Saturday, October 17, 2009

No cross-dressing allowed! (at Morehouse College)

I'm all for freedom of expression, and I generally oppose efforts to stifle it (including most dress codes at work), but I can't find any good reason to object to Morehouse College's "Appropriate Attire Policy":

The policy also bans wearing hats in buildings, pajamas in public, do-rags, sagging pants, sunglasses in class and walking barefoot on campus.

However, it is the ban on cross-dressing that has brought national attention to the small historically African-American [and all-male] college.

The restrictions aren't especially harsh, it seems to me, and, even allowing for freedom of expression, there ought to be at least minimal standards regarding public attire. Now, these standards can differ from place to place. What is allowed on a beach, for example, ought to differ from what is allowed, say, in a government building. Even then, though, beaches may allow nudity or not. The basic point is not that there ought to be a uniform standard but that, depending on place, we ought to expect that people meet at least some minimum standards of dress while in public. Our standards in Canada and the U.S., as well as throughout Europe, are fairly low, or loose, and that's fine with me. But at least there are standards.

The issue here concerns what a private institution may do, and, again, such institutions, or establishments, can and do impose their own standards, whether it's a church or a mall or an office building or a college. What is, in this case, questionable, is the crackdown on cross-dressing, given that the code could be perceived to be a crackdown on homosexuality. But cross-dressing is not the same as homosexuality, and, indeed, Morehouse consulted with the college's gay student organization, Safe Space, before instituting the policy -- its members voted overwhelmingly to support the code.

Does the code amount to a restriction of freedom of expression? Yes, of course, but it doesn't seem to me to be a burdensome one. Having spent many years on college campuses -- Tufts and then Toronto -- as well as having taught in university, I do see the need for such minimal standards. Now, there could very well be some college out there that allows nudity or, say, sexual attire, but, for the most part, it seems to me, the cultivation of a serious teaching, learning, and research environment requires otherwise. Morehouse's code may be a bit stricter than others, and I may not care for it myself, but, then, that's Morehouse's decision. If you don't like it, don't go there. Though, of course, it still allows for a great deal of self-expression. It's not like the college has imposed a mandatory uniform or anything.

"The policy is just saying that you have to show more respect in how you dress and there are things that are just not acceptable at Morehouse," said one student. "We have a legacy that we are trying to uphold."


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Ex-President Bush bemoans incivility, dishonesty among Obama's critics

When ex-President George H.W. Bush declares, as he did recently, that President Obama "is entitled to civil treatment and intellectual honesty when it comes to critics," I appreciate the sentiment. After all, civility and intellectual honestly are virtually non-existent on the Limbaugh-Beck-Hannity-Coulter-Malkin-O'Reilly right, and, while there are a few notable exceptions, in short supply among conservatives generally. What's more, things do seem to have gotten worse since his presidency, what with the rise of 24/7 cable news and the increase of vitriol in the public sphere. (And, yes, I acknowledge that there is incivility and dishonesty across the political spectrum, not just on the right, where it seems to be most intense, and at its worst.)

But does the ex-president not remember his ugly, Lee Atwater-driven '88 campaign against "Massachusetts liberal" Michael Dukakis? (You know, Willie Horton; the superficial culture war wedge-issues (flag burning, the pledge of allegiance); the nasty (and false) rumours spread not just about Dukakis but about his wife; the hypocritical anti-Ivy League, anti-elitist comments from Bush (himself an Ivy League-educated north-eastern elitist); the various attacks on Massachusetts, on the Northeast, on liberalism, on the ACLU, and so on?) No, perhaps Bush has white-washed his own political past and willfully forgotten his own incivility and dishonesty, both of which were on grotesque display back in 1988.

So while it's a fine and perhaps even noble sentiment, not least because it comes in defence of a Democratic president from a Republican ex-president whose own presidential son did so much to make matters worse, a little historical context reveals it to be rather less admirable, if still sincere, than it might otherwise have been.

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Saturday comedy blogging

There's a Rep for that!

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Friday, October 16, 2009


By Capt. Fogg

Fox lies and America pays the price. Sean Hannity's latest witch hunt against anything good and decent has found yet another victim in Kevin Jennings. The Obama administration employee whom Czar Hannity, mad with power, calls a "safe schools Czar," has been accused of ignoring or not reporting the sexual abuse of a minor. Of course not only is Jennings not the absolute monarch of anyplace, he's only Assistant Deputy Secretary at the Department of Education for the Office of Safe and Drug Free Schools (OSDFS) and more importantly, the story isn't true.

Hannity lies and one more piece of justice dies. Of course Fox sometimes quietly retracts a story after the damage has been done -- as they have with the story insisting that Jennings one ignored a report of sexual relations between a minor student and an older man, but such lies have momentum and the mad dogs of the GOP are issuing demands that he be fired for promoting a "radical gay agenda" they would like you to believe includes the exploitation of children by gay teachers.

Fifty-three House Republicans have written President Barack Obama calling on him to fire Jennings. Jennings isn't a Czar of any kind and the gay "child" in question was above the age of consent, but Jennings is also gay and Jennings has spent a lot of time trying to make schools safer for all students, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. Such things infuriate bigots and witch hunting religious idiots and Retro-Republican trolls and Fox is happy to fan the flames regardless of who burns as long as those ratings stay high.

The disgusting, shit-eating cockroaches calling themselves the Family Research Council (FRC) launched the “Stop Kevin Jennings” campaign this week, warning that he is a
radical homosexual activist” who has “worked tirelessly to bring the homosexual agenda into our nation’s classrooms.”

None of these people care that the story was a lie or that the accusation is a lie. Even if Fox were to give serious time recanting it ( and ten thousand other lies) it wouldn't matter. The excuse to persecute heretics, to stomp all over freedom and justice is too valuable to let go. More foetid slime to fling at Democrats is far more valuable than truth or justice.

If a lie is as good as the truth, if preventing the abuse and promoting the safety of gay students is radical activism and if truth and justice for all is to be despised as the "Gay Agenda" then maybe it is time to stand up and say "Long live the Radical Gay Agenda!" Maybe it is time for those decent citizens to say we've had enough of the hate-stinking madmen with hate-foam on their lips and the lying enemies of freedom who whip them into a religious frenzy.

