December 24, 2005

Wishing You a Blessed Christmas

Filed under: Random Stuff — Bob Gifford @ 10:43 am

Christmas Morn - Will Hicok Low (1853-1932)
“Christmas Morn – Will Hicok Low (1853-1932) American painter, who broke away from the traditional Italian and Dutch Masters. Located in the Smithsonian, Washington D. C. Notice Cross in window, shepherds and star. ” (Courtesy of DaveNation.)

December 23, 2005

Impeach President Bush

Filed under: Random Stuff — Bob Gifford @ 1:06 am

Lest you think the headline of this post is just a bit of hyperbole, I’m serious. President Bush should be impeached. I do not take this position lightly, but have given it a lot of thought, and come to the conclusion that President Bush should be impeached.

While I am certainly not a fan of Bush, I don’t say this out of partisan vindictiveness. I would be saying the same thing if it were President John Kerry ordering the NSA to conduct surveillances of U.S. citizens without a warrant.

Work with me here for a moment. Let’s take the personalities and political factions out of the discussion. Imagine this scenario with all of the current political context removed:

[First-name last-name], a [Republican|Democrat|Green|Libertarian|Socialist|Independent|car salesman], became the [xx st|nd|rd|th] President of the United States in the year [yyyy]. While in office, [he|she] suspended habeus corpus and authorized the [spy agency] to record conversations of U.S. citizens without first obtaining a warrant. President [last-name] maintained that Congress had no ability to impose any legislative constraints on these actions, and that the Judicial Branch could insist neither that warrants be obtained nor that the Constitutional prohibition against unlawful search and seizure applied. These special powers, [he|she] argued, came from [his|her] role as Commander in Chief during war time, and thus could not be infringed upon by the other branches of government. Thus, even though [he|she] admitted breaking existing laws and violating the Constitution, the President claimed immunity from any legal restraint.

As leader of the military, President [last-name] had, for the first time in U.S. history, asserted a Presidential power that had no constitutional limits, could not be removed without the President’s acquiescence, and for which there was no legal recourse by U.S. citizens. And since the War on [conceptual evil] could never truly be said to be won, this power would never expire.

Sounds pretty scary, no? Fortunately, the Founding Fathers did consider such a scenario, and gave Congress a tool to curtail just such a runaway executive: impeachment.

Salon argues that there is a strong case for impeachment, but that it is politically out of the question since a Republican Congress is not about to impeach Bush. (This is one more reason why Democrats need to regain control of Congress in 2006.)

There are plenty of interim steps that should be taken first: congressional hearings, a congressional censure, lawsuits, etc. But the only reason these steps would have any hope of success would be the underlying threat of impeachment.

Republicans should consider the implications of letting this pass. Lying about sex is immoral, but Bush’s actions are a threat to the Constitution. Having gone after Clinton for what many of us believe was a personal failing but not an impeachable offense, Republicans can’t now ignore Bush’s actions. Libertarians and small-government conservatives that have for so long railed against the accretion of Federal powers overlook this egregious power grab at their peril.

December 21, 2005

The Republicans' Immoral Budget

Filed under: Random Stuff — Bob Gifford @ 12:07 am

Update: The budget passed thanks to Cheney’s tie-breaking vote. Here is ELCA Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson’s statement regarding its passage.

While I haven’t blogged about it, I have been following the US non-defense budget process with a heavy heart. To recap: first, the House passed draconian cuts to services to the poor while protecting the pharmaceutical and managed care industries. The Senate passed a much more humane spending bill, but the bill coming out of conference kept many of the worst parts of the House version, while adding a few cuts of its own. The conference bill was released after 1:00 AM Monday morning. After only 40 minutes of debate, the House began voting on the conference bill at 5:43 AM with most members not even knowing what it contained.

From the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities analysis of the bill::

Careful examination of the 774-page legislation shows that the conference agreement would, in fact, cause considerable hardship among low-income families and individuals. The legislation contains cuts in various areas, including Medicaid, that would directly affect low-income families and individuals and are closer to provisions in the original House-passed reconciliation bill than to the provisions of the Senate bill. This is due in no small part to action by the conferees to shield certain powerful special interests — principally pharmaceutical companies and the managed care industry — and instead to extract sizable savings from low-income families.


