Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Sierra Club Rejoices Christmas Gift from Senate Democrats

Released today by the Sierra Club....


In an against-all-odds victory for wildlife, wild places and all Americans, the Senate today rebuffed attempts to attach controversial provisions to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to the Defense spending bill.

"Drilling proponents have pulled out all the stops, and tried every trick in their playbook to open up the Arctic Refuge to no avail," said Carl Pope, Sierra Club Executive Director. "This is a tremendous victory for all Americans and proof positive that the fate of the Arctic Refuge must be debated on its merits, not as part of a sneak attack."

Drilling proponents have now failed to include Arctic drilling on energy, budget and defense bills. The deplorable effort to link Arctic drilling to funding for America’s troops and Hurricane Katrina relief, led by Senator Ted Stevens (R-AK) and bolstered by intense lobbying from the Bush administration, failed in a cloture vote 44-56 (cloture requires 60 votes).

"We applaud those Senators who refused to let drilling proponents manipulate them and the democratic process," said Pope. "Today’s vote reaffirmed the Senate’s role as a deliberative body, not a place where unrelated and controversial issues are tacked on to any bill without debate and at the whim of special interests."

Senator Stevens -- the man who brought us the $450 million "bridges to nowhere" -- tried to bully the Senate into passing a bill that benefits his state and the oil industry at the expense of all Americans.

"This year the oil industry squeezed Americans at the gas pump to the tune of billions in record profits, carved out billions more in government subsidies, and then lied to Congress. Senator Stevens held defense spending and hurricane relief hostage to help Big Oil out," said Pope. "Today the Senate gave the oil industry and Stevens the lump of coal they deserved. We will remain vigilant as those who would plunder the Arctic Refuge for short-term gain are clearly willing to try anything regardless of cost."

"Americans want real energy solutions that protect special places like the Arctic Refuge. Today that message was heard loud and clear," said Pope. "Drilling proponents tried every excuse, but Americans know that Arctic drilling would not put a dent in our dependence on foreign oil, would do nothing to strengthen our national security, and would not save consumers money at the pump."

A recent report from the U.S. Department of Energy’s own Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates that even 20 years down the road, when Arctic Refuge oil would be at or near peak production, gas prices would only be affected by about a penny per gallon.

The United States sits on just 3 % of the world's known petroleum reserves. Government estimates indicate that there is less than a year’s supply of oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and even the oil industry admits it would take 10 years to make it to US markets.

(Read my other political site at US Liberals at

Sunday, December 18, 2005

2005 Persons of the Year: Time Magazine Places Compassion Over Politics

Praise God for Time magazine's public recognition of compassion over politics.

My prayer is that it inspires a new public movement within the United States, the wealthiest country in the history of the world, to reach out to the world's poor, hungry, homeless, uneducated and ill, both at home and abroad.

My pledge, and 2006 resolution, is to actively do my part.

Time Honors Bill and Melinda Gates, Bono by Desmond Butler, Associated Press Writer

Time magazine has named Bill and Melinda Gates and rock star Bono its "Persons of the Year," citing their charitable work and activism aimed at reducing global poverty and improving world health.

The magazine said 2005 was a year of extraordinary charity in which people donated record amounts in response to extreme natural disasters, from the tsunami in South Asia to Hurricane Katrina.

"Natural disasters are terrible things, but there is a different kind of ongoing calamity in poverty and nobody is doing a better job in addressing it in different ways than Bill and Melinda Gates and Bono," said Jim Kelly, Time's managing editor.

The 2005 "Person of the Year" package hits newsstands Monday.

"For being shrewd about doing good, for rewiring politics and re-engineering justice, for making mercy smarter and hope strategic and then daring the rest of us to follow, Bill and Melinda Gates and Bono are Time's Persons of the Year," the magazine said.

Time praised the Gateses for building the world's largest charity — The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which has a $29 billion endowment — and for "giving more money away faster than anyone ever has" in 2005.

The foundation has saved at least 700,000 lives in poor countries by investing in vaccination programs, has donated computers and Internet access to 11,000 libraries and has sponsored the biggest scholarship fund in history, the magazine said.

