Independent Christian Voice

Friday

Follow-up to religious school flyer issue

Winterhawk posted this update this morning:

This morning at 7:45 the school’s principle called. He apologized that he did not return our call yesterday, he had a student who did not get picked up by his parents and he was dealing with that beyond 5pm. I will take him at his word even though there was no answer at 4:30pm.

He apologized for the incident and said he was unaware that the flier went home. He said he would begin looking into the source of the paper and get back to us as soon as he can with some sort of answer. He said he was fully aware of the legal repurcussions involved here and appreciated our candor in the matter. Furthermore he stated that beyond the 1st amendment, that the school could not endorse one church within a religion over another either.

So the acknowledgement that the constitution had been violated, and his promise to find the source of the flier are good enough for me for now. I will consider the matter closed when I know where it truly came from and what action has been taken to prevent it in the future.

Church advertisement sent home from school

Winterhawk (a.k.a. 10,000 Fists in the Air) posted the following to his blog yesterday:
I am fairly upset. Today when we picked our oldest child up from school, we went through his bookbag as is our normal practice. As parents today we were shocked to discover that the school had sent home a paper with my son that endorses christianity and is an invitation to participate in a christian function. It is also a solicitation for funds to support christian mission work.

My wife asked me what we should do, and I told her we needed to speak with the school administrators in the morning about how inappropriate this was. It is insulting to us as well as a violation of the Constitution. As I was scanning to document to place it into Ten Thousand Fists, she decided to call the school now, and not wait. I am anxiously waiting to hear what they have to say.

….

Well we called, and left a message that we needed to speak with the principle. We were told he would call us back when he got off his current phone call. 45 minutes later, we called back. No one answered.

He also posted it to one of the premium-access forums on OKC Talk, which spurred a debate on separation of church and state, the pettiness of non-Christians about anything religious and a general "what's the big deal" attitude. I posted this response:
Even as a Christian, I have to say that I have to agree with Winterhawk on this one. To those who are Christian or who are comfortable with Christian principles, it seems to be no big deal. However, if the tables were turned, and a flier was sent home that was an event sponsored by a local Islamic mosque with proceeds going to support local Islamic missions, I guarantee that there would be outrage amongst many Christian parents. If the school sends it home in my child's weekly folder with all the other papers, I presume that it's endorsed by the school. If it is not, why should it be included? (And that goes for anything, not just church activities).) Its inclusion, by default, implies an endorsement, and that could (and likely should) constitute a violation of the First Amendment's establishment clause.
Another poster offered this "enlightened" response:
Oh, no, call out the national guard, the US troops, the Navy, and the Marines. Some kid at school received some "religious" material. Oh, what a tragedy!! Give me a break. All the flyer said was that it was from a methodist church and they were accepting donations. It did not say the child had to become a Christian or a methodist. You folks that don't believe in God need to chill out, and quit getting so uptight about some material that will probably improve your child's life. It's insulting to me that people like you have to make a mountain out of a molehill. Have you ever heard of freedom of religion? The school did not endorse a religion. There are many schools that do the same thing, and there is no harm done. I can't believe that you are actually waiting to hear from the school. What are you going to do? Quote the Constitution to them? They have real problems to deal with, and this is not a real problem.
My response back:
I am an evangelical Christian who believes in God, in His Son, Jesus Christ and in the Holy Spirit. I disagree with the school's decision for the reasons I cited previously in this thread. It's easy when you're the majority to ridicule and ignore the rights of the minority (i.e. the Christian majority vs. the non-Christian minority). But our constitution was established to protect minority rights, including freedom of religion and freedom from the establishment by governmental authority (public schools included) of one religion over another. By sending out this flyer, the school is either actively or out of ignorance promoting one religion. Have the made the same opportunity available to other churches and religions in the community? Schools are not the place for advertising, religious or otherwise. I think that had they consulted counsel before passing out the flyer, their counsel would have frowned upon it because it exposes them to litigation. Shaggy, you are on the wrong side of this issue constitutionally.
His retort:
It's not my religion, but I get tired of all the Christian haters that think if the word "God" is mentioned in school, that their kids might want to know God. What a tragedy. Instead, parents don't give them the chance to, thus robbing their children of the chance to learn. To me, that would be a failure as a parent. Constitution or no Constitution, this is one fight that I will never back down on. Scribe, you say you are a Christian, yet you don't want the message of salvation to be heard? I thought Christians were suppose to spread the gospel, not hold it in because it is "the law."
And my rebuttal:
Christians are supposed to spread the gospel, not the school. We must still respect the laws of this land (see Romans 13), and the law of the land includes separation of church and state. Separation of church and state does not prevent Christians from fulfilling the Great Commission and Christians who think it does are fools.
Have Christians become so lazy that we must rely on the government and public institutions to be the avenue for evangelism? Religious freedom goes both ways. People in this country — and in God's eyes — are free to choose who and/or what they believe in. It's His principle of free will and a purely voluntary decision to choose to accept His love and His grace and His gift of salvation. And that means people have the right, even in God's eyes, to not accept Christianity. It's understandable, then, when non-Christian parents might be concerned when their child's school — a symbol of authority in that child's life — propagates materials promoting a Christian church's event and fundraiser for that church's missions effort. As I mentioned in my posts on the forum, if the tables were turned and the materials were promoting a non-Christian faith, there would be outrage among Christian parents. "Do unto others as you would want done unto you." That's the principle being defended here. I'm not suggesting Christians shouldn't evangelize (even if Winterhawk doesn't like it); I'm suggesting that there are good reasons for the principle of separation of church and state — something that I'll be posting on later.

CARTOON CONSCIENCE: Pass it on

By Gary Markstein, Copley News Service

Thursday

Army recruiting: "Here little boy/girl, what some free iTunes?"

Recruitment must be getting desperate. The U.S. Army National Guard is now recruiting using whatever means necessary, including luring young Americans with the "candy" of free iTunes downloads so that recruiters can get their foot in the door for the hard sell (with far-fetched promises that seems to evaporate once you've signed the dotted line). Pathetic.

'Delay'ed response

Even before my transformation out of the Republican Party, I was never a fan of Tom Delay. Here is a man who boldly proclaims his Christian faith in one breath and sleezes with the political underworld in the next. He has consistently used strong-armed tactics on fellow Republican congressmen to vote the party line, even at the peril of their constituency or their principles — he proudly embraces his "hammer" nickname. Delay is now under indictment related to campaign fundraising, a result of his insatiable drive for more money to maintain and even strenghten his (and his party's) grip on power. Previously, he has been the target of multiple ethics investigations, being reprimanded three times in a row for ethics violations. Delay friends and associates have been indicted or are under state and federal investigation, including Jack Abramoff under scrutiny in part for the Indian gaming scandal. The Washington Post reported that "in 2003, at DeLay's behest, the Texas legislature redrew the state's congressional lines without waiting for the next census (in 2010), the customary occasion for redistricting. With the new districts, which still face court challenges, Texas elected five additional Republicans to the U.S. House last November, accounting for all of the party's net gain." For some, that's just politics. To me, it's dirty politics — and it's reprehensible coming from someone who identifies himself as a Christian. What puzzles me is how fellow Republicans, especially fellow Christian Republicans, can continue to defend this man? Is it an arrogance of power that believes that the end always justifies the means? Is it a blindness of loyalty? Is it fear of retribution if the man successfully gets away with all this? Why would the party that represents values be so apologetic for someone whose actions hold values in contempt? Why doesn't the GOP hold its own to the same standards it holds others (considering it took down House Speaker Jim Wright for a much less aggregious ethics lapse)? Either the Republican Party is the party of values that upholds high standards of ethics and morality or it isn't. It's actions are speaking louder than its (political grandstanding, rhetorical) words. Shame on you, Republicans. And shame on you, CHRISTIAN Republicans.

