Thursday, September 30

See the Ruffled Ruffian

This is what Fox News tried desperately to keep from the public eye (the sight of a President who loses his composure when challenged).
Credit to Farmer Ned who left this video link at Charles 2's The Fulcrum.

Wednesday, September 29

Lousy, OK, or Better

With these words — "Lousy, OK, or better" — George Bush summarized, last week, a report by the National Intelligence Council on the three most likely states of affairs in Iraq by next year.
Little matter that the report offered a spectrum that went from "instability" to "civil war." When an optimistic, strong leader who never wavers reads "instability" and "civil war" and sees (or pretends to recall seeing) "lousy," "OK," or "better," what are we to think? Would it be too bold of me to suggest that it would be in the interest of the American people to have a president who knows how to read a National Intelligence Estimate, communicate its contents to others, and make sound policy decisions with its assistance?

This is the second time in a row an NIE has landed in the president's hands only to be ignored or dismissed. On the previous occasion, Bush was warned, before attacking Iraq, that such an attack would cause nationwide instability (in Iraq) and guerrilla warfare. Bush did not prepare for this scenario in advance and now acts as if he had reason to doubt or be surprised by its emergence.

When Bush's "never wavering" amounts to hallucinatory denial, I say, ladies and gentlemen, it is time for new leadership in our nation. Bush rode the National Intelligence Estimate that overplayed the threat of Iraq's possessing WMD like a fuming bronco; but, when the NIE don't seem politically expedient or flattering to him, he says of the National Intelligence Council that they were "just guessing." That insult to the responsibility of policy-making would be egregious enough if it weren't also clear that Bush doesn't apparently even know what the most recent estimates concerning Iraq were. (In light of the first comments to this post, I insist on the word "apparently," for we all know that Bush is smart enough to remember what he read, or was briefed on, when it goes to the heart of his foreign policy decisions.)

Tuesday, September 28

Memorandum of Corporate Control

The two factions of the Business Party, hiding like shivering, naked schoolgirls behind their deceptively named, mutally controlled, private corporation, "The Commission on Presidential Debates," have once again sat their lawyers down to engineer the upcoming presidential "debates" in such a way that the "debates" exclude a long list of vital topics as well as the possibility that anything resembling a debate might actually poke through the Saran-wrapped proceedings. The text of this stake in the heart of U.S. democracy, which may as well be titled the "Contract on How to Exclude Challenging Issues and Candidates and Minimize All Risks," can be consulted as a 32-page pdf. file. It is laughable reading; sadly so.
Thanks to the efforts of those at Open Debates, for the first time, this "memorandum of understanding" has been made public before the pageant of idiot gestures and smirks, fabricated one-liners, and spineless mutual assent begins. Furthermore, Bill Moyers has conducted an informative review of the history of presidential debates in the U.S., showing how the two parties have increasingly protected the debates against candidates from other parties, from non-corporate ideas, and, beginning with the Clinton era, from debating itself. On September 28, Democracy Now! also interviews the well-studied and articulate George Farah, who has written No Debate: How the Republican and Democratic Candidates Secretly Control the Presidential Debates.

(The segment on Moyers's Now was followed by a bubbly chat session with David Brancaccio and two frivolous guests, one of whom proclaimed giddily that "which candidate SEEMS authentic" is the big thing to watch for in the "debates." There could be no better evidence of corporate voiding into the telepublisphere than this reductive claim about seeming authenticity.)

Jim Lehrer will undoubtedly fail once again in his responsibility to expose the corporate nature of these "debates" and once again leave Telepublic U.S.A. with the false impression that the "debates" are being conducted by a non-partisan commission that has the public interest in mind. This year's round of superficial blue-suit posturing will include three other hosts, in addition to Lehrer, for each respective debate, but don't expect anyone else to pull away the facade and embarrass the corporate whores who represent the major political parties in the U.S. today, because it is in their contract that they not ruffle any corporate collars.

There are many issues that surely have been excluded in advance by the two factions of the Business Party, but here are few that the excluded candidates Nader/Camejo have noted, before the show gets underway:

* The unconstitutional war in Iraq
* Re-negotiation of WTO, NAFTA, and AGOA
* Trade agreements that raise labor standards
* US support of dictatorships and oligarchies
* Labor standards in developing countries
* Unreported casualties from Iraq
* Under-funded & under-protected troops
* The looming depleted uranium crisis in Iraq
* Ending the military and corporate occupation of Iraq
* The motives for war in Iraq
* Israeli/Palestinian Peace Movement
* State-sponsored terrorism
* Continuing unrest and heroin production in Afghanistan
* Global infectious diseases
* Long-term, life saving solutions to AIDS pandemic in Africa
* Devastation and waste of the global environment
* Global corporate crime and corporate welfare epidemics against individual taxpayers, consumers, investors, and pensioners!