Time said Bono's campaign to make rich countries address the debt of poorer ones has had an equally impressive impact on the world. In 2005, "Bono charmed and bullied and morally blackmailed the leaders of the world's richest countries into forgiving $40 billion in debt owed by the poorest," the magazine said.

Bono has earned a remarkable number of political allies around the world and in Washington, where he has courted politicians from both major parties, Time said.

"Bono's great gift is to take what has made him famous — charm, clarity of voice, an ability to touch people in their secret heart — combine those traits with a keen grasp of the political game and obsessive attention to detail, and channel it all toward getting everyone, from world leaders to music lovers, to engage with something overwhelming in its complexity," it said.

Even archconservative former Sen. Jesse Helms had praise for the Irish singer.

"I knew as soon as I met Bono that he was genuine," Helms, who has allied with Bono on AIDS awareness, told Time.

Bono, who first met the Gateses in 2002 to discuss their mutual interests, told Time that the Gates foundation is the second enterprise for Microsoft founder Bill Gates that has changed the world. "And the second act for Bill Gates may be the one that history regards more," the rock star said.

In a separate article in the same edition, Time named former presidents Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush as "Partners of the Year" for their work on behalf of the victims of the tsunami and Hurricane Katrina.

(Also see my site at US Liberals at, a New York Times Company)

Monday, December 12, 2005

George Bush Lives in a Dome, Not a Bubble!

From Reuters today.....

"U.S. President George W. Bush said on Monday that he does not live 'in a bubble' and that he is well aware of what is going on outside the White House, rejecting critics' claims that he is out of touch with public opinion. 'I don't feel in a bubble,' Bush said in an interview on "NBC Nightly News....

'Every morning I look at the newspaper,' Bush told NBC. 'I can't say I've read every single article in the newspaper. But, I definitely know what's in the news.' "

Bubble? A light, transparent, frothy bubble that pops, thusly revealing reality?

No, I never thought George Bush lived in a bubble.

More like the stubbornly impenetrable, intransparent, circa-1980 dome at Disney's EPCOT Center in Florida, the birth state of his illegitimate presidency.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

What Is Conveyed by a Forced "Merry Christmas" ?

If Christians insist on others greeting them in a specific fashion in order to help the Christians hold onto their own faith, then it's not much of a deeply-held faith.

If Christians insist on others greeting them in a specific fashion in order to teach those others, what the Christians have taught others is inflexibility, narrow-mindedness, self-absorption and anger during a sacred season.
A tongue-in-cheek New York Times op-ed from today.....

O Fight, All Ye Faithful by JOHN TIERNEY

'Tis the season when even the most blasé agnostic finds something special to fight about. But the Christmas battles are so complicated this year that you may be reluctant to join.
Don't let that happen. Honor the season. To get in the holiday spirit, you just need to arm yourself with the answers to a few basic questions:

Where is the "war on Christmas" being fought?

On many fronts. Retailers and politicians refer to fatally wounded evergreens as "holiday trees." The White House has sent out cards wishing a happy "holiday season," incurring the wrath of conservatives worried that secularists are "taking Christ out of Christmas." And the White Witch has cast Narnia into perpetual winter without Christmas, an assault not only on Santa Claus but on ecosystems vulnerable to climate change.

Is there any link between the White Witch and the White House?

Nothing proven, but Patrick Fitzgerald is still investigating the "Turkish Delight Connection."

Why do some Christians object to the term "holiday tree"?

Because it hides the ancient link between the tree and Christianity, found in an original Christmas gospel:

And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon shepherds abiding in the field, and the angel said unto them: "I bring you tidings of great joy. On this Christmas go forth and smite a mighty tree, a Norway spruce with pleasing boughs, and place it in your home, and adorn it with candles and red balls and strands of silver."

And the shepherds were sore afraid and said unto the angel: "What is this spruce you speak of? What is Norway? Wouldst thou allow a small palm tree?"

And the angel said: "Whatever. Only place on its highest point a star of gold, or, better yet, an angel."

Please note, the angel did not call it a holiday tree.

Is that "original Christmas gospel" in the New Testament?

No, but never mind where it comes from. That's the kind of cynicism that's ruining Christmas. As a matter of historical fact, people in the ancient Middle East did put greenery inside their homes in December.

