29 April 2010


I love to be to be in the woods, or at the beach, camping, just out. Don't mind the bugs, occasional snake.....sweating, or having to go a couple of days without showering if no shower or bath is available. I just love the outdoors. So a few years ago I was invited to a weekend party at Jane's at her place up on a mountain outside Star Tannery, VA. She said plan on camping there, but the well water was limited so all guys have to pee outside (what guy doesn't prefer to pee outside?) and no indoor showers but there would be sun showers available. And she said to bring Russ.
Russ was game only for the weekend party and camping only after I told him there would be sun showers available. A the time Russ had longer hair and he kept it in place and under control at all he packed all the shampoo and conditioner and spritzs and gel needed for his wig, since he was going to be able to wash his hair in the sun shower.......I really thought he knew what a sun shower is. He was horrified after we got up on the mountain and he saw the sun shower....and no he didn't use it, but he couldn't leave either, because I drove. Speaking of which, I managed to get a speeding ticket on Rt. 7 West of Leesburg on the way out, thank you very much.....and I wasn't going all that fast....I was driving a Horizon for goodness sake!
So we get there and are partying with everyone else, a very cool group and there was a band and everything and well after sunset we realized we hadn't set up our tent. Buzzing, in the dark, there we were, crawling around trying to set up this little tent that I had never set up before (it was left at my apartment by an old room-mate, didn't give it back to him because he ended up owing me some money for bills)and finally a couple of bull dykes heard us cursing and laughing in the dark and came and set it up for us. Thank God! So back to the party...
Much later I had to I wandered into the woods behind the tents and peed, and then stopped by our cooler and stuck my hands in the ice water and washed them off cause they were pretty dirty from the fire and wood and all....
It got pretty late, and Russ decided he was gonna go to bed......and a few minutes after he left the fire I decided I would too, so wandered back to the tent. Just as I rounded the corner to our our tent I saw Russ scoop a cup of ice water from our cooler and before I could say anything he started gulping it down. I yelled 'Russ, don't drink that, I washed my hands in the cooler water after I peed!'
I will never forget the look of horror, disgust and revulsion that passed over his face.....and he threw the cup down and I was on the ground howling, rolling with laughter...while Russ was so grossed out......I can't help it, this happened years ago and it still makes me laugh out loud.....
Russ never went camping with me again......

Senators Behaving Badly, filibuster history from MOJO 28APR10

A great article on the history of the filibuster and it's use today, with some interesting links. Click the header to go to the story.

Political scientist Greg Koger talks health care reform, filibuster history, and the problem with Schoolhouse Rock.

By Tim Murphy | Wed Apr. 28, 2010 1:00 AM PDT

Yesterday, for the second [1] time in as many days, Senate Republicans [2]—and one Democrat [3]—voted, 41-57, against invoking cloture on financial reform legislation [4], thereby blocking efforts to bring the bill to the floor for an up-or-down vote. In other words, they filibustered. Again.

While the latest Senate filibuster is unlikely to last [5], in recent years the world's greatest deliberative body has done a lot more deliberating than usual: 60-vote supermajorities have become standard operating procedure, and even some of the least controversial of President Obama's nominees have seen their confirmations stall for months [6] at the threat of a filibuster. With politically charged climate [7] and immigration legislation [8] on the horizon, such obstruction isn't likely to go away anytime soon.

So who's at fault? According to University of Miami political scientist Greg Koger, we have fact-finding trips and golf courses to blame—not Mitch McConnell. Mother Jones spoke with Koger last week about today's Senate, how to fix it, and his forthcoming book: Filibustering: A Political History of Obstruction in the House and Senate [9], out in June.

Mother Jones: Over the last year and a half, a lot of journalists have used the filibuster to argue that Washington is broken. As James Fallows at The Atlantic [10] put it, "One thing I've never heard in my time overseas is 'I wish we had a Senate like yours. [11]'" Are we seeing a new phenomenon?

Greg Koger: What makes the current Senate distinct is not the rules, it's the way that senators are behaving. On the Republican side, there's an extraordinary willingness to filibuster the type of legislation they would not have filibustered in the past, whether we're talking about stimulus bills or broad-ranging health care reform when everybody knows that the system's broken. And then honestly, I think the Democrats have not done a very good job of playing the legislative side of the political process.

MJ: So what could Democrats have been doing that they didn't do? What kind of procedural quirks could they have taken advantage of?

GK: Well, one main thing is actually just to do a better job of coupling their legislative strategy with a public relations strategy. On health care, they fell behind because they spent a lot of time arguing with each other in public, which slowed down the bill. And when they did have a proposal, they just sort of dumped these enormous bills out there and said, "OK, you want health care? Here it is," and then allowed the opponents of health care to define what the bills were and what the flaws were. And most of the other Democrats were then caught flat-footed by this blowback, and they were unprepared to explain the finer points of the legislation.

From a political point of view, it might have been helpful for the Democrats to find the way to break the bill into pieces and vote on it in sort of easy-to-understand digestible pieces. And the Democrats argued that the legislation had to move as one big piece because all the pieces fit together, and that makes sense as a legislative argument. But still, politically it would have been better to move it piece by piece, so that you have a conversation about the individual sectors of the bill and everybody would understand, "Ah yes, there is no 'Death Panels' subheading of the bill."

MJ: Besides breaking apart the bill and moving them in separate pieces, are there any sort of parliamentary tricks you came across in previous pieces of legislation that were conspicuously absent?

GK: Back on the political side of things, if the Democrats know Republicans are going to filibuster anything they put on the floor, then the strategy should be to put things on the floor which are embarrassing to filibuster. And they finally started figuring this out in 2010, when they had this blowup with Jim Bunning [12] blocking the unemployment-insurance extension. And the Democrats sort of fired up their public relations machinery and said, "Really? People have been unemployed for the better part of the year, and one person is going to keep that from going through the Senate?" Just the embarrassment factor forced the Republicans to cave.

MJ: Speaking of embarrassment, that's one of the problems that came up when I spoke with a pollster about Senate reform [13]: It's impossible to get a sizable percentage of the public to care about debates about Senate procedure. Have you found instances where the public will get really engaged and take sides?

GK: Actually, I believe the pollsters are correct. Most people don't care very much about procedure. I will say that in the mid-20th century, the battle over the Senate cloture rule was so closely identified with civil rights that people did ask lots of questions about procedure. So in 1952, there was this Southern senator, Sparkman, running as a vice president on Adlai Stevenson's ticket, and it was news—not front page news, but it was news—when he was asked how he would rule as vice president on whether or not the Senate was a standing body. So under the right circumstances, people can learn about the implications of the rules and care a little bit. But for the most part I don't think they'd really get involved.

I think to the extent that procedure gets tied to some broader phenomenon, then it can be powerful. So once people understand the Republicans are able to block legislation when they stand together, then it's credible to say, in the 2010 cycle, Republicans are the party of "No" and they are a hindrance on not just the president's agenda, but just sort of effective government.

MJ: When you were going through the research was there anyone who really stood out as the King of Filibuster?

GK: I developed a real fondness for Huey Long. The thing is, he's only a senator from, what, 1932 to 1935? But he was just a…he was just a lot of fun. He had a bone to pick with Roosevelt and the Democratic leaders, and so he would just come to the floor and filibuster a lot. And when he did, he was very colorful.

MJ: How did the founders come down on this? Did they have any idea that 200 years later, Huey Long was going to be reading out of his cookbook?

GK: Well, the important point just to dispel any rumors out there, is that the right to filibuster is not written into the Constitution, and it's not as if the founders wanted filibustering to happen. They didn't advocate it. So that's the first point. The second point, though, is that as they were writing key provisions of the Constitution, they sort of anticipated that the rights they were putting into the Constitution could be used to filibuster. Things like what the quorum threshold is, how many people it takes to call for a vote, those are in there for different reasons; there are sort of good-government reasons to have those provisions in there. It's just that at the same time they could be abused. And they knew it.

MJ: So what's your explanation for the rise of obstructionism in the Senate? Is this all Mitch McConnell's fault?

GK: [laughs] No, no, it definitely precedes Mitch McConnell. The underlying story is that the ways that senators filibuster have changed dramatically. There used to be these wars of attrition where it was a contest to see which sides of the debate could last longer. And then we switched; the senators then switched to just seeing who had enough, the people wanting to do something, had enough votes to shut off debate. And underlying that was that the time of senators became much more valuable to them. They had lots of other things they could be doing. The senate had a lot more business to try to deal with, and when you put that together we spend a week, a month, trying to have one of these long debates. It just wasn't worth it to them anymore.

MJ: So you're saying they just had so much more to do?

GK: Yeah, well, part of that is what the individual senators could also be doing with their time. Especially, airplanes meant that senators could be flying across the country or flying over to Europe to find facts or visit their constituents...

MJ: Or play golf with Jack Abramoff.

GK: Or play golf in Scotland with their favorite lobbyist. And compared to that, sitting in the Senate all night listening to somebody else talk was a very unproductive use of their time.

MJ: What specifically could they do to correct the balance?

GK: Well, one of my favorite ideas—and I can't take full credit for this, because it was proposed by Gregory Robinson and another guy from Binghamton in a Roll Call article [14]—but the idea is, you switch the burden on cloture voting so that debate gets shut off unless 41 people vote against cloture. And in particular you might also reduce the amount of time between filing cloture and holding a vote.

