Thursday, December 30, 2004

Southeast Asian Tsunami relief

“Millions for defense, but not one cent for tribute”

Boy, howdy, the Shrub does it again. First he’s caught asleep at the ranch when the most powerful underwater earthquake in modern history causes a 500 mph tsunami to obliterate the coastlines of virtually the entire Indian Ocean basin, killing over 100,000 people, breaking legs and heads, smashing homes and businesses, wiping out the entire fishing fleet of Sri Lanka and making literally millions of people homeless and jobless, and does he offer the services of the Seabees, the National Guard, Girl Scouts, Cub Scouts, Coast Guard, anything?
Well, yes, he does. He snapped, “Send ‘em a check for, I dunno, $15 mil and tell ‘em to shut up.” And went back to sleep.

When the UN’s representative Jan Egeland commented on the world’s stinginess in response to this overwhelming tragedy, Colin Powell hastily called a news conference to brag how the US is such a big giver. Baloney. Fifteen mil, later raised to a total of $35 mil, amounts to roughly $900 per dead body, and only dead bodies – but the damage goes way beyond mere dead people. The death insurance you buy off the back of matchbook covers pays out better than that.

Think about it: we’re talking 100,000 dead. The population of the impacted (and I mean impacted) areas is in the hundreds of millions, with an estimated 5 million directly affected. So what with flattened buildings, fishing boats smashed to splinters, businesses completely wiped out, cholera and dysentery most certainly on the way and the death toll from those, the total of the world’s relief money will probably be on the order of a few pennies per survivor.

God help those poor people, because Bush most certainly does not.

You can help, though. Send these people money. Money is preferred to food, clothes, etc., because it gives the relief organizations on the spot flexibility in making triage decisions.

Doctors Without Borders/Medecins Sans Frontieres 1-888-392-0392:

American Friends Service Committee (AFSC Crisis Fund) 1-888-588-2372:

Donate to the American Red Cross:

The Red Crescent:

And check out this Christian Science Monitor website for a much more complete listing of donation and disaster relief websites:

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Caesar's unto Caesar

Personally, I love haranguing born-again types, driving up blood pressure levels left and right. Leviticus is spot-on for this stuff, especially since the catchall punishment for even petty crime is death by stoning, preferably by your neighbors. On my doctor’s advice, however, I really have to avoid this as a daily entertainment, even if a twice-weekly dose of vitriol does keep one’s brain cells on their toes. Still, we all need to get along somehow, and if we are going to recapture even some small modicum of civil discourse in this country, perhaps we should meet on a more level playing field. I propose modifying the language of Progressivism.

Perhaps the most galling thing about dealing with religious fundamentalists is that they are so freaking righteous about their every position, disregarding Jesus’ comment to “deliver unto Caesar what is Caesar’s,” and ignoring everything else that Christ and the rest of the Bible has to say about political issues.

The authors of
The Search for Christian America have this to say about getting along in a political landscape that harbors Christians and non-Christians:

Some Christians speak as though there is an absolute antithesis between Christian and non-Christian thought, neglecting the degree to which Christians themselves are hampered by sin and error, and the degree to which God’s common grace allows substantial room for communication and cooperation among all people in practical everyday life … Because we all live in God’s world, we have, in God’s common grace, some basis for discussing and shaping public policy without explicit appeal to the Bible. In fact, people from all nations of the world have been able to agree on many principles of justice and human interest, as for instance, in agencies and statements of the United Nations. That they violently disagree on other points or on the application of their common principles should not obscure this degree of commonality. So, Christians and non-Christians may be able to agree on the value of charity toward the poor and the starving, on the undesirability of genocide, that literacy should be encouraged, on the virtue of loyalty to friends and parents, and on many other things (pp.135-136).

Perhaps it’s time to take some of the heat out of the conversation with conservatives, particularly Christian fundamentalists, and engage with them in their own language, i.e., talk Christian to them. Quote the Bible, chapter and verse. To quote the authors of the article above:

As ambassadors for Christ, we are not to disobey civil government (except, of course, when they compel us to disobey God’s Word – Acts 5:29), but subject ourselves to it (Romans 3:1-7; Titus 3:1-2; 1 Peter 2:13-17) and pray for such rulers and authorities so that we might live a tranquil life (1 Timothy 2:1-2).

I’m not prepared in this column to pursue the argument that Christians are bound by a New Covenant, one that supersedes the Ten Commandments per se, including Leviticus and Deuteronomy; I am sure there are a lot of thoughtful Christian bloggers out there who can clarify my point. I don’t propose that every Democrat or progressive turn him/herself into a theological lawyer. I do suggest that we, each one of us, when talking with a fundy, bear in mind their
confused, inconsistent, irreconcilable and self-contradictory theology. You might want to ask them their position on stoning vs. public burning, say, and take it from there.

Don’t be surprised when they honestly come out in favor of public
disembowelment, though. You will want to point out that, as enlightened citizens of the 21st Century, we have moved passed that particular barbarity, and quote some Biblical mumbo jumbo about peace, not piece, on Earth, etc. Buy a Biblical concordance and study it. Get one of those pocket books with appropriate Biblical quotes and be prepared to whip it out at any mention of “we are a Christian nation.” Fundamentalists are suckers for anything printed:
"The Bible is inerrant, infallible, true, trustworthy, without mixture of error and that, singularly or together, these words mean that every statement and word of the Scripture is absolutely accurate concerning every field of knowledge it discusses."
Keep a talking points flash card on your person at all times, and stick to the script. Do not get upset when they tell you that you are going to hell, Jews are going to hell, unbabtised babies are going to hell, gays are going to hell, abortion doctors are going to hell, etc., etc. Fire back, "Seek ye first the kingdom of God..." --Matthew 6:33. Gently remind these people that it is not for them to judge, and as Christians, they are enjoined to stay out of worldly affairs.

Bear in mind that these people (the Fundies) regard America as the product of European civilization, the so-called Judeo-Christian ethic and especially the
Great Chain of Being. They haven’t moved into the Humanist 16th century, much less the 21st.

But don’t argue their religion with them. We’re not out to start a new Reformation here; the fundies are well advanced (or maybe devolved) in that already. The whole point of this exercise is to establish your Christian credentials so we can cut to the chase: a reduction in the temperature level, a return to civil discourse, an airing of differing points of view with a Christian demeanor on everyone’s part.

In short, let’s try a different approach, a sort of verbal judo; instead of saying “fuck the South,” let’s say “Jesus loves you, too,” get a civil conversation going and move on from there. It couldn’t hurt.

Monday, December 27, 2004

Some bad news, some good news

We're all settled in here for the duration at Reality Frame. The duration, of course, being the term of the Shrub's office. Settled, and thinking about what the new year will bring. Will it bring Peace and Joy? Prosperity? World peace? Hah! No, folks, it won't, at least, not for Amerika, but it may elsewhere.

Rebecca Solnit at has some thoughts on the subject that will cheer you up. The Ukraine is off to a good start; so is Uruguay, after 170 years of ultra-fascist dictatorship, along with Chile, believe it or not. Even India, with the installation of Maneka Ghandi may be moving towards some ethnic peace.

Here in the good ole' US of A, we can look forward to Democratic stonewalling of Presidential initiatives, including Social Security reform, Supreme Court nominations, district Federal nominees, a
war machine juddering on and on and a public that is going to get pretty fed up about it, and will start making some real noise. The economy is tanking, illegal immigrants are flooding our factories and welfare system, etc. And the Shrubbery will take the hit for the whole mess.

Hope is in the air.