To celebrate the birth of Jesus?

The Egyptians put date palm leaves into their homes to celebrate the return of the sun at the solstice. Romans honored the god of farming with evergreens and gifts during the Saturnalia, their weeklong solstice festival.

Did the Romans say "Happy Holidays" to one another?

No, the traditional greeting was, "Io, Saturnalia" (the first word was pronounced "yo"), which meant roughly, "Ho, praise to Saturn." Scholars suggest that the date of Christmas was picked in the fourth century to coincide with the Roman holiday.

Did Roman pagans complain that Christians were taking Saturn out of Saturnalia?

Perhaps, but in those days there were no conservative all-news channels. The pagans in northern Europe must have complained about their traditional Yule solstice festival. Christians not only co-opted customs like burning a Yule log, but also turned Yule into a synonym for Christmas.

They took the Yule out of Yule?
And put it into Christmas. For all we know, some Norse lumber merchants tried appeasing both pagans and Christians by marketing "holiday logs," but the term didn't stick.

Why are today's Christians having such a hard time holding on to Christmas?

In some cases because of ridiculous political correctness, like not allowing the singing of traditional Christmas carols in public schools. But it's mainly because they're up against retailers who don't want to offend their many non-Christian customers. That old seasonal admonition of good will to all means more sales.

Does the moral fable of Narnia offer any way to resolve these religious differences over Christmas?

Yes. The pro-Christmas side forms an army and destroys the opposition.

Are there any other ways?

Well, non-Christians could tolerate a few Christmas traditions, and Christians could recognize they're not the only group in the mood for lights and festivities on long December nights.

So what's the right greeting?

If you want be safe - or sell anything - go with "Happy Holidays." Otherwise, say anything you want.

What's your choice?

Yo, Saturnalia!

Sunday, December 04, 2005

The Christian Materialism Movement and "Merry Christmas" at Malls

There's name now for this new, odd phenomenon.....the Christian Materialism movement. Wikipedia, the widely respected, online encyclopedia, defines it as follows:

"Christian materialism is the combination of the theology, concepts, and holy writings of Christianity with the philosophy of materialism, which places primary importance on material objects and their interrelationships.

Historically, materialism and Christianity have generally been at odds. This is due on the one hand to anti-materialist passages in
Christian scripture; and on the other to the denial by most materialist thinkers of the existence of the kinds of spiritual realities that were fundamental to the traditional Christian church....

...Christian Materialism quietly emerged from the earlier 'fundamentalist' movement in the late twentieth century, in a bold takeover that went largely unnoticed outside the religious community. The key to the worldview was the development of a Mechanism that closely paralleled that of Materialism (in order to compete effectively with Materialism).

The explicit goal of the resulting movement was to reverse the social decline that had accompanied the rise of Individualism and the breakdown of traditional communities. In order to do this, however, it sacrificed the spirituality and Christian Idealism that had become a drag on the popularity of Christianity, and embraced the tenets of Materialism.

The final step marking the change from fundamentalism to Christian Materialism was a cross-pollination of evangelical ministry and capitalist marketing techniques. To support this, a set of new consumer goods was created that paralleled mainstream consumer goods, but with a (often uneasily) grafted-on Christian message.

This was the root of the emergence of Christian rock, Christian heavy metal and Christian rap, as part of a deliberate effort to shift popular trends in teenage culture wholesale into an alternate, Christian universe."


An editorial observer column from the December 4, 2005 New York Times.....

This Season's War Cry: Commercialize Christmas, or Else by Adam Cohen

Religious conservatives have a cause this holiday season: the commercialization of Christmas. They're for it.

The American Family Association is leading a boycott of Target for not using the words "Merry Christmas" in its advertising. (Target denies it has an anti-Merry-Christmas policy.) The Catholic League boycotted Wal-Mart in part over the way its Web site treated searches for "Christmas." Bill O'Reilly, the Fox anchor who last year started a "Christmas Under Siege" campaign, has a chart on his Web site of stores that use the phrase "Happy Holidays," along with a poll that asks, "Will you shop at stores that do not say 'Merry Christmas'?"

