Sister Novena's PortaPulpit
freedom, liberalism, movies, and truth

Saturday, April 03, 2004
Crazy Fundies, Revisited

The case of the Texas woman I talked about a while back was decided today... her jury came to the conclusion that Deanna Lacey was not guilty by reason of insanity. Now she'll be committed to an institution for treatment, which will last as long as her doctors think is wise.

I'm a little torn by the acquittal, but not because I think Lacey was anything other than insane when she brutally murdered her two children and beat the third nearly to death with rocks because "God ordered her to." And given that Lacey is insane, a prison sentence would be inappropriate; indeed, the loss of her sons is likely a worse sentence than any a court could hand down.

But there's a lot of responsibility that inevitably goes untaken in a case like this. This woman and her family were members of a church, I'm certain... a bible-thumping, southern fundamentalist church. She was often described as a "devout Christian" throughout the trial; the fact that an insane woman, capable of slaughtering her own children, can pass for a "devout Christian" among purportedly sane people is, you have to admit, pretty disturbing.

Just as I have to wonder about a breed of Catholicism that views the brutal, grisly torture of their messiah as a desireable method of inspiring faith, I can't help but question a strain of fundamentalism that teaches a "Christianity" that's so devoid of love and mercy that a woman would be led to kill her own little boys by its teachings. Or, at least, if we accept the idea that this woman might've killed her kids regardless, and that because of her religion a command from God was the rationale she used for her actions, I'm stunned that a woman so deranged could be allowed to continue to raise and teach her children at home, presumably attending church and interacting to some degree in the community, and nobody ever noticed that she was becoming a mortal danger to her children.

But the thing that bothers me the most is that, having been exposed to this strain of fundamentalist Christianity before, I know that according to certain theologies, there's really nothing in the Bible that points to the inherent wrongness of these murders. Oh, sure, there's all that "Thou shalt not kill" stuff and that whole New Testament thing, but what's a little peace and love when you've got edicts from God coming in, just like the Patriarchs did? As long as one believes that God literally created the world in seven 24-hour days, that Satan interferes with our daily lives, and that an eternity of torment awaits those who don't follow exactly the same version of Christianity as oneself, why not obey celestial orders to break your kids' heads open? Fuck peace and love... we've got killing to do, God said so. Whether it's heathens or our own children we're slaughtering is beside the point; God's righteous love says we must kill, so kill we shall.

Crazy, crazy fundies.

In a bit of resonance for me personally, Lacey will most likely be sent to Rusk State Hospital, where my father worked as a lay chaplain for a couple of years when I was very young. I have some rather... formative memories of the place.

Update: See, this is the shit I'm talking about.

At the church where Deanna Laney once ministered to youth, sang in the choir and spoke in tongues, worshippers Sunday prayed for her and her family a day after she was acquitted by reason of insanity of bludgeoning two of her young sons to death.

(...)

Pastor Gary Bell preached about hope amid despair to his congregation of more than 100 people, and said he will continue to stand by Laney and her husband, Keith.

``You're going to make it. I said you're going to make it. By the grace of God, we're going to make it,'' he preached.

Where's the anger at the murder of two children? Where's the self-questioning that should be inherent to an event this kind? Where were these people before Lacey killed her children? Lacey may have been the only person culpable for this crime, but I hold this entire church -- everyone who knew them and should have seen what was developing, were it not for their blind insistence that God was behind their every thought and impulse -- responsible.

``Everyone in this situation is a victim, everyone,'' he said.

The question is, Rev. Bell, a victim of what?


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Whither Colin

First thing I should mention: I once had a good bit of respect for Colin Powell. The guy seemed to be pretty straight-up, an honest sort, without a rabid ideology of any kind... trustworthy, dependable. That was before he joined the Bush administration and discovered his inner whore; seeing him testifying before the UN Security Council was among the biggest disappointments of the lead-up to the Iraq war. "Colin, say it ain't so..."

