigate it, document it and shut it down.

Topplebush.com
Posted: April 21, 2006

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Geoff Young on Mainstream Bias on Iran by White House

olks,
For the past 8 months or more I've been concerned about the corporate media's coverage of Iran. I think it mirrors their irresponsible coverage of Iraq during the buildup to the war. After seeing the Sunday Herald-Leader, I couldn't avoid calling up Managing Editor Tom Eblen about it. He called back Thursday and we discussed the issue by phone.

He asked me to write up my points in a concise way, and said he would send it on to various wire service people he knows. Apparently he is an officer in an association of wire service professionals. Here is what I sent him. I urge you to send similar messages to other media corporations.



Serious Concerns about Mainstream Media Coverage of Iran – April 20, 2006

Just as the idea of a threat from Saddam Hussein was consciously hyped by the Bush administration in 2002 and early 2003, the idea of Iran as an existential threat to the US is being hyped today. Coverage of the Iran nuclear issue over the past 6-8 months has had an impact: approximately half of the US population now fears Iranian nuclear weapons. The mainstream media (MSM) has contributed to this climate of fear by producing a stream of articles written from within the administration’s frame – Iran is a Threat to Us – and leaving out the critically important context of international law.

Key facts are being omitted from almost all MSM articles and reports:

1) Under the terms of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), Iran has the legal right to enrich uranium for nuclear power plants.

2) Israel has never signed the NPT and is widely believed to possess at least 200 advanced nuclear weapons and the means of delivering them onto Iran’s cities.

3) The US and other major nuclear powers have consistently ignored the provisions of the NPT that require the eventual elimination of all nuclear weapons. The Pentagon is even working to develop a new generation of smaller, “more usable,� mini-nukes and “bunker-busters,� an advance in the arms race that contradicts the spirit of Article VI of the NPT.

4) The US is taking hostile actions against Iran’s government. Congress has appropriated millions of dollars to “promote democracy� in Iran, and the Guardian Unlimited reports that US special forces have been operating in Iran to select sites for future air strikes and help armed opposition groups

http://www.guardian.co.uk/iran/story/0,,1750678,00.html (4/10/06).

How would Americans feel about similar actions being taken by a hostile foreign government on our soil? We would surely consider it an act of war.

5) If Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons, which has not been proven, it is probably for the purpose of deterring an attack by Israel or the US. Iran is aware of the different policies the US has taken toward Iraq as compared to North Korea.

6) The current US administration has a proven track record of exaggerating threats and using fear in order to justify aggressive war. Has the MSM learned nothing from the Iraq experience?

7) An attack by the US and/or Israel against Iran’s nuclear facilities would constitute the war crime of international aggression (unless the UN Security Council had first authorized an attack, which is almost inconceivable given the position of Russia and China).

8) Such an attack could lead to a much wider and longer war in the Middle East, and might even trigger a third world war between the US and much of the Muslim world.

A typical example of the right-wing frame appeared in the Lexington Herald-Leader on Sunday, April 16, pages A3 and A4. A full-page article by Andrew Maykuth of the Knight-Ridder News Service was titled,
"Portentous Power Play: Tehran’s insistence on enriching uranium could
destabilize a volatile region, damage energy markets and bring nuclear
weapons to an Islamic theocracy."
We see a map showing the range of Iranian missiles that, if fitted with hypothetical nuclear weapons that do not now exist, could "put targets in the Middle East and Asia – and American troops in the region – at risk."

We are not shown a map of US military facilities that could threaten the security of Iran, even though it was the US, not Iran, that invaded a neighboring country (Iraq) in 2003 in an unprovoked act of aggression, has troops fighting in another neighboring country, Afghanistan, ensures that no serious pressure will be exerted against Israel’s possession of nuclear weapons, and just agreed to accept the legitimacy of India’s nuclear weapons. We also see the same kind of scary satellite photos of Iranian buildings that Colin Powell trotted out at the UN during the long campaign of deception designed to justify an invasion of Iraq.

The article quotes various foreign policy experts about what is at stake and what options the US government has. The Iranian government is described as "revolutionary" and an "Islamic theocracy." The entire discussion is firmly anchored within the Bush administration’s frame, i.e., Iran is a threat and what can We do about it. The issue is never framed as, "What can the countries of the world do to deter the
theocratic US president from committing further acts of war and aggression?"

Likewise, the issue is never framed as, :What is the Bush administration up to now, and is it possible that they are cooking up an 'Iran Threat' in order to help themselves politically?"

By helping the Bush administration hype the "Iran Threat," the MSM isplaying with fire. It is failing to exercise its journalistic responsibility to question the motives of powerful people, and it is behaving in a highly irresponsible manner, exactly as it performed during the buildup to the War in Iraq.

A much more skeptical approach is urgently needed, or we may find ourselves discussing how the MSM helped George W Bush start World War Three.

Sincerely,
Geoffrey M. Young

Friday, April 21, 2006

Machismo Deluxe: Bush's Addictive Posture re Iran

Robert Scheer: Bush's Nutty Nuclear Braggadocio
http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/20060418_bush_iran_nuclearweapons/
Posted on Apr. 18, 2006

My term: Machismo Deluxe: Bush's Addictive Pose.

By Robert Scheer

There is one clear standard by which President Bush has asked, over and over, to be judged: his ability to keep us safe from rogue nations or terrorists armed with weapons of mass destruction. Unfortunately, by any rational definition of that standard, his five-year administration has been an abysmal failure.

The quandary in which Bush finds himself regarding Iran’s apparent quest for nuclear weapons is only the latest example in an astonishing series of national security blunders.

First, he vacationed while a crescendo of intelligence warnings of imminent terrorist attack blossomed into the spectacle of Sept. 11, 2001. Then, he allowed the mastermind of those attacks, Osama bin Laden, to escape while diverting U.S. resources into Iraq to save the world from Saddam Hussein’s nonexistent WMDs. Now, tied down in Iraq’s civil strife, Bush holds no high cards in a dangerous poker match with Iran.

A once swaggering president, who so convincingly wielded a bullhorn and modeled a flight suit, now has assumed the pretzel pose of a supplicant attempting to cajole our old enemy in Tehran into dropping its nuclear ambitions while simultaneously initiating talks with Iran aimed at bailing us out in Iraq. After the fiasco of using the blunt instrument of military force to "democratize" Iraq, Bush now resorts to mild talk of U.N. sanctions on Iran, the very weapon he had derided in relation to quarantining Hussein. Bush’s nutty nuclear braggadocio on Tuesday — "all options are on the table" — was a sign of weakness, not strength, hobbled as he is by various self-created impediments.

One is that he has lost the trust of Americans, foreign leaders and even many Republicans by lying about Iraq — crying wolf, in essence — and then fumbling the occupation. Another invasion would be a tough sell, both here and abroad.