MJ: So instead of requiring that Robert Byrd be there for 60 votes, you just get to 41 and if you oppose it, you have to show up.

GK: Yeah. So if 41 Republicans want to block, say, financial reform, they can, but they have to be in DC seven days a week, 24 hours a day, in case there's a cloture petition. Whereas, you know, if you want the bill to come up for a vote, then you can go to your fundraisers, go back to your state, sit in committee, go to your office. The people who want something to happen wouldn't have the onus on them to make something happen.

One of the broader points in my book is showing that previous attempts to reform the Senate cloture rule have not reduced obstruction. After the rule was first adopted in 1917, there was more filibustering. After the threshold for filibustering was reduced to its current level in 1975, there was an increase in filibustering. So changing the rules doesn't necessarily mean you get less filibustering.

MJ: Along those lines, are there unintended consequences that come to mind if you were to just eliminate the filibuster outright (other than the obvious fact your party won't always be in power)?

GK: Yes. Well, two main points. One is that if you eliminate the filibuster entirely, the Senate will become a lot like the House. And that's not really a good thing. In the House, the majority party is able to push through legislation that it wants. And part of the reason it can do that is that the incentives provided by a combination of House party leaders, the president, and interest groups can buy off marginal members or undecided members to get things through.

The other thing is that the House operates with a bare minimum of debate. So even if you really liked, say, the health care bill and the financial reform bill that passed the House, as small-d democrats it's got to make us a little bit nervous that they passed, after a few hours of debate, and with a bare minimum of amendments—I think the Republicans got one amendment when the health care bill passed, which of course was defeated on a party-line vote. And that occurs because the majority party is able to dictate the terms of debate. In the Senate, typically the majority party has to bargain with the minority party, and what you get is a longer conversation and a lot more amendments. Some of those amendments might improve the legislation. Some of them are just opportunities for minority party members to make their point, so that their constituents feel represented.

MJ: Now that you've spent so much time researching Senate procedure and the various ways in which bills really don't become laws, do you find it more difficult to watch something like Schoolhouse Rock [15]?

GK: [laughs]. Yes. Actually my adviser, Barbara Sinclair, she wrote the book about this. About how, she didn't phrase it this way, but it's about how Schoolhouse Rock doesn't make sense [16] any more. The filibuster is one way in which the legislative process is fundamentally different. But also just more broadly, Congress seems to really struggle to get anything done, increasingly, and so when things do get done, they often get done in these really weird ways. Everything gets bundled, all the appropriations bills get bundled together in one big bill and get passed really fast, tied to an increase in the debt limit or a congressional continuing spending resolution that has to pass that day. Or you get these omnibus bills at the end of a Congress, where other bills get passed just because there's one line that says, oh by the way, HR 22 is also passed.

Aside from the filibuster, Congress just seems to have a difficult time with the basic task of legislating in a normal way. And doing its job, which is passing legislation and appropriations bills and re-authorization bills in a timely manner.

And in that sense, the critics like Fallows have a really good point. Congress is not right now a healthy institution. But the filibuster is just a part of that dysfunction.

MJ: So you sort of attribute the increase of the filibuster to issues of time. What do you attribute the overall general dysfunction to?

GK: That is a good question. I want to answer, but part of the problem is the answer is well outside of my research. I've studied the filibuster. My impression is that the way to answer that question is to look at two things: What's driving the polarization of legislators so that Republicans feel that the consequences for agreeing with the Democrats would be extraordinary, and Democrats don't feel that when they're in the minority, many of them don't feel that they can safely agree with Republicans. And the other thing is I think, too, I would also identify campaign finance as a possible source [17] of stalemate. I'm sure your readers are familiar with that argument.
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WHERE ARE THE 'DRILL BABY DRILL' ASSHOLES NOW???Officials Dispatched To Gulf As Oil Spill Worries Grow 29APR10

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal declared a state of emergency Thursday and President Obama pledged his administration will use "every single resource at our disposal" as an oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico crept toward shore.

Jindal made the declaration shortly after Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano called the disaster a "spill of national significance." The federal government has sent skimmers, booms and other resources to try and contain the spill. Obama said the response could include the Defense Department.

Thursday's order allows the state to free up resources to begin preparing for the oil to reach the shore, which could happen as soon as Friday.

The spill could affect a wide variety of wildlife, including the oysters, shrimp and other creatures that commercial fishermen depend on to make a living.

Napolitano, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and environmental protection administrator Lisa Jackson will travel Friday to the Gulf of Mexico to oversee efforts to contain the spill, which could make landfall the same day. White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said the administration also may send military ships and personnel to help control damage from the spill.

British oil giant BP confirmed Thursday that up to 5,000 barrels of oil a day are spilling from the site of the deadly oil rig explosion the occurred earlier this month in the gulf.

Doug Suttles, the oil company's chief operating officer, told NBC's Today show that oil is bubbling up from the ocean bottom at a rate of 1,000 to 5,000 barrels a day. He said the company would welcome help from the U.S. Defense Department and other agencies in containing the slick.

"We'll take help from anyone," Suttles said.

As the slick has grown, so have potential cleanup costs.

"As the president and the law have made clear, BP is the responsible party" for costs, Napolitano said.

A third leak was discovered in the blown-out well, which is about a mile under water. Coast Guard Rear Adm. Mary Landry said it may be time for government agencies to offer up "technologies that may surpass abilities of the private sector" to get the slick under control.

Landry said more than 5,000 barrels a day of sweet crude are discharging into the gulf, not the 1,000 barrels officials had estimated for days since the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded and sank 50 miles off the Louisiana Coast. The new oil spill estimate came from the federal National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration.

Initially, Suttles said he did not believe the amount of oil spilling into the water was greater than earlier estimates. But on Thursday, he acknowledged that the leak may be as high as the government is estimating.

"Using the satellite imagery and our overflights, we can now say it looks like it's more than a thousand. It's a range" of up to 5,000, he said.

Burning Off Oil A New Tactic

Crews turned to a plan to burn some of the oilafter failing to stop the leak at the spot where the platform exploded and sank . A 500-foot boom was to be used to corral several thousand gallons of the thickest oil on the surface, which would then be towed to a more remote area, set on fire and allowed to burn for about an hour.

NPR's Wade Goodwyn, reporting from the Unified Command Center in the Louisiana town of Robert, said this isn't tried-and-true territory.

"Nobody is sure how well this is going to work in the open Gulf," Goodwyn said. "It's not going to be a large percentage of the spill, because burning only works where the spill is thick, emulsified, and that's only about 3 percent of the entire oil sick."

He cautioned that even if the experiment works, it's not going to be a big fix. Goodwyn said the burning does not compare with planes dropping dispersants, which are having the most impact in controlling the spill.

Officials previously had estimated about 42,000 gallons of oil a day was leaking into the gulf from the blown-out well. The number would be closer to 210,000 gallons a day with the new estimates. Eleven workers are missing and presumed dead, and more than 100 escaped the blast, the cause of which has not been determined.

As for the burn, Greg Pollock, head of the oil spill division of the Texas General Land Office, which is providing equipment for crews in the Gulf, said he is not aware of a similar technique ever being tried off the U.S. coast. The last time crews with his agency used fire booms to burn oil was after a 1995 spill on the San Jacinto River.

"When you can get oil ignited, it is an absolutely effective way of getting rid of a huge percentage of the oil," he said. "I can't overstate how important it is to get the oil off the surface of the water."

The oil has the consistency of thick roofing tar. When the flames go out, Pollock said, the material that is left resembles a hardened ball of tar that can be removed from the water with nets or skimmers.

"I would say there is little threat to the environment because it won't coat an animal; and because all the volatiles have been consumed if it gets on a shore, it can be simply picked up," he said.

Authorities also said they expect minimal impact on sea turtles and marine mammals in the burn area.

More than two dozen vessels moved about in the heart of the slick-pulling, oil-sopping booms. As the task force worked far offshore, local officials prepared for the worst in case the oil reaches land.

Goodwyn said the oil is likely to come ashore around the Mississippi River Delta. He said the government BP both have about 100,000 feet of surface booms to put there; another 500,000 feet of booms are available.

"There's no stopping this from coming ashore everywhere, and if it's going to be weeks of oil spilling out of this well before they can get it stopped, this could turn into quite an impressive mess," Goodwyn said.

The decision to burn some of the oil came after crews operating submersible robots failed to activate a shutoff device that would halt the flow of oil on the sea bottom 5,000 feet below.

Costs Could Top $1 Billion

BP says work will begin as early as Thursday to drill a relief well to relieve pressure at the blowout site, but that could take months.

Another option is a dome-like device to cover oil rising to the surface and pump it to container vessels, but that will take two weeks to put in place, BP said.

Winds and currents in the Gulf have helped crews in recent days as they try to contain the leak. The immediate threat to sandy beaches in coastal Alabama and Mississippi has eased. But the spill has moved steadily toward the mouth of the Mississippi River, home to hundreds of species of wildlife and near some rich oyster grounds.

Industry officials say replacing the Deepwater Horizon, owned by Transocean Ltd. and operated by BP, would cost up to $700 million. BP has said its costs for containing the spill are running at $6 million a day. The company said it will spend $100 million to drill the relief well. The Coast Guard has not yet reported its expenses.