December 18, 2005

Bush's Iraq War Speech: He's Still Wrong

Filed under: Random Stuff — Bob Gifford @ 9:34 pm

Bush iraq war speech 12-18-05

President Bush gave a good speech tonight. While I didn’t see it live, and haven’t yet seen a video, the transcript shows a speech that lays out his case as well as any speech could.

Too bad he’s still wrong.

Bush began by describing the good news of the Iraqi election. While many of us liberals would rather deny that any good could come of the Iraq War, I think we have to agree that democracy, no matter how flawed, is a good thing. Many on the left criticize Bush for drawing our attention on the bright sparkly things like elections, thereby distracting us from the horrors of his policies, but the Iraqi election is more than just a sparkly thing of no consequence — it’s a sparkly thing of great value for the Iraqis.

Of course the result could be a pro-Iranian Shiite theocracy, not of such great value for the U.S.

Bush also talked about what a brutal dictator Saddam was, and how good it is that he’s gone. Which is certainly true.

But he really went off the rails when he returned to his favorite big lie:

December 17, 2005

We Have Become Our Enemy

Filed under: Random Stuff — Bob Gifford @ 10:04 pm

Wake up, America! Look at what we have allowed the terrorists to do to our country. Not the Iraqi insurgents, but the terrorists who attacked us on 9/11. They brought down the World Trade towers and killed 3,000 innocent Americans, but that is not the real damage they have inflicted on us. They have harmed us in a far, far worse way than merely killing 3,000 of our friends and family and destroying an American landmark.

They have made us become like them.

Look at what we are doing today, all because of 9/11. We have become torturers! We redefined the word “torture” to exclude our preferred practices, and we “outsourced” the torturing to other countries, but it’s still torture and we’re still culpable. Finally, Bush has agreed to ban torture only because he saw that he was rapidly losing congressional and international support for his administration. And we are not even ashamed! We have become our enemy.

In violation of the Constitution, that “goddamned piece of paper“, Bush personally authorized surveillance on US residents and citizens without a warrant. Saddam Hussein couldn’t be bothered with obtaining a warrant either. And we are not ashamed! We have become our enemy.

December 11, 2005

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

Filed under: Random Stuff — Bob Gifford @ 4:44 pm

I just got back from seeing The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, and it is absolutely wonderful. They captured the book perfectly, in my opinion. Just fantastic in every way.

The little girl that plays Lucy is adorable, and perfect for the part. In fact, all four of the kids are great, even Edmund with his snotty-brat-turned-repentant-sinner character.

The secular blogosphere has been talking about whether it’s a Christian allegory, or just a good story in which one can see C.S. Lewis’ Christian beliefs if you go looking for it (see here, for example). I think this is a story (and a movie) that can stand entirely on its own in the secular marketplace, and isn’t a “Christian” movie per se. But one of the reasons I enjoyed it so much is that it plays on all the emotional responses of our Christian faith. So the White Witch isn’t just another nasty villain, but The Villain. Aslan isn’t just another Gandalf-like savior, but The Savior. His self-sacrifice isn’t just another turning point in the plot, but the Turning Point in all of human history.

But regardless, it’s a very well done piece of movie-making that I absolutely loved.

December 9, 2005

In Kansas, Knowledge Is A Bad Thing

Filed under: Random Stuff — Bob Gifford @ 4:28 pm

El discusión contra de la evolución se parece reflejar una creencia más profunda en Kansas: el conocimiento es malo. Una persona no está definido por lo que sabe, pero por lo que rechaza saber. Aquí está la exhibición más reciente de una imposición agresiva de la ignorancia de los funcionarios de la escuela:

Most of the time, 16-year-old Zach Rubio converses in clear, unaccented American teen-speak, a form of English in which the three most common words are “like,” “whatever” and “totally.” But Zach is also fluent in his dad’s native language, Spanish — and that’s what got him suspended from school.

