Wednesday, July 26, 2006

In The News

In The News


William Rivers Pitt on a larger number of U.S. troops returning to Baghdad:

"Sectarian Break-Up of Iraq Is Now Inevitable, Admit Officials," read the headline from Monday's UK Independent. "'Iraq as a political project is finished,' a senior government official was quoted as saying," continued the report, "adding: 'The parties have moved to plan B.' He said that the Shia, Sunni and Kurdish parties were now looking at ways to divide Iraq between them and to decide the future of Baghdad, where there is a mixed population. 'There is serious talk of Baghdad being divided into (Shia) east and (Sunni) west,' he said."

At a minimum, the predicted Balkanization of Iraq points to nothing more or less than the comprehensive failure of the Bush administration to bring democracy to that nation. The Iraqi parliament is today comprised of Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish elements, the three main groups that comprise the Iraqi population. Yet the fighting within this parliament mirrors the bloodshed taking place on the streets, and this signaled desire to split Iraq into three parts means there isn't any hope left for anything other than an utterly shattered state.

At the New York Observer, Joe Conason can hardly believe that a serious journalist would buy the myth perpetuated by nervous consultants that the Internet and it's bloggers "conjured up voter opposition to Senator Joe Lieberman" of Connecticut. He says:

[...] anyone who knows how to read a poll—indeed, anyone who has read a poll during the past several months—knows that popular opinion on the war is strongly negative. The American public now understands that the Bush administration deceived them about its reasons for invading Iraq, that the President never had any serious plan for establishing order there, and that he badly understated the costs and grossly overstated the benefits of “regime change.” They are beginning to understand that his belligerent foreign policy has been a sham, and that his management of the war on terror has been a shame.


Boston Globe columnist Joan Vennochi says Hillary can run - but she can't hide hide behind Bill on Iraq.

Enough with the triangulating. What worked in the last century doesn't necessarily work in this one.

In the past, Clinton ''triangulation'' meant positioning oneself between the Democrats and Republicans in Congress. Now, triangulation means positioning between the two wings of the Democratic Party - the antiwar left and the centrists who don't want Democrats to look ''too angry'' about dead soldiers in Iraq or a foreign policy in meltdown.

In a practical sense, triangulation for Hillary Clinton now means: hug the center. Then, if the center gets bumpy, speed-dial husband Bill to smooth things over [...]

[..] Democrats who support the Bush policy have to stand up and answer for it, just like Joe Lieberman is doing in Connecticut.

In lighter news, here's a must-read from the NY Daily News about Senator John Edwards' yoga experience with hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons.

"He had never seen or done it before. He was a yoga virgin," yoga fanatic Simmons told me yesterday. "The entire practice, he was sweating. The guy runs 5 miles a day, but I promise you he is in pain today. At one point, I looked over at him, and he looked like he was going to die." [...]

[...] Afterward, Edwards accompanied Simmons and his posse — including former NAACP head Ben Chavez and activist Glen Friedman — to dinner at Downtown Cipriani, where they discussed spirituality, how to end poverty, the higher self and other inspirational topics.

"It showed that Edwards is flexible and has an open mind," Simmons pronounced. He added that the evening has sent the would-be White House occupant to the top of his list — and far above Sens. John Kerry and Hillary Clinton. "But I'm happy to go to yoga with anybody who wants to."

Stop Coastal Drilling and Other Giveaways to Big Oil

Stop Coastal Drilling
and Other Giveaways to Big Oil

Many thanks to House Science Committee Chairman Sherwood Boehlert from my neighboring district NY-23. Congressman Boehlert sent the following letter to his colleagues today, explaining his opposition to H.R. 4761, the Deep Ocean Energy Resources Act, which will be before the House tomorrow:

Dear Colleague:

On Thursday, the House is scheduled to vote on H.R. 4761, the Deep Ocean Energy Resources Act. I urge you to oppose this bill. Even if you support off-shore drilling, you might want to think twice about this measure. Here are some of the aspects of the bill you may not be aware of:

· The bill makes it far easier for states to allow drilling than to prevent it. A one-time state petition can open a state’s waters to oil drilling for good, but a petition to bar oil drilling requires several different petitions for each area and they have to be renewed every five years. If a state misses a deadline, the area is open for drilling permanently.

· The bill limits states’ abililty to review specific oil drilling activities once drilling is allowed and limits states’ ability to block pipeline construction.

· The bill makes every other use of coastal waters subordinate to oil drilling. Federal agencies could not take any actions under any law that could conceivably interfere even with future oil drilling.