Since then, I've detested him almost more than people like Rumsfeld or Ashcroft; those guys are just evil, but Powell chose the Dark Side of his own free will, even when -- you can see it on his face -- he knew it was wrong. The man, who surely passes for gentle among high-ranking career military men, has grown testy and surly over the last few months... lashing out at his underlings, sneering at detractors, continuing -- continuing! -- to back the President even as it becomes painfully obvious that the both of 'em were dead, dead wrong.

My faith in him was obliterated absolutely. That's why, when I see something like this, I can only assume that rather than taking a stand like his former colleagues O'Neill and Clarke, Powell's merely participating in an administration-approved gradual rollout of a twisted, heavily-spun admission of failure.

Watch him doubletalk:

Secretary of State Colin Powell conceded Friday evidence he presented to the United Nations that two trailers in Iraq were used for weapons of mass destruction may have been wrong.

(...)

But now, Powell said, "it appears not to be the case that it was that solid."

He said he hoped the intelligence commission appointed by President Bush to investigate prewar intelligence on Iraq "will look into these matters to see whether or not the intelligence agency had a basis for the confidence that they placed in the intelligence at that time."

Note the unnecessary use of passive voice, a sure fucking sign that they're trying to tiptoe around a plain truth: the information was bogus, and the intelligence agency was wrong. The administration's reasons for invading Iraq were fallacious. He knows it, but even now he can't just fucking say it already... the best he can do is to say in an ass-backwards way that he hopes somebody else eventually says it.

Disgusting.
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Friday, April 02, 2004
Rant Round-up, Vol. 3

I've been meaning to make the rant round-up a weekly thing on Fridays, but I just haven't felt like ranting today; I've been feeling pretty laid-back and serene all day. It never occured to me when I started this one-woman meme that I'd actually be not angry enough to pull it off, especially only three weeks in.

But, I've still got... lessee... 20 minutes left in Friday, so I'll see what I can do.

Congratulations to George W. Bush for pulling off a robust-by-any-standard 306,000 job-creation number for March... only 1.8 million to go to get back to net zero!

Looks like Condi's going to be testifying on Thursday; looking forward to that. And, of course, the Dick and Dubya show is going to play to the 9/11 commission shortly... insert obligatory joke about Cheney's arm up George's ass here. (It's a puppet thing... I'm actually going for the less-filthy interpretation this time.)

The right wing is all flustered over John Kerry showing up on the slopes with a plastic daisy dangling from his jacket's zipper pull... honestly, you give some people a little good news and they start acting like assholes. I'd much rather have a president with a flower on his jacket than one with his package all pooched out of the military flight suit he never had the balls to wear in actual combat.

Air America Radio, while undeniably a Good Thing, is apparently taking a little time to get up to speed. Randi Rhodes gave Ralph Nader hell -- always good to hear -- but from what I understand (I lack the bandwidth to listen online), the O'Franken Factor and Majority Report are both falling slightly short of expectations. As much as I respect Mr. Franken, and as much vicarious pleasure I take in his taunting of Bill O'Reilly, he's not my all-time favorite; I never did care much for his Stuart Smalley character. I still fully anticipate that Ms. Garofalo will get it figured out and will become a real barnstormer in time... she's never done radio, so I'm sure it's taking a while to get used to it. But seriously... this network needs Mike bigtime. 20-year veteran of liberal talk radio, and every bit the equal of that smackhead Rush Limbaugh... c'mon, Air America, give a guy some airtime.

Fuck it... I got nothin'. Maybe I'll be pissed off again tomorrow.
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Thursday, April 01, 2004
An Alternate History

According to today's Washington Post, on the eleventh day of September, 2001, Condoleezza Rice was scheduled to give a foreign policy speech in which she intended to outline the Bush administration's tough new initiative on homeland defense, one which would address "the threats and problems of today and the day after, not the world of yesterday."

What threats might those be, you ask? Good question. Considering what happened on that same day, you'd be smart to guess that those threats might include things like asymmetrical warfare, militancy in certain Middle Eastern nations, and -- of course -- terrorism.

You'd be smart... and you'd also be wrong. No, Condi's speech that day was going to consist mostly of an introduction to one of Bush's pet projects: a missile defense system. Not that missile defense would ever do a thing to protect Americans here and abroad from Saudis running amok with 747s, briefcase nukes, or rockets borne on donkey carts. The "world of yesterday," indeed.