Is it any wonder the Republicans oppose hate crime legislation so vehemently? The persecution of Kevin Jennings is a hate crime and the lies of Fox are hate crimes and the Republican Party is the party of hate mongering, small mindedness, injustice and persecution of liberty. It's long past time to tell those values voters their values are evil and their deeds are evil and certainly at odds with anything this country claims it stands for. We get tens of thousands of armed idiots in the streets protesting a tax increase that's actually a decrease, but why is it that we sit by and let a good man be ruined and say nothing? Why is it that we keep watching Fox and giggling and never speak up? Is it because we're no better?

(Cross posted from Human Voices)

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Media Gypped ... Balloon Boy only Garage Attic Boy

By J. Thomas Duffy

Boy, what a story, huh?

Little boy floating hundreds-of-feet in the air, in a homemade weather balloon, of parents who were on a TV Reality Show?

Holy Cow!

The birth of a new genre - Missing Little White Boys!

Order the coffee and cots!

No doubt MSNBC ordered - stat - a new budget for a whole series of Doc Blocs.

Turns out the Falcon Heene never left this earth.

He hid out, fearing being scolded, in a garage attic.

While the helium may have exited the weather balloon when it crashed, it was a minor bleep to the Media's deflation, listening to the air hissing out of their babbling heads.

My favorite was here, locally, in Boston, Channel 5, WCVB-TV.

Anchors Liz Brunner and Ed Harding were solemnly reporting the story, giving updates as the broadcast moved along, cutting away to the live press conference with the local sheriff, where it was reported that little Falcon was safe, that he had been hiding "in an attic, in the garage."

Cut back to Ed and Liz, visibly relieved, reporting that the boy was safe, that he was found hiding "in either an attic, or the garage."

Way to go Ed and Liz, how to be on top of the story, getting those facts out there.

Paging Rita Cosby!

(Cross Posted at The Garlic)

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Tightening the belt

By Capt. Fogg

When A Texas jury set out to decide what to do with convicted murderer Khristian Oliver, the decision was made easier by a supply of Bibles in the jury room with specific passages highlighted. Whoever highlighted them chose words carefully because the jury decided to kill him -- based on their reading of the Bible.

Although the US Supreme Court decided in 1967 (Loving V. Virginia) that the government has no right to tell people they can't marry someone of another "race" the news may not have made it to parts of Louisiana. Keith Bardwell, (who claims he's not a racist) justice of the peace for Tangipahoa Parish's 8th Ward refused to marry Beth Humphrey and her boyfriend, Terence McKay because Terence is "black" and she's not. Actually Terence is no darker than this sun tanned white Floridian, but it's not about that, it's about the "traditional value" of not "mixing the races" one finds in the Bible belt and it's about the result of preaching that this is a Christian nation whose law emanates, like the musty smell of unwashed laundry and pious injustice, from the Bible.

(Cross-posted from Human Voices.)

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Craziest Republican of the Day: Orrin Hatch

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Asked yesterday by Andrea Mitchell about a protest outside his office in Salt Lake City, Sen. Hatch said this: is a scurrilous organization. It's funded by George Soros. He's about as left wing as you can find in this country. And they're up to just one thing, and that is to smear good people. And frankly, they're not gonna smear me without getting kicked in the teeth by me.

First, as TPM's Ben Frumin notes, is not funded by George Soros but rather by small donors.

Second, Soros, while on the left, is hardly the extreme leftist Hatch makes him out to be. Really, no one else in all of America is further to the left than Soros?

Third, what's with the violent imagery? Kicked in the teeth? I get that Hatch is angry, even if his anger derives from ignorance, partisanship, and his own ideological extremism, but what's with lashing out like that? And on national TV? It's one thing to say such things in private, where such hyperbole can be kept under wraps, quite another to throw a little rhetorical tantrum in public, without a trace of irony or humour, not least when you're a politician, an elected official.

If Hatch wants to take on, fine, he's free to do so, just as Democrats take on right-wing groups. But threatening it? Even if he didn't mean it literally -- and, of course, he didn't -- his choice of words reveals a great deal about his current mental state. Evidently, he's nuts.


I see, by the way, that this post closely resembles my friend Steve Benen's post on the matter. We both use a list (first, second, etc.) to comment on Hatch's threat, and we both note that Hatch isn't "literally" threatening violence. This is purely coincidental. I only read Steve's post after I'd already written this one (late last night, to be published this morning). I attribute it to great minds thinking alike, of course. Or maybe I just write a lot like Steve -- if not always, at least now and then -- a blogger I admire a great deal.

Anyway, let me quote Steve's conclusion:

We're talking about regular ol' folks -- concerned citizens who want to see a broken health care system fixed. Hatch believes the appropriate response is to go on national television and talk about kicking grassroots organizers in the teeth?

What do you suppose the reaction would be if Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said he found the Teabaggers to be "scurrilous" and intended to kick them in the teeth?

Well, the right would freak out, and we'd never hear the end of it. But of course Republicans can get away with things Democrats can't, both in the media and in the political arena.

We need to change that by holding Republicans like Hatch accountable for what they say and how they say it. If he wants to kick in the teeth, we need to hit back hard.

When faced with serious, vocal, and organized opposition, after all, and unable to deal with the issue on the merits, all Hatch can do, it would seem, is threaten violence. That says an awful lot not just about Hatch but about Republicans generally.

It's always good to get a glimpse into the mind of the opposition, however distorted it may be.

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The utterly insane and completely useless conservative effort to boycott the NFL because of what happened to Rush Limbaugh

By Michael J.W. Stickings

If a tree falls in a forest, does it make a sound?

If some random conservative boycotts the NFL because of what happened to Dear Leader Rush, does anyone give a shit?

Well, I certainly don't, but some conservatives do, like Glenn "Instapundit" Reynolds.

As an NFL fan, all I can say is, good riddance!

For sensible conservative takes on Limbaugh and the NFL, see James Joyner and Steven L. Taylor.

For an utterly insane take on the whole thing -- and on how "we are all Rush Limbaugh," dreams of success and happiness" destroyed by the left -- see this utterly insane post at RedState.

For my own take on Rush being sacked from the bid to buy the St. Louis Rams, see here.

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Balloon boy

By Creature

If the family wanted publicity so badly, couldn't they have just gone to a town hall meeting and called the president Hitler? Some people try too hard.

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Louisiana justice of the peace refuses to marry interracial couple

A justice of the peace in Lousiana has refused to marry an interracial white-black couple because he doesn't think they last and because... well, because he just cares so much about the children:

I don't do interracial marriages because I don't want to put children in a situation they didn't bring on themselves. In my heart, I feel the children will later suffer.