This campaign - which is being hyped on Fox and conservative talk radio - is an odd one.

Christmas remains ubiquitous, and with its celebrators in control of the White House, Congress, the Supreme Court and every state supreme court and legislature, it hardly lacks for powerful supporters. There is also something perverse, when Christians are being jailed for discussing the Bible in Saudi Arabia and slaughtered in Sudan, about spending so much energy on stores that sell "holiday trees."

What is less obvious, though, is that Christmas's self-proclaimed defenders are rewriting the holiday's history. They claim that the "traditional" American Christmas is under attack by what John Gibson, another Fox anchor, calls "professional atheists" and "Christian haters."

But America has a complicated history with Christmas, going back to the Puritans, who despised it. What the boycotters are doing is not defending America's Christmas traditions, but creating a new version of the holiday that fits a political agenda.

The Puritans considered Christmas un-Christian, and hoped to keep it out of America. They could not find Dec. 25 in the Bible, their sole source of religious guidance, and insisted that the date derived from Saturnalia, the Roman heathens' wintertime celebration. On their first Dec. 25 in the New World, in 1620, the Puritans worked on building projects and ostentatiously ignored the holiday. From 1659 to 1681 Massachusetts went further, making celebrating Christmas "by forbearing of labor, feasting or in any other way" a crime.

The concern that Christmas distracted from religious piety continued even after Puritanism waned. In 1827, an Episcopal bishop lamented that the Devil had stolen Christmas "and converted it into a day of worldly festivity, shooting and swearing." Throughout the 1800's, many religious leaders were still trying to hold the line. As late as 1855, New York newspapers reported that Presbyterian, Baptist and Methodist churches were closed on Dec. 25 because "they do not accept the day as a Holy One." On the eve of the Civil War, Christmas was recognized in just 18 states.

Christmas gained popularity when it was transformed into a domestic celebration, after the publication of Clement Clarke Moore's "Visit from St. Nicholas" and Thomas Nast's Harper's Weekly drawings, which created the image of a white-bearded Santa who gave gifts to children. The new emphasis lessened religious leaders' worries that the holiday would be given over to drinking and swearing, but it introduced another concern: commercialism. By the 1920's, the retail industry had adopted Christmas as its own, sponsoring annual ceremonies to kick off the "Christmas shopping season."

Religious leaders objected strongly. The Christmas that emerged had an inherent tension: merchants tried to make it about buying, while clergymen tried to keep commerce out. A 1931 Times roundup of Christmas sermons reported a common theme: "the suggestion that Christmas could not survive if Christ were thrust into the background by materialism." A 1953 Methodist sermon broadcast on NBC - typical of countless such sermons - lamented that Christmas had become a "profit-seeking period."

This ethic found popular expression in "A Charlie Brown Christmas." In the 1965 TV special, Charlie Brown ignores Lucy's advice to "get the biggest aluminum tree you can find" and her assertion that Christmas is "a big commercial racket," and finds a more spiritual way to observe the day.

This year's Christmas "defenders" are not just tolerating commercialization - they're insisting on it. They are also rewriting Christmas history on another key point: non-Christians' objection to having the holiday forced on them.

The campaign's leaders insist this is a new phenomenon - a "liberal plot," in Mr. Gibson's words. But as early as 1906, the Committee on Elementary Schools in New York City urged that Christmas hymns be banned from the classroom, after a boycott by more than 20,000 Jewish students. In 1946, the Rabbinical Assembly of America declared that calling on Jewish children to sing Christmas carols was "an infringement on their rights as Americans."

Other non-Christians have long expressed similar concerns. For decades, companies have replaced "Christmas parties" with "holiday parties," schools have adopted "winter breaks" instead of "Christmas breaks," and TV stations and stores have used phrases like "Happy Holidays" and "Season's Greetings" out of respect for the nation's religious diversity.

The Christmas that Mr. O'Reilly and his allies are promoting - one closely aligned with retailers, with a smack-down attitude toward nonobservers - fits with their campaign to make America more like a theocracy, with Christian displays on public property and Christian prayer in public schools.