Taxpayer Bill of Rights: a wolf in sheep's clothing?

With a name like "Taxpayer Bill of Rights," it has to be a good thing for the average Oklahoman, right? Fellow Oklahoma blogger Okie Funk says no.

The state’s conservatives recently launched an initiative petition drive to legally and forever ensure Oklahoma remains in the absolute bottom of national education funding.

The conservatives have brought their latest freak show, the so-called Taxpayer Bill of Rights or TABOR, here not because state spending is skyrocketing or there is major government waste but because they know they can manipulate some Oklahomans with lies, distortions, and the hackneyed and untrue right-wing mantras about big government.

TABOR is about reducing the taxes of rich people. Repeat it. TABOR is about reducing the taxes of rich people. …

What the TABOR Republicans will say is that this is a good way to monitor and check government spending. They will say TABOR ensures government officials cannot spend more in terms of an annual percentage increase than, say, an average family.

(Ironically, their leader President George Bush is one of the most reckless spenders in American history.)

Here is what they will NOT say:

(1) TABOR has been a complete disaster in Colorado. It has wreaked havoc on the economy as educational funding there has plummeted. Colorado has become almost Oklahlomaesque in its treatment of infrastructure. The state was once known for its excellent quality of living. Now it is known for its stupidity in becoming the forerunner of the latest conservative tax cut fad. The state will consider rescinding some of the awful components of TABOR in an upcoming election but you will not hear that from those collecting signatures here…

(2) TABOR, in its purest form, does not allow for states to make up for severe “down” years in state revenues or to pay for big state projects with available cash. If a state goes through successive years of lowering budgets, it can then only grow its budget—when it can—by the formula percentage. It cannot catch up. It must then refund the extra money to taxpayers as schools and health programs and road maintenance projects suffer huge cuts…

(3) Oklahoma is absolutely the wrong place for TABOR. It is a relatively small state with chronic funding problems for education and infrastructure. It needs flexibility in the budget process. It also experiences regular downturns in state revenues sometimes outside of national trends. This means that when the rest of the country is flourishing, Oklahoma could be laying off teachers and ignoring its infrastructure problems in a major financial crisis, compounding its problem of low population growth and sealing its “hick” status…

(Read full post.)

Taxpayer Bill of Rights? Don't be fooled. It's another wealthy conservative attempt at shirking their responsibility to the society from which they've derived their success and wealth. And it's bad for Oklahoma. It will set our state back even further at a time when need to do more to catch up in education and infrastructure if we want to attract long-term investment and if we want any hope for a better future for this state.

CARTOON CONSCIENCE: Appalled

By Mike Thompson, The Detroit Free Press

Wednesday

The $236 million cruise (to nowhere)

Carnival has come out on the sweet end of the deal this hurricane season. The Washington Post reports this story:

On Sept. 1, as tens of thousands of desperate Louisianans packed the New Orleans Superdome and convention center, the Federal Emergency Management Agency pleaded with the U.S. Military Sealift Command: The government needed 10,000 berths on full-service cruise ships, FEMA said, and it needed the deal done by noon the next day.

The hasty appeal yielded one of the most controversial contracts of the Hurricane Katrina relief operation, a $236 million agreement with Carnival Cruise Lines for three ships that now bob more than half empty in the Mississippi River and Mobile Bay. The six-month contract -- staunchly defended by Carnival but castigated by politicians from both parties -- has come to exemplify the cost of haste that followed Katrina's strike and FEMA's lack of preparation.

To critics, the price is exorbitant. If the ships were at capacity, with 7,116 evacuees, for six months, the price per evacuee would total $1,275 a week, according to calculations by aides to Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.). A seven-day western Caribbean cruise out of Galveston can be had for $599 a person -- and that would include entertainment and the cost of actually making the ship move.

"When the federal government would actually save millions of dollars by forgoing the status quo and actually sending evacuees on a luxurious six-month cruise it is time to rethink how we are conducting oversight. A short-term temporary solution has turned into a long-term, grossly overpriced sweetheart deal for a cruise line," said Coburn and Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) in a joint statement yesterday calling for a chief financial officer to oversee Katrina spending.

Let's be realistic. How much would Carnival have really earned during the remainder of the hurricane season? And, these were it's three oldest ships, so it's not like they were sacrificing a lot. You know that there would have been a lot of bargains this fall going into the holiday season, given the increased energy costs that are depleting people's "fun" money. Additionally, given the fact that these ships aren't being fully utilized, why can't the contracts be ended (with 30 days additional compensation "to be fair") and allow Carnival to put the ships back in service to try to make these great profits they think they will miss out on otherwise? Why? Because they have one hell of a deal with the government. Consider this from that same article:

But the Carnival deal has come under particular scrutiny. Not only are questions being raised over the contract's cost, but congressional investigators are examining the company's tax status. Carnival, which is headquartered in Miami but incorporated for tax purposes in Panama, paid just $3 million in income tax benefits on $1.9 billion in pretax income last year, according to company documents. "That's not even a tip," said Robert S. McIntyre of Citizens for Tax Justice. U.S. companies in general pay an effective income tax rate of about 25 percent, analysts say. That would have left Carnival with a $475 million tax bill.

Carnival's public records boast "that substantially all of our income in fiscal 2004, 2003 and 2002 . . . is exempt from U.S. federal income taxes," largely because it maintains that its operations are not in the United States but on the high seas.

Don't be fooled. Carnival is doing just fine (at taxpayer's expense, both in this contract and in lost tax revenue). As a past Carnival cruiser, I'm ashamed to have support such a blood-sucking corporation. It won't happen again.

Imminent threat of eminent domain

Tulsa blogger Batesline.com takes aim at the governor's apparent lack of understanding about the imminent threat of eminent domain…

Today's Tulsa Whirled reports Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry's response to an initiative petition that would limit the use of eminent domain for private benefit, in response to the U. S. Supreme Court's ruling in Kelo v. New London:

"I have great concerns with government using eminent domain powers to take property from private citizens to be used for private development," he said. "I don't think I would ever propose that, and I have great concerns with the impact of that Supreme Court decision."

Henry does not think there is any danger of state or local government relying on the decision to take property for private development.

He said he is open to ideas to prevent that, including looking into the petition being circulated.

"It sounds like it's something we need to be talking about," Henry said.

Our Governor needs to open his eyes. Oklahoma cities have been using eminent domain for private development for a long time. This week's Urban Tulsa Weekly features a current example. The University of Tulsa wants a grand entrance on 11th Street. With the Tulsa Development Authority poised to condemn the property, the owner of the building that houses Starship Records and Tapes has sold it to the University of Tulsa. Holding on to the land was not an option. If the owner refused to sell, the city would have condemned the property and sold it to TU at cost. Condemnation, or the threat of condemnation, has been used to clear homes and businesses to make way for TU's Reynolds Center and the athletic complex between Columbia and Delaware Avenues.

Starship Records isn't blighted. Neither is Wendy's or Metro Diner. Nor were the homes east of Skelly Stadium. There's no public purpose at work here -- just a private institution that wants to use its political clout to expand at the expense of those who lack that clout.