Keith Bardwell's heart, it would seem, is a backwards bastion of bullshit and bigotry. And Tangipahoa Parish -- which bills itself as "more than a great place to live," and where Bardwell holds office -- seems to be living in the darkness of a Jim Crow-era past. Seriously, how can this man, this bigot, this ignorant fool, be a justice of the peace? If the parish knows what's good for itself, and has any sense of justice at all, any sense of what it means to be American, it will remove him from office as soon as possible.

The ACLU is asking the Louisiana Supreme Court to investigate -- because, of course, Bardwell's refusal to marry interracial couples is not just bigoted but illegal. If the parish won't or can't do it, the state must step in. In 2009, and with respect to civil rights and racial equality generally, as well as to freedom from governmental interference in one's private life, it's absolutely clear what needs to be done.

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Thursday, October 15, 2009

Sign of the Apocalypse #69: Alejandra Guzman's butt shots

Just not the right sort of butt shots, it would seem.

As the AP is reporting, the popular Mexican singer was hospitalized after coming down with an infection from a cosmetic procedure that involves, yes, butt shots -- injections into the buttocks.

I haven't been able to find any details regarding just what was injected into her backside, or what the injection does (she apparently just wanted to be "more beautiful" for her boyfriend), but it seems that the director of the clinic she went to did not have a cosmetology degree, just a high school diploma.

Guzman now apparently wants to raise awareness about such procedures. Fine, and I wish her well, but, prior to this incident, did she never think that getting herself injected in the ass maybe wasn't such a great idea? Or, more deeply, that a society that seems to require that women (and, increasingly, men) subject themselves to such treatments is not exactly a healthy one?

Probably not. Consider, for example, the crazy popularity of Botox, a dangerous toxin that essentially induces paralysis. I suspect that most people do what they think they need to do without thinking much about it.

So much of the current body modification fad is questionable (if not repellent) -- from breast augmentation (SOTA #5) to designer vaginas (SOTA #13) -- and this is no different. I understand the desire to look good, as well as the incredible pressure on celebrities in the public eye to reach for bodily perfection the way Icarus reached for the sun. But how far is too far?

I'd say butt shots at disreputable clinics, leading to infection and hospitalization, is too far.

Hence SOTA #69.


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Respectfully, I disagree

By Carl

Anyone who has known me for any length of time ought to know two things about me:

1) I oppose nearly every war in all its facets, and

2) I am a lifelong liberal Democrat, but I do not take marching orders.

In fact, my favorite T-shirt says "I Don't Fetch And I Don't Beg."

That said, today I read a troubling piece from one of the limelight A-list bloggers for the Progressive movement,
Arianna Huffington. I distrust Ms. Huffington, who was stridently conservative before she was stridently liberal (as was David Brock, among others). I find that over the past five years or so she has become more trustworthy, but being paranoid like I am, I still take her with a grain of salt.

But I digress... sort of.

Here's what she had to say today:

Joe Biden met with CENTCOM chief Gen. David Petraeus this morning to talk about Afghanistan -- an issue that has pushed the vice president into the spotlight, landing him on the cover of the latest Newsweek.

I have an idea for how he can capitalize on all the attention, and do what generations to come will always be grateful for: resign.

[...]It's been known for a while that Biden has been on the other side of McChrystal's desire for a big escalation of our forces there -- the New York Times reported last month that he has "deep reservations" about it. So if the president does decide to escalate, Biden, for the good of the country, should escalate his willingness to act on those reservations.

What he must not do is follow the same weak and worn-out pattern of "opposition" we've become all-too-accustomed to, first with Vietnam and then with Iraq. You know the drill: after the dust settles, and the country begins to look back and not-so-charitably wonder, "what were they thinking?" the mea-culpa-laden books start to come out. On page after regret-filled page, we suddenly hear how forceful this or that official was behind closed doors, arguing against the war, taking a principled stand, expressing "strong concern" and, yes, "deep reservations" to the president, and then going home each night distraught at the unnecessary loss of life.

This is a fair position to take, like Colin Powell's, of leaving a group who clearly hold strong opinions in opposition to yours.

The unfortunate thing is, Biden is right. Further, he's not being furtive in his opposition, as the
Newsweek article makes clear.

Undoubtedly, this article was sanctioned by the Oval Office, and so Biden's opinion being on display for all to see is both comforting to me as a liberal Libertarian and as a fan of good government.

Here's Biden's position, as noted in Newsweek and quoted by Ms. Huffington:

"Can I just clarify a factual point? How much will we spend this year on Afghanistan?" Someone provided the figure: $65 billion. "And how much will we spend on Pakistan?" Another figure was supplied: $2.25 billion. "Well, by my calculations that's a 30-to-1 ratio in favor of Afghanistan. So I have a question. Al Qaeda is almost all in Pakistan, and Pakistan has nuclear weapons. And yet for every dollar we're spending in Pakistan, we're spending $30 in Afghanistan. Does that make strategic sense?" The White House Situation Room fell silent.

Indeed, why are we wasting our time in Afghanistan if we are fighting Al Qaeda? Now, there may be plenty of other reasons to engage the Taliban and its ally Al Qaeda in Afghanistan.

A show of faith in the battle waged by the Pakistani government springs to mind, and that the Taliban, recently the focused of renewed energy by the Obama administration (I'll get to that in a second) is less influential in Pakistan than in Afghanistan also must be considered.

What Biden is pointing out is the thuddingly simple rationale that any average American can understand. Al Qaeda cross the Afghan-Pakistan border with impunity, and the way we are battling them is kind of like
duct taping one side of a leak in a boat. It'll work, sort of, but eventually you're going to sink.

This is good. This is the sort of advice a president needs to hear. Cogent, simple, and not lock-step voicing of conventional wisdom.

Ms. Huffington, THAT'S what got us into this mess in the first place! By forcing Colin Powell (or any number of military advisers)and the
"Pottery Barn" doctrine out, the Bush administration guaranteed itself insulation from bad news. Insulation from bad news guarantees bad results.

By raising this issue, it appears Biden has already forced the administration to alter course, even if a little: by
repurposing the efforts in Afghanistan (and justifying the increase in troops) as a fight against the Taliban. This does provide some political cover to pressure Pakistan to accept US help.

That Biden is whispering in Obama's ear "Sic Transit Gloria" is a good thing, Ms. Huffington.

(Cross-posted to
Simply Left Behind.)