It does not, however, appear to be catching on with the public. That may be because most Americans do not recognize this commercialized, mean-spirited Christmas as their own. Of course, it's not even clear the campaign's leaders really believe in it.

Just a few days ago, Fox News's online store was promoting its "Holiday Collection" for shoppers. Among the items offered to put under a "holiday tree" was "The O'Reilly Factor Holiday Ornament." After bloggers pointed this out, Fox changed the "holidays" to "Christmases."

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Actor-Activist Tim Robbins Disses Hillary's "Ridiculous" Statement on Iraq

This morning, actor and liberal activist Tim Robbins lashed out (on AIR AMERICA'S 'Morning Sedition') about Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton's recent statement on why she voted for the Iraq War, but well, didn't exactly, really mean it........."Hillary Clinton can kiss my butt... That ridiculous, ridiculous statement she's made on Iraq."

So you can judge for yourself, here's Hillary's complete statement on the War in Iraq, which I received a day or two ago. It's a political masterpiece in CYA-ing, clever double-speak and convenient history revision.

(I've read it twice, and still have little grasp of what she's saying. As a writer, though, I'm a tad amazed at her excessive overuse of "I." Extreme overuse of "I" is the sure sign of a narcissist.)

November 29, 2005

Dear Friend,

The war in Iraq is on the minds of many of you who have written or who have calledmy office asking questions and expressing frustration. When the President addresses the nation tomorrow on the war, the American people want and deserve to know how we got there, why we are still there, how we have executed the war and what we should do now. In short, the President must explain his plan for the war in Iraq.

There are no quick and easy solutions to the long and drawn out conflict this Administration triggered that consumes a billion dollars a week, involves 150,000 American troops, and has cost thousands of American lives.

I do not believe that we should allow this to be an open-ended commitment without limits or end. Nor do I believe that we can or should pull out of Iraq immediately. I believe we are at a critical point with the December 15th elections that should,if successful, allow us to start bringing home our troops in the coming year, while leaving behind a smaller contingent in safer areas with greater intelligence and quick strike capabilities. This will advance our interests, help fight terrorism and protect the interests of the Iraqi people.

In October 2002, I voted for the resolution to authorize the Administration to use force in Iraq. I voted for it on the basis of the evidence presented by theAdministration, assurances they gave that they would first seek to resolve the issueof weapons of mass destruction peacefully through United Nations sponsored inspections, and the argument that the resolution was needed because Saddam Hussein never did anything to comply with his obligations that he was not forced to do.

Their assurances turned out to be empty ones, as the Administration refused repeatedrequests from the U.N. inspectors to finish their work. And the "evidence" of weapons of mass destruction and links to al Qaeda turned out to be false.

Based on the information that we have today, Congress never would have been asked to give the President authority to use force against Iraq. And if Congress had been asked, based on what we know now, we never would have agreed, given the lack of a long-term plan, paltry international support, the proven absence of weapons of mass destruction, and the reallocation of troops and resources that might have been used in Afghanistan to eliminate Bin Laden and al Qaeda, and fully uproot the Taliban.

Before I voted in 2002, the Administration publicly and privately assured me that they intended to use their authority to build international support in order to get the U.N. weapons inspectors back into Iraq, as articulated by the President in his Cincinnati speech on October 7th, 2002. As I said in my October 2002 floor statement, I took "the President at his word that he will try hard to pass a U.N.resolution and will seek to avoid war, if at all possible."

Instead, the Bush Administration short-circuited the U.N. inspectors - the last line of defense against the possibility that our intelligence was false. TheAdministration also abandoned securing a larger international coalition, alienating many of those who had joined us in Afghanistan.

From the start of the war, I have been clear that I believed that the Administration did not have an adequate plan for what lay ahead. I take responsibility for my vote, and I, along with a majority of Americans, expect the President and his Administration to take responsibility for the false assurances, faulty evidence and mismanagement of the war.

Given years of assurances that the war was nearly over and that the insurgents were in their "last throes," this Administration was either not being honest with theAmerican people or did not know what was going on in Iraq.

As a member of the Armed Services Committee, I heard General Eric Shinseki, the Army Chief of Staff, tell us that it would take several hundred thousand troops to stabilize Iraq. He was subsequently mocked and marginalized by the BushAdministration.