Property owners nationwide had hoped that the Supreme Court would defend our 5th Amendment rights in the Kelo v. New London decision. Since that didn't happen, it's time for action at the state and local level to stop eminent domain abuse.

I agree with Bates' point. My question, though, is how can we be surprised by such a principle of "business interests above private citizen rights"? It's what our current national leadership practices. It's unfortunate that SCOTUS is on the wrong side of this issue too.

Losing our "moral" authority

I saw this story a few days ago, but I was waiting for the MSM to pick it up (lazily allowing them to do the legwork). The Associated Press reported this yesterday:
The Army is investigating complaints that soldiers posted photographs of Iraqi corpses on an Internet site in exchange for access to pornographic images on the site, officials said Tuesday. > more
A desensitization toward humanity, one of the consequences of life in a war zone, breeds all sorts of depravity. The administration and Pentagon tried to convince us that the instances of prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib was an isolated case of "a few bad apples." There have been many reports of other instances from organizations and new agencies outside the U.S. (out from under the thumb of this media-oppressive administration), but too little coverage in U.S. mainstream media. This latest report is one more indication that we, as a nation, have lost our "moral" authority, the very thing we use to justify imposing our "values" — in reality, our will — on other sovereign nations. Stories and reports like these reinforce the perception of the West as a depraved threat to the Islamic way of life and add fuel to the fire of Islamic fundamentalism. For all our effort to spread "freedom" to a region we find oppressive, we shoot ourselves in the foot (or more like blow our leg off) with our actions. Actions speak much louder than words. This latest story saddens more than outrages me. It's disgusting behavior. Yet, if we consider what environment and circumstances we've put young men (and women) into, can we really be surprised by such depravity? For all their talk at the Pentagon about how this is unacceptable, it's my humble opinion that an environment of unbridled arrogance and contempt for the proverbial "them" (i.e. "us vs. them") has created a culture that treats "them" as less than human. That leads to a depraved since of right and wrong when it comes to handling "them." This latest report is just further evidence of that.

CARTOON CONSCIENCE: "Conserve"

By Mike Lane

Tuesday

Oklahoma gambling "big payoff" not so big?

Okiedoke says Oklahoma gambling is not paying off > read it here

Out of sight, out of mind

An editorial in today's Oklahoman describes the response to a proposal to suspend gas taxes for three months:
"It's been more than three weeks since the head of the Oklahoma Senate, Democrat Mike Morgan of Stillwater, proposed temporarily suspending the state's tax on gasoline and diesel fuel in order to give motorists a break. Response has been, well, underwhelming.

"Gov. Brad Henry said his legal team would study the plan, but Henry hasn't been heard from since. Nor has Republican House Speaker Todd Hiett."

If this were 2006 instead of 2005, you can bet it would have been considered and passed in record time. Yet, both the governor and other legislators are not moving on this issue and they are counting on the short memories of Oklahoma voters. Gov. Henry and Speaker Hiett are employing a pocket veto of sorts; ignore it and it will die. (By the way, I thought Republicans were all for tax cuts. Why is a Democrat leading the way on this and not the Republican leader?)

Well, I'll remember, governor, the next time you talk about fighting for the average, working Oklahoma family. I'll remember, Mr. Speaker, especially the next time you talk about the need to cut taxes. You passed up an opportunity to cut taxes that would benefit all Oklahomans, not just your business buddies.

The Oklahoman doesn't like the plan (surprise, surprise). They claim there hasn't been a "groundswell of support for Morgan's plan." Who have they been asking? Gaillardia?

The Oklahoman's not been known for their progressive views of tax relief for those that really need it. If there's any solace, at least we won't have a new tax being added thanks to its defeat by the voters earlier this month.

Do as I say, not as I do

According to the Associated Press, President Bush urged Americans on Monday to cut back on unnecessary travel to make up for fuel shortages caused by Hurricane Rita as he prepared to take his seventh trip to the Gulf Coast. Keep in mind that each of these trips involves: a gas-guzzling behemoth Boeing 747 Air Force One, the equally inefficient Marine One (along with its decoy helicopters), a motorcade of more than a dozen vehicles — most of which are fuel inefficient SUVs and armored limos and a whole escort of local law enforcement for traffic control. Is the president cutting back? What is he adding to the relief effort by being on-site that he can't do from the White House? Everytime the president goes somewhere, it takes resources away from the relief effort. Accounts from his trips to New Orleans after Katrina are a testament to that. The president should make a trip to a disaster area — once. Then, after seeing the devastation first-hand, then he can oversee his administrations efforts from his office in Washington and let the people on the ground concentrate on doing their job there rather than accommodating a presidential visit (again and again and again). If the president wants America to cut back, he should heed his own words of advice:

"If it makes sense for the citizen out there to curtail nonessential travel, it darn sure makes sense for federal employees," Bush said. "We can encourage employees to car pool or use mass transit, and we can shift peak electricity use to off-peak hours. There's ways for the federal government to lead when it comes to conservation."

Bush sent a memo to agency and department heads, saying the federal government must "lead by example and further contribute to the relief effort by reducing its own fuel use during this difficult time." He instructed them to report to him within 30 days, describing which steps they took to conserve.

He can start by leading the federal government by example and parking it for a while. We, as citizens, what the president to report back to us on "which steps they took to conserve" at the White House.

CARTOON CONSCIENCE: Hurricane Debtrina

Monday

Back in the saddle...

I'm back in the saddle after a long, crazy weekend. We hosted my brother and his family part of the weekend as they evacuated from Houston in the days before Rita; fortunately they returned to relatively little damage (other than a no-longer-working A/C unit, which in Houston can be a MAJOR inconvenience). I'll have more from my brother in a subsequent post. In addition, my company moved offices this weekend, during one of our busiest weeks ever. Needless to say, there hasn't been much time in the day for much else. But, things are starting to return to normal, so hopefully I will have more time to contribute (for better or worse).

CARTOON CONSCIENCE: I miss...

Friday

Rita's Digest: Exposing flaws

News reports of the traffic jams resulting from people heeding government warnings to evacuate is exposing some serious issues that remain. By most accounts, the Houston evacuation plan is a good one, much better than the evacuation plans witnessed around Katrina. However, the problems in getting people out who want to get out is something that has to be addressed urgently. People have been "fleeing" Houston for two days running with thousands still trying to get out. But many are caught on clogged transportation arteries and in the process cars are running out of gas, overheating and breaking down. Just this morning a bus carrying evacuees exploded into flames on its way out, creating an even bigger nightmare. This is with nearly a week's worth of warning. What happens when there's no warning. Katrina and Rita are exposing some real weaknesses in our emergency planning. I hope that FEMA and Homeland Security will do everything possible to seek out real solutions to these very real problems. It's time for the government to serve its most important purpose, to protect its citizens — and that includes emergency planning. Our government, whoever's to blame is meaningless at this point, must put aside partisan politics, power-grabbing and media-whoring to do some REAL work. Four years ago, we were promised a reform that would help this country in a national emergency, man-made or otherwise. Our government has failed. It's time to fix it or change it. We don't have the luxury of waiting any longer. With dire predictions of more major hurricanes in the future and with the ever-present threat of terrorism, we have to get things fixed now. NOW!

