Wednesday, February 25, 2004

FYI: The Week magazine provides some basic information about
Iraq’s Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Husseini al-Sistani

9-11 Shame...

"I can't understand why these elected officials, particularly the president and vice president, aren't willing to come before the American public and testify...That raises a concern they're hiding something."

--Kristen Breitweiser of New Jersey, whose husband, Ronald, died in the World Trade Center

The [9-11] commission has requested a 60-day extension, which would place the report date uncomfortably close to the 9/11-anniversary-timed Republican convention in September 2004. Obviously, the administration will do everything it can to avoid that, and House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) has already announced that he "can't imagine a situation where they get an extension."

--Eric Alterman, January, 2004


9-11 families beg for proper investigation

Condi turns her back

Hastert turns blind eye on American victims for politics' sake

Stanford Daily Online: Osama in the house?

There is a valid complaint, in my opinion, that the American press on the whole doesn’t push hard enough than accepting the Defense Department’s press releases while, in most cases, the truth lies somewhere between the official military report and the story carried in the foreign press. As I've discussed here recently, two British papers, The Sunday Telegraph and The Sunday Express, have reported that Osama Bin Laden is surrounded by U.S. Special Forces in an area of land bordering northwest Pakistan and Afghanistan. (Attributed to “a well-placed intelligence source” in Washington.) The writer of this article, Kathryn Wallace, explores the question:
" haven’t seen this reported in the U.S. press — not even the story that other press organizations are reporting an Osama capture. But does that mean the story is pure fiction?"
Ms. Wallace reminds us that embedded journalists in Iraq failed to check power while they were a little drunk on the idea of "playing soldier in the desert".

Today in history..

Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath
photo credit:

"I am solitary as grass. What is it I miss?
Shall I ever find it, whatever it is?"

From: Three Women by Sylvia Plath

1956- Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes meet.
David Yount: 'The Passion' Preaches to the Choir

I ask myself: Why would I want to see this movie?

I haven't made up my mind about seeing this movie. I certainly can say, from all I've heard, I would not look forward to its content. Perhaps it stems from my Puritan ancestry, of which NY Times op-ed contributor Kenneth L. Woodward says: "To the Puritans, displays of the body of Jesus represented what they considered the idol worship of the Papists." Yet, I was raised a Catholic, and therefore I am in a bit of a theological conflict with myself over this film. I suppose, in the end, the inner conflict is brought about by my innate and unique Christian sensibility.

I ask myself:

Would I be going to entertain myself? Surely not. I've heard this movie, because of its graphic (possibly gratuitous) violence, might actually be agonizing for some people. I don't "do" violent movies as a rule. Why would I subject myself to a film I've heard, had it not been about Christ, would probably have gotten an NC17 rating?

Would I be going to learn something? Surely not...I've read the Gospels many times over. I know them as surely as I know my heart. The mysteries of Christ are my heart.

Would I be going in order to see Christ in a new light? Why? I have spent the better part of my life studying Jesus Christ. To see Christ looking like bloodied meat is a visual I know is not a scene to which I would subject my teenage child (who has taken part in Passion plays himself and has a wonderful understanding of the story). Why would I subject myself (knowing how a child would be tortured and haunted?) We are all innocent children at heart. I have made a shining and welcoming place for Christ in my heart which could not be made more perfect by seeing Him die all over again. The dying itself is allegedly shown so bloodily at the hands of mankind, which, in my opinion, may only raise feelings of distrust and disgust for our fellow man. Do we really need that in these treacherous and uncertain times in which we live? Will the core message be lost in the swirl of blood and sweat and human meat?

I ask Chist in meditation:

God has made man to die. By man came death, but God is all. No Roman, no Jew killed the Christ. Christopher Hitchens, in Vanity Fair, has said that God himself is to blame for Jesus' suffering and death. Scripture prophesied that Jesus would die. Since it was inevitable, it was no human fault.
We all will face our own personal death and will have to carry our own cross someday. It isn't my unavoidable death I wish to concentrate upon. It is the perfection of my soul that Christ wanted me to focus on every moment of my waking life. When I speak to Him in meditation about such matters as whether or not to go and see Mel Gibson's version of His bloody death, He tells me resoundingly: "Jude, stay home".

The only thing that would lure me to the theater is based upon sociological curiosity. (a motive, which, to my own way of thinking about theological philosophy, might be a personally sinful motive). Knowing that my fellow man (and woman) is seeing the film, I suppose I desire to understand how they may have been affected by it...and I could not be an effective commentator if I hadn't witnessed the thing with my own eyes.
We'll see.......
It's comments like this one that arouses the curious side of me:
"The movie just . . . made me feel like I was part of that crowd [at the crucifixion], like I was there . . . So much so that my chest is just caved in. It's awesome." [NY Post Feb 25, 2004]

Then again, when I see political-economic motives in moviemaking enter the picture, I once again shrink back into my innate Christian sensibility. When you think about how the film industry will realize the profits that have been forfeited over the years by creating films that were out of sync with the interests of the citizens of the red states....