Click the header to participate in this urgent NRDC action.

I was appalled to hear -- on Earth Day of all days -- that the International Whaling Commission has put forward a deal that would legalize commercial whaling for the first time in a generation.

Even worse, the Obama Administration has backed this deadly proposal, which would suspend the international ban on whaling and make it legal once again to kill whales for profit.

During his campaign, President Obama promised America he would oppose the killing of these magnificent creatures. It’s time for you and me to hold him to that promise.

Please call on the White House to oppose any deal that would legitimize the hunting and killing of whales.

Obama Administration officials claim that the IWC deal would be a “step forward” for whales because it could rein in Japan, Iceland and Norway, which have killed thousands of whales since 1986 by exploiting loopholes in the whaling ban.

But, in fact, this new deal is a giant step backward. It rewards those three nations for years of defying international law. It does their bidding by suspending the whaling ban for 10 years. It opens up the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary to whaling. And it will not stop them from trading in whale meat or killing whales under legal loopholes like “scientific permits.”

Don’t believe for a minute that this kind of deal would phase down whaling. Instead, it would breathe new life into a dying industry.

Worst of all, the deal gives moral cover to the absurd notion that we can save whales by killing them -- instead of by banning their slaughter.

There is no moral justification for killing whales. There is no scientific justification for killing whales.

And if the Obama Administration persists in supporting a deal that encourages the killing of whales, it will tarnish not only the White House but our entire nation.

Please join me in telling President Obama to vigorously oppose this deal and instead push for a deal that closes the loopholes and ends commercial whaling once and for all!

Thanks to the efforts of NRDC, you and I have prevailed so many times in defense of our planet’s whales. We saved the gray whale’s last untouched nursery in Mexico’s San Ignacio Lagoon against Mitsubishi’s plans for industrialization. And we reined in the Navy’s use of dangerous sonar systems around marine mammals.

Now, with our own government supporting an unthinkable deal that would legalize the commercial killing of whales, we must unite again and say: Not on our watch!

I hope you’ll make your own voice heard inside the White House today. Thank you.

Pierce Brosnan
Natural Resources Defense Council

First U.S. Offshore Wind Farm Gets Government OK 28APR10

The Obama administration has approved what would be the nation's first offshore wind farm, off Cape Cod, inching the U.S. closer to harvesting an untapped domestic energy source - the steady breezes blowing along its vast coasts.

U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced his decision Wednesday in Boston, clearing the way for a 130-turbine wind farm in Nantucket Sound. Cape Wind was in its ninth year of federal review, and Salazar stepped in early this year to bring what he called much-needed resolution to the bitterly contested proposal.

Approval of the project would break new ground in the drive toward renewable power, Massachusetts Environmental Affairs Secretary Ian Bowles said.

"This will be the shot heard around the world for clean energy," he said.

Cape Wind says it can generate power by 2012 and aims to eventually supply three-quarters of the power on Cape Cod, which has about 225,000 residents. Cape Wind officials say it will provide green jobs and a reliable domestic energy source, while offshore wind advocates are hoping it can jump-start the U.S. industry.

Major U.S. proposals include a project in Texas state waters, but most are concentrated along the East Coast north of Maryland, including projects in Delaware and New Jersey.

Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick has been an enthusiastic backer of Cape Wind, pushing it as key to the state's efforts to increase its use of renewable energy.

But Cape Wind met with heavy resistance from people who wanted it moved out of the sound, and its opponents are expected to continue to try to derail the project in court.

Critics say the project endangers wildlife and air and sea traffic, while marring historic vistas. The late U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy fought Cape Wind, calling it a special interest giveaway. The wind farm would be visible from the Kennedy family compound in Hyannisport.

Home to some of the best-known beaches in the Northeast, Cape Cod has long been a destination for summer vacations and is famous for its small towns and homes in its namesake architectural style.

Democrat U.S. Rep. William Delahunt, who represents Cape Cod, said allowing the project to move forward will open "a new chapter of legal battles and potential setbacks" for the wind power industry.

"Cape Wind is the first offshore wind farm to be built in the wrong place, in the wrong way, stimulating the wrong economies," Delahunt said Wednesday.

The project is about five miles off Cape Cod at its closest proximity to land and 14 miles off Nantucket at the greatest distance. According to visual simulations done for Cape Wind, on a clear day the turbines would be about a half-inch tall on the horizon at the nearest point and appear as specks from Nantucket.

Opponents also said the power from the pricey Cape Wind project, estimated to cost at least $2 billion, would be too expensive.

U.S. Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts, a Republican, said the project will jeopardize tourism and affect aviation safety and the rights of the Native American tribes.

"Nantucket Sound is a national treasure that should be protected from industrialization." Brown said.

Cape Wind appeared close to final approval in January 2009 when the lead federal agency reviewing the project, the Minerals Management Service, issued a report saying the project posed no major environmental problems.

But two Wampanoag Indian tribes claimed the project would ruin a sacred ritual that requires an unblocked view of the sunrise over the sound, and would be built on long-submerged tribal burial grounds.

Early this month, a federal historic council backed tribal claims and recommended Salazar reject the project, citing its "destructive" affects on views from dozens of historic sites. The governors of six states, including Patrick, last week urged Salazar to ignore that advice, saying that would make it nearly impossible to site offshore wind projects on the Eastern Seaboard because so many offshore wind farm sites are visible from historic properties.

Don't let Arizona's unconstitutional attack on civil rights stand. CREDO action 29APR10

Click the header to sign the petition against this law, and boycott everything from Arizona and do not travel to Arizona until this law is revoked!

The state of Arizona has enacted a law that is the greatest threat to civil rights in America in a generation. Even though it's 2010 and not 1963, federal action is necessary once again to protect civil rights in a state where the governor and legislature are writing racial discrimination into the law.

The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution prohibits unreasonable government search and seizure. But Arizona Governor Jan Brewer has signed into law SB 1070, legislation that that effectively mandates racial profiling and police harassment of Latinos.

Not only does SB 1070 require the police to investigate and detain anyone who could reasonably be suspected of being an undocumented immigrant, it actually makes it a crime not to have papers providing your immigration status.

Click here to automatically sign our petition to Attorney General Holder asking him to file suit to prevent this blatantly unjust and unconstitutional law from ever going into effect.

If no injunction is obtained by the Department of Justice, the bill will go into effect in August, creating a unique and frightening situation within Arizona's borders where anyone who forgets to carry identification or papers proving immigration status could be picked up by police. Arizona will become a place where someone who appears to be a Latino or speaks English with an accent will be at constant risk of being stopped and interrogated by law enforcement.

The Arizona bill is so extreme that even Tom Tancredo — a rabid anti-immigrant zealot — opposes this law.

The federal government has a special role to play in situations like this. When states pass unconstitutional laws that clearly violate the civil rights of its citizens, the federal government must step in to protect those rights.

Click here to automatically sign our petition to Attorney General Holder asking him to step in and stop this law.

This deeply wrong-headed legislation is not only unconstitutional, but it demonizes and dehumanizes immigrants and puts them at risk. Undocumented immigrants who are victims of or witnesses to violent crime will be afraid to cooperate with authorities — which is why the Arizona Association of Chiefs of Police opposes the bill.

The Attorney General has taken an oath to defend the Constitution. He cannot let this anti-American, unconstitutional attack on the civil rights of immigrants and Latinos stand.

Click here to automatically sign our petition urging Attorney General Holder to stop the Arizona law from taking effect.

Thank you for standing up for civil rights.

Becky Bond, Political Director
CREDO Action from Working Assets


Click the header to go to the ACLU website and read more and to participate in actions from this newsletter.

A Big Win and A Big Step Forward

Google's New Transparency Tool: A Window into Government Surveillance

Texas Rewrites History, Jeopardizing the Educational Future of Children Nationwide

Attorney General Stands Behind Use of Criminal Courts for 9/11 Terrorism Suspects

Is Facebook Having Another Privacy Disconnect?

ACLU In Court Last Week to Challenge Warrantless Surveillance Law

Is Facebook Having Another Privacy Disconnect?

The first sentence on Facebook's privacy guide page states: "You should have control over what you share." But many of Facebook's recent actions, such as its much-criticized "privacy transition," have made it harder for users to retain control over their information.

Earlier this week, following up on its recent policy changes, Facebook announced its plans to create more dynamic profiles using "Connections." What exactly counts as a connection wasn't clearly defined but seems to include things like friends lists, likes and interests, events, groups, and activities.

More importantly, it's also unclear whether users will have real control over how their connections are shared. Both Facebook's Monday announcement and its recent policy changes have suggested that users cannot prevent applications (also know as "apps"), pages, and other third parties from accessing these connections. They may be able to "hide" them from other Facebook users but not from the government, advertisers, or anyone else with the ability and incentive to create apps or pages. However, new documents for app developers point to the Extended Permissions page which requires apps and pages to explicitly ask for user permission before accessing various "connections"—including interests, events, groups, and location.

If Facebook believes that you "should have control over what you share," it should resolve this by giving users real control over whether their connections can be accessed by apps and pages. Doing so still won't resolve other issues, like the "app gap" that allows your friends' applications to view your personal information without your knowledge or consent, but it would be a step in the right direction.

Otherwise, the only way you can keep control of your information is to refuse to use Facebook to share or connect at all.