CARTOON CONSCIENCE: Ready for Rita

By Ed Stein, The Rocky Mountain News

Thursday

Rita's Digest: Evacuation - Part 2

My brother's family left Houston 2:30 this morning to head north. They didn't arrive in Dallas-Fort Worth until about 11:00. From what he was hearing, they were on one of the fast routes. Some reports put the trek from the south parts of Houston to DFW taking around 24 hours. If anything, this should serve as a wake-up call for how difficult it is to move large populations to safety. At least with a hurricane, there is a couple of days warning. What happens if there is an unexpected, catastrophic event — whether by terrorism or other means — in which a population like Houston's has to be evacuated with no notice or preparation? There would be mass hysteria and cannibalistic chaos. I hope I never have to witness that in my lifetime.

Gas Gauge: Watching the impending price increases

I've added a Price Watch gauge to this blog, located just under "About the Author." The graphic will bring you the high and low gas prices in the Oklahoma City area, courtesy OklahomaCityGasPrices.com. Clicking on the link will take you to a chart showing where you can find the lowest gas prices and where you'll find the highest gas prices, as reported by local drivers. I also call it my pain index — 2.00 is mildly painful, 3.00 is seriously painful, 4.00 can be described as debilitatingly pain and 5.00 can be described as life-altering pain.

Rita's Digest: Evacuation

(The headline "Rita's Digest" stolen from The Daily Show) Another monster is approaching the Gulf Coast. This one looks ever bit as menacing as Katrina. As of time of this post, models show that the Houston area is in the bulleye's of a Category 5 hurricane. Amazingly, these models are projecting that Rita could maintain hurricane strength all the way into north Texas. Even worse is that the current projection shows that the refineries near Houston will likely take a direct hit. These refineries account for 25% of our nation's refining capacity. There was a lot of talk among many economists that the gas price impact will be much worse than Katrina... $4/gallon or higher is very possible and $5/gallon is not out of the question, some are now saying. My brother and his family are driving from Houston to stay with us here. People are heeding the evacuation warnings much more quickly in the wake of Katrina's disaster. But evacuating that many people out one of the nation's top 5 cities is quite a challenge. Yesterday evening, evacuees from Galveston were facing 12-hour trips just to get to Huntsville, a trip that you could normally make in about 2 hours. If Rita maintains its strength, we may not see the human drama that we saw with Katrina, but we will indeed feel a much bigger impact on our short-term and long-term economy.

CARTOON CONSCIENCE: Hurricane George

By Bill Day, The Commercial Appeal

Wednesday

Another looter in this gas price crisis

This topic comes by way of fellow blogger, Okiedoke.
Buying gas on credit? Then you are contributing to high fuel prices at the pump, says Exxon station owner Paul O’Connell.
“The banks are making a killing,” said O’Connell, who is also executive director of the Billerica-based New England Service Station and Automotive Repair Association. O’Connell spoke to legislators yesterday during a hearing about gasoline prices for the Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy. He said credit-card companies have increased fees for gas stations that allow customers to use credit cards to pay for gasoline.
O’Connell says the companies have doubled their fee from 4.5 cents per gallon to 9 cents per gallon of gas.
“The credit-card companies are making almost as much as the oil companies,” Dampolo said. “On our end, we mostly have a loss of profits. … Four years ago, I was making more money selling at 89 cents a gallon than I am today.”
But surely credit card companies alert you to that fact in your monthly statements. I know how big they are on encouraging responsible use of credit. Too bad it isn’t part of a disclosure provision in the new bankruptcy law. Oh that’s right, that law was for bankers only.
As I watched the gas prices going up again in the last day or so, I kept thinking that someone is making a killing from these rises and falls. I know it's not the gas station owners — they are the unfortunate business people caught in the middle, being squeezed by their suppliers, the marketplace (competition) and now, it appears, the credit card companies. The credit card industry lobbied Congress heavily to get their legislation passed that made it more difficult for consumers to file bankruptcy because they claimed it was hurting their business. Ignore the fact that they too are making record profits, just like the oil companies. Next time you hear a Republican congressperson or senator try to convince you that they stand up for the average American, don't be duped again. The policies in the last four-plus years continually support big business on the backs of their REAL constitutents — the American taxpayer. But that's a topic for another post. Anyway, you can add the credit card industry as another looter in this gas crisis.

Agent XXX: War on Porn

The FBI is looking for a few good agents... to look at porn. The Washington Post reports that the FBI began recruiting early last month for a new anti-obscenity squad.
Attached to the job posting was a July 29 Electronic Communication from FBI headquarters to all 56 field offices, describing the initiative as "one of the top priorities" of Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and, by extension, of "the Director." That would be FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III. … The new squad will divert eight agents, a supervisor and assorted support staff to gather evidence against "manufacturers and purveyors" of pornography -- not the kind exploiting children, but the kind that depicts, and is marketed to, consenting adults.
One agent sums up this new initiative best:
"I guess this means we've won the war on terror," said one exasperated FBI agent, speaking on the condition of anonymity because poking fun at headquarters is not regarded as career-enhancing. "We must not need any more resources for espionage."
As bad as the porn industry has gotten, I cannot see how it ranks as "one of the top priorities" in the Justice Department during our War on Terror. As long as we're safe from seeing T&A on our computer screen, we can sleep well... even if there are sleeper cells next door... because wide-eyed, self-pleasuring, libidinous adults satsifying their lasciviousness behind closed doors are much more of an imminent threat to us all.

CARTOON CONSCIENCE: Big GOPernment

By Etta Hulme, The Fort Worth Star Telegram

Tuesday

Do Republicans have a higher degree of morality?