God, how I wish I could have seen her face that morning. Imagine it: Condi, sitting in a bunker, perhaps with a copy of her completely irrelevant and now rather stupid-looking speech in her briefcase, hiding from a bunch of guys to whom, although she'd been warned about them, she had paid almost no attention throughout her first nine months on the job.

But nobody has perfect foresight; who among us would have dreamed that such a thing would happen? I know I certainly didn't. And like the intelligent, decisive woman she is, she immediately insisted that President Bush drop all his plans for missile defense and instead focus intently on eradicating from the face of the world our primary enemy: Osama bin Laden. And once they had dealt with Osama, together they set about creating a new initiative for homeland defense, one that really would deal with the threats of our complex modern world. They set about strengthening our security at ports and plants, bringing domestic and international intelligence groups together in productive harmony, and forming close, trusting bonds with other nations. Simultaneously, while working to protect us at home, they also set about creating genuine peace and justice abroad, lessening the anger and frustration that makes the people of the world despair so completely that they come to believe that only by killing others can they make themselves heard. And they did it all completely selflessly, with no thought whatsoever to their own personal gain or profit.

And that, boys and girls, is why we never hear the words "missile defense system" anymore; why Osama is now held securely in a Federal prison in accordance with the judgement of an international court; why the once troubled nations of the Middle East are now peaceful, prosperous, and stable; and why Bush and Rice are being jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize this year.

Happy April Fool's Day, George and Condi.
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Wednesday, March 31, 2004
I Think Maybe They Want Us to Leave

Iraqis Drag U.S. Corpses Through Streets

March 31, 2004 | FALLUJAH, Iraq (AP) -- Jubilant residents dragged the charred corpses of four foreigners -- one a woman, at least one an American -- through the streets Wednesday and hanged them from the bridge spanning the Euphrates River. Five American troops died in a roadside bombing nearby.

(...)

Chanting "Fallujah is the graveyard of Americans," residents cheered after the grisly assault on two four-wheel-drive civilian vehicles, which left both in flames. Others chanted, "We sacrifice our blood and souls for Islam."


Okay, I know... it's not as simple as just pulling out and abandoning the country. I'm not suggesting we simply drop Iraq and pretend nothing ever happened; the country remains finely balanced on the brink of civil war, and the complete withdrawal of any international presence would almost certainly herald the start of mass slaughter. But it would be so simple to give up a little of our pride (okay, George W. Bush's pride, a commodity that's already devalued), let the UN take over completely, and let the international community try to make the best of an awful situation.

None of which absolves us of responsibility... I'd be all for setting up some reparations to the people of Iraq. I think, however, to be fair, that anyone who can prove they were against this fucking war from the outset should be exempt. Y'all wanted the war... you pay for it. And whatever happens, may Ahmed Chalabi get everything he deserves.

From the same article:

"There are some that are doing everything they can to try to prevent" a June 30 transfer of sovereignty to an Iraqi government, White House spokesman Scott McClellan told reporters.

More words of genius from Mr. McClellan. If by "prevent a June 30 transfer of power" he means "by way of encouraging us to take our leave well before then if possible," he just might be right. As for assertions that the people who are doing this are Ba'athist holdouts... Saddam's sitting in a jail cell giggling insanely to himself, d'ya really think this is still about him?

Maybe they really want us to leave because we're essentially an invading force in their eyes. Maybe they want us to leave because the brand of "democracy" we've brought them has so far left the people almost no say in what kind of government they live under. Maybe they want us to leave because we have a bad habit of, at best squelching, and at worst killing, anyone who openly disagrees with us in Iraq. Maybe they want us to leave 'cause they're just a little bit sore over the 10,000+ Iraqi civilians who've been killed, directly or indirectly, by our war. But I definitely think they do want us to leave.

And if we don't leave? Well... I think we can probably expect more of this, sadly. This is what war really looks like: charred, dismembered corpses hanging from bridges. We here in the United States have had to see almost none of the results of our bombs, rockets, and bullets; we're not even allowed to see the funerals of the now 600 young American men and women who've been killed in Iraq. You can't bomb people into being peaceful; you can't intimidate them into liking you. The neocons and their supporters wanted a war... well, it looks like they've got one.