ACLU In Court Last Week to Challenge Warrantless Surveillance Law

Last week, the ACLU argued in a New York federal appeals court that its lawsuit challenging an unconstitutional government spying law should be reinstated. The ACLU filed the landmark lawsuit in July 2008 to stop the government from conducting surveillance under the FISA Amendments Act (FAA), which gives the executive branch virtually unlimited power to monitor Americans' international e-mails and telephone calls.

"This law allows the government to engage in dragnet surveillance of Americans' international telephone calls and e-mails," said Jameel Jaffer, Director of the ACLU National Security Project. "It intrudes on constitutionally-protected privacy and free speech rights and sweeps far more broadly than is necessary to serve any legitimate government interest. In this context, the courts have not just the authority but the obligation to intervene. The lower court decision, which relegated Americans' privacy rights to the mercy of the political branches, should be reversed."

U.S. District Court Judge John G. Koeltl of the Southern District of New York dismissed the case in August on "standing grounds," ruling that the plaintiffs—who include journalists, defense lawyers and human rights workers who rely on confidential communications to perform their jobs—did not have the right to challenge the new surveillance law because they could not prove with certainty that their own communications had been monitored. The ACLU is asking a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit to overturn Judge Koeltl's ruling.

In November, the ACLU filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for records related to the implementation of the new law, including reports indicating how the FAA is being interpreted and used, how many Americans are affected by this sweeping spying regime and what safeguards are in place to prevent abuse of Americans' privacy rights. The government has not yet released any of the records requested.

Learn more about the ACLU's lawsuit challenging the FAA.

A Big Win and A Big Step Forward
by James Esseks

From a courtroom in Arkansas to the President's desk in the Oval Office, we've seen critical steps forward in the struggle for LGBT rights.

In 2008, an Arkansas state law went into effect banning gay and other unmarried couples from being adoptive or foster parents. The ACLU immediately went to court to challenge this outrageous law. And now, a state court, in response to the ACLU's lawsuit, has declared the law unconstitutional.

We were set to start a trial in early May, but the court agreed with the arguments we made in a pre-trial motion that the ban is so clearly unconstitutional that no trial was needed. Taking down this law means that many Arkansas children will have a better chance of finding the permanent home they've been seeking. And it advances LGBT rights law, as well—a great combination.

The reasoning in this decision will help us fight a range of restrictions against gay and lesbian people all across America—from parenting bans in other states, to the federal government's Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy, to state bans on marriage for same-sex couples. And it shows that, with persistence and hard work, we can successfully push back against those who want to impose their narrow-minded beliefs and values on the rest of us.

Another big step forward happened recently—on an issue that the ACLU and others have been working on for decades. President Obama directed that hospitals receiving Medicare or Medicaid money—which means virtually all hospitals—must allow patients' same-sex partners to visit in the same way that spouses and other immediate family members can.

The President expressed a determination to end the practice of members of the LGBT community being "barred from the bedsides of the partners with whom they may have spent decades of their lives—unable to be there for the person they love, and unable to act as a legal surrogate if their partner is incapacitated."

Victories like these are hard-earned. But, the profound difference they make in people's lives makes all that effort worthwhile.

Google's New Transparency Tool: A Window into Government Surveillance

Google's just-released Government Requests tool tracks requests for user information and content removal.
We've known for a long time that electronic privacy law is woefully outdated. But what we haven't known is how often the government is taking advantage of this fact to engage in a shopping spree in the treasure trove of personal information being collected by companies like Google.

So, we're happy to see Google's just-released Government Requests tool, which is the company's attempt to shine some light on how often governments around the world request user information and content removal from Google.

Google's new tool displays the number of "user requests" that Google received from various governments from July to December 2009. According to the tool, the company received thousands of such requests from the U.S. government during that period —requests digging into the intimate details of individual lives that are captured in emails, search histories, reading and viewing logs, and the like.

There are a few shortcomings with Google's new tool. First, it tracks requests that are received as part of an official criminal investigation—which would exclude, for example, the infamous Department of Justice subpoena asking for millions of users' search queries, something that was not part of an official criminal investigation. Second, Google's tool only counts the number of requests it receives, not the number of user records that were requested—and a single request may seek to collect countless individual records. Finally, Google is barred by law from disclosing the number of requests it receives pursuant to National Security Letters, although we know that upwards of 50,000 of these secret government requests are issued every year. All told, the requests that show up in Google's tool are just the tip of the iceberg.

The ACLU has been calling on Google and other corporations to disclose this kind of information for years. We hope this step will provide momentum for reforming the out-of-date Electronic Communications Privacy Act. Further, we hope that Google will continue to improve this tool to shine more light on how many non-criminal requests for user records it receives, break those down by type, provide more information on how many users were or would have been affected by those requests, and explore ways to disclose how it has responded to those requests—which is admittedly difficult to do.

Texas Rewrites History, Jeopardizing the Educational Future of Children Nationwide

Send your public comment opposing the extremist takeover of textbooks that will be studied by millions of students.
The Texas State Board of Education recently released amendments to the state's social studies curriculum which essentially rewrite history to comport with the personal, ideological and religious beliefs of some members of the board.

If the proposed changes are implemented, it could affect the education of students from kindergarten to 12th grade across the country for the next 10 years. Because Texas is one of the largest purchasers of textbooks nationwide, the changes the board makes to its standards often end up in textbooks purchased by other school districts around the country.

Among the more troubling recommendations are changes that minimize the importance of constitutional protections requiring the separation of church and state and that paint the country as rooted entirely in sectarian ideology—a claim that educators and historians dispute. For instance, the board eliminated a standard that would require students to "examine the reasons the Founding Fathers protected religious freedom in America by barring government from promoting or disfavoring any particular religion over all others."

The proposed amendments also distort the rights of minorities and women and minimize their roles as historical figures. For example, Archbishop Oscar Romero, an important leader in the Hispanic community, was removed from the curriculum. Meanwhile, under the proposed amendments, Confederate leaders are painted in a positive light. This pro-Confederacy bias may explain why civil rights movements—specifically those of African-Americans, Latinos and women—are given short shrift under the revised curriculum. This portrays such key advances as the result of government action and suggests that equality on paper equals equality in reality.

These changes will affect the education of a generation. If an entire generation of children grows up thinking that it's permissible for our government to favor one view of religion over others, what will the next generation believe? If these same children fail to understand the importance of the struggle for civil rights, how can we be sure that they will remain committed to correcting such abuses in the future?

Public schools should be used to educate—not indoctrinate—students on political and religious belief systems, and decisions about curriculum should be decided by educators, not politicians.

>> Take action! The public has 30 days to comment on the proposed amendments to the curriculum released last week. Send a letter to the Texas Board of Education and help stop the extremist takeover of textbooks.

Attorney General Stands Behind Use of Criminal Courts for 9/11 Terrorism Suspects

While testifying last week before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Attorney General Eric Holder defended the merits of his November decision to try the 9/11 suspects in federal criminal court, but acknowledged that the administration may still consider using the fatally-flawed military commissions instead. Holder said a final decision on which court system would be used for the trials was "weeks away."

The ACLU strongly believes that the appropriate place to try these and all terrorism cases is in federal criminal court and that the military commissions are unable to deliver effective and certain justice—and should be shut down for good. Since 9/11, the military commissions have completed only three terrorism-related cases, with two of the three convicted defendants already having been released. Federal courts, on the other hand, have successfully completed over 400 terrorism-related cases. During his testimony, the attorney general also stated that the administration will continue to indefinitely hold 48 Guantánamo detainees that it believes are "too dangerous to transfer but not feasible to prosecute."

The ACLU rejects the notion that there is a significant class of prisoners who simultaneously cannot be prosecuted nor safely released and insists that detaining terrorism suspects without charge or trial is illegal and un-American.

>> Take action! Urge President Obama to Try the 9/11 Suspects in Federal Court.

24 April 2010

THE TRUE ORIGIN OF 420 from MOJO ON 4/20 2010

The first time I ran into the term "420" as a reference to marijuana smoking was last year when I was writing my magazine piece about pot legalization. Why did it take until I was age 50 to hear about this? Because I'm practically Mormon in my personal habits and for some reason the term has never really gotten a lot of play in mass culture. But just for fun, here's Ryan Grim explaining where it came from:

A group of five San Rafael High School friends known as the Waldos — by virtue of their chosen hang-out spot, a wall outside the school — coined the term in 1971. The Huffington Post spoke with Waldo Steve, Waldo Dave and Dave's older brother, Patrick, and confirmed their full names and identities, which they asked to keep secret for professional reasons. (Pot is still, after all, illegal.)

....One day in the Fall of 1971 — harvest time — the Waldos got word of a Coast Guard service member who could no longer tend his plot of marijuana plants near the Point Reyes Peninsula Coast Guard station. A treasure map in hand, the Waldos decided to pluck some of this free bud.

The Waldos were all athletes and agreed to meet at the statue of Loius Pasteur outside the school at 4:20, after practice, to begin the hunt. "We would remind each other in the hallways we were supposed to meet up at 4:20. It originally started out 4:20-Louis and we eventually dropped the Louis," Waldo Steve tells the Huffington Post.