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Stay the course, Joe Biden

By Michael J.W. Stickings

I realize that Arianna is being somewhat facetious in calling on Vice President Biden to resign in principle over his objection to an escalation of the war in Afghanistan, but my advice to Biden would be to continue to speak out in support of his principles, and of his current position, from within the administration, where he can still impact policy. Ultimately, one would expect Biden to put loyalty before principle and accept Obama's decision. Until then, though, he ought to remain the vocal skeptic that he has become. We need him as close to the Oval Office as possible.

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Blog Action Day: Energy, climate change, and the indignant desert birds of willful self-destruction


The enemy of realism is hubris.
- Reinhold Niebuhr -

It takes a special humility to understand our place in the natural world. Yet our mythology places us on a pedestal and speaks of man as made in the image of his creator, of man having dominion over the fish of the sea, over the fowl of the air, over cattle and every creature that creeps upon the earth, even over earth itself.

In our American history texts, we read of Manifest Destiny, of a relentless expansion from sea to shining sea in search of territory, resources, and prosperity. Throughout American history, many historians have noted, abundance meant freedom and freedom meant abundance.

Notions of abundance and freedom turned the gears of the Industrial Revolution, which relied upon the labor of immigrants who arrived in waves to pursue their share of the American Dream. For these immigrants, dreams of abundance and freedom outweighed all deprivations including discrimination by class, race, religion, and ethnicity.

World War II turned America into an economic superpower. After the war, America possessed almost two-thirds of world gold reserves, more than half of the world’s manufacturing capacity, and exported two-thirds of the world’s goods. The relationship between abundance and freedom had become no longer the privilege of the few, but the birthright of the many.

For a nation that equates abundance with freedom and freedom with abundance, it is ironic to note how rapidly fortunes can change, and how the sudden scarcity of a once abundant resource can lead to economic decline. By 1970, as the supply-demand curves for domestic oil production crossed, America turned into a net importer. As America imported increasing quantities of oil supplies from the Mid-East and goods from Europe and Asia, the largest creditor nation in the world turned into the largest debtor nation … within a generation. Today, the United States consumes 19.5 million barrels of oil daily and imports 57% of its minimum daily requirement from foreign suppliers. With proven petroleum reserves of 21,317 million barrels, the Unites States has less than a three-year supply beyond which our nation will be totally dependant on foreign oil (source).

Of course, there are critics, pundits, and politicians who rally around the flag with chants of “drill, baby, drill!” Drill off the coasts of Florida, they say. Drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve. More opinionated than informed, what these novices and neophytes do not know: ANWR contains less than a year's supply of oil at current consumption rates … and will require 8 to 10 years before production begins. There are nincompoops who want to strip away the Bekken oil sands of North Dakota and the oil shale slopes of our Rocky Mountain States. At least 30 or more years of oil, they claim, but what they do not know is that less than 3% is recoverable … resulting in colossal environmental damage for negligible gain.

Grow our way out of the energy crisis, still others say. Distill ethanol from corn and switch grass; but what these advocates do not consider is the enormous spike in food prices as agricultural land is diverted from food to energy production. Furthermore, a 70% increase in food production will be needed just to keep pace with projected worldwide population growth. Ethanol offers no solution beyond a good stiff drink.

Even our good friends at Google have joined the ranks of Internet punditry with this expression:

What it means is “renewable energy for less than the cost of coal.” It is a statement about energy economics but little else. It tells us that any hypothetical alternative energy source must compete with coal, the lowest priced energy commodity, to be economically viable. It says nothing about why non-combustible sources (such as nuclear, solar, wind, and geo-thermal) must be considered within the context of global climate change.

We cannot separate the energy crisis from the climate change crisis. In economic and environmental terms, both are two sides of the same coin. From the Industrial Revolution to the present, energy consumption has lead to a substantial rise in atmospheric levels of greenhouse gases. Levels of carbon dioxide, which account for 62% of all greenhouses gases, have nearly doubled since 1750. Methane, which accounts for 20% all greenhouse gases, has risen 155% during the same period. Eventually, natural forces reabsorb and remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, but these processes unfold over 50 to 200 years. Thus, greenhouse gases remain in the atmosphere for generations … even if emissions were stopped today. Most disturbing of all, the International Energy Agency (IEA) predicts a 52% rise in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 … a mere 20 years away (

We approach global climate change as just another problem to be solved with good old American ingenuity. We cite the Manhattan project, the national highway system, and the space race as shining examples of past glory. However, global climate change is more than merely a technical or structural problem. It has deep historical and cultural roots and a system of unspoken values instilled from the beginning of civilization and passed from generation to generation.

“America is addicted to oil,” former President George Bush declared in his State of the Union address on January 31, 2006. Was the President signaling a dramatic shift in American energy policy, or were these merely pious words meant for the history books? Scarcely a day after the President’s speech, Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman issued this disclaimer: Don’t take the President literally. In other words, there will be no addiction therapy under this president.

The Arab Oil Embargo of 1973 was a warning shot. Almost 40 years later, we are still dithering as if our energy policy paralysis is the sum total of our mythology, our culture, our national heritage, and a cowboy lifestyle that refuses to face reality. More than these, our current energy debate mirrors the current healthcare debate: There are entrenched interests hell-bent on protecting their lucrative and filthy franchises.

ExxonMobil gave $1.6 million to the American Enterprise Institute in an attempt to undercut the findings of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a report widely regarded as the most comprehensive review of climate change science. The Bush administration sought to further undermine public understanding of the issue by censoring the key findings of climate scientists. Thus, our government, under pressure from the oil lobby, suppressed meaningful data to influence the debate.

Manipulating public opinion is easy when you are the CEO of Big Oil with money and lobbyists and politicians in your pocket ... and you can always find a willing mob of malcontents and misfits ready to do your bidding. In the weeks and months ahead, Big Oil will be staging Astroturf events to protest new climate change legislation … groups such as Energy Citizens organized by the American Petroleum Institute whose members include Anadarko Petroleum, Exxon Mobil, Chevron, and ConocoPhillips, among others (

Let me digress for a moment to offer another Genesis story. It begins 400 million years ago between the Devonian and Carboniferous Periods, when the earth was hot and humid long before glaciers and the polar ice regions were formed. As newly evolved forests drew carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and fell where they stood, buried under layers of sedimentary rock, the climate cooled and glaciers formed.