Addendum: For a bit of background on why Fallujah is such an ugly, violent place to be now (for both Americans and Iraqis), take a few minutes to read this article from last June. If this kind of thing has been going on for nearly a year, I'm surprised we haven't seen this kind of scene before now.
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The Dawning Golden Age of Liberal Radio

Don't forget that at noon today, Air America Radio begins broadcasting in six cities, on satellite radio, and via streaming audio. First up is the O'Franken Factor; Janeane Garofalo's up later in the day, and apparently Blog Gods Atrios and Kos are both going to be guests. Lots of other bitchen folks lined up there, too; have a listen and piss off your conservative co-workers (they've got it coming.)

Still seems to be somebody missing, though. Check out the White Rose Society archives for a sample of what you missed. Nobody's better than Mike.

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Tuesday, March 30, 2004
Now We Just Sit Back and Wait for the Punchline

I knew they'd do it... they had to eventually. Condi's gonna testify, under oath, in public. Good! It's nice to see the Bush administration finally doing something not because they look guiltier than Nixon if they don't, but because it's Good for the American People (wink, wink).

Of course, it's not without a couple of strings attached... this IS still the Bush administration. The White House has traded Condi's testimony (under oath, remember... I particularly like that bit, and I'll explain why in a moment) for an agreement that Congress will not take it to set a precedent, and for an exemption from having any other White House officials testify.

The "precedent" thing, like the separation-of-powers argument that heralded it, is pure bullshit. Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo explains better than I can... read his latest few entries while you're there. This isn't about not setting precedents, this is about continuing to pretend that the arguments the White House proffered against Condi testifying ever had any merit at all. And as Mr. Marshall also points out, what good does it do us to have her testify and contradict everything Clarke said, if we can no longer ask anyone else from the administration for clarification?

But there may yet be hope: Condi is a well-documented liar, prone to self-contradiction and, as we saw on the last edition of 60 Minutes, not always good at coping with the glare of television lights. If she buggers up just once, we've got at least a month's worth of pester-ammunition.

Addendum: Elsewhere, several people have suggested that perhaps this is really a case of the Bush administration expecting Condi to fall on her sword. Thinking back to a recent hint that Condi might have already been intending/expecting to leave her post at the end of the year, this is certainly a real possibility. Stay tuned.
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My New GAY Hero

If there's one thing that clearly points to the differences between the modern American right and left wings, this is it: we on the left are fighting for the recognition of GLBT folks' intrinsic humanity, and they on the right are still using homosexuality as a snicker-inducing playground perjorative. Just when you think the smear campaign against Dick Clarke can't go any lower, we discover that the administration is seriously considering using the implication that he might possibly be gay as a method of discrediting him.

BLITZER: Well, John, I get the sense not only what Dr. Rice just said to you and other reporters at the White House, but what administration officials have been saying since the weekend, basically that Richard Clarke from their vantage point was a disgruntled former government official, angry because he didn't get a certain promotion. He's got a hot new book out now that he wants to promote. He wants to make a few bucks, and that his own personal life, they're also suggesting that there are some weird aspects in his life as well, that they don't know what made this guy come forward and make these accusations against the president.

Is that the sense that you're getting, speaking to a wide range of officials?

KING: None of the senior officials I have spoken to here talked about Mr. Clarke's personal life in any way.
via Atrios

Never mind that, if indeed Clarke is gay (and since the assertion is coming from the Republican party, there's no reason to believe that it's true), this Gay Counter-Terrorism Expert is about as Republican as gay men come. And never mind that in spite of his potential homosexuality, he was good enough to serve under four different presidents, three of them Republican. And never mind that he may be making good and necessary points that could hugely benefit the American people... he's gay, so obviously he can't be trusted and every word he says is wrong.

Fuck you, Bush; if it turns out Richard Clarke is gay, that'll only make me like him MORE.
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Monday, March 29, 2004
And Speaking of Christians...