Tuesday, September 21

From a Roof to a Heap (瓦)

Monday, September 20

Is Christianity Anti-abortion?

Is Christianity anti-abortion? It's a question whose answer, one might think, goes without saying. As for me, I am not so certain.
One would risk anachronism to speak of “abortion” with respect to the Bible, since, in the first century, none of the institutions or political and juridical debates associated with the word today had yet appeared. Therefore, to address the question, let's consider what the Bible has to say about the fetus, keeping in mind that, in the passages I discuss below, in some translations, instead of the word “fetus,” one reads words like “miscarriage” and — in the King James Version — “her fruit.” A conservative friend, who is attentive to the anachronistic danger of speaking complacently of “abortion” when discussing the Bible, recently put to me the following argument, based on a passage from Exodus:

Although the Bible doesn't come right out and say something about abortion as we know it, some verses can apply to abortion. For instance Exodus 21:22-23 speaks of, if somebody strikes a pregnant woman causing miscarriage they should be punished. That would mean to me that God does value all life, including the unborn.
If one reads the verse together with the chapter in which it appears, one sees, however, not only that the idea and the act of abortion are not present under another name or by implication, but that the value God grants the life of the unborn is extremely low. Why do I say these things?

The passage has as its purpose establishing an ancient law code, given by God so that Moses would know how to lead his people. It occurs in a chapter that sets out “other laws one must obey” (Exodos, 21:1) in addition to those set out in the commandments offered in Exodus 20. The code works upon the principle of proportionate retribution; the law of the talion, or what in English is referred to with the expression “eye for an eye” (cf. Leviticus, XXIV, 18-21, Deuteronomy, XIX, 21). Here is the line from Exodus that my friend alluded to:

If two men are fighting, and in the process hurt a pregnant woman so that she has a miscarriage, but she lives, then the man who injured her shall be fined whatever amount the woman's husband shall demand, and as the judges approve. (Exodus 22, The Living Bible)
While the fetus certainly has value, the destruction of the fetus, as recounted in this incident, is not at all an abortion, since abortion implies the consent of the one who has the abortion (i.e., the mother in and by whom the fetus is sustained). Similarly, if I destroyed a fetus by casting a stone at a pregnant woman, you might call this killing or even murder, if that were your personal view, but no one would call my action an “abortion.” So, this is in no way a passage that concerns abortion as commonly understood. I concur with my friend that the passage “can apply to abortion,” but the way in which it can so apply remains to be determined. This is not a merely etymological or historical point having to do with the modern institution or name of “abortion,” since the destruction of a fetus, as recounted in Exodus, does not concern any offense that could be equated to the killing/murder of a human being (the distinction between murdering and killing, pertinent elsewhere, is immaterial in this context). In short, in the scene recounted in Exodus 21:22, not only is abortion in practice or name not present or relevant, but the destruction of a fetus is not deemed the killing or murder of a human being in any legal or moral sense.

The first type of evidence for the latter claim is that the man who sets the fine is referred to as the woman's “husband” and not as a “father.” If he had been referred to as a “father,” then it might look as if the fetus were deemed a child who has a legal or moral relatonship to parents. Rather, the man is considered only in his marital relationship to the woman who bore the destroyed fetus.

More decisively, the paltry nature of the prescribed sanction for the destruction of the woman's fetus stands in stark contrast to the execution sentences prescribed for killing that we see throughout Exodus; the willed destruction of the fetus is given a retributive sentence that amounts to nothing more than a fine. This is significant because the purpose of the passage is to lay down the law of retributive justice with respect to various types of grave offenses. So, if it were assumed in this passage that the fetus were a living being (in the same way that children or adults who use their lungs to breathe constitute living beings), then it would follow that, to maintain retributive justice, one would have either to execute the man who had destroyed the fetus or, if possible, destroy his wife's fetus or execute any child the man might have. That is not what happens, though; rather, a mere fine is deemed proportionate to the misdeed; the value of the fetus is measured in terms of a monetary recompense which is presumably issued to the husband, or, less likely, to the parents jointly or, even less likely, to the once-pregnant mother. This emphasizes, moreover, that the loss of the fetus is seen as an injury to the mother or material loss to the family rather than as an offense to society as a whole (as are cases of murder). In other words, although it would be anachronistic to use the following distinction, one could say that, according to Exodus, the destruction of a fetus calls for nothing other than compensatory damages; damages for a criminal offense involving life loss are not even at issue.

