Archive - Sep 2006
Here's what happens when this irresponsible Congress railroads a profoundly important bill to serve the mindless politics of a midterm election: The Bush administration uses Republicans' fear of losing their majority to push through ghastly ideas about antiterrorism that will make American troops less safe and do lasting damage to our 217-year-old nation of laws - while actually doing nothing to protect the nation from terrorists. Democrats betray their principles to avoid last-minute attack ads. Our democracy is the big loser...
These are some of the bill's biggest flaws:
Enemy Combatants: A dangerously broad definition of "illegal enemy combatant" in the bill could subject legal residents of the United States, as well as foreign citizens living in their own countries, to summary arrest and indefinite detention with no hope of appeal. The president could give the power to apply this label to anyone he wanted.
The Geneva Conventions: The bill would repudiate a half-century of international precedent by allowing Mr. Bush to decide on his own what abusive interrogation methods he considered permissible. And his decision could stay secret - there's no requirement that this list be published.
Habeas Corpus: Detainees in U.S. military prisons would lose the basic right to challenge their imprisonment. These cases do not clog the courts, nor coddle terrorists. They simply give wrongly imprisoned people a chance to prove their innocence.
Judicial Review: The courts would have no power to review any aspect of this new system, except verdicts by military tribunals. The bill would limit appeals and bar legal actions based on the Geneva Conventions, directly or indirectly. All Mr. Bush would have to do to lock anyone up forever is to declare him an illegal combatant and not have a trial.
Coerced Evidence: Coerced evidence would be permissible if a judge considered it reliable - already a contradiction in terms - and relevant. Coercion is defined in a way that exempts anything done before the passage of the 2005 Detainee Treatment Act, and anything else Mr. Bush chooses.
Secret Evidence: American standards of justice prohibit evidence and testimony that is kept secret from the defendant, whether the accused is a corporate executive or a mass murderer. But the bill as redrafted by Mr. Cheney seems to weaken protections against such evidence.
Offenses: The definition of torture is unacceptably narrow, a virtual reprise of the deeply cynical memos the administration produced after 9/11. Rape and sexual assault are defined in a retrograde way that covers only forced or coerced activity, and not other forms of nonconsensual sex. The bill would effectively eliminate the idea of rape as torture.
The measure's most disputed provision would block foreign prisoners held by the military from turning to the federal courts to end their imprisonment. By preventing detainees from challenging their confinement in court, it sets up a potential constitutional conflict before the Supreme Court...
"This legislation will give the president the tools he needs to protect American lives without compromising our core democratic values," Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) said.
But some lawmakers, Republicans as well as Democrats, called the move to suspend habeas corpus - the demand for legal justification of one's imprisonment - a historic mistake, and one that could cause the entire bill to be struck down.
"This is wrong; it is unconstitutional; it is un-American," said Sen. Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee.
The judiciary panel's chairman, Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), said, "Surely as we are standing here, if this bill is passed and habeas corpus is stricken, we'll be back on this floor again" grappling with a future ruling against it by the Supreme Court.
Still, Specter was one of 53 Republicans who joined 12 Democrats in voting for the final bill. Leahy was among 32 Democrats who opposed it, along with one independent and one Republican - Sen. Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, who is locked in a tough fight for reelection in his Democratic-leaning state.
Without compromising our democratic values, Sen. Coburn? What a joke. Last night I watched the first half of "On Native Soil," the "documentary of the 9/11 commission report" which aired recently on courtTV.
I learned some things I didn't know...e.g., that the port authority, responsible for the WTC, had no plan for rescuing people trapped on floors above a fire and that people in the second tower who tried to leave after the first tower was hit were told to go back to their offices. It was so sad seeing the elderly couple talk about the phone call from their son just before UA Flight 175 hit the second tower. It's tragic that such a horrible event has led to so much more tragedy (hundreds of thousand of dead civilians in Iraq and Americans justifying torture).
From an article of the same title by Caryle Murphy in The Washington Post:
[Brian] McLaren has emerged as one of the most prominent voices in an increasingly active group of progressive evangelicals who are challenging the theological orthodoxy and political dominance of the religious right. He also is an intellectual guru of "emerging church," a grass-roots movement among young evangelicals exploring new models of living out their Christian faith.
Progressives, who range from 11 to 36 percent of all evangelicals, according to various polls, are still overshadowed by the Christian right among evangelicals. But the steady popularity of McLaren's books over the past eight years signals an expanding diversity of thought in this important political constituency.
McLaren, 50, offers an evangelical vision that emphasizes tolerance and social justice. He contends that people can follow Jesus's way without becoming Christian. In the latest of his eight books, "The Secret Message of Jesus," which has sold 55,000 copies since its April release, he argues that Christians should be more concerned about creating a just "Kingdom of God" on earth than about getting into heaven.
Along with such other progressive evangelicals as Washington-based anti-poverty activist Jim Wallis and educator Tony Campolo, McLaren is openly critical of the conservative political agenda favored by many evangelicals.
"When we present Jesus as a pro-war, anti-poor, anti-homosexual, anti-environment, pro-nuclear weapons authority figure draped in an American flag, I think we are making a travesty of the portrait of Jesus we find in the gospels," McLaren said in a recent interview...
What makes McLaren's ideas attractive to progressive evangelicals appalls the more numerous conservatives. Noting that he fails to condemn homosexuality, one conservative Web site called him "A True Son of Lucifer" for ignoring "absolute biblical truth." And last year, Baptists in Kentucky revoked a speaking invitation after McLaren said that followers of Jesus might not be the only ones to gain salvation.