The first forays out were unsuccessful, but the group kept looking for the hidden crop. "We'd meet at 4:20 and get in my old '66 Chevy Impala and, of course, we'd smoke instantly and smoke all the way out to Pt. Reyes and smoke the entire time we were out there. We did it week after week," says Steve. "We never actually found the patch."

But they did find a useful codeword. "I could say to one of my friends, I'd go, 420, and it was telepathic. He would know if I was saying, 'Hey, do you wanna go smoke some?' Or, 'Do you have any?' Or, 'Are you stoned right now?' It was kind of telepathic just from the way you said it," Steve says. "Our teachers didn't know what we were talking about. Our parents didn't know what we were talking about."

At 4:20 today I'll probably be.....blogging. Or reading a paper on financial reform. Or ingesting another chapter of This Time Is Different. Exciting! For the rest of you who plan to mark April 20 with a little more gusto, happy toking. Maybe soon you'll be able to do it legally.

How Health Care Reformed the President Into A President to Be Reckoned With from MOJO 23APR10

Nothing breeds success like success. If there's one thing Barack Obama has learned since he took office, this is it.

Let's recap his first year. After a good start with the passage of an $800 billion stimulus bill shortly after his inauguration, things began to go steadily downhill. Republicans blocked his appointments. Healthcare reform stalled. Months of dithering over Afghanistan made him look weak and indecisive. Copenhagen was a disaster. Scott Brown's election in January eliminated the Democrats' filibuster-proof majority in the Senate. People started talking openly about Congress returning to Republican control in November and Obama being a one-term president.

But what a difference a couple of months makes. Thanks to a still struggling economy Obama's poll numbers remain listless, but virtually everything else has turned around. Why? Because he decided to stick to his guns and stake his presidency on healthcare reform. He refused to be cowed after Brown's victory seemed to have him on the ropes. And he won.

And now look. Financial reform, which looked as good as dead just a month ago, has gotten a second wind. The ban on gays in the military looks destined for the ash heap of history. Immigration and climate change bills are back on the agenda. China, which almost openly snubbed Obama during his visit in November, looks set to cooperate on currency issues. The troop drawdown in Iraq is on schedule, and patient diplomacy has made international sanctions against Iran a likely bet.

It's hardly all sunshine in the White House. There's still that struggling economy, after all, and the Tea Party crowd remains a thorn in Obama's side. But compared to just a couple of months ago, he's got the opposition traumatized, his own supporters newly enthusiastic, and his legislative agenda back on track. And all because one year after he took office he made the decision to stick up for a progressive agenda and bet his presidency on it. When he signed the resulting healthcare bill, he suddenly became a president to be reckoned with.

It was a tough lesson to learn. But one that was well worth it.


Click the header to go to the newsletter on line to read the full articles and to participate in NRDC actions.


At NRDC's Forces For Nature benefit, multi-talented singer, song-writer, advocate and activist Sheryl Crow speaks from the heart about preserving the planet for future generations and the importance of a childhood spent in nature.

Read Frances Beinecke's post on the event and watch Sheryl Crow's speech.
Find out more about Forces of Nature and Sheryl Crow's involvement with NRDC (see the video below).

Simple Steps - green living from NRDC
Energy Smackdown: Lose 10 Tons in 2010 by Commuting SmarterEnergy Smackdown: Lose 10 Tons of CO2 in 2010 by Commuting Smarter
Every year the average commuter emits almost 3.5 tons of heat-trapping pollutants. Follow our step-by-step plan to ease the impact of your commute.

Help NRDC: Cast your vote in eBay's Earth Day Fundraising Tournament!
In honor of Earth Day, eBay is sponsoring a fundraising tournament hosted by Humanity Calls. Please vote for NRDC by clicking on this link. Once you've voted you can earn more votes by referring your friends OR by donating to NRDC or the tournament. Voting is open through June 22.

Take Action Now

Tell the Obama administration to approve America's first offshore wind project.

Growing Green Award Winners
NRDC announces the winners of its second annual Growing Green Awards to honor farmers, business leaders and promoters of sustainable food. Find out who won!

Chemical Reform is Closer Today!
"[On April 15] Senator Lautenberg introduced the Safe Chemicals Act of 2010. At the same time, Representatives Rush and Waxman introduced the draft Toxic Chemicals Safety Act of 2010. Both of these bills represent major advances over the status quo. They will give the public much more information about chemicals in the environment and in products, they will require companies to prove that chemicals are safe, and they will authorize EPA to take strong action to address threats to human health and the environment."

NRDC Online is a weekly email newsletter from the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation's most effective environmental action organization. To learn more about what we do and how to become a member of NRDC, please visit or write to us at

© Copyright 2010 Natural Resources Defense Council

Arizona’s Immigration Bill is a Social and Racial Sin, THE CHURCH WILL NOT COMPLY from SOJO 23APR10

A call to action from Sojourners, click on the header to participate. After this was sent out the Gov. of Arizona did sign the bill into law Friday afternoon. I am torn on this issue, I resent illegal immigrants for taking jobs at wages lower that American workers would demand and receive, but I really resent the way corporate America and all levels of government turn a blind eye to the exploitation of immigrants, legal and illegal, and so create the incentive for illegals to come here. There's is a lot of hypocrisy among regular Americans too, even those that rail against illegal immigrants, but will hire them to do housework, yard work or childcare because they are cheaper that their fellow Americans and American companies. And these hypocrites too often will not report companies or their neighbors for hiring illegals. So, I will not condone denying these people the rights they have once in America as guaranteed by our Constitution, and I will not deny them shelter, food, health care and education, as we are told by Christ to welcome the stranger to our land and to share with them, see Matthew 25.

I got up at 4:30 a.m. on Tuesday to fly to Phoenix, Arizona, to speak at a press conference and rally at the State Capitol at the invitation of the state’s clergy and other leaders in the immigration reform movement. The harshest enforcement bill in the country against undocumented immigrants just passed the Arizona state House and Senate, and is only awaiting the signature of Governor Janet Brewer to become law.

Senate Bill 1070 would require law enforcement officials in the state of Arizona to investigate someone’s immigration status if there is “reasonable suspicion” that the person might be undocumented. I wonder who that would be, and if anybody who doesn’t have brown skin will be investigated. Those without identification papers, even if they are legal, are subject to arrest; so don’t forget your wallet on your way to work if you are Hispanic in Arizona. You can also be arrested if you are stopped and are simply with people who are undocumented — even if they are your family. Parents or children of “mixed-status families” (made up of legal and undocumented, as many immigrant families are out here) could be arrested if they are found together. You can be arrested if you are “transporting or harboring” undocumented people. Some might consider driving immigrant families to and from church to be Christian ministry — but it will now be illegal in Arizona.

For the first time, all law enforcement officers in the state will be enlisted to hunt down undocumented people, which will clearly distract them from going after truly violent criminals, and will focus them on mostly harmless families whose work supports the economy and who contribute to their communities. And do you think undocumented parents will now go to the police if their daughter is raped or their family becomes a victim of violent crime? Maybe that’s why the state association of police chiefs is against SB 1070.

This proposed law is not only mean-spirited — it will be ineffective and will only serve to further divide communities in Arizona, making everyone more fearful and less safe. This radical new measure, which crosses many moral and legal lines, is a clear demonstration of the fundamental mistake of separating enforcement from comprehensive immigration reform. We all want to live in a nation of laws, and the immigration system in the U.S. is so broken that it is serving no one well. But enforcement without reform of the system is merely cruel. Enforcement without compassion is immoral. Enforcement that breaks up families is unacceptable. And enforcement of this law would force us to violate our Christian conscience, which we simply will not do. It makes it illegal to love your neighbor in Arizona.

Before the rally and press event, I visited some immigrant families who work at Neighborhood Ministries, an impressive community organization affiliated with Sojourners’ friends at the Christian Community Development Association. I met a group of women who were frightened by the raids that have been occurring, in which armed men invade their homes and neighborhoods with guns and helicopters. When the rumors of massive raids spread, many of these people flee both their homes and their workplaces, and head for The Church at The Neighborhood Center as the only place they feel safe and secure. But will police invade the churches if they are suspected of “harboring” undocumented people, because it is the law? Will the nurse practitioner I met at their medical clinic serving only uninsured people be arrested for being “with” the children of families who are here illegally as she treats them?

At the rally, I started with the words of Jesus (which drew cheers from the crowd gathered at the state Capitol), who instructed his disciples to “welcome the stranger,” and said that whatever we do to “the least of these, who are members of my family” we do to him. I think that means that to obey Jesus and his gospel will mean to disobey SB 1070 in Arizona. I looked at the governor’s Executive Tower and promised that many Christians in Arizona won’t comply with this law because the people they will target will be members of our “family” in the body of Christ. And any attack against them is an attack against us, and the One we follow.

Catholic Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles just called this Arizona measure “the country’s most retrogressive, mean-spirited, and useless immigration law.” On CNN, I defended the Cardinal’s comments, which likened the requirement of people always carrying their “papers” to the most oppressive regimes of Nazism and Communism. I wonder whether the tea party movement that rails against government intrusion will rail against this law, or whether those who resist the forced government registration of their guns will resist the forced government requirement that immigrants must always carry their documentation. Will the true conservatives please stand up here? We are all waiting.