The scant value granted the fetus is all the more significant when one considers that, earlier in the same chapter, very severe penalties are laid down for what one might think are relatively minor offenses. For example:

Who hits his father or his mother shall be put to death. [….] Who curses his father or his mother shall be put to death. (Exodus, 21: 15, 17)
So, it follows that cursing one's parents is deemed, in Exodus, a far worse offense than destroying the fetus within a woman against her own will. The former offense should result in execution; the latter, in a fine whose amount can be established later, through consultation with judges and the once-pregnant woman's husband. This clearly implies that the fetus has a much lower status, ontologically and morally, than either of the parents. Destroying the fetus results in deliberations and a fine, whereas hitting or even cursing a parent calls for execution (before which, it seems, no judge intervenes and one can only hope that there are deliberations). The implied difference in nature between, on the one hand, the fetus, and, on the other, the mother and father, is extreme.

Consequently, when my correspondent argues, on the strength of Exodus 21:22, as follows: “if somebody strikes a pregnant woman causing miscarriage they should be punished. That would mean to me that God does value all life, including the unborn,” I would agree that the passage supports his claims and underscore just how insignificant the destruction of a fetus is with respect to other, more common misdeeds addressed in Exodus.

Given the above reading, one would have to consider the massive political mobilization that occurs around the issue of abortion in America today when compared to the very meager efforts made at stemming the cursing and striking of parents by their children, among many other offenses that are explicitly identified in Exodus and elsewhere in the Bible. More generally, a careful reading of the scene of fetal destruction in Exodus indicates that, if one assumed (wrongfully, but in good faith) that the scene, and the penalty attached to it, warrant an anti-abortion call to arms, one would have to make a choice: either accept all that is dictated to Moses in Exodus as if it applied fully to contemporary life (in which case, Taliban-like rule of the nation might follow), or opt for a less literal and reductive understanding of these passages — one that sees in Christianity spiritual guidance rather than “a voter's guide to politics in America.” I would think that Christians would have an interest in a more spiritual approach, since it corresponds to the teachings of Jesus Christ. It is significant in this light that Christ contradicts the principle of retributive justice on a number of occasions, most famously in the Mount of Olives episode where he asks the one who has not sinned to cast the first stone at an adulterer and refuses to cast a stone himself (although Jesus was without sin). In a word, Jesus preaches the importance of eternal justice over retributive justice. The latter is articulated in Exodus alongside certain precise directives that would appear irrelevant, if not highly controversial, as moral or legal law in contemporary society:

When you buy a Hebrew slave, he will serve six years and depart freely upon the seventh. [….] When a man sells his daughter as a maidservant, she shall not go out as the menservants do. (Exodus, 21: 2, 7)
Should we embrace these dictates as expressions of what God values, just as my friend drew a lesson from another passage in Exodus 21 concerning God's valuing the “life”of the unborn? Should we argue passionately against our daughters-sold-as-maidservants going out “as the menservants do”? Should the Catholic Church forbid its members from voting for any politician who does not condemn keeping a Hebrew slave for a seventh year but faithfully calls for keeping the Hebrew slave for six? If we are not willing to go that far, then we should be equally hesitant to draw sweeping conclusions about the practice of abortion, or about pro-fetus candidates for political office, from the use of the word “fetus” or “miscarriage” or “fruit” in a passage of Exodus whose purpose is to illustrate the principle of retributive justice for the people of Israel under the guidance of Moses. This is especially true because of what an attentive reading reveals about the nature of the value God grants the fetus or, if one prefers, the “unborn.”

An important question remains, namely, why in the first place does this passage in Exodus speak of the “fetus”? I would offer the following speculation. It is not likely that the destruction of a fetus during a quarrel was a common occurrence that, as such, called for urgent or precise moral or legal directives. The severed fetus is thus brought up as an example of something that would appear to disrupt the symmetry of the law of an “eye for an eye” since, precisely, a man, the wrongdoer in this case, does not carry a fetus. In other words, if a man harms a fetus, how can retributive justice be served? The answer Exodus gives shows clearly that the fetus does not have the hyperbolic importance that some contemporary American Christians attribute to it. The fetus appears to have the exemplary value of something that disrupts the symmetry that is required by the very idea of retributive justice. One can assume that in other cases of dissymetry, whether they concern injured body parts or damaged or displaced material possessions, monetary equivalence would be called upon to satisfy the demands of retribution. A blind man who blinds another would surely have to pay a fine or offer material compensation. The most we could presume about the fetus in particular is that, in addition to exemplifying dissymetry among women and men, its being damaged would be equivalant to any wound or injury; and its being destroyed, to the loss of any body part:

Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, lash for lash. (Exodus 21:24)
Exodus teaches us that, where there is dissymetry, as when a man destroys a woman's fetus, retributive punishment can be fixed through substitutive damages, as when the wrongdoer is obliged to pay a fine. In the particular example given, justice for the destruction of a fetus must be sought otherwise than by the corresponding destruction of another fetus. The one who injures a woman by destroying the fetus within her, far from being likened to a murderer, simply has to pay a fine that is set by the woman's husband and some judges. It would falsify the spirit of the passage, therefore, to claim, or insinuate, that it depicts the destruction of a fetus as “murdering” the “unborn” or killing “a child.” Moreover, since this would be misleading, so, too, would arguing that the commandment “thou shalt not murder,” which appears in the previous chapter (Exodus, 20:13), applies to the destruction of a fetus.

It is inevitable that in underscoring the above evidence, I will be confronted with the following argument, which is commonly evoked by those who believe that God values the fetus highly (and some go further by asserting that the fetus has an even greater value in the eyes of God than any child who uses its lungs to breathe):

In Exodus 20:13, God commands that “thou shalt not kill/murder;” the destruction of a fetus is killing/murder; therefore, it is forbidden by God to kill/murder a fetus.
While valid in its own terms, and thus apparently unassailable, the argument relies upon a second premise that is contradicted by the law dictated to Moses in Exodus 20:22. This law makes it clear that destroying a fetus is not an act of killing/murder, but solely an injury to the woman who bore the fetus. Allow me to add emphasis to the passage which makes this clear:

If two men are fighting, and in the process hurt a pregnant woman so that she has a miscarriage, but she lives, then the man who injured her shall be fined whatever amount the woman's husband shall demand, and as the judges approve. (Exodus 22)
The following verse shows, moreover, that, in contrast to destroying the fetus, ending the mother's life would constitute killing/murder:

But if any harm comes to the woman and she dies, he [the man who struck the woman] shall be executed. (Exodus 21:23)
This line is alternately translated as “soul for soul,” and both translations make it clear that only the mother is co-subtantial with, or deemed to possess, a soul; that is, only she, and not the fetus within her, constitutes “life” in a non-reductive sense of the word. The value of the fetus is that it is living matter that belongs to a woman, but not a living being in the sense of a human being. As such, in accordance with the law of retribution, its destruction invites monetary compensation for the pains and labor that it costs the woman, and not the taking of another's life. Other verses in Exodus illustrate further this principle of monetary compensation for bodily injuries received:

If two men are fighting, and one hits the other with a stone or with his fist and injures him so that he must be confined to his bed, but doesn't die, if later he is able to walk again, even with a limp, the man who hit him will be innocent except that he must pay for the loss of his time until he is thoroughly healed, and pay any medical expenses. (Exodus, 21:18-19)
The contrast between destroying a living being and causing a living being injury (which in this case incurs medical expenses and the loss of time) are further confirmed in Exodus 21:12, where there is no doubt as to the punishment for striking and killing a human being:

Anyone who hits a man so hard that he dies shall surely be put to death.
Therefore, the fetus cannot possibly be said to have the same status as that of a man nor, if it becomes a question of gender, of a woman, since, unlike the case of the destroyed fetus, if the mother is killed, so should be the one who took her life.

So, is Christianity anti-abortion? Exodus, along with the rest of the Bible, is perfectly silent about abortion as we understand it (as a woman's choice to destroy the fetus within her), but it does suggest strongly that the willful destruction of the fetus (by whomever), of which abortion is by far the most common example today, is not reviled with the single-minded passion of the many Christians living in America today who take it on hearsay that their religion deems it a high offense in the eyes of God. If these Christians wish to oppose abortion on grounds that God equates it with murder, killing, or war, they might find humility for their claims if they only examined the writings on which they presumably base their convictions.
 * * *

To my friend who reminded me of this passage, I am grateful. I know, too, that he is not one of the Christians who base their entire world view, or at least their voting practices, on an obsession with the destiny of fetuses. I just hope that his support for Bush is grounded on something other than abortion politics, which, I remain firmly convinced, has little to do with the spirit of Christianity or the teachings of Christ.