"If you have some person or movement coming along calling into question the non-negotiables of Christianity, then those who espouse Christianity find such a challenge dangerous," said Donald A. Carson, professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Illinois, who has criticized McLaren's theology...
Emerging church" is a loose network of mostly young evangelicals who believe the Christian message needs to be made more relevant in a time of rapid technological and societal change, particularly to those who've never been part of any church. Participants refer to their interaction as a "conversation," much of which takes place on the Internet at sites such as http://www.emergentvillage.com and blogs such as pomomusings.com.
"We are questioning a lot of presuppositions of conventional Christians: What should a church look like? How do we really understand Scripture in a modern context?" said Tony Jones, the conversation's national coordinator. "To conservatives, we seem like relativists, and to liberals, we seem like Jesus freaks."
From an op-ed piece in USA Today by Jonah Goldberg:
There's no substitute for a good pope. What other religious leader can start a global argument about theology? The Dalai Lama? Perhaps. The archbishop of Canterbury? Doubtful. Pat Robertson? Please.
Notice how the pope doesn't have a Muslim counterpart to "dialogue" with. It's the pope vs. 10,000 imams, scholars and other self-anointed spokesmen for Islam. It's a bit like Gulliver vs. the Lilliputians.
So, where is the Muslim pope? This question isn't often asked in the West. Particularly among left-leaning scholars of Islam, the search has been on for a "Muslim Martin Luther."...
This quest for a Muslim Luther centered on the understandable hope that such a person could reform Islam toward liberalization and modernization, just as Luther supposedly did in Europe. The problem is he did no such thing. His gripe with Roman Catholicism wasn't that it was too reactionary and rigid, but just the opposite. He thought the church had become too worldly and licentious, selling "indulgences" â€” or divine do-overs â€” to the highest bidder and the like.
The early Protestants were hardly "moderates" and, normally, secular liberals are keen to make this point. When was the last time you heard a Western liberal pine for a return of Puritanism? Luther and his immediate successors were true believers. And, while enormous theological and historical differences shouldn't be overlooked, today's Islamic fundamentalists have quite a bit in common with these religious crusaders...
Today, Islam is chockablock with Muslim Luthers claiming to have a monopoly on the Quran's true meaning. Murderers can shop around for a fatwa endorsing the most horrific â€” and technically un-Islamic â€” barbarism like junkies searching for a corrupt doctor with a prescription pad for hire.
No, what the Muslim world needs is a pope. Large, old institutions such as the Catholic Church have the "worldliness" to value flexibility and tolerance, and the moral and theological authority to clamp down on those who see compromise as heresy. Pope Clement XIV's famous, or infamous, suppression of Jesuits in 1773 might be an example of both qualities. The Ottoman Empire played a similar, if imperfect, role before its demise. In its absence, Islamic Lilliputians run amok. Ironically, Muslims don't want this divisiveness. The jihadists strive to restore the caliphate as an Islamist thousand-year Reich. But even the moderates long for unity among the Islamic nations. They might one day forge the sort of compromise we in the West reached, but the road map there isn't well illuminated by our past.
From an article of the same title in The Week on September 22, 2006:
Warning of an imminent bloodbath in the Darfur region of Sudan, tens of thousands of protesters in New York, London, and other cities this week demanded immediate U.N. intervention. Several world leaders joined the call for U.N. action. The Security Council last month agreed to dispatch 22,500 peacekeepers to Darfur, contingent on the permission of the Sudan government in Khartoum. But the government, which has launched a brutal offensive against rebel groups, opposes U.N. involvement...
The U.S. must take the lead, said Sen. John McCain and former Sen. Bob Dole in The Washington Post. We could start by imposing economic sanctions and creating a no-fly zone over Darfur. But we should also make it clear that if these measures fail, military intervention will follow. "The question is whether the United States and other nations will act now to prevent a tragedy, or merely express sorrow and act later to deal with its aftermath."
The article by McCain and Dole in The Washington Post is here. A quote:
The scale of human destruction thus far in Sudan has been staggering. Already, more than 200,000 civilians have been killed, with perhaps 2.5 million forced into squalid camps. This catastrophe is the result of a directed slaughter perpetrated by the Sudanese government and allied Janjaweed militias...
As with Srebrenica in 1995, the potential for further mass killing in Darfur today is plain for all to see. All the warnings have been issued, including one from the United Nations that the coming weeks may see "a man-made catastrophe of an unprecedented scale." What remains unclear is only whether the world has the will to impose an outcome on Sudan different from that which unfolded so tragically in Bosnia. Make no mistake: At some point we will step in to help victims in Darfur and police an eventual settlement. The question is whether the United States and other nations will act now to prevent a tragedy, or merely express sorrow and act later to deal with its aftermath.
From an article titled "Legendary golfer Byron Nelson, a faithful church member, dies at 94" from The Christian Chronicle:
Legendary golfer Byron Nelson, a lifelong Church of Christ member known as much for his gentlemanly conduct as his 52 PGA Tour victories, died today at age 94.
Nelson died at his Roanoke, Texas, home early this afternoon, according to the Tarrant County Medical Examiner.
"We've lost a great man today," Abilene Christian University President Royce Money said of Nelson, a former ACU trustee who long supported the university's golf program. "Byron Nelson was a wonderful Christian example whose life had a profound and lasting impact on everyone he met."
Nicknamed "Lord Byron," Nelson established one of the most enduring records in sports when he won 11 straight tournaments â€” and a total of 18 â€” in his remarkable 1945 season.