Two, Iran is, as Republican Sen. Richard Lugar put it subtly, "part of the energy picture." In other words, it exports gobs of oil. U.S.-Iran tension already has sent crude prices above $70 a barrel. "I believe, for the moment, we ought to cool this one," Lugar warned the White House. “We need to make more headway diplomatically to be effective.�

Three, the United States is highly dependent upon Iran-trained Shiite religious factions in Iraq for what is left of the tattered welcome mat Bush & Co. told us to expect when we came to overthrew Hussein. Key Iraqi Shiite leaders have stated they would support Iran in the event of a U.S. attack.

Cozying up to the Shiite fundamentalists in Iraq is a bargain with the devil, born of weakness, the pattern for this president. To find another example, look no further than the source of Iran's latest claimed breakthrough in the pursuit of weapons-grade uranium. Last week, Iran's confrontational president disclosed that his regime is "presently conducting research" on P-2 centrifuge technology that would allow quicker uranium enrichment.

Nuclear experts, according to the New York Times, fear this is a serious indication that Tehran, as long suspected, has obtained P-2 technology from Pakistan, thanks to the global black-market nukes operation run for years by Abdul Qadeer Khan, "the father" of Pakistan's nuclear weapons program. U.N. inspectors in Iran also found instructional bomb-making sketches thought to have been supplied by Khan, who is now under "a loose form of house arrest," according to the Times.

The grim irony in all this is that Pakistan never has been held accountable by the United States for Khan’s black-market nuclear proliferation racket, even though such a bold scheme could not have thrived without significant support from Pakistan's powerful military leaders. Of course, Khan, who was pardoned by Pakistan's military dictator, doesn’t have to worry that Bush is going to order the CIA to spirit him to Guantanamo Bay for some rough Dick Cheney-approved interrogations. Pakistan, like Saudi Arabia, is a tight ally of the White House, despite having previously supported Bin Laden’s old Afghan friends, the Taliban. Indeed, the Bush administration was so eager to secure the friendship of Pakistan after the Sept. 11 attacks, it perversely ended the boycott imposed on that country in response to its development of a nuclear weapon.

There you have it — Hussein, who did not have a nuclear-weapons program and was fundamentally at odds with Bin Laden, now sits in prison, while the dictator of nukes-R-us Pakistan and the theocrats of Iran have had their power immeasurably strengthened by Bush's policies. Go figure. Actually, it would appear the public already has, explaining why our fearless leader has fallen so far in the polls.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

My Morning Song, by William Rivers Pitt, Truthout Perspective.

The bar was mostly empty when I slipped onto my usual stool on Wednesday afternoon. The sun was out and a warm breeze blew through the city. Only a fool would be inside a dark saloon during such a beautiful day, I thought to myself as I took off my sunglasses. John, the bartender, shook his head at me and flashed a smile that carried just a hint of condescension; he had to be here, and was probably wondering why I would waste my day like this.

He did have a point. Spring comes to Boston about as often as honesty comes from the White House, and so far, my city was actually having one. The trees were bursting with blossoms, and the new leaves were so bright that, it seemed, if you touched them, your hands would come away coated in green. I even had my first near-bee experience of the season on the way there; a huge bumblebee had done a fly-by across the bridge of my nose, sounding like a truck passing on the highway.

The reason why I was there walked through the door a few minutes later dragging a huge suitcase and wearing a bright pink IMPEACH BUSH t-shirt. Cindy Sheehan had been at an anti-war event at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst the day before, all the way across the state, after coming from Austin and Crawford before that. She was flying out of Logan Airport that night to catch up with the Raging Grannies in New York on Thursday, on the eve of the huge anti-war protest that will be taking place in the city next weekend.

She had some time to kill before heading to the airport, and I was happy to offer the creature comforts afforded by my local pub. I'd brought her here last summer, while she was in town with the Out-of-Iraq tour that had come out of the Crawford protest, and she had loved the place. It was a little different on Wednesday than the last time she'd been there. The last time, it had been a Saturday night with the Red Sox in town, we had gotten to the bar just as the game had let out, and it was a zoo. This day, we had the place mostly to ourselves.

The bartender, condescending smile now gone, filled my mug with my recent favorite, the Berkshire Steel Rail. Cindy got herself a Stella Artois. Ethan, the head anti-war student organizer at U-Mass who had driven Cindy to the city from Amherst, allowed himself to get talked into a pint of the Wailing Wench, an excellent IPA. My friend Tom, an architecture student, wandered in a few minutes later and joined us.

We tried to avoid talking shop. We really did. It didn't last.

Scott McClellan was out and maybe Brit Hume or Tony Snow was going to replace him. Karl Rove got demoted, or so the story went, and was going to concentrate on keeping the GOP from getting wiped out in the midterms. Or maybe they both were being moved to the side because Patrick Fitzgerald was gearing up to indict them in his Plame investigation. Is it dangerous to have generals attack the civilian government? Or maybe those generals were firing a warning shot across the administration's bow, letting them know that if they were stupid enough to try an attack on Iran, they were going to have big trouble from the brass.

A young man wandered into the bar later in the afternoon with a friend, looking to toss back a pint or two before going to the Sox game that night. He heard Cindy and me comparing our various nightmare stories about commercial air travel; I have some good ones, but on this score, Cindy wins hands-down. He jumped in with a few good stories of his own, including one where his plane landed sideways and slid off the runway. At one point, he asked Cindy what she did that had her on airplanes so often.

"Do you remember the protest last summer down at Bush's ranch?" I asked him. "The one started by the woman who lost her son in Iraq?"

"Yeah, I remember," he said.

"Cindy Sheehan," I said, cocking a thumb at the lady next to me.

His eyes popped out of his head, and he leaped off the stool. He ran over to Cindy and wrapped her in a huge hug, and then gave her the Red Sox cap he'd been wearing. Cindy took out a pink pen and wrote "Peace - Cindy Sheehan" on his white t-shirt. He left a little while later with the t-shirt open for all to see. Later that night, after Cindy had left, he came back from the game and told me that a bunch of people had complimented him on the shirt.

The day passed slowly and sweetly, and the beers went down smoothly. There was a lot of laughter and storytelling, and at one point we all found ourselves giggling at the absurdity of the Bush administration. Did they really have a page on their web site called "Setting the Record Straight?" Who did they think they were kidding? It was all too funny. But amidst all the smiles, I saw Cindy put her head down and mutter to herself.

"Yeah, it would be funny," I heard her whisper, "if my son weren't dead."

The time finally came for Cindy to get going to the airport. Before she left, she grabbed me by the shoulders. I really think this administration is coming apart, she told me. The lies they've told are being exposed on a daily basis. They are scared to death of the midterm elections, and we have to do everything we can to see John Conyers sitting as chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. We have such a long way yet to go, but after all this time, the work we've been doing is starting to make a difference. I hailed her a cab, piled her stuff into the trunk, and gave her a big hug goodbye.