Do I think faith will be an important part of being a good president? Yes, I do.

George W. Bush, 6 December 99

I've heard the call. I believe God wants me to run for president.

George W. Bush, September '00

Our priorities is our faith.

George W. Bush, 10 October '00

God told me to strike at al Qaida and I struck them, and then he instructed me to strike at Saddam, which I did, and now I am determined to solve the problem in the Middle East. If you help me I will act, and if not, the elections will come and I will have to focus on them.

George W. Bush, 27 June 03

But wait...
The Scriptures say, what does it profit, my brother, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? ... When we look at what is happening in America today, where are the works of compassion?

John F. Kerry, 28 March 04
source

[Kerry's comment] was beyond the bounds of acceptable discourse and a sad exploitation of Scripture for a political attack.

Steve Schmidt, Bush campaign spokesman, 28 March 04

Mm-hmmmm.
Tyrants and dictators will accept no other gods before them. They require disobedience to the First Commandment. They seek absolute control and are threatened by faith in God. They fear only the power they cannot possess -- the power of truth. So they resent the living example of the devout, especially the devotion of a unique people chosen by God.

George W. Bush, 19 April 01


Well said, George. At last, something we can agree on.
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Sunday, March 28, 2004
Crazy Fundies

Redundant, I know. I want to say this, though: it's not a dig against Christians... the real kind, I mean, the ones who actually try to live by genuine Christian principles like acceptance, kindness, generosity, and love for one's neighbors. And my distate for fundamentalists extends to all religions and non-religions: I dislike muslim fundamentalists and atheist fundamentalists every bit as much as the Christian ones. Because only a fundamentalist would do something like this:

Texas Woman Who Stoned Sons Set for Trial

TYLER, Texas (AP) - Psychiatric experts for both the defense and prosecution agree that Deanna Laney, scheduled to go on trial Monday, was mentally ill last Mother's Day weekend when she stoned two of her sons to death and severely injured a third.

(...)

Laney, 39, a deeply religious woman who home-schooled her children in the tiny town of New Chapel Hill, 100 miles southeast of Dallas, called 911 just after midnight on May 10 and told a dispatcher: "I've just killed my boys."

She said God ordered her to do it.

Deputies found 8-year-old Joshua and 6-year-old Luke lying in the yard in their underwear, their skulls smashed and stones the size of dinner plates lying on their lifeless bodies. Their 14-month-old brother, Aaron, was found in his crib, alive but bleeding from a fractured skull, a pillow over his face. He is recovering.
source

But I'm sure the boys were raised in a good, Christian home right up until the day their mother stoned them to death.


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My New Hero

GOD this guy is good. If you missed it, this morning on All Things Considered Dick Clarke not only embraced the White House's request to declassify his testimony from 2002, he suggested -- nay, dared them -- to declassify everything.

As Pandagon points out, if Frist's implication that Clarke contraidicted himself under oath is the tactical equivalent of a thermonuclear bomb (as many bloggers have stated it), then Clarke's response would require us to extend the analogy into the world of comicbook Evil Geniuses. Coupled with the continued refusal of the White House to allow Condoleezza Rice to testify publicly, the Bush administration is looking incredibly furtive and guilty right now.

Just the way I like 'em.

Update: See, this is what I'm talking about.

Rice Rejects Public Testimony to 9/11 Panel

Rice has refused to appear before the independent panel in public and under oath to answer charges from former White House counterterrorism official Richard Clarke that the Bush administration neglected the threat from al Qaeda. The White House has asked for a second private session for Rice.

I don't know whether Condi can refute Clarke's claims or not. Perhaps she can... but by refusing to do so publicly (and there is not, contrary to administration assertions, any constitutional reason why she can't), it looks for all the world like there's something she and her bosses really, really don't want us to know, and that in turn makes Clarke's willingness to speak out and thus expose himself to the administration's abuse appear all the more heroic. I expect the White House knows that... which tells me that whatever it is they're hiding, it's gotta be waaaaay bad. Can't wait to find out what it is.

Update pt. 2: Oh man. Looks like they picked on the wrong guy this time...
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