In October 2003, I said "In the last year, however, I have been first perplexed, then surprised, then amazed, and even outraged and always frustrated by theimplementation of the authority given the President by this Congress" and "Time andtime again, the Administration has had the opportunity to level with the American people. Unfortunately, they haven't been willing to do that."

I have continually raised doubts about the President's claims, lack of planning and execution of the war, while standing firmly in support of our troops. After my first trip to Iraq in November 2003, I returned troubled by the policies ofthe Administration and faulted the President for failing to level with the American public.

At the Council on Foreign Relations, I chided the President for failing to bring in enough international partners to quell the insurgency.I spoke out often at the Armed Services Committee to Administration officials pointing out that the estimates they provided about the war, its length and costlacked even basic credibility.

And I challenged Secretary Rumsfeld more than once that he had no benchmarks to measure actual progress which would lead us to believe we had a strategy that was working.

Last month, I signed a letter with Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid and dozens ofother Democratic Senators voicing strong concerns that, without a solid plan, Iraqcould become what it was not before the war: a haven for radical Islamist terrorists determined to attack America, our allies and our interests. The letter asked the Administration "to immediately provide a strategy for success in order to prevent this outcome."

Just a few weeks ago, I joined a bipartisan majority in the United States Senate in voting for an amendment to the Defense Authorization bill calling upon the President and his Administration to provide answers and a plan for the war.

It is time for the President to stop serving up platitudes and present us with a plan for finishing this war with success and honor – not a rigid timetable that terrorists can exploit, but a public plan for winning and concluding the war. And it is past time for the President, Vice President, or anyone else associated with them to stop impugning the patriotism of their critics.

Criticism of this Administration's policies should not in any way be confused with softness against terrorists, inadequate support for democracy or lack of patriotism.I am grateful to the men and women of our armed forces and have been honored to meetthem twice in Iraq. They honor our country every day with their courage, selfless dedication, and success in battle.

I am also grateful to the thousands of unknown men and women in our security forces and around the world who have been fighting thelarger war against terrorism, finding terrorists’ cells, arresting them and workingto prevent future attacks. And I applaud the brave people who have been riskingtheir lives every day to bring democracy and peace to Afghanistan and Iraq.

I recently returned from visiting Israel and Jordan, seeing first hand the tragedyof spreading terrorism. As a New York Senator, I believe New York has a special bond with the victims of such terrorism, and we understand both the need to fight terrorism and the need for a clear plan in Iraq so that we can focus our resources in the right ways to prevent it from again reaching our shores.

America has a big job to do now. We must set reasonable goals to finish what westarted and successfully turn over Iraqi security to Iraqis. We must deny terrorists the prize they are now seeking in Iraq. We must repair the damage done to ourreputation. We must reform our intelligence system so we never go to war on false premises again. We must repair the breach with the Muslim world. And we must continue to fight terrorism wherever it exists.

Like all Americans, I hope the Iraqi elections are a true expression of democracy,one that is committed to majority rule, minority rights, women's rights, and thebasic rule of law. I hope these elections will finally put the Iraqi people on theroad to real security and independence.

If these elections succeed, we should be able to start drawing down our troops, butwe should also plan to continue to help secure the country and the region with a smaller footprint on an as-needed basis. I call on the President both for such aplan and for a full and honest accounting of the failures of intelligence –something we owe not only to those killed and wounded and their families, but to all Americans.

We have to continue the fight against terrorism and make sure we apply America'sbest values and effective strategies in making our world and country a better and safer place. We have to do what is right and smart in the war against terrorists and pursuit of democracy and security. That means repudiating torture which undermines America's values. That means reforming intelligence and its use by decision makers. That means rejecting the Administration's doctrine of preemptive war and their preference to going it alone rather than building real international support.

I know when America leads with its values and fearlessly faces the facts, we make the best decisions. That is what is missing at the highest levels of our government,and what we desperately need now – answers to the questions about Iraq that only the President can provide.

I hope he will level with the American people and provide us those answers in his Annapolis speech and give us the plan that has been sorelylacking.

Sincerely yours,
Hillary Rodham Clinton