I woke up on Thursday morning thinking about everything Cindy Sheehan has been through. She had to bury her son, Casey, and was attacked for the way she chose to mark his grave. She questioned why her son died, what the noble cause was that ended his time on Earth, and was attacked for being a traitor. She has abandoned any semblance of a normal life to travel thousands and thousands of miles in the company of strangers, for no other reason than to demand a reckoning from the people who sent her son to his death. She has been arrested and harassed, she has been the victim of death threats, and she remains undaunted.

I decided that my morning song, my morning devotion, the prayer I will offer at the start of every day, will be simple. I want Cindy Sheehan to get everything she has worked for. I want every question she has asked to be answered. I want every tear she has shed for her son to become a flood that will wash away these last five years of horror. I want her son's death, and her life, to mean something great and good for everyone, for all the people she and her son have stood for. I want the reckoning she seeks, and I believe it will come, if the rest of us display the courage and determination that has marked her passage through these dark days.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

ALL THE BULLIES

ALL THE BULLIES
The politicizing of faith

Let's call a spade a spade. All those politicians and religious leaders who use their view of faith to judge others as further from God, as less worthy, than themselves are simply bullies. None of that behavior comes from the Carpenter of Nazareth, whatever title we give him.

None of it comes from the Christian God, the Hebrew Jehovah, nor Allah, nor any divine entity. It comes from self, from ego, from the craven need to distance oneself from those who believe differently. Jesus gave power over others to no one, not to his apostles nor to any religious leader.

We are seeing the dividing of the country and of the world, by politicians and religious people who think their view of God gives them the right to judge and even to prevail other those who are different. There is a scripture that applies: "Take care, lest the light in you be darkness." (Luke 11:35)

It is no wonder that increasing numbers of people are turned off both by politicians and both laity and leaders in organized religion.

It is no longer "Believe and be saved." It is now Believe and Judge, "Believe and have the right to discriminate." Belief now puts one on the side of God and can justify any deceit, and every act of not listening to those who are different.

We are becoming no different today from those iu history who have used their view of God to abuse countless others down through the ages, under whatever flag. When belief is used to judge and divide it is in the service of evil.

These Bullies are everywhere, in Washington, in Frankfort and in our churches and colleges, even among some of our friends.

Let us name them for what they are.

Paschal Baute
Lexington, Ky

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Easter Sunday, 2006

Easter Sunday, 2006

One pointedness. Attention.
I am blessed beyond compare.
I can never be grateful enough.
Awareness of everything, every moment, just as it is happening.
We cannot teach this. We can only help others prepare for it.
In doing so, maybe help ourselves.
The mind is too busy protecting its turf, past, present and future.
The analyzing mind is a friend aiming to protect us.
But it is addicted to its purvey, to its protectiveness,
to its supposed power, and turf.
The undisciplined mind is arrogant and rampant.
The mind is also an enemy, full of itself
full of unnecessary trivialities,
too ready to dally.
(Maybe most of us live with the mind
and heart of a ten year old. . )

Single pointedness, focus, flow and engagement
can only come with practice. But this practice is also
a caging of the tiger which will continue to pace
relentlessly.

Words, words, words.
Taking everything apart.
Nothing is perfect.

Yesterday on a warm, beautiful Spring day,
surrounding by birds singing, redbuds blooming, and
water bubbling, lake fountain, a few experienced
meditators once more entered into
the state of focus, flow and engagement.
Slowly, reluctantly, with mind resisting
tooth and nail, we became quiet,
totally still to the Present.
Only the Present.
And when it happened, after a while,
it was awesome for most of us.
A powerfully moving experience
of simple fully time-less presence.

Something powerfully connected
emerges at that instance.
We are connected at once with everything
in the universe, and can only be there
just as it happens.

There is no nostalgia, simply Presence.
O’Donohue has it right
Beauty only visits, never lingers.

We can only set the stage,
learn to ignore the monkey mind,
and return again and again to
this moment.

Time does not exist.
It is a construct upon reality.
There is only past, present and future,
and maybe these too are illusions.
The present, just as it is happening
right ...now! Is all we have.

We are blessed, truly blessed, in that moment,
and not for any thing or any purpose:
simply fully present

Paschal Baute
April 16, 2006

April Day of Recollection
Spiritual Growth Network of Kentucky.
www.lexpages.com/sgn

Friday, April 14, 2006

GOOD FRIDAY: Lincoln and Jesus, opinion. . .

April 14, 2006
Op-Ed Contributor
The President Who Died for Us
By RICHARD WIGHTMAN FOX

Worcester, Mass.

THIS year, Good Friday, the day commemorating Christ's crucifixion, falls on April 14, as it did in 1865. On that evening, in the balcony box of Ford's Theater in Washington, John Wilkes Booth fired a handmade .41-caliber derringer ball into the back of Abraham Lincoln's head.

In the days that followed Lincoln's death, his mourning compatriots rushed to compare him to Jesus, Moses and George Washington.

Despite the Good Friday coincidence, the Jesus parallel was not an obvious one for 19th-century Americans to make. The Protestant population, then as now, included a vigilant evangelical minority who thought that Jesus, sinless on earth, was defamed every time ordinary sinners presumed to imitate him. No mere mortal could be put beside Jesus on a moral balance scale.

But Honest Abe overwhelmed the usual evangelical reticence — by April 1865 the majority of Northerners and Southern blacks took him as no ordinary person. He had been offering his body and soul all through the war and his final sacrifice, providentially appointed for Good Friday, showed that God had surely marked him for sacred service.

At a mass assembly in Manhattan five hours after Lincoln's death, James A. Garfield - the Ohio congressman who would become the second assassinated president 16 years later - voiced the common hesitancy, then went on to claim the analogy: "It may be almost impious to say it, but it does seem that Lincoln's death parallels that of the Son of God."

Jesus had saved humanity, or at least some portion of it, from eternal damnation. Lincoln had saved the nation from the civic equivalent of damnation: the dissolution that had always bedeviled republics. "Jesus Christ died for the world," said the Rev. C. B. Crane in Hartford. "Abraham Lincoln died for his country."

The small minority of Jews and Catholics, equally awed by Lincoln's bodily sacrifice, joined Protestants in hailing the president's uncommon virtues: forgiveness, mercy, defense of the poor and the oppressed. Catholics joined Protestants in noting his Christ-like habits of brooding in private and keeping his own counsel.

Nearly everyone joined in heralding Lincoln's phrase "with malice toward none, with charity for all," which Christian mourners hailed as the heart of the Gospel. Those words from his second inaugural address, delivered just six weeks before his death, turned up on hand-scrawled banners all over the Union. People mounted them, along with black-bordered flags and photographs of Lincoln, in the windows of their homes and shops.

