Saturday, January 22, 2005

Thank you, James Dobson

It's been a depressing week, what with the inauguration and all that stuff. So I want to pause a moment and thank James Dobson for bringing a bright spot of levity into it.

I never knew he had such a knack for satire until I read that he complained about the video remake of the 1979 hit song "We Are Family" using the voices of SpongeBob Squarepants, Barney, Winnie the Pooh, Bob the Builder, the Rugrats and other TV cartoon characters. It was made by songwriter Nile Rodgers' foundation, set up after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, in an effort to promote healing.

A CNN news report said "Christian groups however have taken exception to the tolerance pledge on the foundation's Web site, which asks people to respect the sexual identity of others along with their abilities, beliefs, culture and race."

"Their inclusion of the reference to 'sexual identity" within their 'tolerance pledge' is not only unnecessary, but it crosses a moral line," James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, said in a statement released Thursday.

Dobson was quoted by the New York Times on Thursday as having singled out the wildly popular SpongeBob during remarks about the video at dinner this week in Washington, D.C.

What a great idea Dobson had -- parodying Jerry Falwell's attack on Teletubby Tinky Winky as "a gay role model."

Yeah, as if watching Teletubbies and hearing cartoon characters ask for tolerance of one another leads one down the gay garden path! How funny!

I needed a good smile this week.

I wonder what's next?

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

And then they came for me

“In Germany they came first for the Communists and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist. Then they came for the Jews and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics and I didn't speak up because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me — and by that time no one was left to speak up.”

Written as part of a sermon by the Rev. Martin Niemöller in 1945. He was arrested for treason in Hitler’s Germany, and was held at Sachsenhausen and Dachau concentration camps, narrowly averting execution.

You've probably already read the recent history recounted below. I found it worth another look, in light of even more recent history:

On Jan. 14, Army Reserve Spec. Charles A. Graner Jr. was convicted on five counts of assault, maltreatment and conspiracy in connection with the beating and humiliation of Iraqi detainees at Abu Ghraib.

Yet, one of the men instrumental in setting the stage for this is President Bush’s nominee for attorney general, White House counsel Alberto Gonzales, who argued that the nature of a “war” against terror places a high premium on factors such as the ability to quickly obtain information from captured terrorists and their sponsors, thus rendering obsolete the Geneva Prisoner of War Convention’s strict limitations on questioning of enemy prisoners.

Gonzales was supporting the position of then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, who had written a memorandum Jan. 19, 2002 (a memo to which the State Department objected), in which Rumsfeld ordered the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to inform combat commanders that "Al Quaeda and Taliban individuals...are not entitled to prisoner of war status for purposes of the Geneva Conventions of 1949." He ordered that "commanders should "...treat them humanely, and to the extent appropriate and consistent with military necessity, consistent with the Geneva Conventions of 1949." This order thus gives commanders permission to depart, where they deem it appropriate and a military necessity, from the provisions of the Geneva Conventions. Note: bolding is mine, for emphasis.

Gonzales penned his memorandum to President Bush Jan. 25, 2002, concerned that certain Geneva language such as "outrages upon personal dignity” and “inhuman treatment" were undefined and it would be difficult to predict the needs and circumstances that could arise in the course of the war on terrorism. (I guess you just never know what you might need to do to somebody.)

Remember, Gonzales is also the one who called the rules of the Geneva Convention "quaint."

Gonzales believed that a determination of inapplicability of the GPW would insulate against future prosecution.

Maybe things like "outrages upon personal dignty" and "inhuman treatment" can be defined by the testimony at Graner’s trial (source: Washington Post, Jan. 15):

*Prisoners were kept naked much of the time, with hoods over their heads, and often chained to the bars in painful "stress positions."

Inmates and U.S. soldiers testified that Army guards regularly beat the prisoners with fists or iron rods, forced them to eat food from a toilet, confronted them with unmuzzled police dogs, and made them wallow naked in the mud outside in near-freezing temperatures.

*Sexual humiliation was another common practice on cellblock One-Alpha, witnesses said.[I won't go into all the grisly details. I'm sure you're familiar with them by now.]

*When one of the prisoners was causing trouble for the guards, prosecutors said, Graner tied a leash around his neck and made him crawl like a dog.

Bush had access to other advice, prominently from retired U.S. Army General and current Secretary of State Colin Powell, who, on Jan. 26, 2002, wrote the President a memo in which he said, "I am concerned that the draft does not squarely present to the President the options that are available to him."

Powell was insistent in his advice: "Treat all detainees consistent with the principles of the GPW."

Powell enumerated the "Cons" of taking the position that the Geneva Covention does not apply:
1. It will reverse over a century of U.S. policy and practice in supporting the Geneva conventions and undermine the protections of the law of war for our troops, both in this specific conflict and in general.
2. It has a high cost in terms of negative international reaction, with immediate adverse consquences for our conduct of foreign policy.
3. It will undermine public support among critical allies, making military cooperation more difficult to sustain.
4. Europeans and others will likely have legal problems with extradition or other forms of cooperation in law enforcement, including in bringing terrorists to justice.
5. It may provoke some individual foreign prosecutors to investigate and prosecute our officials and troops.
6. It will make us more vulnerable to domestic and international legal challenge and deprive us of important legal options.

Powell argued that applying the Geneva Conventions "presents a positive international posture, preserves U.S. credibility and moral authority by taking the high ground, and puts us in a better position to demand and receive international support."