* * *
The Catholic Church, who membership in the U.S. comprises up to 10% of the voting public, has weighed in on American politics this year by declaring it sinful to vote for candidates who support abortion rights, and then, a while later, by retracting its declarations. In its retraction, the Vatican offered that “proportionate reasons” may permit one to prefer an abortion rights candidate to an anti-abortion rights candidate (see my post below, “Voting with the Vatican”). More recently, however, one member of the Church has tried to correct the correction, or retract the retraction. In an article entitled, “Ratzinger letter misinterpreted by Kerry supporters as OK’ing votes for pro-abortion candidates,” we read the following:

Father Torraco explains that in order for a vote for a pro-abortion candidate to be based on “proportionate reasons,” it must be done so in order to prevent an intrinsic moral evil of the scale of abortion. Therefore issues such as war or the death penalty do not qualify as “proportionate reasons” because they are not intriniscally [sic] immoral according to Catholic teaching.
It is amazing, the lengths some Catholics will go to, to justify extremist right-wing politicians in the United States who are bent on undertaking unnecessary and reckless warfare and perpetuating the death penalty. And one has to wonder, with respect to Father Torraco's “explanation,” is there anything to this idea of “intrinsic moral evil”? Is the expression “intrinsically immoral” supposed to inspire the fear of eternal damnation among Catholic voters? If so, where are the arguments that justify calling abortion “intrinsically immoral” while denying that the killing of civilians and destruction of natural and human environments for the corporate profits of a few are also “intrinsically immoral”? And where is the Biblical support for the idea of “intrinsic evil”? And where is the Biblical support for the idea that abortion is the one “intrinsic evil” (which seems an inevitable implication, since no other “intrinsic” evil is ever identified in such pseudo-arguments)? [A post that appears below exposes the unpersuasiveness of this appeal to the “intrinsic” or “unmitigated” and thus wholly exceptional status that Catholics grant abortion as against all other forms of violence. See “Voting for life. The Mitigated & the Unmitigated,” April 5, 2004.] And where is the Biblical support for the “intrinsic”? What does it mean for something to be an intrinsic moral evil? Intrinsic with respect to what? Who decides which evil is intrinsic, and which is not? Finally, if war is a non-intrinsic evil, does the declaration of war, whether official or merely rhetorical, make all killing that it leads to merely extrinsic moral evil (whatever that may mean)?

Would Christianity — I mean, the real one, as opposed to the corporate apologist version so common in the U.S. — ever allow for such a cynical distinction as that between the “intrinsically evil” destruction of fetuses and the expedient liquidation of tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians (to refer to just one outrage orchestrated at Bush's command)? The passage from Exodus certainly does nothing to bolster hyperbolic claims about the “intrinsic” nature of violence done to a fetus.

Imagine such a teaching as this:

“You feel that it's inevitable, for your own safety, that children must be killed in Iraq? O.K., that might seem absurd and even immoral, but it's certainly not intrinsically evil, as abortion is in all cases; and as war, in all cases, is not.”
Is that what Catholics are being asked to believe? What if pro-choice advocates declared “war” on the “unborn” (as the pro-fetus groups often claim they have done)? Would not that fact alone, according to Father Torraco's claims, make the destruction of the “unborn” a non-intrinsic moral evil? (The question is pertinent for supporters of Bush, who, more than anyone, likes to call his political and military actions at home and abroad “wars,” although he has never bothered to have any of his wars declared officially.)

Perhaps my vigilance has been overmatched on this one, but I can't find the passage in which Jesus Christ makes a distinction between intrinsic and other, more permissible, types of “evil.” Is this “Christian”? Is it intrinsically Christian? Or has it been stealthily — extrinsically — concocted under the cloth of certain apologists of corporate warfare?

As a sort of post-post, I note that the recent intervention by the Catholic priest Torraco made me imagine a sort of Monty Python-like show tune in which Catholics waltz around, singing in chorus, lines such as these:

The Father said the Holy Word.
Intrinsic! Intrinsic!
The sweetest word we ever heard.
Intrinsic! Intrinsic!

We all have made a holy vow.
Intrinsic! Intrinsic!
No other evil matters now.
Intrinsic! Intrinsic! (to a steadily building crescendo)
Abortion is in- trin- sick!

(finished off with a chorus of baritones who wail out the next line in a robust dominant-seventh finale bolstered by a shout section from the brass that retards with each successive syllable)

It's evil un-mit-i-ga-ted!