In a discussion on OKCTalk.com about what it means to be a Republican, one respondant suggested that he was a Republican because "republicans have a higher degree of morality than democrats." As a recovering Republican, I can understand and relate to this belief. For years, it was suggested in many Christian circles and even from some pulpits that the GOP represented Christian values and the Democrats represented "liberal" and amoral values. During the Clinton scandals, this belief was deepened and expanded rapidly. With the emergence of George W. Bush, a candidate very open about his Christian faith, Christians found their political savior. It solidified the Republican Party as the voice of the Christian faith. Non-Republicans, by default, opposed Christian values. Non-Republican Christians were the "liberal" or "not-as-committed" type of Christian. True Christians would only support the party of Christian values, the GOP. Simplified, the GOP represented moral values. Democrats represented the opposite. The GOP wanted to save the unborn and protect the traditional family. The Democrats wanted to kill as many babies as possible and ruin your family by allowing gays to take over marriage. It has become a "good" vs. "evil" debate — and, it's a very misguided debate. It's a dishonest debate. Many Christians have been duped by the GOP. Blind political affiliation to a party that gives little more than lip service and smoke-and-mirror policies defies the very faith Christians proclaim. Many non-Republican Christians are now boldly challenging this notion that Republicans are more moral and best represent Christian values. Jim Wallis tackles this issue in his latest book, God's Politics. In the discussion on OKCTalk.com, Didaskalos challenges the earlier member's statement that Republicans have a higher degree of morality than Democrats. Here's his post:
I find it very intriguing when some claim that Republicans are more moral than non-Republicans or have a better grasp on morality. All decisions and beliefs are based in a person’s view of morality. The idea of morality is an ambiguous idea. Fundamentally, it is the code by which a society or an individual determine “right” vs. “wrong”. One group is going to use a different “code” than another group to define what is "morally right" or "morally wrong". For instance, there is a certain “morality” that is accepted in the United States (most particularly that we have the "right" to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness). Most Americans ascribe to the idea that this is “right” and “wrong” would be the antithesis. Yet, within America, there exist sub groups that have their own “moral code” (even within religious groups). A Unitarian is going to have a different “code of morality” than a Southern Baptist. Who is to say which is the right code? Or more particularly, who gets to determine the code all must follow to be "right"? I might believe that it is immoral for our country to invade a sovereign nation preemptively. Others will believe it is a moral imperative to address a “threat” before that “threat” can attack. What code is used to determine “right” vs. “wrong” or which position is “moral”. When people claim that the Republican Party has a higher degree of morality, what code are they using to make this claim. What defines that abortion is “wrong”? What declares that the 10 commandments should be displayed in public courtrooms? What code explains that prayer in schools should be public? Clearly, what many groups are referencing is that “morality” is defined by the Bible as the “code” and would better be described as “Christian morality” (more particularly a particular viewpoint of Christianity). Of course, it goes beyond this because scripture does not have a direct statement regarding displaying stone monuments of the 10 commandments or declaring that prayer should be public in a school setting. Defining these as more “moral” rather than a different moral position is extremely assumptive. This comes back to a debate that I am sure will rage on until Christ’s return – namely whether we were founded as a Christian nation. If we are not, defining morality in terms of “Christian Morality” is clearly an attempt to force others into a belief system by political means. As there is nothing in our Constitution that can show we were founded on the beliefs of Jesus Christ, it seems a bit of a reach. Those in support of this position are left to define the “intent” of the founders. Of course, even if the majority of the founders were “Christian” (which seems a very generic term considering the lives of many of the founders), that does not necessarily imply they were trying to establish a government based on “Christian Morality”. It would seem easier to support that they were trying to do quite the opposite. To leave the specifics of religion to the individual and ensure that religious freedom was the basis of our system. Many of us see wisdom in this design. If one is forced to accept that “Christian Morality” is a code defined by a sub-group in a larger society – a society which was founded on the idea of religious freedom – then defining one group as more “moral” using a sub-groups religious text in defense (even more particularly a sub groups interpretation of the text) seems in stark contrast to what our founders intended. This is not an attempt to support moral relativity. I would contend that there is “right” and “wrong”. I personally look to the bible to define what is “right” and “wrong” but does that mean I can force others to use the same guide in a government that supports freedom of religion as a fundamental right? I contend no. I believe abortion is “wrong”. Does this give me the “moral authority” to pass laws ensuring that abortions are not possible? If all I have to use is the Bible, I would contend no. The morality I gain from the bible is a personal morality. I can only apply the same moral code to those who agree with my beliefs regarding the bible. If I want to convince others (religious or not) about my “morality”, I need to do so outside of the text I have accepted as “the code”. I believe there is a conversation to be had regarding the “rightness” or “wrongness” of abortion outside of scripture. Perhaps by engaging that discussion, I could compel others who believe that abortion is not murder why I believe it is from a reasoned position rather than simply one of “belief”. I, for one, believe the vast majority of Americans hold that abortion is less “right” than “wrong” but are resistant to making it a prosecutable offense. As one who desires fewer abortions, I must look at what will help advance my desire. Clinton and Bush Jr. have very different viewpoints on the “moral” response to abortion. Many who support GWB believe that abortion should be illegal. ‘Clintonites’ believes that creating laws is ineffective at reducing the cause of abortion. Defining one as more “moral” is inaccurate as both are coming at the same issue from different perspectives and applying their “moral code” to the best way to address. As Clinton was more effective at reducing abortions in this country, one must ask if the desire is really to reduce abortions? If one looks at Clinton’s position as defending killing innocents then of course his position will appear less “moral”. Clearly, this is not Clinton’s position if one has ever cared to try and understand it. He views one of the biggest exacerbating factors behind those seeking abortions is financial strains. His belief that reducing financial strains and thereby reducing the impetus behind seeking the abortion is a “moral approach”. Whether one believes this is really the “right” approach is not as important, in my mind, as determining what the end goal for both groups is and the dialogue to find common ground. (as a disclaimer – I did not vote for Clinton either time). Republicans will lay claim to many personal moral issues (sexual preference issues, abortion, drug use, public profession of religious beliefs, etc) but these represent a particular viewpoint of morality. Others who hold that poverty, fair wages, civil rights, just war, access to healthcare, affordable housing, social safety nets are all “moral issues” are not less moral – they simply have a different set of “moral priorities”. I make my political decisions based on my "morality" but have a very different perspective on what my moral teacher (Jesus Christ) held as the larger priorities. It is unfortunate that many Republicans claim to have a corner on “morality” or even worse claim to be “more moral”. This might be true when compared against a particular interpretation and application of “Christian Morality” but cannot be defined as the only “moral” position. Those focused on "moral issues" might find the following site interesting - Moral Politics Test.

Pentagon — a case of delusional optimism

As has been the case from the very beginning of the Iraq War, the Pentagon continues its pattern of delusional optimism that flies in the face of the facts on the ground and the expert assessments of people whose lips aren't glued to the president's backside. From Reuters:
Pentagon voices optimism on Iraq's 'tough reality' By Will Dunham Mon Sep 19, 5:54 PM ET The Pentagon said on Monday there was reason for optimism in Iraq despite what it called the "tough reality" of a war in which insurgent violence rages unabated and the U.S. military death toll approaches 2,000. Two-and-a-half years after American-led forces invaded Iraq to oust President Saddam Hussein, U.S. officials tout political progress -- saying every important milestone has been achieved including a draft constitution -- and the steady building of Iraqi security forces. But some defense experts, saying insurgencies like this one can take years to unfold, argued the conflict had become a military stalemate and expressed concern about civil war. They also said an erosion in U.S. public support for the war should be a worrisome development for President George W. Bush. > more

Wal-Mart accused of denying lunch breaks

For all those who champion Wal-Mart as a great example of American success, consider that they have done so on the backs of their workers (through low-wages, paltry benefits and other workplace violations) and at the peril of "main street" and local "mom-and-pop' retailers, the lifeblood of any community. Here's one more example of another rung in Wal-Mart's ladder to "enviable" success:
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) - Lawyers representing about 116,000 former and current Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT) employees in California told a jury Monday that the world's largest retailer systematically and illegally denied workers lunch breaks. The suit in Alameda County Superior Court is among about 40 cases nationwide alleging workplace violations against Wal-Mart, and the first to go to trial. Wal-Mart, which earned $10 billion last year, settled a lawsuit in Colorado for $50 million that contains similar allegations to California's class action. The company also is accused of paying men more than women in a federal lawsuit pending in San Francisco federal court. The workers in the class-action suit are owed more than $66 million plus interest, attorney Fred Furth told the 12 jurors and four alternates. "I will prove the reason they did this was for the God Almighty dollar," Furth said in his opening statement. > more
Wal-Mart is the poster child of what is killing America and the American dream for most Americans.

CARTOON CONSCIENCE: '…thinking for myself.'

By Sandy Huffaker, caglecartoons.com

Monday

Looting in Iraq hasn't stopped, $1 billion plundered

Republicans have had a hey-day with the "Oil-for-Food" scandal, pointing to it as a sign of why the corrupt United Nations needs to go. What will they say about the U.S.-created puppet government in Iraq? From The Independent (published September 19, 2005):
One billion dollars has been plundered from Iraq's defence ministry in one of the largest thefts in history, The Independent can reveal, leaving the country's army to fight a savage insurgency with museum-piece weapons.

The money, intended to train and equip an Iraqi army capable of bringing security to a country shattered by the US-led invasion and prolonged rebellion, was instead siphoned abroad in cash and has disappeared.