Thomas Nast's 1866 painting "President Lincoln Entering Richmond" (commemorating his surprise stroll into the capital of the Confederacy on April 4, 1865, shortly after Robert E. Lee's retreat) reinforced the sentiment: Lincoln shepherded his people just as Jesus did. The president walked into Richmond before Holy Week the way Jesus rode into Jerusalem before Passover: humbly, not triumphantly. Both men were enveloped by exuberant admirers.

Most American Christians turned to the Jesus analogy because they realized how much they loved Lincoln. They took his loss as personal, often comparing it to a death in the family. Many felt attached to Lincoln almost as they felt attached to Jesus. The striving rail-splitter from Illinois and the simple carpenter from Nazareth resembled them, the people. In contrast, while still heroic, Washington seemed more distant, even aloof.

Yet calculation as well as veneration entered the campaign to sanctify Lincoln. Radical Republicans revealed a political reason for comparing Lincoln to Jesus. Trying to explain why a rational Providence had permitted Lincoln to die, they decided that the savior of the nation had proved himself too Christ-like, too softhearted, too "womanly," for the necessarily punitive job of "reconstructing" the postwar South. God in his wisdom had put Andrew Johnson in place for the messy task of enacting justice.

Many Protestants also displayed a religious motive for emphasizing the resemblance between Lincoln and Christ. They made the president a virtual holy man because they wished retroactively to make him a morally impeccable and believing Christian. They considered theater-going, a favorite pastime of the president, as morally dubious; his choice of the stage for recreation on this day of crucifixion made them sick at heart.

And Lincoln, who after 1862 had spoken repeatedly of his dependence on God and Providence, had never referred much to Jesus. The barrage of Jesus comparisons offered a camouflaging aura of piety for a man who had enjoyed lowbrow, off-color humor as much as play-acting.

Seven score and one years have passed since Good Friday 1865, and Lincoln has always remained his own man. In his final years, he had set his own course by balancing a pressing sense of the rule of Providence with a persistent belief in the power of reason. Still, he can — and should — stand as historic demonstration that a republican hero's sacrifice for the people comes very close to Christ's ideals of self-denial and self-giving.

Richard Wightman Fox, the author of "Jesus in America: Personal Savior, Cultural Hero, National Obsession," is writing a book about the aftermath of Lincoln's assassination.

Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company

Thursday, April 13, 2006

It's Morning in America Again. Republicans have awakened a friendly giant with their stance on immigation.

Published on Thursday, April 13, 2006 by the Guardian/UK
Morning in America Again
The leaders of the Republican party have awakened an unfriendly giant with their stance on immigrants.
by James K. Galbraith

I went to, of all things, a rally on Monday.

By the standards of the movement sweeping across the nation, it was small: about 500 people,
mostly students, gathered on campus a hundred feet from the statue of Martin Luther King that faces east in solitude, tactfully removed from the old Confederates who face south, a quarter of a mile away. But every 15 or 20 minutes a new contingent would march up, 50 or a hundred strong, coming from somewhere.

My state senator, an American of Mexican heritage, spoke with vivid eloquence. On the side, he cracked to me that we'd done better in our day, when it was a matter of life and death. I countered that we could never have turned out half a million people in Dallas. Which had actually happened one day before. That's Dallas, Texas, I repeat. Of course he agreed.

This isn't the anti-war movement, of white college kids, liberal Protestant churches, Dr. Spock and veterans of the Abraham Lincoln brigades. It's not the civil rights movement, although the crowds everywhere were a gorgeous mixture of American colors, brown and black, yellow and tan. The civil rights marches, as I recall them, were solemn, formal, more spiritual and religious than these; they were the marches of a deprived people determined to take their place, in the face of extreme official violence.

The spirit of the immigration marches seems quite different. It is festive. It is wholly patriotic. The immigrants, their families, and their supporters, are not angry with America. On the contrary, they are happy to be here. Mostly they aren't even demanding what they haven't got. They are trying to protect what they have, or what they are already hard at work to get. One sign I saw, "My father was illegal; I'm a law student," pretty much captured the spirit of the day.

Vietnam was about war. Civil rights was about racial justice. But these marches are, mainly, about work. They are about the right to work, and to live from work, in simple dignity, independence and freedom. And that freedom, which exists as a practical matter for many immigrants in America today, is under threat.

The bill the House passed is a cruel farce, which would turn (it is said, but no one really knows) 11 million working people into felons and criminalize all who assist them, including church and social workers. The compromise under consideration in the Senate is less cruel, but it is a fantasy that somehow one can separate those who have been in the country two and five years or longer from those who haven't.

There is only one just solution. Immigrants, who come and work, are going to be here a long time. They aren't criminals and they also aren't guests. The fact that their presence may be illegal is a problem not with the people but with the law. Under the constitution, their children are citizens the day they are born. The migrants should become citizens too, not without some wait and effort, but efficiently. And they should vote.

I think the country knows this. Making Americans is one thing it does pretty well. And adding 11 million, or (say) 20 million, working people who are here anyway to the citizenship rolls, in a country of 300 million, just isn't that big a deal to most people. Especially when the other choice is to have a guest worker underclass in a police state. A headline in today's Wall Street Journal read: "Employers Have a Lot to Lose." But the story wasn't about how business felt threatened by the rallies. It was about a landscaper in California, who is speaking out to get his workers made legal.

Who is opposed? The leaders of the Republican party are opposed. Why? Because they know that immigrants have the power to sweep them all away. That already happened, in California, in the wake of an infamous proposition denying undocumented immigrants access to the public schools. On the electoral maps, California went from Reagan red to solid blue, and it's not going back.

And now they've made the same mistake again. Like Tojo at Pearl Harbor, they've awakened a giant. Only this time, it's all across the country - a divided country where a California change in only a few states, such as Arizona or Virginia, or Florida, could tip our politics right over. Looking out at the kids yesterday, you could almost imagine it happening in Texas.

For those of us from the Vietnam era, well, it looks like it's morning in America again.

James Galbraith holds the Lloyd M Bentsen Jr chair of government/business relations at the Lyndon B Johnson school of public affairs, the University of Texas at Austin, and a professorship in government. He is a senior scholar with the Levy Economics Institute, and chair of the board of Economists for Peace and Security, an international association of professional economists.

© Guardian Newspapers Limited 2006

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

The Boy President who called "Wolf" by Missy Comley Beattie, Opednews.com

April 12, 2006

The Boy President Who Cried "Wolf!"
Tell A Friend

by Missy Comley Beattie

http://www.opednews.com

"Wolf! Wolf! The wolf is chasing the sheep!" When the villagers came to help the boy who cried, "Wolf," the boy laughed. He had been bored.