Hundreds of millions of years later, a peculiar Pleistocene creature walked the earth. In short order, man learned how to dig up this long sequestered carbon and burn it to cook his food, warm his homes, build cities, make microchips, trinkets, Barbie dolls, Hummers, and a myriad of things to delight and amuse himself far beyond his basic survival needs. In less than 25 generations, this peculiar Pleistocene creature returned to the atmosphere as much carbon as earth had sequestered over hundreds of millions of years. This is what is known as the anthropogenic cause of global climate change.

Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, there has been a noticeable rise in seas levels worldwide. Currently, 46 million people live in areas at risk of flooding. If sea levels rise by 20 inches, the number of people at risk increases to 92 million; a sea level rise of 3 feet puts another 118 million people at risk. By the turn of the century, American cities such as Boston, Charleston, Miami, New York, San Francisco, Savannah, and Washington DC will risk inundation.

Meanwhile, the National Defense Institute explored the potential impact of global climate change as a threat to national security. Its conclusion: Vulnerable regions such as sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, Asia, and the island nations of the Pacific will face food and water shortages, catastrophic flooding, unprecedented refugee crises, religious conflict, and the spread of contagious diseases. These will demand massive humanitarian aid efforts and/or a military response (

There will always be voices in the crowd who keep hearing messages the dead have stopped sending. There will always be voices arguing, not for the common good, but from pure self-interest. Implementing public policy changes are difficult at best, and we can understand these quirks of human nature with all due respect, but time is running out. Our worst nightmares have yet to unfold.

(Cross-posted at
The Swash Zone.)

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Hypocrisy, hate crimes, and the apparent bigotry of John Boehner

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Check out this CBS News article. House Republican Leader John Boehner opposes a bill that would expand hate crime legislation to include gender, sexual orientation, and disability. Currently, the legislation includes race, color, religion, and national origin. His rationale is that hate crimes legislation should only cover "immutable characteristics." Apparently, sexual orientation is not immutable. And yet, the very idea of immutability is stupid. What is immutable? Is gender immutable? No, it's more complicated than that, isn't it? So, too, sexual orientation, which, while natural, isn't always so black and white. And national origin? To a point, but many people these days don't really have one single national origin. But religion certainly isn't immutable, and yet Boehner supports the current legislation. And so we must conclude that he's a hypocrite, and worse: His objection to the bill likely stems from his objection to gays and lesbians generally. Opposition to hate crimes legislation generally at least shows consistency, and I can respect that. (In an ideal world, one without hate, I'd object to hate crimes legislation, too. We're not there yet, though, not even close.) But picking and choosing which groups deserve to be protected and which ones don't, as the pro-religion, anti-gay Boehner is doing, is simply despicable.

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Hate crime

By Capt. Fogg

Race, religion, and gender are "immutable characteristics," said a spokesman for John Boehner. The House Minority Leader feels that existing federal protections are okay for people born with such handicaps as being female or dark-skinned but not for people who against nature and for entertainment purposes choose to be gay or in a wheelchair.

He does not support adding sexual orientation to the list of protected classes,

said Boehner spokesman Kevin Smith in an email to CBS News. It's important to note that he includes religion as something worthy of special protection. Of course, gender is not currently given special protection, and religion is hardly "immutable" or innate or the product of genetics, but we're quoting Republican leaders here, people who can't be expected to be rational or consistent, or to be normal human beings.

Rep. Tom Price, who heads the GOP conservative circus caucus, cites the slippery-slope fallacy to predict that such legislation would lead to "thought crimes" while felonies of intent which account for a good part of our prison population would not. Sounds dishonest to me, and it's apparent that the real opposition comes from the fear that some preacher might be called to task for preaching hatred against infidels or "sinners" or witches even though no violence can be traced directly to him. Don't tell me it doesn't happen, I've endured many a sermon that prompted me to leave in disgust, and I don't mean those by Pastor Muthee. The danger of exposing the inherent anti-Semitism in certain foundational documents must seem very real to people like Price.

We believe all hate crimes legislation is unconstitutional and places one class of people above others,

said a spokesman for Buck. Perhaps this is all about principle, despite all appearances, yet it seems like yesterday to me when segregation was the backbone of American conservatism and the exclusion of ethnic groups from neighborhoods and hotels was de regueur and fiercely defended by people like Barry Goldwater. Of course, I think it's not about egalitarian sentiment at all. I think it's that if you took the license to preach hate away from the far-right religious faction that owns the GOP, it'd be out of business.

(Cross-posted from Human Voices.)

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David Vitter is... right?

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Yes, I suppose he is. Along with Sen. Bob Bennett (R-UT), Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) has introduced an amendment that would, according to USA Today, "exclude illegal immigrants from the population count used to allocate congressional seats after the 2010 Census. It also would require the Census to ask people whether they are citizens."

Well, I like the first part, not the second. I generally favour amnesty for illegal immigrants, with a path to eventual citizenship, but it doesn't make sense to include them when it comes to representation in Washington. Permanent residents, yes; illegal immigrants, no.

I do not, however, think that illegal immigrants should be excluded from population counts broadly. It's important to know how many people live in a specific place, after all, not least because the provision of services depends to a significant degree on actual population count. In this respect, illegal immigrants are still residents, like it or not.

Actually, I don't mind the second part either. What's wrong with asking about citizenship? Shouldn't a jurisdiction know how many of its inhabitants are citizens and how many are not? (Only citizens can vote, after all, and only citizens can run for public office. I lived in the U.S. for a long time, with a Green Card, and wasn't able to vote.) I realize that this "would raise more questions in the public mind about how confidential the Census is," according to the head of one Latino organization, but, as long as there would be no requirement for proof of permanent residency, I don't see a problem here, unless the government were to take the list of non-citizens and use it to root out illegal immigrants.

I may be missing something here, but it just doesn't seem like such a bad idea.

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The new McCarthyism

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Surprise! It's Republicans targeting an Islamic organization without a shred of evidence:

Republican members of the Congressional Anti-Terrorism Caucus said the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) have tried to plant "spies" within key national-security committees in order to shape legislative policy.

Reps. Sue Myrick (R-N.C.), John Shadegg (R-Ariz.), Paul Broun (R-Ga.) and Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), citing the book Muslim Mafia: Inside the Secret Underworld that's Conspiring to Islamize America, called for the House sergeant at arms to investigate whether CAIR had been successful in placing interns on key panels. The lawmakers are specifically focused on the House Homeland Security Committee, Intelligence Committee and Judiciary Committee.

