Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Since Ben Doesn't Have A Blog...

I got this e-mail from Ben about the lies circulating about Democrats' treatment of judicial nominees. On a personal note, I wish Bill Frist and Tom DeLay would quit talking about "people of faith." You know theyr'e doing it just for political points. They probably wouldn't know faith if it smacked them upside the head.

Ben, if you want me to take this down, let me know.

Hey y'all,

I was at a dinner at a professor's house the other day when a guest, one of the
founders of Duke's Christian Legal Society, claimed Senate Democrats filibustered 12
of Bush's nominees because they were Christians.


Senate Democrats are filibustering these people for the reason any judicial nominee
is filibustered: because of their judicial philosophy. And a number of these 12
nominees have doozy of a philosophy - "Constitution in Exile." In essence, this
philosophy holds that the following measures are unconstitutional: federal minimum
wage laws, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Endangered Species Act, other
environmental protections.....and ultimately, the welfare state itself.

Here's a (long) NY Times magazine article on the philosophy:

Here's a much shorter (though less informative) editorial about one of the nominees.

I wish I could say the woman at the proffessor's house was just a single misguided
example....but no. Senator Frist is getting ready to head up an entire publicity
campaign with the Family Research Council claiming this is all one big
anti-Christian conspiracy:

And people are going to believe them!

Some of y'all have heard me talk about how business interests have hijacked
Christianity and are manipulating Evangelicals to serve the cause of the Almighty
Dollar. But it's always been a bit abstract to me before. This is a pure example
of such manipulation.

For all my opinionated-ness, I generally try to respect those I disagree with and
see where they are coming from. But this.....this it the most blatant, gross,
slimey, manipulative, underhanded distortion of Christianity I can think of!

Words fail to express how angry I am.

- Ben

P.S. The conservatives are kicking off a nationwide publicity tour called "Justice
Sunday" this Sunday. Some liberals are countering with a "Social Justice Sunday"
We'll see if that goes anywhere.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005


And there arose a new Pharaoh over the land, who knew not Joseph...

Granted, the days of the Pope's worldly authority are long gone. Still, he has a lot of celestial authority, and he influences strongly the way a great many Catholics think about the world. Which is why I'm none too excited about the election of Joseph Ratzinger, or Benedict XVI, as the new pope.

Ratzinger is classified as being obsessed with the dangers of dissent in the Church. Of course, I come from a tradition where dissent is pretty much encouraged, so I don't see what the fuss is about. But Ratzinger's attempts to crush independent thought have already alienated North American Catholics, who are strongly influenced by Protestant ideas of personal religious experiences. If Ratzinger pushes too hard, it could get interesting.

But more worrisome are the following tidbits from the Post:

"It was Ratzinger who issued the church's forceful 2003 reminder to Catholic politicians that on the issues of marriage, abortion and euthanasia, there could be no compromise. He wrote a letter of advice to U.S. bishops on denying Communion to politicians who support abortion rights, which some observers viewed as a slam at Democratic presidential candidate John F. Kerry.

He publicly cautioned Europe against admitting Turkey to the European Union and wrote a letter to bishops around the world justifying that stand on the grounds that the continent is essentially Christian in nature."

The first suggests that Ratzinger is trying to assert his authority over worldly leaders. Only bad things can happen when a religious leader goes on an ego trip.

The second is the most disturbing of all. Ratzinger is justifying discrimination against Muslims for daring to live on a "Christian continent." Should this line of thinking extend into Benedict XVI's papacy, all the work John XXIII, Paul VI, and John Paul II did towards fostering peace between Christians and their Jewish and Muslim neighbors could be lost. I'm afraid Benedict XVI will tolerate discrimination against non-Christians in majority-Christian lands, and indeed encourage it. If so, it could make things very rough on European Muslims and Jews. (Not so much in America, where the pope has less influence over Catholics, and where Catholics are a lower percentage of the population.)

Or maybe not. A lot of European and American Catholics don't seem to revere the pope as the ultimate authority on all things anymore. If this is the case, Ratzinger's attempts to consolidate power might be transparent enough to backfire on these continents. And his lack of support for liberal political movements (compared to John Paul II, anyway) might lose him support in the Third World. Should this happen, Benedict XVI could accelerate the very trends he hopes to prevent.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Brilliant Bill

Looks like Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist is going to try to end the filibuster. This is probably the stupidest move I've ever seen a politician make.

Frist blames Democrats' obstruction of Bush's judicial nominees. But this Senate hasn't been any more obstructionist than any other Senate - indeed, Bush has got most of his appointments approved. It's only the far-right ones that run into trouble - the ones Bush shouldn't be appointing anyway. Bush, if he had the slightest respect for the judicial system, would be appointing moderates that both Democrats and Republicans could agree on.