Too bad this advice wasn't followed. On Feb. 7, 2002, President Bush signed an order containing the caveat, "As a matter of policy, the United States Armed Forces shall continue to treat detainees humanely and, to the extent appropriate and consistent with military necessity, in a manner consistent with the principles of Geneva," thus opening the door for whatever treatment deemed “necessary."

In other words, the ends justify the means. I can just hear, “But it was necessary.” A nice, fascist approach.

I wonder why one conspirator goes to prison and another one is nominated to be the nation's attorney general, with little fuss about it, thus far.

Why should the Bush administration even need to hash out the legalities of the Geneva Convention, when Americans have always considered abuse of prisoners morally repugnant? An administration that prides itself on being Christian should be able to honor the Geneva Convention.

It's a question of what’s right, moral, and ethical. It's a question of who we are as Americans. Are we people who torture people who are under our control? If we are, we’re no better than Nazis.

If we think it's expedient for prisoners in U.S. hands to be tortured at Abu Ghraib, if we think it's expedient for U.S. citizens to be detained and treated as enemy combatants in Guantanamo, how far away are the gulags for you and me?

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Not One Damn Dime Day

You may well have seen this already -- it's making the e-mail rounds. I've gotten it twice already, once on my Episcopal Voice group's listserv, and once on my e-mail at work. No one seems to know where it originated, though some got so passionate about it's anti-war message, they started a Web site for it.

The movement seems to be picking up steam, despite its naysayers, and it's getting press attention from the likes of USA Today and large-city newspapers.

If you're angry at the war in Iraq, if you're disgusted with our government leaders, if you wish our religious leaders would have the guts to speak out, read on.

Oh, yeah, and don't spend one damn dime on inauguration day! It might even be a good day to fast against the war.

I'd suggest boycotting the big, right-wing friendly retailers for much longer than a day.

Here's the letter:

Since our leaders don't have the moral courage to speak out against the war in Iraq, Inauguration Day, Thursday, January 20th, 2005 is "Not One Damn Dime Day" in America.

On "Not One Damn Dime Day" those who oppose what is happening in our name in Iraq can speak up with a 24-hour national boycott of all forms of consumer spending.

During "Not One Damn Dime Day" please don't spend money, and don't use your credit card. Not one damn dime for gasoline. Not one damn dime for necessities or for impulse purchases. Nor toll/cab/bus or train ride money exchanges. Not one damn dime for anything for 24 hours.

On "Not One Damn Dime Day," please boycott Walmart, KMart and Target. Please don't go to the mall or the local convenience store. Please don't buy any fast food (or any groceries at all for that matter).

For 24 hours, please do what you can to shut the retail economy down. The object is simple. Remind the people in power that the war in Iraq is immoral and illegal; that they are responsible for starting it and that it is their responsibility to stop it.

"Not One Damn Dime Day" is to remind them, too, that they work for the people of the United States of America, not for the international corporations and K Street lobbyists who represent the corporations and funnel cash into American politics.

"Not One Damn Dime Day" is about supporting the troops. The politicians put the troops in harm's way. Now 1,200 brave young Americans and (some estimate) 100,000 Iraqis have died. The politicians owe our troops a plan -- a way to come home.

There's no rally to attend. No marching to do. No left or right wing agenda to rant about. On "Not One Damn Dime Day" you take action by doing nothing. You open your mouth by keeping your wallet closed.

For 24 hours, nothing gets spent, not one damn dime, to remind our religious leaders and our politicians of their moral responsibility to end the war in Iraq and give America back to the people.

Please share this as an email with as many people as possible, and please express your opinion at .


Tuesday, January 11, 2005


I try to slip away, like a thief in the night,
hounded by shame of what I am.
Horrified by evil abounding, human and more.
I turn away, to wander, I don't know where.

Turn away, to chase my own vision.
If I'm alone I have to do it on my own.

Are you real, do you care,
Will you help the five year old
buried under a mountain of mud?
Will you help me?
God who will not answer,
I turn away from you.

Turning away
turning, turning
until you call.

Your voice sighs on the night air.
It pursues me.
Your voice falls from the sky like dew,
It cover the hills, it surrounds me.
it comforts me
with a blanket of stars.
You call me back to you.

I hear you.
Your voice touches me.
It murmurs. It calls me.
Your voice, I hear it
and I return to you.

I pray.

--UnSaintly Pat

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Epiphany thoughts

I received this today on my Episcopal Voices listserv. It's terrific.

Go Home Another Way

You are looking for me in the wrong place.
You come looking for me in the lofty palaces of the mighty and the powerful forces that shift the plates of the earth,
but today I have been born in the shore-line stable of chaos built by the sea-hammers of destruction,
and yet you still come.
You come bearing gifts, precious, life-giving gifts.
Gold - to buy food, fresh water, clothing, medicine and shelter.
Bring your gold.
Come bring your money and resources to the cradle of poverty and devastation.

Frankincense - fragrance of prayer, rising like a phoenix from the pyre of human suffering.
Bring your frankincense.

Come bring your prayers of faith and healing to the cradle of hopelessness.

Myrrh - blessed balm, oil of anointing, touch me gently, soothe my aching, orphaned soul.
Bring your myrrh.
Come bring comfort to the cradle of grief and pain.
Look for me, bring your gifts, then go home another way,
Another way of living as neighbors,
Another way of loving one another,
Another way.

Jenny Gordon+
Victoria, Australia

Happy Epiphany! May the wisdom of those three kings who found The King of Kings be with us and our leaders this year. -- UnSaintly Pat