So these Republicans have a right-wing book full of delusional paranoia, a book with a forward by no less an authority than... Rep. Sue Myrick. That's it. No names, no proof, nothing. The son of one of the co-authors went "undercover," infiltrating CAIR and spying on its members and activities, even pretending to be a Muslim, beard and all. And what did he find? As a CAIR spokesman put it: "This guy spied on us for months, and the most they can come up with is that we're doing ordinary lobbying work on Capitol Hill?"

Oooh. Ahhh. Even Politico admits that a much-ballyhooed CAIR strategy document "basically lays out a fairly straight forward public relations and lobbying strategy." And yet these GOP McCarthyites are still targeting this group, sullying its reputation and making some pretty damning accusations. It would be one thing if they actually had evidence. Without it, this just looks like profiling, an assault on a legitimate organization. And why? Because it's Muslim. And we all know what these bigots think of Muslims.

Sue Myrick, John Shadegg, Paul Broun, and Trent Franks. You're our Craziest Republicans of the Day.


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Harry Reid

By Creature

I know this point is being made across the Internets today, but there is no threat of a Republican filibuster on health care. It's the Democrats that must fall in line. If they can't vote as Ds on a procedural matter, then what was the point of getting to 60 in the first place. Harry Reid deserves all the disdain coming his way.

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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Rush Limbaugh gets sacked from NFL bid

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Following up on Carl's post from earlier today, ESPN's Adam Schefter is reporting that Dear Leader Rush has been dumped by the group angling to purchase the St. Louis Rams:

Limbaugh was to be a limited partner in a group headed by St. Louis Blues chairman Dave Checketts. Checketts said in a statement Wednesday that Limbaugh's participation had become a complication in the group's efforts and the bid will move forward without him.

What a lovely euphemism: "a complication." Actually, what Rush had become was a massive weight holding the group down. It was simply not going to happen with Rush on board, and Checketts knew it. It's because he's a bigot and a blowhard and would be an embarrassment to the NFL, as he was when he was briefly on ESPN in 2003.

Of course, Rush himself remains predictably and ideologically egomaniacal. As he said earlier today, before the dumping was announced:

This is not about the NFL, it's not about the St. Louis Rams, it's not about me. This is about the ongoing effort by the left in this country, wherever you find them, in the media, the Democrat Party, or wherever, to destroy conservatism, to prevent the mainstreaming of anyone who is prominent as a conservative. Therefore, this is about the future of the United States of America and what kind of country we're going to have.

Uh-huh. Utter self-aggrandizing paranoid bullshit, just what you'd expect from Rush. This has nothing to do with some sort of nefarious leftist anti-conservative conspiracy, let alone with the future of the country -- there's the grossest egomania of the day -- but rather with Rush's political and ideological extremism. The NFL has every right not to want someone like Rush in its midst, and even Commissioner Roger Goodell spoke out pretty clearly against him:

I've said many times before, we're all held to a high standard here. I would not want to see those comments coming from people who are in a responsible position in the NFL -- absolutely not.

Right, absolutely not. Goodell was referring to Rush's comments about Donovan McNabb that got him dumped from ESPN, but he might as well have been referring to everything that comes out of Rush's mouth. We've given over a good deal of space to Rush's right-wing insanity here at The Reaction, but be sure to check out the fine work Media Matters has done exposing him for the bigot and blowhard he is.

Dear Leader Rush will continue to be a big conservative media presence, of course, as well as a de facto leader of the Republican Party, but at least he won't be a part of the NFL.

And it's good to know that the NFL, as hugely successful as it is, has not just high standards but a genuine sense of decency.


Note: According to Media Matters, NBC is reporting that:

Limbaugh's participation in the bid ran into opposition from some NFL players and at least one owner. They said his divisive comments on race would not be tolerated by the NFL.

There you go. Another euphemism ("divisive comments"), but the point is clear.


Here's Schefter's report:

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Honor our troops -- at least some of them

By Capt. Fogg

Yes, sir, I'm glad we have real men like Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court instead of some "activist" liberal pansy. Who but a liberal would come up with the idea that putting a cross on a Jewish (or Muslim or Buddhist or atheist) soldier's grave wouldn't be an insult to the troops we're told to honor and support?

The court is hearing a case on the constitutionality of erecting a cross on government (our) land in order to honor the dead of WWI. It's not really a religious symbol, opined Scalia, but just a common thing to do in cemeteries. In Christian cemeteries, certainly, but here's where Scalia seems unimaginative enough to recognize that many of us, and certainly many of us whose families have been here far longer than his, are not Christians, nor is there an established religion in the U.S., Christian or otherwise.

Crosses never appear in Jewish cemeteries, said the ACLU lawyer, but like the hard-hearted biblical Pharaoh, Scalia could only reply:

I don’t think you can leap from that to the conclusion that the only war dead that that cross honors are the Christian war dead. I think that’s an outrageous conclusion.

Well, I don't think it is outrageous, and I imagine there are more than a few people buried in any military cemetery who would, if they could, disagree with him. As Ann Woolner points out at

Hundreds of thousands of non-Christians served in World War I. Jews alone accounted for 250,000, or about 5 percent of the troops deployed. To memorialize them, Muslims and other non- Christians who gave their lives for their country with a Christian cross doesn’t honor them. For many of their families, it insults them.

There is no secular purpose, and therefore no legitimate government purpose, in putting a cross on government property, says the Amicus brief filed by Jewish War Veterans of the United States of America. Of course, that's true, and, in my opinion, as each grave has its own appropriate marker, the only reason to Christianize the entire cemetery is to put a Christian stamp on the U.S. military and all its endeavors and all its men. One would think that the truly devout might say that it puts a U.S. military stamp on Christianity, and indeed some do.

All things considered, I'd rather not have a symbol of a religion (particularly Scalia's) that's been persecuting and vilifying my ancestors since the Constantine administration on my lawn or my grave or the graves of any of my family who have been in the U.S. military for the last 150 years. The party that so often screams about its "freedom" being taken away is usually quite silent when someone else's freedom of religion is being taken away and the honor and dignity of so many of our troops are being trod upon by their fellow Americans.

(Cross-posted from Human Voices.)

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That popping sound you hear...

By Carl the sound of right wing skulls
exploding across America:

BOSTON--Commissioner Roger Goodell said here Tuesday that it would be inappropriate for the owner of an NFL franchise to make the sort of controversial statements attributed in the past to conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh.