"It is possibly one of the largest thefts in history," Ali Allawi, Iraq's Finance Minister, told The Independent.

"Huge amounts of money have disappeared. In return we got nothing but scraps of metal."

> more

This is in addition to another $8 billion in reconstruction money that remains unaccounted for. We haven't stopped the looting in Iraq; it's just moved from blue collar to white collar. With such large sums of money being poured into the money pit in Iraq, it's no surpise that there is a missing billion here and there. That much money tempts alot of people. Just look at all the Bush/Cheney crony companies making record pockets on taxpayers' (trillions of) dimes. Will there be GOP outrage or demands for accountability with the missing billions? There hasn't been with the $8 billion missing, so we should expect anything different from the new case of billion-dollar looting.

CARTOON CONSCIENCE: The problem and the solution

By R.J. Matson, The New York Observer and Roll Call

Saturday

GOP vs. GOP on federal spending

An article in the New York Times yesterday ("GOP split over big plans for storm spending") talked about the growing "fissure" among Republicans about government spending. On one side you have those Republicans that are on the same page as the neo-cons and Bush who have treated government spending like a kid in a candy store. On the other side you have the more traditional, fiscal-restraint Republicans who are either just now recognizing the financial calamity that awaits us at our current spending rate or are just now getting ballsy enough to actually say something "not positive" about how this administration (with the full complicity of the Republican-controlled Congress) is spending money. On Thursday, in full damage-control mode, Bush promised that "federal funds will cover the great majority of the costs of repairing public infrastructure in the disaster zone." Displaying their characteristic compassion, some Republican senators, like our own Tom Coburn, urged restraint. Said Coburn, "I don't believe that everything that should happen in Louisana should be paid for by the rest of the country. I believe there are certain responsibilities that are due the people of Louisiana." (I wonder if he felt the same way when Oklahoma was looking for federal dollars in the wake of the Murrah bombing and in the wake of the devastating tornado outbreak on May 3, 1999). These "fiscal-conservative" Republicans want us to ignore the fact that we have sunk significantly more taxpayer dollars into a voluntary, now-proven-unjustified, pre-emptive war effort in Iraq. It's okay to voluntarily destroy a country and then pay to rebuild it, but it's not okay to rebuild an American city with American taxpayers' dollars in the wake of a natural disaster that we had little control over. I agree that government spending is out of control and we desperately need to regain control. I also agree that our deficit and national debt are gravely serious problems. However, I disagree that Iraq spending is acceptable use of taxpayer dollars while spending for rebuilding a major American city and region — a region that we depend heavily upon for shipping commerce, oil, seafood, etc. — is not an acceptable use of our tax dollars. House Majority Leader Tom ["I-never-see-a-donor-I-won't-whore-for"] Delay, R-Texas, claimed that the Republican Congress had already trimmed much of the fat from the federal budget, making it difficult to find ways to offset hurricane spending, the article says. Pat Toomey, a former Republican congressman and the head of the conservative political action committee, Club for Growth, disagreed with Delay's assertion that all the fat has been trimmed. "There has never been a time where there is more total spending and more wasteful spending in Washington than we have today." I agree. It's time for a change. Who's responsible for all this government spending in the last four-plus years? A Republican president, a Republican House of Representatives and a Republican Senate. It's indeed time for a change. Note to Democrats: If you regain control of either house of Congress or eventually the presidency, don't make the same mistake twice. Democrats were in control a long time prior to the "Republican Revolution" in 1994. The same reasons that caused you to lose control of Congress will be the same reasons that will cause the Republicans to lose control soon and will cause any party to lose control in the future: arrogant, monopolistic, self-preserving, selfish management of the country's affairs. Disclaimer: I am not a Democrat. I am a recovering Republican who is now a registered Independent.

From the UK: Restricted Free Speech

From our friends on the other side of "the pond," at Crooked Timber, concerning the British government's proposal to deem some speech "off limits":
Quote:
There doesn’t seem to be a lot of blogospheric comment yet about the more surreal aspects of the British governments intention to criminalize the “glorification” of terrorism. Saying that a particular terrorist act or event was a good thing is set to be a criminal offence unless the event was more than 20 years ago, except that the Home Secretary will draw up a list of older events the “glorification” of which will also be an offence. So far there’s no clear indication of what will be on the list except the suggestion that glorifying the Easter Rising of 1916 or the French Revolution (1789-whenever you think it ended) will not be illegal. Will it be illegal to praise the following events?
  • The Irgun bombing of the King David Hotel (1946)
  • Any bombings or shootings by the Baader-Meinhof gang.
  • ETA’s assassination of Prime Minister Carrero Blanco in 1973
  • Any acts of Palestinian terrorism.
  • The assassination by Mossad of Palestinian leaders in foreign countries.
  • The assassination of any member of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty.
  • The sinking of the Rainbow Warrior by the French secret service in 1985.
However repulsive it may be to praise some of these acts, it is just incompatible with a free society for it to be in some politician’s gift to decide which historical events it is or isn’t acceptable to “glorify”.
Free speech includes dissent from the official government position. When the government begins to dictate what are acceptable things to say and what are unacceptable (outside of immediate threats and statements that can create immediate and direct harm, like yelling "fire" in a crowded theater), it is a dangerous, slippery slope to lost liberty.

CARTOON CONSCIENCE: Reinforce the Levee

By Mike Keefe, The Denver Post

Friday

Crier on Roberts nomination and SCOTUS

Catherine Crier was outstanding on Hannity & Colmes earlier this week. It's worth the time to watch it. Courtesy Crooks & Liars:

On H&C last night (9/14). Catherine explained the attempted hijacking of the courts by the radical right wing religious fanatics.

Video-wmp small version

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She puts forth a compelling case that what the extreme religious right wing wants is a "biblical" court not the phony "originalist" term they throw around so often. Crier points out that Clarence Thomas should be considered the most activist judge on the Supreme court. Hannity was stunned that she would see things that way. lol She distinguishes between traditional conservatism and the ulta conservatives that want to:

Catherine:... take over this country-that wants to destroy the separation of powers-that wants basically in many respects a biblical view to govern a secular state.

Walking the Talk

Another great post by The Practical Progressive:
I don't pay much attention anymore to what the president says. I didn't watch his speech last night although I thought he had alot of chutzpah to use a Catholic church as a backdrop. I pay attention to what he does.
  1. Just about the first thing he does( last Thursday, the 8th) is issue an executive order negating prevaling wage guidlines for the people actually doing the work rebuilding the gulf coast. We're talking about the plumbers, carpenters, electricians, etc. In a notice to Congress, Bush said the hurricane had caused "a national emergency" that permits him to take such action under the 1931 Davis-Bacon Act in ravaged areas of Alabama, Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi. The Davis-Bacon law requires federal contractors to pay workers at least the prevailing wages in the area where the work is conducted. It applies to all federally funded construction projects. Bush wants the residents of the devastated area to fight over minimum wage jobs to rebuild their own towns and cities.
  2. A recent New York Times story reports, "Republicans said Karl Rove, the White House deputy chief of staff and Mr. Bush's chief political adviser, was in charge of the reconstruction effort, which reaches across many agencies of government and includes the direct involvement of Alphonso R. Jackson, secretary of housing and urban development." So, the president appoints his personal political operative, to oversee the massive rebuilding effort to rehab the gulf coast. Rove has no experience in project management. He never even had a job managing horse judges! Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz) can tell us what skills Karl Rove does have.
  3. Senate Republicans, in a party line vote, killed a bill that would have created an independent commission to investigate the Hurricane Katrina rescue and recovery screw-ups of governmental agencies, both federal, state, and local. The Senate doesn't have a dog in this fight, they're protecting GWB. Sen. David Vitter (R-La) mysteriously missed the vote. Mary Landrieu (D-La) didn't.