Arizona’s SB 1070 must be named as a social and racial sin, and should be denounced as such by people of faith and conscience across the nation. This is not just about Arizona, but about all of us, and about what kind of country we want to be. It’s time to stand up to this new strategy of “deportation by attrition,” which I heard for the first time today in Arizona. It is a policy of deliberate political cruelty, and it should be remembered that “attrition” is a term of war. Arizona is deciding whether to wage war on the body of Christ. We should say that if you come after one part of the body, you come after all of us.

Jim Wallis is the author of Rediscovering Values: On Wall Street, Main Street, and Your Street — A Moral Compass for the New Economy, and is CEO of Sojourners. He blogs at

23 April 2010


I am tired of war. I am tired of the thousands killed, the tens of thousands wounded, the destruction of lives and property, the waste of life and hundreds of millions of dollars, the corruption of the Afghan government and the U.S. military-industrial complex. And the perversion of Christianity by the "just war" argument makes me sick, it is as wrong as the perversion of Islam by the fanatics we are fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq. I have signed the petition demanding a date be set for our exit from Afghanistan, click on the header to sign it too.

We can't let the U.S. military occupation of Afghanistan continue with no end in sight. It's time to set a timetable to get out of the quagmire.

Senator Russ Feingold, Representative Jim McGovern, and Representative Walter Jones have introduced a bipartisan bill that would require that the administration present to Congress by January 1, 2011, a plan for the safe withdrawal of all U.S. armed forces from Afghanistan. This plan must include a timeline for the completion of the withdrawal, and the president must report his progress on the timeline to Congress every 90 days.

Urge your representative and senators to cosponsor the Afghanistan withdrawal bill. Just click the link below to get started.


Got these off YouTube, part 8 has music but not from Pink Floyd so not from the show, part 9 the music is muted because WMG is anal. Included them in the hope at some point the music will be restored.


On Faith on Glenn Beck, and a Video PSA for Social Justice Christians from SOJO 19APR10

Last week, The Washington Post’s On Faith site devoted their weekly Q&A to the debate over social justice which they titled, “Wallis vs. Beck: The politics of social justice.” Jim offered his thoughts on the question last week, and did a video interview as well, but we thought it would be good to highlight some of the responses from across the spectrum. Here are some samplings.

Stu Burguiere, executive producer of The Glenn Beck Program:

Like everyone else in America, Glenn Beck thinks “social justice” –if it’s defined as charitable outreach to the poor–is a good idea. He supports it, he believes in it, he does it.

So, what’s the problem? I mean, “social justice” seems like such an innocuous phrase, right? It paints a picture of fairness. I guess that’s why Father Charles Coughlin used it when naming his National Union for Social Justice and his publication Social Justice Weekly. Coughlin was an anti-Semitic religious broadcaster in the 1930s, and he used the banner of social justice to attack capitalism, warn of Jewish plots against “Christian civilization”, and to promote his adoration for Italian Fascist Benito Mussolini.

Bishop Vashti Murphy McKenzie of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, and Trustee at Payne Theological Seminary:

Wise guys seem to get the most play in print and broadcast media. Wise guys are the ones who sling words around with unbalanced fierceness instead of using reasoned conviction. Wise guys are those who are more interested in the victory of their opinions rather than the victory of truth. …

Wise people tend to blend the right amount of knowledge and experience that appeal to our higher nature. Wise people strive to bring people together rather than drive people apart. They move into the midst of strife bringing peace to disorder. Wise people know the difference between confidence and arrogance while handling the truth as they know and believe it to be, and with humility in what they do not know. Wise people don’t sell as well. Wise people don’t always get print space or air time.

Al Mohler, President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary:

To assert that a call for social justice is reason for faithful Christians to flee their churches is nonsense, given the Bible’s overwhelming affirmation that justice is one of God’s own foremost concerns.

But, there is more going on here. Glenn Beck’s statements lacked nuance, fair consideration, and context. It was reckless to use a national media platform to rail against social justice in such a manner, leaving Beck with little defense against a tidal wave of biblical mandates.

A closer look at his statements reveals a political context. He made a specific reference to Rev. Jeremiah Wright and to other priests or preachers who would use “social justice” and “economic justice” as “code words.” Is there anything to this?

Of course there is. Regrettably, there is no shortage of preachers who have traded the Gospel for a platform of political and economic change, most often packaged as a call for social justice. …

There is more to that story, however. The church is not to adopt a social reform platform as its message, but the faithful church, wherever it is found, is itself a social reform movement precisely because it is populated by redeemed sinners who are called to faithfulness in following Christ. The Gospel is not a message of social salvation, but it does have social implications.

Faithful Christians can debate the proper and most effective means of organizing the political structure and the economic markets. Bringing all these things into submission to Christ is no easy task, and the Gospel must not be tied to any political system, regime, or platform. Justice is our concern because it is God’s concern, but it is no easy task to know how best to seek justice in this fallen world.

Professor Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite of Chicago Theological Seminary:

While I deeply appreciate the reasoned approach of Al Mohler, as opposed to Glenn Beck’s ranting, I have to disagree with Mohler’s separation of the Gospel from the primacy of the care of the poor. Mohler claims “The apostles launched no social reform movement. Instead, they preached the Gospel of Christ and planted Gospel churches. Our task is to follow Christ’s command and the example of the apostles.”

According to the Acts of the Apostles in the New Testament, however, to follow the example of the apostles means everybody pool their money and take care of the poor. And the reason the early church did this, the text gives us to understand, is because it was central to their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. It was the way the believers showed the grace given them through their belief. There is no separation in Acts between living in the joy of the resurrection and sharing what you have. It’s the same thing. Now that’s not exactly socialism, but it is exactly the Gospel. What Christians have failed to do is to keep these parts of the Gospel message together. …

Columnist and Fox News commentator Cal Thomas:

Conservatives present a half-empty gospel when they share their faith, but do not perform good works in order to demonstrate their faith is real. Liberals are equally in error when they present a half-empty gospel of calling upon government to do more, but failing to share the gospel of God’s love in Jesus Christ.

Pastor Susan K. Smith of Advent United Church of Christ, Columbus, Ohio:

One of my members said to me one day that God meant for some people to be poor. She had been a member of a church where the prosperity gospel was preached, and truly believed that God sanctioned not only that some people be poor, but that they stay poor.

OK, but even if that was the case (which I don’t believe), would this same God want those who could help the poor to look the other way, to shove mercy offerings at them while allowing corrupt political systems which are designed to keep separation between wealth and poverty …to go unchallenged?

Martin Marty, author and professor emeritus of the University of Chicago:

Would all the Christians and the churches which accept any benefits of Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, tax exemption and other such programs cut them off tomorrow? They all involve the government and all were backed by “social and economics minded” leaders and followers in churches, often against the odds raised and symbolized by the Glenn Becks of their past. …

Biblical verses wisely do remind readers, “Put not your trust in princes.” That usually means governments; “princes” in the media, banking, punditry, universities, and, yes, churches demand scrutiny, and their programs deserve careful evaluation, as well. But those who say that you have taken care of biblical injunctions if you simply keep government out of everything face biblical reminders with which they have to contend: The Hebrew prophets all dealt with “nations,” and the apostle Paul, writing to people suffering under Nero, also said that civil “authority…is God’s servant for your good (Romans 13:4). Paul even goes so far in 13:6 to urge believers to “pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants.” Come on, Paul, don’t press your luck in Beck’s world!

Sharon Brous, founding rabbi of IKAR, a Jewish Spiritual Community in Los Angeles:

I’d like to start by thanking Glenn Beck for mobilizing the faith-based social justice movement. His incendiary rant, coupled with his cruel personal attacks and threats against Rev. Jim Wallis (”the hammer is coming… and when the hammer comes, it’s gonna be hammering hard …”), has united and galvanized Jews, Christians and Muslims around the country who see justice as an essential element of religious life and are unwilling to passively accept its mockery and denigration. (See and two great examples.)


Stop worrying about whose name gets in the paper and start doing something about rats, and day care, and low wages ... We must try to take our task more seriously and ourselves more lightly.

- Dorothy I. Height, 98, a founding matriarch of the American civil rights movement whose crusade for racial justice and gender equality spanned more than six decades, died Tuesday. (Source: The Washington Post)

Dorothy I. Height, founding matriarch of U.S. civil rights movement, dies at 98

By Bart Barnes
Special to The Washington Post
Wednesday, April 21, 2010; A01

Dorothy I. Height, 98, a founding matriarch of the American civil rights movement whose crusade for racial justice and gender equality spanned more than six decades, died Tuesday at Howard University Hospital. The cause of death was not disclosed.

Ms. Height was among the coalition of African American leaders who pushed civil rights to the center of the American political stage after World War II, and she was a key figure in the struggles for school desegregation, voting rights, employment opportunities and public accommodations in the 1950s and 1960s.

As president of the National Council of Negro Women for 40 years, Ms. Height was arguably the most influential woman at the top levels of civil rights leadership.

Although she never drew the media attention that conferred celebrity and instant recognition on some of the other civil rights leaders of her time, Ms. Height was often described as the "glue" that held the family of black civil rights leaders together. She did much of her work out of the public spotlight, in quiet meetings and conversations, and she was widely connected at the top levels of power and influence in government and business.

As a civil rights activist, Ms. Height participated in protests in Harlem during the 1930s. In the 1940s, she lobbied first lady Eleanor Roosevelt on behalf of civil rights causes. And in the 1950s, she prodded President Dwight D. Eisenhower to move more aggressively on school desegregation issues. In 1994, Bill Clinton awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor.