"I've said many times before we're all held to a high standard here, and I think divisive comments are not what the NFL is all about," Goodell said at an NFL owners' meeting. "I would not want to see those comments coming from people who are in a responsible position in the NFL, absolutely not."

Limbaugh has acknowledged being part of a group bidding for the St. Louis Rams.

Goodell and several owners said Tuesday that the Rams' sale process is in its early stages and the league is far from considering a potential bid by Limbaugh and Dave Checketts, the chairman of hockey's St. Louis Blues.

But any proposed franchise sale would have to be approved by three-quarters of the owners, and Goodell's comments signaled that it perhaps would be unlikely that Limbaugh's bid would be ratified by the other teams.

Now, no big deal, right? It's not the first time someone has made a complete ass of themselves and been prevented from joining the cool kids club.

Except...well, Rush is held in (for reasons that remain unclear) some high esteem among the more neanderthalic limbic-systemites of this nation. You know, the more reptilian-brained Americans? They tend to get a little vicious when one of their own is threatened with anything mildly close to a sanction against their behavior or idols.

Take the Teabaggers. Or the the
unimaginative, idiotic, and ultimately ineffectual protest created on the fly against Senator Olympia Snowe, whose vote yesterday in committee to approve the Baucus healthcare plan, which is about as friendly to the insurance industry which is Astroturfing the Teabaggers as they're going to get in this era of poverty. Or, indeed, the fluffernutter reaction to the Nobel Peace Prize.

It must be frustrating to be a right-winger these days, but I digress...

Look, Rush has said some remarkably ignorant and moronic things, and that alone should not keep him from being an NFL owner. Al Davis has said many moronic and idiotic things, and he's not only kept his franchise but has been allowed to move it up and down the California coast like a Hell's Angel on the PCH.

And Rush is a truly controversial figure and even that should not keep him from owning an NFL team. After all, Jerry Johnson of the Dallas Cowboys just opened a multibillion dollar football stadium in the middle of the worst recession since the Great Depression that replaces... well, a multibillion dollar stadium that was in perfectly good shape, and no one is taking his franchise away from him.

What SHOULD keep him from being locked out of owning a franchise is the fact that a large enough percentage of the owners simply don't like the thought of being associated with an idiotic, nonsensical, foul-mouthed bigot who will own a team that no one will want to play for. In their opinion, it demeans the game and will weaken the product.

This isn't the public domain of America. There is no First Amendment right in the domain of the private enterprise that is the NFL, and Rush is getting a first-hand lesson in what the average worker has to endure on a day-to-day basis: at-will employment, albeit in Rush's case at the executive level.

And here's where the explosion is happening in the skulls, thick as they are, of the right wing: they're watching a wealthy businessman (there really is no other way to describe someone who exploits everyone around him, including himself, for his own profit) being treated like one of them by a sport they all love deeply.

Who to root for? After all, the NFL provides them with (subjectively speaking) "quality" entertainment to remove them from the mundanities of miserable proletaria for most of the day on Sunday (and Monday night and sometimes Saturday and Thursday), gives them a rooting interest in millionaires. Rush provides them with lightning rods to exhaust their anger and rage at their own miserable mundanity, blaming the liberals or the gays or the women for their own inadequacies.

And now they're being reminded over and over just how miserably mundane their lives are, how pathetic the American male existence is, all that privilege and power having been pooled not amongst the majority of white men, but among an elite, including Rush and the owners of the very club that would not have him as a member.

See, this is why the whole "anti-anti-affirmative action" effort falls apart. Yes, white men in this country generally have it better than minorities, women, and gays. No doubt about it. But here's the thing: the white men we make that argument too are not in much better shape than the minorities and groups that they fear will take even more away from them.

This is the case we need to make to them, that this equal rights initiative is not aimed at them, that the gay marriage movement won't make them gay, but is an attempt, ultimately successful (because it must be) to garner the privilege of the economically more privileged, which is largely older, whiter, and male.

So we see the assault on the average American male: on the one hand, he sees a threat from us on the left, on the other, he sees there are limits to even the avatars he has created to live vicariously thru (you don't think Rush has been married four times because he likes being married? He does it because of the image of power and potency it portrays to his audience. As I said, he exploits even himself.)

And he can't very well reconcile the two groups by painting the NFL owners as liberal stooges! He is experiencing a deep cognitive dissonance, one that will make for interesting observation in the months and years to come.

(Cross-posted to
Simply Left Behind.)

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Inspector General to investigate Army's response to exposure of U.S. troops to deadly chemical in Iraq

By Sen. Byron Dorgan

Ed. note: The following statement by Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND) was sent to me by the Senate Democratic Policy Committee, of which he is the chair (and with which I am in frequent contact). The senator has been at the forefront of addressing this issue, and he weighs in here on the DoD Inspector General's agreement to investigate the Army's response to the exposure of U.S. troops in Iraq to a dangerous chemical. I am pleased to post it here at The Reaction, along with a video clip. -- MJWS


There's an important development regarding the exposure of hundreds of U.S. troops to the deadly chemical compound sodium dichromate in Iraq. The Department of Defense's Inspector General, has agreed to investigate the Army's response to that exposure. I requested such an investigation, in a letter in August, along with six other Senators.

The reply we have now received is heartening. What happened to U.S. troops – mostly National Guard men and women from Indiana , Oregon and West Virginia – should never have happened and must not be allowed to happen again. They were exposed because of shoddy work by one of the largest military contractors, KBR, but the Army's deeply flawed response is just as troubling.

The exposure of troops to this deadly chemical compound was first revealed at a June 20, 2008, hearing by the Senate Democratic Policy Committee (DPC), which I chair. We found ample evidence that KBR dropped the ball multiple times with regard to the contract it held for assessing the site, cleaning it up, and getting it running again. It failed to inform the Army of the contamination until months after it knew there was a problem and after hundreds of U.S. soldiers had been exposed. It failed to clean up the site properly. KBR failed to warn even its own workers of the danger.

But the evidence suggests the Army's response was also highly inadequate and compounded the problem.

We found that when the Army finally got around to informing the soldiers, they consistently down played the seriousness of the exposure. When it finally got around to testing soldiers to determine the amount of exposure they had experienced, too much time had passed. The test results were useless.

We found troops back home in the U.S. coping with illnesses consistent with exposure to sodium dichromate with no idea why they were sick. They did not know they had been exposed to sodium dichromate or that that exposure was life-threatening.