“It was, like, totally not in the classroom,” the high school junior said, recalling the infraction. “We were in the, like, hall or whatever, on restroom break. This kid I know, he’s like, ‘Me prestas un dolar?’ [‘Will you lend me a dollar?’] Well, he asked in Spanish; it just seemed natural to answer that way. So I’m like, ‘No problema.’ ”

But that conversation turned out to be a big problem for the staff at the Endeavor Alternative School, a small public high school in an ethnically mixed blue-collar neighborhood. A teacher who overheard the two boys sent Zach to the office, where Principal Jennifer Watts ordered him to call his father and leave the school.


December 7, 2005

A Different Plot Line for the End-Times

Filed under: Random Stuff — Bob Gifford @ 5:12 am

I do not believe that the Old Testament prophets and the Book of Revelation predict events in our time. Prophets have always spoken to their contemporaries about their actions and their consequences in their own time: because you are doing x, y is going to happen. The Book of Revelation isn’t about fortune telling, it’s about hope and faith and the glory of the Lamb. So I believe John the Revelator was speaking of figures in his own time when he spoke of the Anti-Christ and the False Prophet. I am sure that his intended readers understood perfectly his imagery, not only as a rich and wonderful depiction of the Kingdom of Heaven, but as code words alluding to events in the Roman Empire of his day.

And let’s be clear: I have not read any of the Left Behind books, and God willing I never will find myself having to sit through any of the Left Behind movies.

I have stated this all up front so that you will know that I do not think that George Bush is the Anti-Christ.

But let’s just look at the Anti-Christ/False Prophet imagery for a second. The Anti-Christ is supposed to be a leader that deludes us into thinking that bad is good and good is bad. He would charm us into following him into doing unspeakable acts, say, torture, kidnapping, false imprisonment, ghost detainees, or murder. The Anti-Christ would be supported by the False Prophet, who would create a false religion to pervert God’s will. This false religion would make us hate instead of love, applaud war instead of peace. It would paint its enemies, say, homosexuals, Muslims and liberals, as undeserving of God’s love, nor ours. This religion would wreak death (the death penalty, war, poverty, disease) instead of life (peace, compassion for the imprisoned, food for the hungry, health care for the sick).

December 3, 2005

"The Island": Religious Themes

Filed under: Random Stuff — Bob Gifford @ 6:21 pm

I watched the movie The Island on a cross-country plane ride this week, and was pleasantly surprised: I really enjoyed it. It has creepy near-future science fiction, high-speed car and helicopter chases with lots of explosions, plenty of gunfire, violence, and a touch of sex. Everything an American male could want in a movie!

(Caution, potential, although subtle, spoilers ahead.) In between all of the rather non-spiritual content, I was struck by two moral/religious themes touched on by the movie. The first was abortion, and not in a good way. I will always think of a particular scene in the movie when I think of abortion. (If you’ve already seen it, you know what I mean.) Later the villain responsible for it all, after being accused of playing God, cries “I gave you life and I can take it away!” All very evocative.

The second theme is far more uplifting: Exodus. “Moses” (and his girlfriend) lead the “Israelites” to freedom, and as they experience true freedom for the first time in their lives I wanted to exclaim “free at last, free at last, Lord Almighty, free at last!” But really, this scene is so evocative of the joy and wonder of the Israelites at their deliverance that this image will be part of my imagining of the Exodus from now on.

Plus, did I mention the car crashes?

December 1, 2005

Bill Press: How the Republicans Stole Christmas

Filed under: Random Stuff — Bob Gifford @ 8:02 am

In Our Endangered Values, Jimmy Carter writes the way he speaks: in a calm, measured tone, building his case against Bush and the Republicans brick by brick without ever raising his voice. This style makes Carter’s criticisms all the more compelling. In How the Republicans Stole Christmas, Bill Press also writes the way he speaks, and his tone is anything but measured and calm. You can hear him raising his voice, sighing and shaking his head on every page, but without ever being shrill. Press’s style is as effective for Press as Carter’s is for Carter, but fasten your seat belts! For example, when talking about Bob Jones’s letter to Bush after his “election” to the presidency in 2000, Press says:

I don’t know about you, but that letter ticks me off. I’m a liberal. I’m a Christian. I didn’t vote for George W. Bush. How dare that small-time college president—who got his job only because he inherited it—tell me I despise Jesus Christ? From what I read in his letter, he wouldn’t know Jesus Christ if he fell over Him.


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