Sunday, September 19

Footbridge beckons

photos by fanni terrette

Saturday, September 18

Reply to a Soldier

Brian (of Letters to Home) wrote, in a comment to my September 17 post:
Although the Bible doesn't come right out and say something about abortion as we know it, some verses can apply to abortion. For instance Exodus 21:22-23 speaks of, if somebody strikes a pregnant woman causing miscarriage they should be punished. That would mean to me that God does value all life, including the unborn.
I know the passage, but referring to a single line from it, and drawing the conclusion you do, leaves me far short of understanding how abortion has become the ONE ISSUE on which so many Christians base their votes and world views. (This is another issue, but you have not understood this passage from Exodus, which is not about abortion in any sense of the word. Lacking space here, I'll have to explain why I say that in a separate post.) I could cite many more passages wherein GREED is condemned loudly and clearly in the New Testament (and not only in the old Jewish scriptures that constitute the Old Testament), but I don't see "conservatives" getting angry about corporate warfare and its destruction of human life and stable communities at home and abroad for the sake of corporate greed (I mean "conservatives" in the narrow, vicious, cynical and cruel sense of the word that I think does not apply to you; the one that often wears the camouflage qualification "compassionate").

As I said, I am not complaining about either Christianity or the pro-fetus groups simply because I disagree with them. I am trying to understand why ABORTION (and, for some Christians, homosexuality comes in at a close second) is the most important social or moral issue. Concerning homosexuality and other things deemed immoral, we read in Paul, 1 Corinthians 6:9:

"Don't you know that those doing such things have no share in the Kingdom of God. Don't fool yourselves. Those who live immoral lives, who are idol worshippers, adulterers or homosexuals -- will have no share in his kingdom. Neither will theives or greedy people, drunkards, slanderers, or robbers."
You see? Greedy people and robbers are just as immoral as homosexuals, according to Paul. And this is the most condemning passage of homosexuals in the Bible. I don't agree with him; I think we know far more today about homosexuality than Paul knew about it. I think greedy people and robbers are far worse than any act of love can be and that homosexuals can't possibly be blamed for being as their Creator made them. But none of this corresponds to the point I raise when I say that I can't understand the MASSIVE importance that corporate politicians on the right give to the issue of homosexuality or abortion. My hunch is that many well-meaning Christians are getting manipulated through a cynically reduced form of Christianity (which becomes the hate of gays and an obsession with fetuses); and it's always right-wing politicians that have nothing to offer American citizens (or at least not those who are not already vastly wealthy) that operate this kind of manipulation. I think it's effective because many well-meaning people can easily get distracted and angry by issues that fill them with disgust, but I think astute Christians should be deeply offended by it.

Concerning greed, this "war on terrorism" in Iraq is the biggest exercise of corporate greed we have seen in our nation's history. It is an outrage to Christian values not only because it is an instance of self-serving greed on the part of a few treacherous corporate big-wigs in Washington and Texas, vicious slandering, and grand-scale theft, but because it has been passed off as an effort to make Americans "secure" even as we know, today, that Saddam Hussein posed no threat; had no weapons of mass destruction; had run out of the chemicals and weapons (used to kill his citizens on a large scale) that Rumsfeld and Bush and many U.S. corporations had sold him; was surrounded by devastating military force (U.S., U.K., and Isreali, in particular); and was sitting atop a faltering, house-of-cards dictatorship. The "war" for the sake of national security in Iraq has thus been packaged in pure deception. Nonetheless, viewers of Fox News, CBS, and other state-friendly, corporate-run media outlets complacently take in the deception through their TV screens as if their conscience were getting a sedating rub-down (which is pretty much what is happening).

Keep in mind, I'm not criticizing the United States or the government in general. This is not an anti-patriotic post. I'm deeply thankful for all that I have enjoyed in this country and for the brave people like yourself who are willing to sacrifice their health and lives for what they believe are worthy national goals. I am criticizing the corporate crooks in the Bush administration who despise government and have run it into the ground for their own personal gain.

The motivating greed of the Iraqi take-over is something you have apparently lost sight of. You wrote:

The foreign investment isn't necessarily a bad thing either. If I invest in something I want it to succeed, so I am going to assume that these investors do to. If the investments do succeed, the Iraqi people will benefit by it.
These are fine principles, but consider the context. If I walked into your apartment and said, "Listen, uh, I put your asshole landlord in prison 'cause I suspected he might want to hurt me at some point in the future (although I had no evidence of that and plenty of reason to doubt that he could), and now, as a consequence, I'm asking you to step aside while I sell off your furniture and stereo system and all the other assets you might have to your neighbors, many of whom are my closest working partners, since the neighbors want to make a profit and since they believe that in the long run their profiting might possibly benefit you." I don't know if you have ever thought about how your eventual "enemy" thinks about this occupation, but this is pretty much what it amounts to and no amount of good will on the part of the foot soldiers is going to change their minds on the matter. Nor should it.