"WMD! WMD! Saddam has WMD!" When no WMD were found, the boy president said: "Regime change…evil dictator." But he was pulling the wool over the eyes of the public so they couldn’t see that he was just trying to get reelected. And he wanted oil.

"Save your frightened song for when there is really something wrong!"

George W. Bush is the boy who cried, "Wolf! Wolf!" George W. Bush is the boy president who cried out even though there was no threat from Iraq. George W. Bush is the boy who cried out and spent every bit of his political capital. And now there’s nothing left. But there is a whole lot wrong.

Even though there probably are wolves making WMD out there, not enough people trust George W. Bush anymore.

"Save your frightened song for when there is really something wrong!"

"But Iran does have WMD. Okay, I knew Saddam didn’t but, believe me, Iran does and is poised to use them…mushroom cloud, mushroom cloud…"

"Nobody believes a liar…"

Only 20 percent of Americans polled strongly approve of the boy who cried, "Wolf!"

Sixty percent disapprove of the boy president’s handling of Iraq.

The boy who cried, "Wolf," is now saying diplomacy, but this has always been a problem for him.

"Save your frightened song for when there is really something wrong!"

The boy who cried, "Axis of evil," is responsible for a world of problems. His aggressive language fueled Iran’s renewed interest in developing nuclear weapons. The boy president’s loss of credibility poses a danger in and of itself.

We must all sing a frightened song because there is really something wrong.

These are the worst of times because the boy president cried, "Wolf."

These are the worst of times because the boy president is the wolf.


* * * * *
Missy Beattie lives in New York City. She's written for National Public Radio and Nashville Life Magazine. An outspoken critic of the Bush Administration and the war in Iraq, she's a member of Gold Star Families for Peace. She completed a novel last year, but since the death of her nephew, Marine Lance Cpl. Chase J. Comley, in Iraq on August 6,'05, she has been writing political articles.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Civil War in Iraq has already begun. And it is on the Shoulders of Bush, Blair and Company.

Published on Tuesday, April 11, 2006 by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Situation in Iraq Could Not be Worse
by Patrick Cockburn

A cruel and bloody civil war has started in Iraq, a country that President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair promised to free from fear and establish democracy. I have been visiting Iraq since 1978, but for the first time, I am becoming convinced that the country will not survive.

Three suicide bombers disguised themselves as women Friday and, with explosives hidden by long black cloaks, killed 79 people and wounded more than 160 when they blew themselves up in a Shiite mosque in the capital. One bomber came through the women's security checkpoint at the Buratha mosque in northern Baghdad and detonated explosives just as worshippers were leaving at the end of Friday prayers.

Two other bombers took advantage of the confusion to blow themselves up a few seconds later, killing the people who were trying to escape.

The savage attack, the worst in months, came almost exactly on the third anniversary of the overthrow of Saddam Hussein by American and British armies on April 9, 2003. The war was portrayed at the time as freeing Iraqis from fear, but Iraqi officials have told The Independent that at least 100 people are being killed in Baghdad every day.

The slaughter of Shiite Muslims in the Buratha mosque probably will lead to revenge attacks against Sunni Arabs whose community harbors the Salafi and Jihadi fanatics, who see the Shiites as heretics. Ever since the bombing of the al-Askari Shrine in Samara on Feb. 22, the Shiite militias have retaliated whenever Shiites are killed.

The bombing of the mosque, a religious complex linked to the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, pushes Iraq well down the road to outright civil war between Sunni and Shiite Arabs. Jalal Eddin al-Sagheer, the preacher in the Buratha mosque, declared: "The Shiite are the target and it's a sectarian act. There is nothing to justify this act but black sectarian hatred."

Men screamed in anger and fear as they rolled the bodies of the dead onto wooden carts so they could be loaded into ambulances. "This is a cowardly act. Every time I see these bloody scenes it tears apart my heart," said Jawwad Kathim, a fireman.

It was the worst sectarian bombing for four months. The day before a car bomb exploded near the Shiite shrine of Imam Ali in Najaf, killing 13 people.

"My house is opposite to the mosque and when we heard the first blast I ran to make sure that my father, who was praying there, was safe," Naba Mohsin said. "When I entered the mosque a second huge blast occurred and I saw a big blast with flames. I want to know if my father is alive."

I have been covering the war in Iraq ever since it began three years ago and I have never seen the situation so grim. More than a week ago, I was in the northern city of Mosul, protected by 3,000 Kurdish soldiers, but even so it was considered too dangerous to send out patrols in daytime. It is safer at night because of a curfew.

In March alone, the U.S. military said 1,313 people were killed in sectarian attacks. Many bodies, buried in pits or thrown in the rivers, are never found.

The real figure is probably twice as high. All over the country people are on the move as Sunnis and Shiites flee each other's areas.

I was in Lebanon at the start of the civil war in 1975. Baghdad today resembles Beirut then. People are being murdered solely because of their religious identity. A friend called to say he had a problem because his two half brothers had been born in Fallujah, the Sunni Muslim stronghold, and this was on their identity cards. If they were picked up by Shiite militiamen, a glance at their place of birth alone could get them killed.

Fleeing one danger in Baghdad, it is easy to become victim of another.

The friend had taken his mother and two sisters to the passport office in Baghdad so they could leave the country. While they were there, a bomb went off, killing 25 policemen outside and breaking his sister's leg.

Now the family cannot leave because his sister is in the hospital and his mother is too frightened to return to get a new passport.

Bush and Blair have for the past three years continually understated the gravity of what is taking place. It has been frustrating as a journalist to hear them claim that much of Iraq is peaceful when we could not prove them wrong without being killed or kidnapped. The capture of Saddam in 2003, the handover of sovereignty in 2004, the elections and new constitution in 2005 have all been oversold to the outside world as signs of progress.

The formation of a national unity government in Iraq is now being presented as an antidote to the violence. "Terrorists love a vacuum," said British Defense Secretary John Reid, citing his experience in Northern Ireland. But one Iraqi official remarked that the three main communities -- Sunni, Shiite and Kurds -- do not hate one another because they do not have a government, but rather they do not have a government because they already hate one another.

The coalition of Iraqi religious parties, the United Iraqi Alliance, won almost half the seats in the 275-member parliament in the election on Dec.15. They fear the United States and Britain are trying to break up the Shiite coalition. This is why they have resisted demands for Ibrahim al-Jaafari to stand down as prime minister. Even if a national unity government is formed, it will control very little. The army and police take their orders from the leaders of their own communities.

Three years ago, when Saddam's statue was toppled, Iraqis were promised their lives would get better. Instead Iraq has become the most dangerous place in the world.

Patrick Cockburn writes for The Independent in Britain.

© 2006 The Seattle Post-Intelligencer

Monday, April 10, 2006

These too are my brothers and sisters: illegals, not criminals, so how shall we treat them?