In a statement issued by the White House, President Obama called Ms. Height "the godmother of the Civil Rights Movement and a hero to so many Americans."

She "devoted her life to those struggling for equality . . . witnessing every march and milestone along the way," Obama said.

In the turmoil of the civil rights struggles in the 1960s, Ms. Height helped orchestrate strategy with movement leaders including the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Roy Wilkins, A. Philip Randolph and John Lewis, who would later serve as a Democratic member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Georgia.

In August 1963, Ms. Height was on the platform with King when he delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech at the Lincoln Memorial. But she would say later that she was disappointed that no one advocating women's rights spoke that day at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Less than a month later, at King's request, she went to Birmingham, Ala., to minister to the families of four black girls who had died in a church bombing linked to the racial strife that had engulfed the city.

"At every major effort for social progressive change, Dorothy Height has been there," Lewis said in 1997 when Ms. Height announced her retirement as president of the National Council of Negro Women.
Women's rights champion

As a champion of social justice, Ms. Height was best known during the early years of her career for her struggles to overcome racial prejudice.

She was also energetic in her efforts to overcome gender bias, and much of that work predated the women's rights movement. When President John F. Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act in 1963, Ms. Height was among those invited to the White House to witness the ceremony. She returned to the White House in 1998 for a ceremony marking the 35th anniversary of that legislation to hear Clinton urge passage of additional laws aimed at equalizing pay for men and women.

"Dorothy Height deserves credit for helping black women understand that you had to be feminist at the same time you were African . . . that you had to play more than one role in the empowerment of black people," Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) once said.

As president of the National Council of Negro Women, Ms. Height was instrumental in organizing and sponsoring programs that emphasized self-help and self-reliance.

Those included nutrition, child care, housing and career counseling. In response to a public TV program, "The Vanishing Black Family," Ms. Height helped create and organize the Black Family Reunion Celebration, which has been held on the Mall and in cities across the country annually since 1985. The gatherings are intended to honor the traditions, strength and history of African American families while seeking solutions to such social problems as teen pregnancy and drug abuse.

"The reunion is as important today as some of our marches were in the past," Ms. Height said in 1992.

In 1995, Ms. Height was among the few women to speak at the Million Man March on the Mall, which was led by Louis Farrakhan, the chief minister of the Nation of Islam. "I am here because you are here," she declared. Two years later, at 85, she sat at the podium all day, in the whipping wind and rain, at the Million Woman March in Philadelphia.
A constant fight

Dorothy Irene Height was born in Richmond on March 24, 1912, and she grew up in Rankin, Pa., near Pittsburgh, where she attended racially integrated schools. But she felt the lash of racial bigotry early in her life. A music teacher in her mostly white elementary school appointed her student director of the school chorus, but a new principal forbade her to take that position. At the next school assembly, the chorus refused to stand and sing until Ms. Height was reinstated as leader, and the principal relented.

The principal subsequently became one of her staunchest supporters, Ms. Height recalled in her 2003 memoir, "Open Wide the Freedom Gates."

As a high school senior and the valedictorian, she won a national oratorical contest, and with it a $1,000 college scholarship. But the college of her choice, Barnard in New York, had already admitted its quota of black students -- two. When Ms. Height applied, she was informed that she would have to wait at least a semester before she could enroll.

Instead, she went to New York University, where she graduated in three years and received a master's degree in educational psychology in her fourth year.

As a young woman, Ms. Height made money through jobs such as ironing entertainer Eddie Cantor's shirts and proofreading Marcus Garvey's newspaper, the Negro World. She went nightclubbing in Harlem with composer W.C. Handy.

Ms. Height began her professional career as a caseworker for the New York City welfare department. She got her start as a civil rights activist through the Rev. Adam Clayton Powell Sr., pastor of the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem, and from the pastor's son, the Rev. Adam Clayton Powell Jr., who later represented Harlem in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Ms. Height later said that as an officer of the Harlem Christian Youth Council, "I was one of the multitude whose first experience as a civil rights activist was in walking and talking with merchants on 125th Street."
Seizing an opportunity

After attending an international church youth conference in London in the summer of 1937, Ms. Height returned to New York with the conviction that she needed to operate from a broader base than that of a welfare caseworker. She found her opportunity that November at the Harlem branch of the YWCA during a visit by Eleanor Roosevelt.

Mary McLeod Bethune, president of the Harlem YWCA, was impressed by Ms. Height's poise and style in greeting the president's wife, and she promptly offered her a job.

Quitting her job as a welfare caseworker, Ms. Height joined the staff of the Harlem YWCA. She remained a full-time YWCA staffer until 1975, serving the last 18 years simultaneously as president of the National Council of Negro Women.

As a child, she had once been turned away from the Pittsburgh YWCA swimming pool. As a YWCA staff member, she was instrumental in bringing about an interracial charter for Ys in 1946.

In the 1940s, Ms. Height came to Washington as chief of the Phyllis Wheatley YWCA branch. She joined the staff of the national YWCA board in 1944, and, until 1975, she remained on that staff with a variety of responsibilities, including leadership training and interracial and ecumenical education.

In 1965, she organized and became the director of the YWCA's Center for Racial Justice, and she held that position until retiring from the YWCA board in 1975. She was a visiting professor at the Delhi School of Social Work in India, and she directed studies around the world on issues involving human rights.

Ms. Height became national president of the Delta Sigma Theta sorority in 1947, and she held that position until 1957, when she became the fourth president of the National Council of Negro Women.

Over the next four decades, she established a national reputation as a graceful and insistent voice for civil rights and women's rights. She was tall and stately and spoke in a tone that always commanded attention. She rarely had to raise her voice.

"If the times aren't ripe, you have to ripen the times," she liked to say. It was important, she said, to dress well. "I came up at a time when young women wore hats, and they wore gloves. Too many people in my generation fought for the right for us to be dressed up and not put down."

Ms. Height never married. She is survived by one sister, Anthanette Height Aldridge of New York.
Wide influence

As the women's rights movement gained momentum in the early 1970s, Ms. Height forged alliances with white feminist leaders, while disagreeing periodically on matters of tactics and racial emphasis. "African American women have advanced in every field that women have advanced, but the sad point is that those are the few and not the many," she said.

Under her leadership, the National Council of Negro Women sponsored voter registration drives and organized an education foundation for student activists who interrupted their education to do civil rights work.

Another 1960s program, Wednesdays in Mississippi, was a favorite of Ms. Height's. It consisted of weekly trips to Mississippi by interracial groups of women to assist at Freedom Schools and voter registration campaigns. This was often perilous work, especially during the summers of 1964 and 1965, when the hundreds of young civil rights volunteers who streamed into Mississippi were routinely harassed, sometimes beaten and, in a few cases, killed.

In the 1970s and 1980s, the council helped organize and operate development projects in African countries. It ran a "pig bank" project in rural Mississippi in which pigs were given to poor, hungry families so they could raise them, with the understanding that two pigs from subsequent litters would be put back into the bank for another family.

Over the years, there were fundraising drives for a statue of Bethune and acquisition of a large and imposing headquarters building in downtown Washington to house the National Council and the Dorothy I. Height Leadership Institute. The building, with white oak woodwork, a marble staircase and fluted cast-iron columns, stands at 633 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, the site of what was once a slave market. For years after stepping down as president of the National Council, Ms. Height made daily visits to her office there, using a walker or a wheelchair as she became infirm.

On her 92nd birthday, she received the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest decoration Congress can bestow. But Ms. Height often urged her co-workers to "stop worrying about whose name gets in the paper and start doing something about rats, and day care and low wages. . . . We must try to take our task more seriously and ourselves more lightly."

Staff writer Hamil R. Harris contributed to this report.

Putting ‘Collateral Murder’ in Full Context: Rotten Fruit and the Tree From Which It Fell 19APR10 from SOJO

This is a moving and personal article about the now famous video known worldwide as "COLLATERAL MURDER" showing the wanton carnage and violence of war in Iraq in July 2007. It is an expression of remorse, and questions the Christian church's endorsement of war by a member of the American forces directly involved in this event. Following this article is a letter, 'Letter To Iraq', open to the public to sign (copy and paste the link to go to the letter) from the author of this article and a fellow soldier who was also involved in that days events. Last is the video for those who have not seen it.
by Josh Stieber 04-19-2010
Recently, Wikileaks, an online whistleblower site, released a video which was dubbed “Collateral Murder.” I write as a former member of the Infantry company shown on the ground in this video, but also as a Christian who, following my experiences in Iraq, has left the military as a conscientious objector. More recently, a fellow veteran of the same company and I have written a letter to the people of Iraq that we would be grateful if others would read and sign if they agreed with our words of responsibility and reconciliation. But this is not about washing my hands of the blood that was spilled; this is an opportunity to critically but constructively examine what this video means to us as Christians.

Since the release of “Collateral Murder,” passionate responses of all types have filled newspapers, chat rooms, television programs, and personal conversations. The video graphically shows a combat scene from Iraq where children were injured and adults were killed, accompanied by audio of soldiers on the radio during the event speaking callously about the lives lost on that summer day in 2007.