Calling the many homeland defenders "terrorists" and "extremists" along with the few real terrorists and extremists that the U.S. take-over has permitted to enter the country is the slandering aspect of the Bush regime's international banditry.

I am sure you know this already, but as a reminder to those who are not in the service or simply have not given thought to this matter, I cite the following:

"Armed assault against an occupying military force is not terrorism; the right of armed resistance is almost universally recognized, most particularly in a 1987 General Assembly resolution that singles out military occupations... as legitimate targets of armed resistance." (From "Notes on Bush's Speech to the Republican National Convention," Common Dreams)

Friday, September 17

Next Blog>>

I've taken advantage of the Next Blog>> button that has recently appeared at the top right corner of Blogger-sponsored blogs such as my own and landed on a few sites where I've left comments. Only on a few, mind you, and I am not sure if "to take advantage of" is the right expression to use. It seems that clicking on Next Blog>> will sooner or later send you crashing into blogs hosted by high school girls from Singapore that force you to sit and listen to their pop music. Your keyboard freezes, you get hit with pop-up advertisements, and you have to click madly at the "Back" button to escape a pink screen bursting with cutesiness and synthetic keyboard noises that pitilessly assault your senses.
Perhaps I am drawn to my opposites, or it could be the lingering effect of my aborted debate with a fetus-obsessed Bush supporter earlier this year, but I wish to note two sites in particular.

The first blog is called Letters to Home and is written by a self-described "conservative, Christian family man," who says that he is "doing the best [he] can." He includes a big Bush/Cheney banner and makes Rush Limbaugh-like, hyped up and distorting charges against Kerry. What makes this site a curiosity, to me, is that its author is a soldier who is preparing for his first deployment in Iraq in what he sees as a God-blessed mission. Of all the souls sucked up by the corporate war machine raging across the planet in the name of U.S. "democratization" and cloaked in robustly cynical appeals to Christianity, this has got to be one who deserves pity rather than polemic. Perhaps someone could infiltrate the helmet-capped Christian running this blog before he sets out to kill Iraqi citizens and homeland defenders that have been falsely branded as "terrorists" and "extremists." Perhaps someone could manage to touch this well-meaning man with something other than propaganda and hate.

The second site bears the modest name, "Veritas Daily Journal" and carries the equally modest descriptor: "One truth -- all else is false." When I first came upon the site, I naively read this as a simple statement of piety. Only later, once my comments and, indeed, the entire comments function, had been suppressed by the blog's co-author(s), did I realize that this was actually something of a threat. The site is run by the Russell Brothers, a police officer and a "Director of Family Ministries" in Louisville, Kentucky (admire the handsome studio photos of themselves that the authors have provided). In a September 16 post, the Russell Brothers place a prayer that was written by their father. When I offered in the site's first comment that the military aggression in Iraq could also be added to the prayer, as another in a long list of outrages to Christian values for which one might seek forgiveness, one of the blog's authors responded by saying that, while he disagrees with me about the nature of the war, he hopes that I am as passionate about abortion. To this I responded by asking how he or his brother prioritize abortion over either the War-for-oil-disguised-as-a-war-on-terror or other issues of social injustice. Later, on that same day, I discovered that I had apparently crossed the line from the one truth into all else that is false, for not only was our exchange deleted, the entire comments function on the blog was removed. Still, today, you can read this at the bottom of their blog:

Guest comments or postings reflect the views of those guests initiating those posts and do not necessarily reflect or represent the views of the Russell brothers or the Veritas Daily Journal.

But this polite editorial notice corresponds to nothing, because no one can comment at the Veritas Daily Journal anymore. Perhaps the Russell brothers intend to reinstate the comments function once they feel that this voice from beyond the pale of truth has disappeared?

I do wonder: Is the war against Iraq the "one truth"? Is the "one truth" the campaign for fetalocracy? Is the one truth "Jesus is Lord"? I am not sure. And I have no idea how these things relate to one another, especially if one of them is the "one truth."

Once again, I have made an honest and non-hostile attempt to have a fetus-loving Christian explain their prioritization of the issue; and once again, my inquiry has been rudely aborted. Next Blog>>, please.