· The bill allows the Secretary of the Interior to threaten states with a loss of funding if Congress passes any law that restricts oil drilling in any way.

· The bill eliminates many environmental reviews and public participation requirements for oil leases to be issued and for exploration and drilling activities.

· The bill significantly weakens the requirements to mitigate any activities that would harm the environment.

· The bill creates three new mandatory spending programs and would worsen the federal deficit by giving states more than half of all drilling revenues. States now get 27 percent of revenues from drilling that is close to state waters.

Few Members or staff have had time to read this complex, 147-page bill because it is being rushed to the floor for no reason. As of 11:30 this morning, the bill was still being rewritten through a manager’s amendment. This is no way to legislate.

We should not be increasing the deficit and making unprecedented changes in environmental law without even a chance to read what we are voting on. I urge you to oppose this bill.


Sherwood Boehlert
Member of Congress

The right wing of the GOP wants to do everything it can while it still has control...but not all Republicans are with them as evidenced by Rep. Boehlert's letter.

Let's not let the right wing of the Republican party mar our coastal areas needlessly.


Stop Coastal Drilling and Other Give Aways to Big Oil!

The high price of gas and election year politics has put Florida's coastal areas at great risk of environmental degradation. For the first time in over a decade, the bipartisan consensus to spare coastal areas from drilling has broken down. The House passed a bill ending the moratorium last month, and the Senate is set to vot this week. The Weekly Action Coalition urges you to contact your Senator to oppose opening our precious coastal areas to oil drilling.

From the SF Chronicle:

(07-24) 04:00 PDT Washington -- The Senate is expected to decide this week whether to open vast areas off the coast of Florida to oil and gas drilling, a debate with billions of dollars in energy royalties at stake that could affect the ability of coastal states like California to prevent drilling off their shores.

Senate Republicans want to allow drilling in Lease Area 181, a portion of the eastern Gulf of Mexico south of Florida's Panhandle that is believed to contain one of the nation's largest untapped reserves of oil and natural gas. Proponents claim that opening the new area could help rein in the high energy prices consumers are paying and reduce America's dependence on foreign sources...

(E)nvironmentalists and many California officials are worried (that) the bill, if approved, could be merged with a more sweeping House measure approved last month that would end the quarter-century federal ban on drilling off the Pacific and Atlantic coasts and offer states lucrative financial incentives to approve oil and gas exploration.

"It is too early to speculate about what the final Senate bill will look like and what compromise, if any, can be reached in conference," said Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara, a leading opponent of drilling in the House. "I would submit that any expansion of offshore drilling is a step in the wrong direction because it continues to enable our addiction to fossil fuels rather than pursuing efforts to reduce consumption and develop alternative energy sources."

California's two Democratic senators -- Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer -- had joined with New Jersey's two Democratic senators to stop the bill, until they received assurances it would not harm their states' coasts. But Senate Republican leaders decided to put the measure on the fast track, despite the threat of a filibuster led by drilling opponents. Key votes on the drilling measure are expected as soon as Wednesday.

From Save Our

Dear Senator:

As your constituent, I urge you to protect America's Gulf coast and oppose S. 2253, sponsored by Senators Pete Domenici and Jeff Bingaman. The Domenici-Bingaman bill would allow oil and gas leasing and drilling in millions of acres off of Florida's Gulf coast in an area known as Lease Sale 181.

Florida's coast is a complex mosaic of sea grasses, wetlands, bays, estuary systems, beaches and dunes, and offshore drilling is simply not compatible with the quality of life and economy this fragile ecosystem supports. That is why both Florida senators, Senators Martinez and Nelson, are opposed to S. 2253.

Finally, there is not much oil and natural gas thought to be in the eastern Gulf of Mexico. At current rates of consumption, Florida's coast probably contains less than four months of oil and only six month's worth of natural gas.

Obviously, we cannot drill our way out of our energy problems. There is simply not enough oil and natural gas off of Florida's Gulf coast, certainly not enough to reduce prices or make America energy independent.

We strongly urge you to vigorously oppose - and not sign on as a cosponsor - S. 2253, the Domenici-Bingaman bill, and oppose any attempt to lift the moratorium for offshore drilling off of our coasts. Instead of promoting drilling projects that harm our coasts and do nothing to solve our energy problems, we urge you to support energy projects that promote energy efficiency and renewable energy.

Thank you for your consideration.

Send this letter to your Senator.

Where Do We Find Cross-Faith Commonality?

Where Do We Find Cross-Faith Commonality?

Being human - simply human - helps us to understand that we of different faiths have common threads that can be woven together to achieve the most loving accomplishments - not in Heaven - but with God's help here on earth.