The cost estimates of rebuilding the gulf coast are running as high as $200 billion. With the Iraqi occupation now going through $193 billion, where's the money coming from? . . .the Japanese and Saudis already own 23% of our debt! Should we charge it on our Chinese VISA, even though 22¢ out of every tax dollar now pays interest on the national debt?

I'll listen when Bush talks about that.

"I want all Arabs to be stripped naked and cavity-searched"

That's the opening of an opinion column that appeared in the collegiate newspaper, The Daily Tar Heel. It's an eye-opening read by an Ann Coulter wannabe.
I want all Arabs to be stripped naked and cavity-searched if they get within 100 yards of an airport. I don’t care if they’re being inconvenienced. I don’t care if it seems as though their rights are being violated. I care about my life. I care about the lives of my family and friends.
(You can read the whole column here.)
Unfortunately, she's not alone in her sentiments. I've heard this repeatedly, in email exchanges and on message boards. To me, it's reminiscent of the broadstroke roundup of Japanese Americans after Pearl Harbor. It also eerily reminds me of the premise of the great (prophetic) movie, The Seige, starring Denzel Washington. I'll save my lengthy commentary about racism in America for another future post. But I want to leave you with this thought: Americans are responsible for more deaths of Americans every year than all the acts of Arabic terrorists combined. In 2001, the year that 3000 Americans were killed by terrorist attacks on September 11th, more than 10,000 Americans were killed by non-Arabs. That's just in one year. We need some perspective here. If we are so concerned about our safety... if we, as the columnist said, "care about my life... care about the lives of my family and friends" that much, then we need to turn our focus inward first. Perhaps, so we can all feel safer, every person — no matter what their ethnicity — should be stripped naked and cavity-searched. Let's not worry if "they're being inconvenienced." Let us, as the columnist said, not "care if it seems as though their rights are being violated." What's good for the goose, is good for the gander. White people scare me more than non-white people — and I'm white. If civil liberties no longer mean anything, then let's all be subject to these "thorough" searches to ensure that we're all safe. As the great philosophers of Good Will Hunting would say, "how do you like them apples?"

Someone show the president how to button a shirt

Courtesy Crooks and Liars:

Friday Fun with the Prez

When I saw the President stroll out wearing an open collared shirt, I thought it looked a little odd. Mary sent me this picture from Kate/A/Blog. I can't really tell from the broadcast if she's right, but the shirt did seem a little unbalanced at times during his speech...

Why POTUS sees an altered reality?

Many people often wonder why President Bush has such a skewed view of reality. I've always suspected that he's so insulated that he just doesn't get "the straight poop." But incidents like the one described by NBC anchor Brian Williams below help illustrate one possible reason. Things are different when he's around. From Brian Williams blog earlier today:
I am duty-bound to report the talk of the New Orleans warehouse district last night: there was rejoicing (well, there would have been without the curfew, but the few people I saw on the streets were excited) when the power came back on for blocks on end. Kevin Tibbles was positively jubilant on the live update edition of Nightly News that we fed to the West Coast. The mini-mart, long ago cleaned out by looters, was nonetheless bathed in light, including the empty, roped-off gas pumps. The motorcade route through the district was partially lit no more than 30 minutes before POTUS drove through. And yet last night, no more than an hour after the President departed, the lights went out. The entire area was plunged into total darkness again, to audible groans. It's enough to make some of the folks here who witnessed it... jump to certain conclusions.
I'm starting to have trouble blaming Bush entirely for his ways. It's hard to make the right decisions when you experience an altered reality.

He's human after all

As this image flies around the blogosphere, much has been made about the appropriateness of this photo and the ethics of the photo editors zooming in so tight. It shows, in amazing detail, President Bush jotting a note — one that you don't necessarily want the world to see — to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice during a Security Council meeting at the 2005 World Summit and 60th General Assembly of the United Nations in New York September 14, 2005. I think it's a positive thing for Bush. It demonstrates that in some respects he's as common as the rest of us. He has to pee too!

Clinton working to tackle world issues

I'm sure Clinton-haters will find ways to malign the former president's motives, but I applaud his effort to address some of the world's most pressing problems. From SFGate.com
Clinton Launches First Global Summit

(09-15) 11:26 PDT NEW YORK, (AP) -- An initiative led by former President Clinton to tackle poverty, climate change and other worldwide issues is launching with a gathering of political leaders and activists who are promising to pitch in — and must put those pledges in writing.

Participants who fall short can't come back next year, said Jay Carson, spokesman for the Clinton Global Initiative.

Among the 800 expected at a Manhattan hotel for the three-day event beginning Thursday are British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, and Clinton himself.

"This conference is not about talk, it's about action," Carson said. Clinton has been "very clear that if people aren't here to make a difference, then they're at the wrong conference."

> more

It's refreshing to see another former president taking on humanitarian issues for altruistic reasons and trying to make a real difference in making this a better world. Whatever is said about Carter's presidency, only the most cynical will not give him credit for the wonderful work he has done since after his presidency ended. I see Clinton building a similar legacy. In contrast, what legacy has Ford, Reagan and Bush 1 left after they left office?
"In my life now, I am obsessed with only two things: I don't want anybody to die before their time, and I don't want to see good people spend their energies without making a difference... You can change the reality of human history by systemic action."

CARTOON CONSCIENCE: American Disasters

By R.J. Matson, The New York Observer and Roll Call

Thursday

It's raining. Must be time for the State Fair.

It's raining outside right now — in buckets. It's no surprise that the State Fair opens today. Like clockwork, one cues the other. Some years the State Fair cues the rain. Others, like this one, the rain signals the return of the State Fair. But, this fact doesn't deter visitors who typically show up despite the rain. There's something about the State Fair that draws people. For me, it's a special time to spend with family, enjoying the sights, sounds and smells of the carnival-like atmosphere. My wife and girls enjoy all the craft exhibits. I enjoy the food. We go see the animals. I go find the food. We'll look at all the new cars in the Transportation Building. I look at all the food. Corn dogs, grilled corn on the cob, giant barbecued turkey legs, funnel cakes, Indian tacos, Polish sausage, elephant ears, deep fried Snickers bars. It's heart attack on a stick (or on a plate). But it's so good. And the smell is intoxicating. It beckons me every September. It taunts me the other 50 weeks of the year. There could be no fair without the food. It's a visual, olfactory and gustatory feast. Typically, I come back from the Fair feeling miserable. My legs are tired from all the walking. Sometimes, if it's sunny, I'll come back with a little bit of a sunburn. And my stomach aches from all the food. I think I'll grab the Tums, the Pepcid and the Pepto-Bismol and head off to the Fair.