Immigration Advocates Rally Around U.S.
By MARIA NEWMAN

In rallies that appeared to be exceeding the expectations of organizers and the police, hundreds of thousands of immigrants and their supporters marched today in more than 100 cities throughout the country, casting off the old fears of their illegal status to assert that they have a right to a humane life in this country.

The marches took place in big cities like Houston, Los Angeles, Phoenix and Atlanta, and in smaller communities like Hyde Park, N.Y., Garden City, Kan., and Belle Glade, Fla. Some of the marchers invoked the tactics and slogans of the civil rights era, and others were trying out a new voice for an emerging constituency that in the very recent past has hidden from authority because of their lack of papers, afraid to speak up, willing to work for wages that American citizens will not accept.

In Madison, Wis., a rally drew 25,000, organizers said. The police, who estimated the crowd to be closer to 10,000, nevertheless said it was the largest rally they have seen in 10 years there.

One man, José Piñeda, 30, who works at a doll factory in Madison and was at the rally with his wife and two young children, was asked if they were not afraid to march in a rally where they might be identified as illegal and therefore subject to capture or prosecution by authorities.

"No," Mr. Piñeda said. "We are not criminals."

It has become the rallying cry of demonstrations that have grown in size and frequency in the last month, as Congress has considered the thorny issue of immigration legislation.

The rallies, part of what some organizers were calling the National Day of Action for Immigrant Justice, began this morning, with a 9 a.m. demonstration in Atlanta , and continues in more than 100 cities, ending with demonstrations in New York City and Washington.

The numbers such rallies have drawn in the past few weeks have exceeded the expectations of even their organizers, who say immigrants are no longer afraid to speak out about proposed immigration bills in Congress that some of them find unfair to them.

"I think that the incredible turnout in places like Dallas is just reflective of the deeply felt sense in this country that we have a broken immigration system that desperately needs to be fixed," said Eliza Leighton, with Casa of Maryland, an immigrant advocacy group that is one of the organizers of the Washington rally.

"It needs to be fixed in such a way that the millions of immigrants who are in this country now and are strong contributing members of our society and our economy have a clear path toward citizenship and one that unites families and keeps our country strong," she said.

In Atlanta, a sea of demonstrators, most of them dressed in the white T-shirts that have become emblematic of the immigrant rights marches, moved along a two-mile route, with marchers carrying signs about their rights and the competing bills in Congress. Most of the marchers carried American flags, as the word has gone out to demonstrators over the last few weeks over the Internet and flyers that they needed to show more willingness to assimilate, although some carried flags from their home countries of Mexico, Honduras and Nicaragua.

Before the march began, police had said they expected it to draw a crowd of 40,000. Afterward, organizers said they believed the size of the crowd might have reached 80,000.

Most of the participants had taken the day off work to attend the demonstration, leaving chores unattended that they said many people, including some who want undocumented immigrants to be kept out, take for granted. There were house painters walking on the metal stilts they use for their work; there were domestic workers who clean houses or care for children in private homes; there were construction workers and their children.

"We are in a situation that Rosa Parks was in several years ago: enough is enough," said Fabian Rodriguez, 38, who came here from Mexico and now lives in the Atlanta suburb of Norcross and works as a landscaper. "I want things to work out in our favor, or we go back to our country. But we can't keep living the way it is now." They were supporting immigrant rights nationally and protesting state legislation awaiting Gov. Sonny Perdue's signature that would require adults seeking many state-administered benefits to prove they are in the country legally.

There were many signs here that marchers were aware of the South's history as the cradle of the black civil rights movement. At the beginning of the march, demonstrators held a banner that spanned the width of their procession that read, "We have a dream too."

Someone else carried a sign that said, "I eat grits. You eat tacos," a message meant to convey how integral immigrants have become to Atlanta's culture and economy. The rallies today come a day after hundreds of thousands marched in downtown Dallas, San Diego, Miami, Birmingham, Ala., and Boise, Idaho, on Sunday.

Thousands more gathered in Salem, Ore., and other cities in peaceful, forceful displays of support.

The rallies are coming at a time when Congress — and indeed, the nation — seems torn about what to do about the burgeoning numbers of immigrants who are coming into the country every year.

A poll released today by The Washington Post and ABC television showed that 75 percent of Americans believe United States authorities are not doing enough to stop illegal immigration.

In Congress, an effort to enact the most sweeping immigration changes in two decades was derailed on Friday by feuding over amendments and other issues.

This came after a bipartisan Senate compromise last week that Democrats and Republicans hailed as a breakthrough. The Senate bill would open doors to citizenship for most illegal immigrants if they paid fines and learned English. It would also create a guest worker program for 325,000 people a year to meet the needs of business, and would tighten border security to satisfy conservatives.

But the agreement fell apart just before Congress went off on a two week break, casting its future in doubt. Senator Arlen Specter, a Pennsylvania Republican and the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, pledged in an interview on "Fox News Sunday" to have the measure ready for debate when Congress resumes.

In Atlanta, some of the demonstrators took note of Congress's failure to come to an agreement before members left on vacation.

A woman hoisted a sign that said, "Congress, go back to work."

"I feel very disappointed because they're supposed to work for the people," said Georgina Rodriguez, 33, a domestic worker from Mexico. "Instead of solving this problem of 12 million immigrants, they've gone on vacation."

In Madison, the demonstrators, who marched from Madison Park at Lake Monona to the state capitol about a mile away, were joined by the mayor, David Cieslewicz.

"I want to express support for the Madison Latino community," he said. "And I want to help send a message in opposition to the mean-spirited immigration bills currently before Congress."

Like many of the undocumented workers who were marching in the rallies, Abel Salgado, 30, who works in a dairy farm in the Madison area, said that most of them are working hard at jobs that Americans clearly want someone to perform for them.

Mr. Salgado said he has a wife and three children in his hometown of Acapulco, Mexico.

"I am here to say that we are not criminals," Mr. Salgado said. "We are here for a better future for ourselves and for our children."

Reporting for this article was contributed by Brenda Goodman from Atlanta, Barbara Miner from Madison, Wis., and Laura Griffin from Dallas.


Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Jesus among partisans? Garry Wills

April 9, 2006
Op-Ed Contributor
Christ Among the Partisans
By GARRY WILLS

Chicago

THERE is no such thing as a "Christian politics." If it is a politics, it cannot be Christian. Jesus told Pilate: "My reign is not of this present order. If my reign were of this present order, my supporters would have fought against my being turned over to the Jews. But my reign is not here" (John 18:36). Jesus brought no political message or program.

This is a truth that needs emphasis at a time when some Democrats, fearing that the Republicans have advanced over them by the use of religion, want to respond with a claim that Jesus is really on their side. He is not. He avoided those who would trap him into taking sides for or against the Roman occupation of Judea. He paid his taxes to the occupying power but said only, "Let Caesar have what belongs to him, and God have what belongs to him" (Matthew 22:21). He was the original proponent of a separation of church and state.