The callousness toward killing as heard in Collateral Murder, though taken somewhat out of context, vividly shows the strong need for the love of Christ that we are called to embody. However, if we only say that the soldiers shown in this video are morally depraved and shouldn’t joke about killing, then we’re being short-sighted and missing an important opportunity. One of the most telling aspects in the aftermath of this video’s release is that the Secretary of Defense and other top leaders have said that the actions shown were militarily justified. They’ve put their stamp of approval on it. On this point, I actually agree: given the full context which this video fails to show, these soldiers were responding exactly as we all had been trained. The challenge then is not only to see the rotten fruit but also the tree from which it fell.

Not only is the dehumanization that was illustrated in the video systematically instilled throughout military training, but its roots run throughout our society as a whole, the church included. In my history class at a Christian high school, I was taught — as are most students, religious or not — that decisions like the dropping of the atomic bomb weren’t necessarily morally wrong nor did they stand in opposition to Jesus’ priorities. At best, I was told that the bombings were strategically debatable. This is the very same mindset shown in Collateral Murder; it says that sometimes the taking of innocent lives and the hardening of our consciences is needed in the process of achieving our national goals of security. The atomic bomb crew was even blessed by a chaplain who later repented of his choices and became an active peacemaker; so the answer to the troubling problems shown in Collateral Murder run far deeper than saying that the gunner should have prayed as he sprayed instead of laughed.

This is where we need to look at how we may have contributed to the tree that produced this revolting fruit. Going back to my religious upbringing, my pastors diligently taught me that listening to non-Christian music and following the world’s standards on dating would slowly rot my soul. But what about the world’s standards on treating one’s enemies? Clearly much of Christianity understands the connection between day-to-day decisions and the state of our souls when it comes to responding to the popular culture. But there was never any teaching that playing violent video games, shooting guns at church camp, or glorifying military practice in history classes at religious school or even at church — that these things would slowly influence our souls as much as listening to sinful music would. Not only was this concern not raised, but the opposite is taught.

The wife and daughters of the founder of the popular mega-church chain that I grew up attending have a blog, widely read by those seeking to understand God’s design for genders. According to this widely-read blog:

It’s never too early to begin teaching our children about God’s design for men and women. We’re constantly telling Jack, “That’s what boys do!” Boys hold the door for the girls. Boys play with army men. Boys are tough.

Again, if we can understand that listening to secular music may lead a young person down a road of sex, drugs, and alcohol, should there be any surprise that when children are taught to be tough and to simulate war as young as possible that they will grow up embracing the callous mindset which the Wikileaks video only begins to expose? This video no longer lets us use ignorance as an excuse; we need to ask if this video which represents what the military is supposed to look like, which has been justified by prominent government leaders, is the harvest we have sown while claiming to follow God.

I take responsibility for not questioning my religious leader’s strong approval of warfare and for wholeheartedly believing, as did many of my army friends, that as I signed my enlistment papers, I was serving God and country. I was taught this would be an honorable example of laying down my life for my brothers; nobody I knew warned me that I might be asked to fire on children, intentionally or incidentally. Perhaps in my short-sightedness I missed the prevailing mindset that the ends justify the means.

When aspects of military training did trouble me and I felt my conscience hardening, I wrote home to leaders at my church and other Christian friends, asking how I could be following God while I was commanded to repeat war cries like “Kill them all, let God sort them out,” or singing songs with lines like, “When I get to hell, Satan’s gunna say ‘how’d you earn your living boy, how’d you earn your pay?’ And I’ll reply with a boot to his chest, ‘I earned my living laying Hajis down to rest.’” The answer these Christian leaders gave was simply that I needed to practice faith and patience because God is in control even though we can’t see him.

Through all of this, my leaders did show me enough of Jesus’ love that I eventually knew that how I was living and what I was being asked to do and think were poor representations of that divine gift. One night, I was on guard duty with a friend that I had attended church with before we were sent to Iraq. My friend started making threats toward a man we were holding prisoner. At first I told my friend that he was being un-American by not considering this man innocent until proven guilty. Echoing the racism we were trained with, my friend told me that there was no way that this man could be completely innocent: he was Iraqi. Then I asked him about all the things we had learned in church — loving our enemies, returning evil with good, blessed are the peacemakers, turn the other cheek — and my friend looked me in the eyes, saying with the utmost sincerity, “I think Jesus would have turned his cheek once or twice, but he wouldn’t have let anybody punk him around.”

It seemed so obvious to me at that point that Jesus’ mission was never to “not get punked”– in fact he said that if we really followed him then we would get punked (though he used less hip terms). He lived and died and rose with a love that overcomes the worse “punking” that the world can offer. I came to the conclusion that even if I was legitimately threatened, that following Jesus had nothing to do with self-defense and it could no longer be an excuse to stop loving as Jesus loved me. Safety is an understandable priority, but one that Jesus never preached.

With the Wikileaks video now shown worldwide, we have the responsibility to stop twisting things like Paul’s teaching that “we need to submit to the governing authorities.” But by this standard, we have already violated that by removing Saddam Hussein, a governing authority. Paul kept preaching the love of God despite the governing authority’s arrests, eventually leading to his death. Jesus, his apostles, and the early church never taught violent revolution, but lived out the example that we are most importantly citizens of God’s kingdom and that may put us at odds with the kingdoms of this world.

The scene shown in the Collateral Murder video is not out of the ordinary and has been claimed as acceptable by the governing authority. Though the actions that harmed children may be justifiable in military terms, I find nothing in Jesus’ teaching that advocates these policies, even if it means keeping our own children safer. The time has come where we must choose to which kingdom we pledge allegiance. I hope that part of this reexamined identity we seek means reaching out to the soldiers who have been asked to do our dirty work; restoring the love that they were taught to suppress.

As I have chosen to speak publicly and provide context to the video to help others understand my friends in the military, I likewise will not judge those who declare safety as their priority. I simply ask that you not attach the precious name of Jesus to this earthly cause, nor teach children that God blesses this. Please consider the strong warnings of Jesus as you wrestle with how to train the next generation: “But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.” (Matt 18:6)

If you trust in guns and bombs to protect you — that sometimes hit the enemy and sometimes unarmed civilians — and in the dehumanizing training that prepares soldiers to pull the triggers, please just say so. Our glory is in a man who was punked around and crucified as he showed us the transforming love that marks his kingdom.

Stieber is a veteran of B. Co 2/16 Infantry and co-author of


A newly released Wikileaks “Collateral Murder” video has made international headlines showing a July 2007 shooting incident outside of Baghdad in which U.S. forces wounded two children and killed over a dozen people, including the father of those children and two Reuters employees. Two soldiers from Bravo Company 2-16, the company depicted in the video, have written an open letter of apology to the Iraqis who were injured or lost loved ones during the attack that, these former soldiers say, is a regular occurrence in this war.

From Current and Former Members of the U.S. Military

Sign your name to their letter here

Peace be with you.

To all of those who were injured or lost loved ones during the July 2007 Baghdad shootings depicted in the “Collateral Murder” Wikileaks video:

We write to you, your family, and your community with awareness that our words and actions can never restore your losses.

We are both soldiers who occupied your neighborhood for 14 months. Ethan McCord pulled your daughter and son from the van, and when doing so, saw the faces of his own children back home. Josh Stieber was in the same company but was not there that day, though he contributed to the your pain, and the pain of your community on many other occasions.

There is no bringing back all that was lost. What we seek is to learn from our mistakes and do everything we can to tell others of our experiences and how the people of the United States need to realize we have done and are doing to you and the people of your country. We humbly ask you what we can do to begin to repair the damage we caused.

We have been speaking to whoever will listen, telling them that what was shown in the Wikileaks video only begins to depict the suffering we have created. From our own experiences, and the experiences of other veterans we have talked to, we know that the acts depicted in this video are everyday occurrences of this war: this is the nature of how U.S.-led wars are carried out in this region.

We acknowledge our part in the deaths and injuries of your loved ones as we tell Americans what we were trained to do and what we carried out in the name of "god and country". The soldier in the video said that your husband shouldn't have brought your children to battle, but we are acknowledging our responsibility for bringing the battle to your neighborhood, and to your family. We did unto you what we would not want done to us.

More and more Americans are taking responsibility for what was done in our name. Though we have acted with cold hearts far too many times, we have not forgotten our actions towards you. Our heavy hearts still hold hope that we can restore inside our country the acknowledgment of your humanity, that we were taught to deny.

Our government may ignore you, concerned more with its public image. It has also ignored many veterans who have returned physically injured or mentally troubled by what they saw and did in your country. But the time is long overdue that we say that the value of our nation's leaders no longer represent us. Our secretary of defense may say the U.S. won't lose its reputation over this, but we stand and say that our reputation's importance pales in comparison to our common humanity.

We have asked our fellow veterans and service-members, as well as civilians both in the United States and abroad, to sign in support of this letter, and to offer their names as a testimony to our common humanity, to distance ourselves from the destructive policies of our nation's leaders, and to extend our hands to you.

With such pain, friendship might be too much to ask. Please accept our apology, our sorrow, our care, and our dedication to change from the inside out. We are doing what we can to speak out against the wars and military policies responsible for what happened to you and your loved ones. Our hearts are open to hearing how we can take any steps to support you through the pain that we have caused.

Solemnly and Sincerely,
Josh Stieber, former specialist, U.S. Army
Ethan McCord, former specialist, U.S. Army