CARTOON CONSCIENCE: W admits mistake

Steve Sack, The Minneapolis Star-Tribune

Wednesday

Congressman used National Guard to visit home

Disgraceful... From ABC News:
Quote:
Amid Katrina Chaos, Congressman Used National Guard to Visit Home Two Heavy Trucks, Helicopter Were Involved in Lawmaker's Trip at Height of Crisis By JAKE TAPPER Sep. 14, 2005 - Amid the chaos and confusion that engulfed New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina struck, a congressman used National Guard troops to check on his property and rescue his personal belongings -- even while New Orleans residents were trying to get rescued from rooftops, ABC News has learned. On Sept. 2 -- five days after Katrina hit the Gulf Coast -- Rep. William Jefferson, D-La., who represents New Orleans and is a senior member of the powerful Ways and Means Committee, was allowed through the military blockades set up around the city to reach the Superdome, where thousands of evacuees had been taken. Military sources tells ABC News that Jefferson, an eight-term Democratic congressman, asked the National Guard that night to take him on a tour of the flooded portions of his congressional district. A 5-ton military truck and a half dozen military police were dispatched. > more
Abuse of power is wrong, no matter what their party affiliation may be. And abuse of power in the midst of human suffering is reprehensible. Shame on you, Congressman.

Fuel tax plan runs out of gas

From NewsOK.com:
Quote:
In what could be the most lopsided election defeat of a state question in history, Oklahoma voters killed a proposal Tuesday night to raise their fuel taxes to help improve the state’s bridges and highways. With more than half the precincts reporting, more than 87 percent of voters were rejecting the proposal to raise the 14-cent per gallon diesel tax and 17-cent per gallon gasoline tax to 22 cents each. Michael Clingman, secretary of the state Election Board, said this election could surpass the most lopsided defeat of a state question in state history. … “The numbers clearly mean the voters have rejected a gas tax increase as a method of funding improvement of roads and bridges,” said Neal McCaleb, chairman of Oklahomans for Safe Bridges and Roads, which promoted the proposal. The overwhelming defeat of State Question 723 does not mean Oklahomans are against improving highways and bridges, he said. This rejection puts the issue squarely in the hands of the Legislature, said McCaleb, a former Republican state legislator and past state secretary of transportation. > more
UPDATE: Final totals from the Oklahoma State Election Board shows State Question 723 was defeated 87.12% (349,850) to 12.79% (51,306). Way to go, Oklahomans! I am glad that the proponents of the tax plan raised the issue of deteriorating roads and bridges. I didn't disagree with their issue of concern, just their solution. In fact, I agree wholeheartedly that it is a serious problem. A new tax wasn't the answer. Holding our elected leaders accountable to their responsibilities to their constituents is. The legislature and the governor need to give this issue the attention it desperately needs. For once, let politics be put aside to come up with real solutions. It's a matter of priorities. There's money to work with; it just means making the tough choices. At the end of the last session, there appeared to be a budget surplus and politicians were eager to suggest a refund to taxpayers. That may be a politically savvy thing to do, but is it the wisest thing to do? That surplus could be specifically allocated to fund specific projects to repair the most serious of deteriorating bridges and roads. Additionally, legislators have proposed using the Rainy Day Fund to offset the revenue loss from temporary gas tax relief. Why couldn't a portion of that fund be used to address this serious problem? Government's first answer to meeting a need is to initiate a new tax. The real answer is to live with your current income like the average person has to and prioritize wisely to meet those urgent needs. Governor, senators and representatives: DO YOUR JOB!

Change takes Falls Creek out of evacuation plans

From NewsOK.com:
Quote:
A church camp near Davis prepared to handle as many as 3,000 Hurricane Katrina survivors will not be used as an evacuation center, Gov. Brad Henry and leaders of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma said Tuesday. The Falls Creek youth camp is not needed because large numbers of evacuees are no longer expected to come to the state, Henry said during a news conference at the state Capitol. The camp had been placed on a federal standby list for hurricane evacuees. The Federal Emergency Management Agency is putting emphasis now on finding permanent housing for hurricane victims instead of placing them in shelters or camps, Henry said. > more
When I first learned about this yesterday, I was a little saddened and disappointed, although not near as much as all the people who put so much work into it. I desperately hope that this will not adversely affect people's willingness to help out in the future; but knowing Oklahoma's history, I doubt this will significantly dampen Oklahomans' generous spirit. I want to commend and express sincere appreciation to the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma and every single person who answered the call to help out evacuees. I applaud the BGCO and their member churches for taking a lead in Oklahoma in reaching out to victims of Katrina. They served as a shining example of how Christians should reach out to those who need help. The response from many other churches, especially some of the mega-churches, was less than impressive. Tragedies like Katrina are opportunities for Christians to step up and show the world what Christ's love is all about. It's not about preaching at people. It's not about judging people. It's not about making people more moral. It's about loving people as Christ would love them, showing overwhelming generosity in meeting their needs. "Whatever you have done to the least of these..." were Christ's words. There was a song we used to sing that said, "They will know that we are Christians by our love." Love means being willing to sacrifice everything to help another. Some churches did that. Most did not. The world was watching. It was a golden chance to show them what makes Christianity special. We failed. Disclaimer: I am not Baptist nor am I a member of any BGCO-affiliated church. I am simply a fellow believer who is encouraged to see Christians step up to the plate when so many other churches did not.

CARTOON CONSCIENCE: What went wrong

By Kevin Siers, The Charlotte Observer

Tuesday

The Other America

The Practical Progressive takes a look at the disparity of perception between blacks and whites.
The 'Debacle in the Delta' has once again raised the issue of the 800 pound invisible elephant in the collective living room of a majority of our citizens. The elephant, we don't want to acknowledge, is the plight of African-Americans in our society. Want an example of the gulf in understanding of this problem? Here is a question on a poll done by the Washington Post and ABC News;
"Do you think the federal government would have responded more quickly to rescue people trapped by floodwaters if more of them had been wealthier and white rather than poorer and black?"
Here's the results. Yes = Whites 24 % Blacks 76% No = Whites 73% Blacks 21%
In other words, 7 out of 10 white Americans said that race had nothing to do with the response of the federal government while more than 3 out of 4 African Americans believed it did. why the disparity? … George Will, sitting in his ivory tower, is quick to claim African Americans themselves are the cause of their own problems, which shows he is completely out of touch with what it's like to be black in America. What's worse, many of our white neighbors agree with him. In reality though, I'll bet African Americans know a hell of a lot more about what it's like to be white in America than whites know what it's like to be black in America. George Will needs to get out of his social cocoon and talk to folks in the ghettos of DC instead of those sitting with him in box seats at baseball games. If that's tooo scary for him, he could at least read Johnathan Alter's piece in Newsweek. >Read the entire post.

The Rise and Fall...

Courtesy: oklahomacitygasprices.com I noticed this morning that gas dropped another 10¢ at the station I pass by every morning. It's dropped nearly 30¢ in the last week and nearly 40¢ from just 10 days ago. This was following the dramatic increases of nearly 60 cents in less than a month and more than a $1.00 in the last quarter. These wild fluctuations are highly suspect. Of course, we can't expect any sort of oversight or accountability by our national leaders, who are cozy bed fellows with the oil industry. In the last year, Big Oil has posted record profits — figures unimaginable by most other industries. At the same time, the high energy costs is dampening an already sluggish economy. With the substantial impact of the mounting costs of Katrina to our economy (including lost jobs, lost trade and the overwhelming cost of rebuilding), the squeeze from both directions could hurt our economy big time. It will exacerbate the growing burden of an unsustainable, ballooning national debt. It's interesting (and perhaps encouraging) that the GOP cannot look past their immediate quid pro quo obligations to their sugar daddies in Big Oil and see that there will be a high price to pay for the party in power that has overseen an astronomical tripling of gas costs in just three years. Courtesy: oklahomacitygasprices.com