When I called the head of the Indiana National Guard after our 2008 hearing to tell him what we'd learned heard about the exposure of his troops in Iraq to the deadly chemical, he said it was the first he'd heard of it. No one at the Army thought to tell the Commander of the Indiana National Guard that his troops, while serving our country in Iraq , had been exposed to one of the most potent carcinogens in the world.

I asked the Army to review its response to the exposure.

The Army appointed a task force, which reported back, months later, that the Army had not only acted appropriately, but that its response had been exemplary!


We scheduled a second hearing to examine the Army's response ourselves. That hearing was held on August 3, 2009. We heard very little that was reassuring.

Following the hearing, Senators Evan Bayh (D-IN), Robert Byrd (D-WVA), John Rockefeller (D-WVA), Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) joined me in formally requesting an investigation by the Defense Department's Inspector General into the Army's handling of all this.

We now have a written response from the Inspector General's Office, agreeing to conduct an investigation and making clear it will get underway immediately.

Someone recently asked me what I hope will come out the investigation. The answer is simple – in a word, accountability. I want to know how all this happened, why it happened, and whose being held accountable for it. I want to know what is being done to make sure nothing like this ever happens again.

I also want every soldier exposed at Qarmat Ali to be accurately informed, first, that he or she was exposed, and second, that the exposure presents serious health risks. I want every exposed soldier to have access to on-going health monitoring and, if they should get sick, treatment, through the Veterans Affairs network of hospitals. I want this exposure made part of the service file of every soldier who was at Qarmat Ali during this time, so doctors can proactively look for sodium dichromate exposure related symptoms. Time is of the essence in treating illnesses that result from sodium dichromate exposure. Doctors need to know immediately, and up front, that the soldier was exposed.

I also want there to be no question about whether illnesses that result from this exposure are service connected. They can take years, even decades, to show up. If every exposed soldier's service record includes information about what happened at Qarmat Ali, there will be no question about whether a resulting illness – no matter when it appears – is service connected, and therefore, eligible for treatment at a VA medical facility. If an illness develops, time is of the essence in treating it. I don't want anyone to have to waste time fighting to establish that the illness is service connected.

War is risky business. Soldiers know that when they sign up. But there is no excuse for any of that risk to come from sloppy work by a U.S. military contractor. Nor is it acceptable for that risk to be increased because the Army dropped the ball in dealing with the aftermath of that contractor’s failure.

I look forward to the Inspector General's report.

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Does the Left understand the faithful?

Guest post by Peter Henne

Peter S. Henne is a Security Fellow with the Truman National Security Project and a doctoral candidate at Georgetown University. This is his third guest post at The Reaction. In April, he posted on "the lessons of Sri Lanka." In August, he posted on "avoiding defeat in Afghanistan."


As the Supreme Court took up Salazar v. Buono last week, deciding the fate of a cross on public land, I was put in an awkward position. Once again, I squirm at the unrestrained histrionics of both sides, sinking into my chair as I did during heated debates in my religion classes in college. The reason for my discomfort? I am that rare creature, distrusted yet patronized by both sides of the culture wars: a Christian with leanings towards Biblical inerrancy who is also an unabashed progressive.

The case is the banal, tedious type that excites law students and bores the rest of us. It involves a religious symbol placed on public land, with complex reasoning and politics behind it. What upsets me is not the case itself, but the predictable nature of it all. The Left attacks a public display of religion and the Right defends America's Christian origins. Meanwhile, a great number of Christians dedicated to their beliefs but progressive in their political views -- including myself -- squirm uncomfortably, unhappy with the hijacking of their faith by the Right and having to defend their religion from apparent assaults by the Left.

Progressive Christians will never whole-heartedly embrace Democrats as long we feel the need to justify our faith during waves of Left-Right tensions over religious symbols. While a vocal minority of evangelical Christians are "values-voters" -- basing their political decisions primarily on single value-driven issues -- most Christians are faithful voters. We vote based on our entire set of beliefs, supporting the candidate who appears to share and understand our faith. Even though certain values held by Christians are incommensurate with the GOP agenda, the GOP will continue to gain votes as long as they seem the more "faithful" of the two parties.

Democrats have long had a problem appealing to the faithful. Despite John Kerry's Catholicism and some attempts to gain Christian, Bush handily beat Kerry among almost all Christians in 2004. This is because Democrats believed they could rely on appeals to certain issues expected to resonate with Christian voters. Meanwhile, voices on the Left critical of a public role for Christianity caused Christians to perceive a general progressive hostility towards their faith. This limited the effectiveness of Democratic outreach to Christians. In contrast, Bush presented himself as the candidate of faith in general, gaining the votes of this important electoral group.

Obama, though, has appeared much more at ease with religion. Faith has long been a central element of Obama's message; since his speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, he has called on the faithful to reject the use of religion as a political tool by the right. In the 2008 election, Obama made significant gains among Christian voters; even his ¼ share of the evangelical vote was an improvement. These voters are very committed to their religious beliefs, and believed Obama the more faithful of the presidential candidates.

If progressives are able to maintain this image -- as the party that truly understands the faithful -- their share of the Christian vote will likely grow. If, in contrast, they believe that a general alignment between progressive and Christian values is sufficient to gain Christian support -- despite broader hostility towards religion among some on the Left -- the trend Obama began will be short-lived.

The Supreme Court case illustrates this issue perfectly. Right-wing Christians see an indelible connection between their faith and government acceptance of public Christian displays. Progressive Christians often disagree. We place a value on the separation of Church and State, but are still uneasy with criticism of the public display of Christian symbols. Right or wrong, faith involves gut reactions, and the reaction to statements by groups like the American Civil Liberties Union is to perceive an attack on the faith.

One can object that the cross in question is just a symbol: if progressive Christians truly value Church-State separation, they should support its removal. But that is the point: it is a symbol, representing a set of beliefs that guides and enriches the lives of Christians. And Christians like myself are ultimately faithful, not values-voters. While I personally will never switch allegiances to the GOP because of cases such as this, it may well sway other progressive Christians and cost Democrats future political support.

So the Democratic Party must tread lightly on issues of faith, achieving the difficult balance between appealing to the base and reaching out to the faithful. If progressives want to maintain and increase the Democratic share of Christian voters in this country, they must understand our faith and sympathize -- even if they do not agree -- with the value we believe it holds for this country. Merely appealing to what seem to be Christian "values" every four years will not be enough. Ultimately, the Left may have to abandon the religious symbols it fights over in favor of the broader goal of steering the country in a progressive direction, because the faithful will not.

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