So Bush has put Frist in a bit of a bind. He can't let the nominees die, since he'd be drawing the ire of an extremely loyalist administration (not to mention the ire of the Christian right that dominates Tennessee Republican politics). So he has to pound them through. Which leaves him with the "nuclear option" to end the filibuster.

But what a way to do it. Thanks to the savvy leadership of Harry Reid, the Democrats have all but guaranteed a Senate shutdown should Frist drop his "nuclear" bomb. So Frist, essentially, has decided to cut off his nose to spite his face.

Frist could have averted this problem earlier. First, he could have impressed upon this administration the importance of appointing moderates. Second, he could have dealt some of Bush's agenda for a judicial nominee here and there - drop the bankruptcy bill for Terrence Boyle, etc.

Should Frist go nuclear, it will lead to one of two things. The Dems already have 46 votes (McCain has voiced his opposition), and it's hard to imagine Snowe, Collins, or Chafee going along with Frist on this one. That makes 49. Should Specter defect, that's 50. One more defection and Frist has a lot of egg on his face. Should Frist succeed, however, he's stopped the Senate from getting anything done - a Pyrrhic victory that shows his weakness as a leader. Either way, look for yet another PR disaster for the Republicans.

Arrr, Matey

Sure, other schools might be more glamorous or more prestigious or whatever. But do you have The Pirate Captain? I think not.

Also, given this administration's policy on terror, somebody please tell my why terrorist Eric Rudolph, who recently pled guilty to a series of bombings from 1996 to 1998, isn't being detained at Guantanamo without a lawyer and tortured...

Monday, April 11, 2005

NC Business Leaders Invent A New Crisis

Not content with fabricating one crisis out of thin air, conservatives are creating another. This time it's the worker's compensation program.

Most of us - except for the hard-core corporatists out there - probably agree that worker's comp is a pretty good system. When someone gets injured on the job, the company pays a partial salary while the worker rehabilitates and finds a new job. If the injury is extremely debilitating, companies pay a permanent benefit. And it's valuable. Readers of Fast Food Nation will recognize how important worker's comp is for slaughterhouse workers, who work an extremely dangerous job made even more dangerous by the high throughput demanded by corporate culture and Americans' hamburger taste.

The system already has a few checks. For example, if substance abuse led to the injury, no compensation must be paid. And yet NC State Senator David Hoyle, a Gaston County Democrat (!), thinks it needs "fixing."

Hoyle's proposal has a few parts. First, it would use any positive alcohol or drug test as proof of impairment. Second, it would cap awards at 500 weeks (not quite 10 years) for non-life-altering injuries. Third, it would allow corporations to check the medical records of a worker's comp recipient.

The third is the most absurd - and easiest to dismantle - of the bunch. One's medical records shouldn't be invaded by anybody, least of all by a corporation who might want to "encourage" certain medical decisions. Aside from being an invasion of privacy, then, it would open the door to corruption.

The first is also a bit draconian (even by Hoyle's own admission). A drug/alcohol test is generally not administered right after the injury occurs, so how will anyone know if the test accurately reflects the worker's condition at the time of the injury?

It's the second that promises to be the main point of contention of the bill, and the one that looks most reasonable to outsiders. Ten years should be long enough for anyone without a life-altering injury to recover and find new work, right? Anyone who doesn't, therefore, must be cheating the system.

We'll ignore the fact that the system hasn't caused any businesses much difficulty - a fact that even Hoyle understands. The argument that the system is broken hinges on an idea that people don't want to find work and be self-sufficient. This is a complete misunderstanding of the American psyche - we are taught from an early age about the intrinsic value of a hard day's work. The simple truth is that most people who are on worker's comp for ten or more years can't find a job.

Take, for example, a manual laborer who gets a rotator-cuff injury. Certainly such a person could not do manual labor again. Such a person would need to find work in a different sector - but due to modern hiring practices, this is often very difficult, especially for someone with a high-school education. They could take vocational courses, but that requires money not possessed by our laborer. In short, our laborer is stuck in a sector that requires work he is no longer able to perform, and remains years from retirement and Social Security.

This is the kind of person Hoyle's bill would hurt. I don't think that's an acceptable cost for reforming a system that doesn't need fixing.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Great Moments in World History

In 1973, a group of Ojibwe (Anishinabe) Indians led by Adam Nordwall flew to Rome and discovered Italy. They proceeded to claim the peninsula for the Ojibwes. Sadly, they gave it back two days later.

My references for this are piecemeal, so Google it if you want to learn more. Either way, it's a great slap in the face of the Columbophiles out there.