Those who want the state to engage in public worship, or even to have prayer in schools, are defying his injunction: "When you pray, be not like the pretenders, who prefer to pray in the synagogues and in the public square, in the sight of others. In truth I tell you, that is all the profit they will have. But you, when you pray, go into your inner chamber and, locking the door, pray there in hiding to your Father, and your Father who sees you in hiding will reward you" (Matthew 6:5-6). He shocked people by his repeated violation of the external holiness code of his time, emphasizing that his religion was an internal matter of the heart.

But doesn't Jesus say to care for the poor? Repeatedly and insistently, but what he says goes far beyond politics and is of a different order. He declares that only one test will determine who will come into his reign: whether one has treated the poor, the hungry, the homeless and the imprisoned as one would Jesus himself. "Whenever you did these things to the lowliest of my brothers, you were doing it to me" (Matthew 25:40). No government can propose that as its program. Theocracy itself never went so far, nor could it.

The state cannot indulge in self-sacrifice. If it is to treat the poor well, it must do so on grounds of justice, appealing to arguments that will convince people who are not followers of Jesus or of any other religion. The norms of justice will fall short of the demands of love that Jesus imposes. A Christian may adopt just political measures from his or her own motive of love, but that is not the argument that will define justice for state purposes.

To claim that the state's burden of justice, which falls short of the supreme test Jesus imposes, is actually what he wills — that would be to substitute some lesser and false religion for what Jesus brought from the Father. Of course, Christians who do not meet the lower standard of state justice to the poor will, a fortiori, fail to pass the higher test.

The Romans did not believe Jesus when he said he had no political ambitions. That is why the soldiers mocked him as a failed king, giving him a robe and scepter and bowing in fake obedience (John 19:1-3). Those who today say that they are creating or following a "Christian politics" continue the work of those soldiers, disregarding the words of Jesus that his reign is not of this order.

Some people want to display and honor the Ten Commandments as a political commitment enjoined by the religion of Jesus. That very act is a violation of the First and Second Commandments. By erecting a false religion — imposing a reign of Jesus in this order — they are worshiping a false god. They commit idolatry. They also take the Lord's name in vain.

Some may think that removing Jesus from politics would mean removing morality from politics. They think we would all be better off if we took up the slogan "What would Jesus do?"

That is not a question his disciples ask in the Gospels. They never knew what Jesus was going to do next. He could round on Peter and call him "Satan." He could refuse to receive his mother when she asked to see him. He might tell his followers that they are unworthy of him if they do not hate their mother and their father. He might kill pigs by the hundreds. He might whip people out of church precincts.

The Jesus of the Gospels is not a great ethical teacher like Socrates, our leading humanitarian. He is an apocalyptic figure who steps outside the boundaries of normal morality to signal that the Father's judgment is breaking into history. His miracles were not acts of charity but eschatological signs — accepting the unclean, promising heavenly rewards, making last things first.

He is more a higher Nietzsche, beyond good and evil, than a higher Socrates. No politician is going to tell the lustful that they must pluck out their right eye. We cannot do what Jesus would do because we are not divine.

It was blasphemous to say, as the deputy under secretary of defense, Lt. Gen. William Boykin, repeatedly did, that God made George Bush president in 2000, when a majority of Americans did not vote for him. It would not remove the blasphemy for Democrats to imply that God wants Bush not to be president. Jesus should not be recruited as a campaign aide. To trivialize the mystery of Jesus is not to serve the Gospels.

The Gospels are scary, dark and demanding. It is not surprising that people want to tame them, dilute them, make them into generic encouragements to be loving and peaceful and fair. If that is all they are, then we may as well make Socrates our redeemer.

It is true that the tamed Gospels can be put to humanitarian purposes, and religious institutions have long done this, in defiance of what Jesus said in the Gospels.

Jesus was the victim of every institutional authority in his life and death. He said: "Do not be called Rabbi, since you have only one teacher, and you are all brothers. And call no one on earth your father, since you have only one Father, the one in heaven. And do not be called leaders, since you have only one leader, the Messiah" (Matthew 23:8-10).

If Democrats want to fight Republicans for the support of an institutional Jesus, they will have to give up the person who said those words. They will have to turn away from what Flannery O'Connor described as "the bleeding stinking mad shadow of Jesus" and "a wild ragged figure" who flits "from tree to tree in the back" of the mind.

He was never that thing that all politicians wish to be esteemed — respectable. At various times in the Gospels, Jesus is called a devil, the devil's agent, irreligious, unclean, a mocker of Jewish law, a drunkard, a glutton, a promoter of immorality.

The institutional Jesus of the Republicans has no similarity to the Gospel figure. Neither will any institutional Jesus of the Democrats.

Garry Wills is professor emeritus of history at Northwestern University and the author, most recently, of "What Jesus Meant."


Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company

Saturday, April 08, 2006

The Seduction of Apocalypse, by Deepak Chopra

It seems strange that millions of people today believe in the apocalypse, an idea whose time never comes but is always expected. In 999 A.D., at the turn of the last millennium, there was widespread fear that the world was coming to an end, and you would think such a rationally incredible idea could not survive science, modernism, and the spread of secular education.

But apocalypse has many seductive charms.

--If the world is coming to an end tomorrow, we would be the last, privileged generation of people on Earth. We would be participants in an incredible supernatural event. Our importance would be undeniable.

--In the event of apocalypse, fervent believers would be proven right once and for all in their literal reading of the Bible. They would no longer have to endure the scorn of secularists.

--Presumably the end of the world would bring a public appearance by God. This has been long yearned for in all faiths.

--Finally, the end of the world would come as a relief to anyone deeply pessimistic about such "unsolvable" problems as global warming, the AIDS pandemic, over-population, and nuclear proliferation. Better to wipe the slate clean in one quick stroke than watch the human race die by slow suffocation from its own follies.

The problem with apocalyptic thinking is exactly the same as its seduction. Like it or not, we have to live with our mistakes. We have to worship without seeing God face to face. We have to tolerate faiths other than our own. We must learn how to shape a viable future in a sustainable ecology, no matter what. The apocalypse would not be the first example of wholesale wishful thinking, yet at present it is one of the most irresponsible.

One suspects that the right wing is full of apocalyptic excuses for not facing the huge challenges looming in the future. There is a whiff of apocalypse hanging over the Iraq war, whose rationale may have a lot to do with the Book of Revelations, the rise of the Anti-Christ (more than one fundamentalist preacher has nominated Saddam or Arafat for that role), a climactic battle in the Holy Land, and so on. These scenarios are not divinely manifested, though -- we make them happen out of our own will, expectations, and perverse love of crisis.