Friday, September 10

Mop on Wheels

Thursday, September 9

Voting with the Vatican

In a gesture of retraction and perhaps remorse, the Vatican has stepped back from its previously thunderous declarations concerning Catholics who would dare vote for political candidates supporting abortion rights.[article]
Consider the progress this signals. First, "in radio and newspaper interviews in June, Archbishop Burke said, 'It's objectively wrong to vote for a pro-choice politician,' and said Catholic voters who did so 'would need to confess that sin.'" Perhaps it was the Catholic Church's increasingly haunting resemblance to the Taliban that caused one of its chief doctrinal authorities to offer less prophetic judgments on voting citizens who profess to be Catholic and feel it is permissible to think of more than a single issue when assessing the political figures in their respective nations. Whatever the case, compare today's decidedly less sententious offering from the Archbishop, who now says that a Catholic who opposes abortion could vote for a candidate who supports keeping abortion legal "for what are called proportionate reasons." Or, as stated in the authoritarian cadence of Cardinal Ratzinger:
When a Catholic does not share a candidate's stand in favor of abortion and/or euthanasia, but votes for that candidate for other reasons, it is considered remote material cooperation, which can be permitted in the presence of proportionate reasons.
The first implication is that abortion is no longer the only issue Catholics are allowed to ponder. By itself, that is quite a remarkable sign of intellectual and moral progress (assuming that single-minded Catholics are in fact able to divert their attention from this one issue). But the vagueness of "proportionate reasons" leaves open the possibility that Catholics might still be vulnerable on another score that has divided the passions of some of them for some time now, especially in America. A remark made the other day by Cornel West, Princeton professor of religion and African-American studies, goes right to this point:
[Bush and his advisors] recognize that right now never in the history of America has organized Christianity had such power and clout, and especially an organized Christianity which is in the back pocket of corporate America. So, we're seeing explicit appeals as well as manipulation and a lot of times these Christians are very sincere. They're just very, very short on history, and [have] very little sense of the way in which they're being manipulated, especially around issues of gay marriage, appeals to the homophobia, as well as issues of abortion.[full interview]
Now that Catholics have been allowed to bring "proportionate reasons" into their deliberations without feeling that the wrath of eternal hell will strike them where they stand, will the homophobia in this nation only grow? Or might they actually look beyond this double reduction of Christianity (to pathological obsession with the destiny of the fetus and homophobic rage) and realize that cynically-justified acts of corporate aggression are killing innocent civilians and homeland defenders in Iraq and elsewhere, that human dignity and international law have been mocked in U.S.-run prisons and detention centers in Guantanomo and Iraq in particular, that the health care system in the U.S. is the shame of the civilized world, that the environment is being belched upon by U.S. corporations in a way that will harm human health for generations to come, etc., and all at the more or less direct command of their recently anointed anti-abortion hero, Mr. George Bush?

The Archbishop’s final comments in this article do not leave much room for hope:

"The sticking point is this -- and this is the hard part," the archbishop added. "What is a proportionate reason to justify favoring the taking of an innocent, defenseless human life? And I just leave that to you as a question. That's the question that has to be answered in your conscience. What is the proportionate reason?"
This is a remarkable moment. Just as the Archbishop admits to his followers that treating abortion as something other than the only issue of justice in the world may not be wholly sinful, he seems incapable of thinking outside the uterus. "That's the question that has to be answered in your conscience" sounds like a threat, and it's followed with the strangely insistent, "What is the proportionate reason?" (as if there could only be one, if there could really be one, which possibility he seems to want to deny even as he begrudgingly acknowledges doctrinal flexibility on the matter). In short, the Archbishop seems less to be asking a hypothetical, moral, or pragmatic question than to be denying the very possibility of a "proportionate reason." The waffling is apparently calculated to demonstrate that he, personally, rejects wholly all those who favor abortion rights, even if, on pragmatic or political grounds, he has to accept the possibility of "remote material cooperation" among the faithful; as if "remote material cooperation" were itself an isolated moral failing that one could protect oneself against in all matters or in the matter of abortion, rather than the very essence of moral existence. Still, the very phrase "remote material" is oxymoronic. It is laced with the bad conscience of dogmatists who have been forced to rethink their own rigidity. Apparently, the Archbishop has forgotten that there exist other ways of ending an innocent, defenseless human life than by abortion. In America, the extremist elements of the Republican party encourage well-meaning Christians to forget this fact, but what is the Archbishop's excuse? And whence the contemporary obsession with the fetus? Jesus Christ never mentioned it, and euthanasia was a common practice in his day.