Cragg Hines of the Houston Chronicle seems to be in agreement with the view of Christopher Hitchens that "whoever sought, carried out or acquiesced in the death of Jesus was an unwitting tool of divine intent." Hines believes that on Ash Wednesday (which marks the beginning of the Lenten season), "Christians are called to reflect upon their own lives and shortcomings and to repent the wrongs they have caused by word, deed or inaction. No controversy or distraction -- certainly not a movie that purports to be based on the Gospels -- should deflect Christians from the path of reflection to that of resentment." I can't help but to agree.


Speaking of resentment, here we go already....see "Jews Killed Jesus' Billboard Causing Controversy--Pastor Refuses To Remove Or Change Saying On Outdoor Marquee."


A 50-year-old Michigan man said, after seeing the movie:

"It's the most authentic version of the death of Jesus that I have ever seen."

My question: How on earth would he (or anyone) know?

Movies have a strange (and frightening) way of dictating their own reality to us en masse. I think this is my problem with this film. Do we really need a new Gospel "according to Mel"?


In the same article, A Roman Catholic named Bade said: "I never knew the passion to be so cruel as it was portrayed in the movie...You better go see it with a strong stomach."

I'm sorry. This picture is not the one I personally would want to remember when I read the Gospels in the future.
It would be like seeing a photo of a loved one dead in their casket when trying to recall the light they brought to your life. Not healthy, people. Not healthy....

Did you know former Vermont governor Howard Dean is still on the ballot for all of the states that have yet to hold primaries?

For those Democrats who have been part of the Howard Dean movement and have yet to vote in your state's primary, you still have the ability to vote for him in your primary in order to send Dean delegates to the Democratic National Convention and to ensure his message will be heard.
I have been part of this passionate and exciting grassroots movement from the beginning and I plan to write more about it in the future. I think the impact Howard Dean has had on Democratic politics is going to someday be seen as historically important. Opinion columnist David Broder has written about it recently in an op-ed titled "Dean campaign will prove a milestone". I've noticed that, even though Dean's campaign is suspended, the pundits still love to talk about him. I'll tell you why I think that's true. There was an exciting story to be told..and that story has not simply withered and died because Howard Dean is not on the campaign trail. I would invite anyone reading this to take just a moment and view this video titled "Thank You, Howard."

I also bring to your attention an interesting opinion I read today about the fate of the Dean campaign titled "The Assasination of Howard Dean". The writer says the Democratic party is still waiting for a candidate who will help rediscover its soul.
I'm afraid Howard Dean was just that person...but he was "done in" by powers far greater than "the People". It makes you think...
In the end, Dean threatened a troika of powerful institutions. He was a threat to the political parties (because he attacked Democrats' centrist drift), to media (because he criticised their cowardly reporting) and to big business (because he would roll back chummy tax-benefits for corporations). All three institutions responded with venom and destroyed Dean's candidacy. In 1968, a bullet ended Robert Kennedy's anti-establishment candidacy. In 2004, the methods used were more subtle, but just as effective.
[Daily Star Feb 25, 2004]

Walter Shapiro on the Bush promotion for a Constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage:
"The president declared Tuesday that "the preservation of marriage rises to the level of national importance." But it can also be argued that a vitriolic political debate over such a constitutional amendment rises to the level of a national distraction. After Sept. 11, two wars and a radical restructuring of the tax rates, America does not face a shortage of campaign issues. Instead the nation confronts the challenge of remembering our responsibilities in countries such as Afghanistan in the midst of an election that seems headed straight into Jerry Springer territory."
[USA Today Feb 24, 2004]
In the Houston Chronicle, Cragg Hines says:
It will be interesting to see when President Bush voluntarily next mentions his support for a constitutional amendment outlawing gay marriage, the hunk of blood-red meat he threw to his mewling right-wing base on Tuesday. It will be a good gauge of how desperate he senses his chances of re-election have become...

....What if Bush had been talking about any other form of legalized discrimination and oppression, say, slavery, instead of a prohibition on gay marriage, how bizarre this paragraph would sound in the 21st century: "After more than two centuries of American jurisprudence and millennia of human experience, a few judges and local authorities are presuming to change the most fundamental institution of civilization. Their actions have created confusion on an issue that requires clarity
[Houston Chronicle Feb 24, 2004]
A quote from President Bush in 2000 and a comment from author Peter Singer:
Q: So if a state were voting on gay marriage, you would suggest to that state not to approve it?

A: The state can do what they want to do. Don't try to trap me in this state's [rights] issue like you're trying to get me into. … In my state of Texas, if we tried to have gay marriage, I would campaign against it.

--Candidate George W. Bush, in a presidential debate moderated by Larry King in Columbia, S.C., Feb. 15, 2000

"No genuine advocate of small government would seek to take from the states the right to decide whether people of the same sex can marry."

--Peter Singer, author of the new book titled "The President of Good and Evil: The Ethics of George W. Bush".

[Slate, Timothy Noah Feb 24, 2004]

What were you doing this past January 13th?

Did you know the planet Earth was minutes from an 'asteroid alert'?
Scientists now reveal they nearly warned Presidentent Bush of potential devastation.