Naturally, the right wing can't go too public with their apocalyptic thinking. Twenty years ago Reagan's Sec. of the Interior, James Watt, recommended neglecting the upkeep of the national parks because Christ was coming soon, so why bother? He was roundly ridiculed, and since then any religious agenda has been publicly denied by rightists. Yet one is sure that in the backrooms of Texas oilmen's clubs, this kind of talk is common. Only time will tell how far the American people will go in tolerating a government run by irrational metaphysics, or at least deeply influenced by them. In real-world terms there is no chance that the apocalypse is near, a fact that we will wake up to once reason returns -- let's hope it's sooner rather than later

Click: www.intentblog.com

Friday, April 07, 2006

D is for Disaster, by Robert Hayes, @ TomPaine.com,

D' For Disaster
By Robert Hayes
TomPaine.com

Friday 07 April 2006

Picture this movie: It's 2003 in the wealthiest nation in the world and millions of Americans are suffering needlessly and dying prematurely because they cannot afford medicine.

Employers have hiked up the cost of their retiree drug coverage and pharmaceutical companies have continued to drive up the prices of life-saving prescription drugs.

Congress and the president know they must act or risk being run out of office. There is near-universal support to add prescription drug coverage to the nation's treasured Medicare program.

So, two of the nation's most powerful economic interests, the drug and insurance industries, are invited up to Capitol Hill to collude with leaders of Congress to develop a prescription drug benefit - one that serves their interests.

Taxpayers, senior citizens, people with disabilities: be damned. We have friends to pay back.

Working with $700 billion in taxpayer funds, the congressional leadership - all Republicans except then-Louisiana Sen. John Breaux (now a covert, but highly-paid lawyer for the drug lobby) and Montana Sen. Max Baucus - hides behind closed doors and gets to work.

With no public oversight and with the press milling outside locked doors, the congressional junta drafts legislation locked arm in arm with the puppeteers that control the federal government.

In a back room, they design a drug "benefit" that allows the pharmaceutical companies to further inflate the price of medications and reap billions of dollars in windfall profits. They promise tens of billions more in profits to health insurers to deliver this coverage.

But there is a human cost - this $700 billion package is leaving millions of older and disabled Americans worse off and millions more of them still without drug coverage.

The administration spin machine is hard at work to pretend that this tawdry story is not the reality facing the American people today.

Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt, with all the credibility of President Bush's now 3-year-old "Mission Accomplished" speech on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln, is going around the country zanily proclaiming what a marvel this drug program is. This week Leavitt unleashed a new, glossy "Progress Report " on the drug benefit. Page one proclaims, falsely, that "[m]ore than 27 million beneficiaries now enjoy Medicare Rx drug coverage."

Here's the reality: 16 million Americans with Medicare-men and women age 65 and older and people with severe, long-term disabilities-still have no drug coverage. Just 7 million Americans who were uninsured before the drug program was launched are newly insured. Six million of the poorest and frailest Americans who lost Medicaid coverage on January 1 now have inferior, less-reliable drug coverage. And the anger and dissatisfaction of people who are enrolled in drug plans increases each day as they discover how inadequate and unreliable the benefit is.

Coverage gaps, excessive out-of-pocket costs and routine denials of coverage for needed drugs are commonplace. Even enrollment in a private drug plan frequently leaves older Americans going without the medicines they need.

In this springtime of national discontent, the nation's prescription drug program resembles the rebuilding of New Orleans and the war in Iraq. They each serve as a human tragedy, an administrative fiasco and a predictable consequence of politicians willing to squander the national treasury so long as it goes into the pockets of their mercenary supporters.

For the past 40 years Medicare has been a national treasure. It has done what it promised when signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson in the summer of 1965. Medicare, a humane, reliable and efficient (yes, a government-run single payer) health care system, allows Americans to live longer, more productive and better lives.

Had the drug benefit been administered directly by Medicare, doctors, rather than profiteering insurers, would decide what drugs are needed, and Medicare would use its substantial purchasing power to bring U.S. drug prices in line with the rest of the world. (Americans, on average, pay double the price of other developed countries for the same medicine.)

Instead, where are we left? With a drug program that is enriching insurance and drug companies, helping far too few Americans in need, and an administration in a full-court propaganda campaign to convince the electorate that all will work out in the end.

So Secretary Leavitt, on behalf of his president, continues his whistle-stop tours. But he does it in the face of his own parents, enrolled with Mr. Leavitt's help in the drug program, having to rush to drop their plan because it imperiled their retiree medical coverage. Yes, Dad, perhaps we could have done better.

Did you know that Secretary Leavitt's father, now 76, made his fortune in the insurance business?

This could only happen in a movie.

We wish.

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Robert M. Hayes, an attorney, is president of the Medicare Rights Center, the nation's largest independent source of information and assistance on health care rights and benefits for older and disabled men and women. He led the national and New York Coalitions for the Homeless from 1979 to 1989, and has practiced law with firms in New York and Maine.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

"Darwinian Evolution is Viscerally Unacceptable to Many Americans" comment

Herald Leader
Letters to the Editor
fax 231-3332
Attn: Gallman, Gatton

RE: "Evolution theory on last legs, says seminary professor" H-L, April 2.

Professor Dembski at Southern Baptist Seminary calls Darwinian evolution "viscerally unacceptable" to most Americans (Herald-Leader, April 2). Should we be curious what else has been "viscerally unacceptable" to Christians of all stripes throughout history?

The idea of equality for the slaves was so repulsive to American Baptists in the south at the time of the Civil War that they separated from their northern brethern despite congregational autonomy given to local Baptist groups. This is the origin of his jurisdiction. Freedom for slaves was viscerally unacceptable to most Christians (as well as to the founders of this country) for nineteen hundred years.

The idea that any Christian could make up their own mind what to believe was repulsive to Christian authority, both Protestant and Catholic, and cost countless peoples their lives and their property over many hundreds of years. The independence of science from control of the church was so viscerally unacceptable that Galileo who proposed that the earth was not the center of the universe was restricted to his home for the rest of his life. The idea that society could be based on human rights apart from church oversight was condemned repeatedly by Roman Catholic authorities. Celibate priests still condemn the right to use birth control to determine the size of one's family or to prevent AIDS.

Many churches condemned the idea that one could pray to God directly. There is no end to ideas and rights condemned by the Christians and "Christian" authorities over two thousand years because at some time they were "viscerally unacceptable."

I suggest that whether something is viscerally unacceptable to most Americans is not an adequate criteria of either truth or God's truth. The actual gospel of Jesus in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John is viscerally unacceptable to many Americans including church-goers and "Christian" authorities still.

I invite the professor, in the interest of honesty and potential bias, to tell us what else is so repulsive to his current Southern Baptist convention that the Seminary has been "cleansed" of reputable scholars and now a number of individual congregations are withdrawing from the convention?

Paschal Baute
Lexington, Ky
tel 293-5302