Religion writer Cathleen Falsani [Chicago Sun-Times ] has written her first book, "The God Factor: Inside the Spiritual Lives of Public People."

Although many of her interview subjects had traditional conceptions of God and spirituality, others did not. However, Ms. Falsani says there was a similarity that characterized just about every single person she interviewed. "As I look back on it, I can see two themes that emerged," she says. "First, everyone in the book was mindful of the fact that they were blessed. And secondly, they were aware of that, and therefore felt an obligation to give something back."

"Embodied faith recognizes it's not enough to save souls or enlighten minds if people are still languishing in sickness, poverty, or injustice, and embodied faith recognizes that physical violence in the name of spiritual truth is the most heinous sort of abomination."

- Lorianne Sabato

Lorianne Sabato of Hoarded Ordinaries speaks of a common call to humans as spiritual beings that she refers to as an "embodied faith," of which fundamentalism can play no productive role.

Jesus Christ was "grounded." Because he was flesh and blood - as are we - I believe that any Christian can identify Jesus (and themselves) with Lorianne's "belly-instinct" description of spirituality and faith. Jesus was brought up in the Jewish faith. He had mastered the wisdom of his faith by the age of twelve, if we are to believe the scriptures. In Luke 2:46-52, you see the "belly instict" in Jesus' mother Mary, as she comes to accept and embrace that which she does not understand through love for her son and faith in God:

46 And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and dasking them questions.
47 And all that heard him were astonished at his aunderstanding and answers.
48 And when they saw him, they were amazed: and his mother said unto him, Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing.

49 And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? awist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?
50 And they understood not the saying which he spake unto them.
51 And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was asubject unto them: but his mother kept all these sayings in her heart.

Although, as the Mishnah (oral law) in modern-day Jewish tradition requires boys of that age to become conscious of the faith, the average twelve-year old would not have had Jesus' capacity for such depth of spiritual knowledge without having had first passed through the training of Rabbinic schools. The fact that young Jesus had worried his mother sick when he disappeared in Jerusalem shows that, in some ways, he was very much like a typical twelve-year old. Yet, he amazed the scholars with his strong wisdom borne of pure faith. His sense of mission and self-awareness was intense.

The Jews asked about Jesus, after he'd grown to manhood, "How doth this man know letters, having never learned?" How do any of us know of Heaven what cannot be known on earth? Does the voice come from our bodies? From our minds? From the earth? From the Heavens? No one knows, but one thing I've come to understand is that each common thread that has been woven through every act of human progress creating a quilt of peace and understanding here on earth has shone, like the sun, with the light of love. The fact that I use the words "sun".."thread".."quilt"..tells you that I need to refer to that which exists here on earth in order to communicate my idea of Heaven to you. Jesus Christ's time here on earth would have been lived in vain if we Christians missed the all-important point that he tasted the fig, heard the call of the birds, felt the morning breeze brush his cheek, experienced a mother's devotion, and had lain on his back looking at the sky - dreaming. That, to me, is part of the embodied faith that Lorianne is speaking about:

I've already pointed you toward Rev. Bruce Prescott's excellent definition of "progressive faith", and over the past day or so I've been thinking that I might add an eleventh item to his list. Progressive faith is an embodied faith. Embodied faith believes that paying intellectual lip-service to spiritual ideas isn't enough; embodied faith insists that believers get their hands dirty in the real world doing the work of compassionate service. Embodied faith recognizes it's not enough to save souls or enlighten minds if people are still languishing in sickness, poverty, or injustice, and embodied faith recognizes that physical violence in the name of spiritual truth is the most heinous sort of abomination.

Fundamentalism of all stripes (and I speak as one who used to be a literal-minded Bible-thumper myself) is literally an out-of-body experience where believers become so enamored with a purely spiritual truth, they are willing to withstand and even overlook the bodily ills they inflict on others or themselves. How can enforcers of a particular ideology convince ordinary believers to sacrifice bodily comforts or even indulge in physical mortifications? How can clerics and other spiritual authorities convince otherwise able-bodied souls to become suicide bombers or willing participants in unjust wars?

The answer, of course, is other-worldly: if you convince believers that this world and its bodies are insignificant and the rewards of spiritual merit are granted in the Hereafter rather than the Here, you can get spiritually-minded folks to commit all sorts of acts that go against what an honest gut would advise. Rather than asking myself what Jesus would do, or Buddha, or any Jewish or Muslim prophet, at any given moment I'd like to ask myself what my belly would have me do, trusting that a grounded body can't lead me wrong.