Saturday, March 08, 2008

Bush Vetos Waterboarding Ban

This is so un-American and so sleazy. America's reputation in the world continues to take a dive as America becomes guilty of the same method of torture we executed Japanese POW's our country is using.
The Washington Post   
Bush Announces Veto of Waterboarding Ban

By Dan Eggen Washington Post Staff Writer Saturday, March 8, 2008; 1:47 PM

President Bush vetoed Saturday legislation meant to ban the CIA from using waterboarding and other harsh interrogation tactics, saying it "would take away one of the most valuable tools on the war on terror."

"This is no time for Congress to abandon practices that have a proven track record of keeping America safe," Bush said in his weekly radio address.

Congress approved an intelligence authorization bill that contains the waterboarding provision on slim majorities, far short of the two-thirds needed to override a presidential veto.

Bush's long-expected veto reignites the Washington debate over the proper limits of U.S. interrogation policies and whether the CIA has engaged in torture by subjecting prisoners to severe tactics, including waterboarding, a type of simulated drowning.

The issue also has potential ramifications for Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), the presumptive Republican presidential nominee and a longtime critic of coercive interrogation tactics who nonetheless backed the Bush administration in opposing the CIA waterboarding ban. The Democratic presidential candidates, Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) and Barack Obama (Ill.), both support the ban, though neither was present for last month's Senate vote for the bill that Bush is to veto.

"It is shameful that George Bush and John McCain lack the courage to ban torture," said Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean.

McCain has said that, while he opposes waterboarding, he agrees with the Bush administration that the CIA needs to be able to use tactics banned by the military but which fall short of torture or cruel treatment.

The legislation would have limited the CIA to 19 less-aggressive tactics outlined in a U.S. Army field manual on interrogations. Besides ruling out waterboarding, that restriction would effectively ban temperature extremes, extended forced standing and other harsh methods that the CIA used on al-Qaeda prisoners after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

The president said in his radio address that the agency needs to use tougher methods than the U.S. military to wrest information from terrorism suspects.

"Limiting the CIA's interrogation methods to those in the Army Field Manual would be dangerous because the manual is publicly available and easily accessible on the Internet. . . . If we were to shut down this program and restrict the CIA to methods in the Field Manual, we could lose vital information from senior al-Qaeda terrorists, and that could cost American lives," Bush said.

CIA Director Michael V. Hayden has also spoken out against the Senate bill and defended the methods as lawful and effective.

"The US Army and CIA clearly have different missions, different capabilities and therefore different procedures," Hayden wrote in a message sent Saturday to CIA employees. "CIA's program, atightly controlled and carefully administered national option that goes beyond the Army Field Manual, has been a lawful and effective response to the national security demands that terrorism imposes."

Most of the Washington debate over the CIA interrogation program has focused on waterboarding, which was used on three al-Qaeda suspects held in secret prisons in 2002 and 2003. The tactic involves strapping a prisoner to a board with their head lower than their feet, placing cloth or cellophane over the face and pouring water on their head to make them fear they are drowning.

The practice as used by the CIA bears similarities to the methods of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, and by the current dicatorship in Burma, according to congressional testimony and torture experts.

But as Bush emphasized in his remarks, the program also included other coercive tactics that are forbidden in the U.S. military and widely considered unlawful among human rights advocates.

The CIA has not specified all the tactics it wants to keep using but says it no longer uses waterboarding. Bush administration officials have not ruled out using waterboarding again.

Many Democrats and human-rights groups say coercive tactics are often counterproductive and that, regardless, constitute illegal torture under U.S. and international law. Frank Donaghue, chief executive officer of Physicians for Human Rights, said many of the agency's tactics may constitute war crimes.

"America must not be scared into thinking that these 'additional' tactics are anything other than what they are -- torture," Donaghue said in a statement Saturday.

Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) said Bush has "compromised the moral leadership of our nation," and said the administration is ignoring the advice of military experts who oppose harsh techniques.

Retired Army Lt. Gen. Harry E. Soyster, a former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, suggested that those who support harsh methods simply lack experience and do not know what they are talking about. "If they think these methods work, they're woefully misinformed," Soyster said at a news briefing called in anticipation of the veto. "Torture is counterproductive on all fronts. It produces bad intelligence. It ruins the subject, makes them useless for further interrogation. And it damages our credibility around the world."

In two separate forums earlier this week, FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III and Navy Rear Adm. Mark H. Buzby, commander of the military detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, defended the efficacy of less-coercive, "rapport-building" interrogation tactics.

"We get so much dependable information from just sitting down and having a conversation and treating them like human beings in a businesslike manner," Buzby told reporters in a conference call Thursday.

Staff writer Joby Warrick contributed to this report.

The Clinton Rules: From Andrew Sullivan's Blog


The new meme is that politics has returned to normal and that this election will now be run by Clinton rules. Many are relieved by this. You could sense the palpable discomfort among many in Washington that their world might actually shift a little next year. But if elections are primarily about fear and mud, and who best operates in a street fight, Beltway comfort returns. This we know. This we understand. This we already have the language to describe. And, the feeling goes, the Clintons can win back the White House in this atmosphere. What she is doing to Obama she can try to do to McCain. Maybe Limbaugh will help her out again.

What I think this misses are the cultural and social consequences of beating Obama (or McCain) this way. I don't mean beating Obama because the Clintons' message is more persuasive, or because the Clintons' healthcare plan is better, or because she has a better approach to Iraq. I mean: beating him by a barrage of petty attacks, by impugning his clear ability to be commander-in-chief, by toying with questions about his "Muslim past", by subtle invocation of the race card, by intermittent reliance on gender identity politics, by taking faux offense to keep the news cycle busy ("shame on you, Barack Obama!") and so on. If the Clintons beat Obama this way, I have a simple prediction. It will mean a mass flight from the process. It will alter the political consciousness of an entire generation of young voters - against any positive interaction with the political process for the foreseeable future. I'm not sure that Washington yet understands the risk the Clintons are taking with their own party and the future of American politics.

The reason so many people have re-engaged with politics this year is because many sense their country is in a desperate state and because only one candidate has articulated a vision and a politics big enough to address it without dividing the country down the middle again. For the first time in decades, a candidate has emerged who seems able to address the country's and the world's needs with a message that does not rely on Clintonian parsing or Rovian sleaze. For the first time since the 1960s, we have a potential president able to transcend the victim-mongering identity politics so skillfully used by the Clintons. If this promise is eclipsed because the old political system conspires to strangle it at birth, the reaction from the new influx of voters will be severe. The Clintons will all but guarantee they will lose a hefty amount of it in the fall, as they richly deserve to. Some will gravitate to McCain; others will be so disillusioned they will withdraw from politics for another generation. If the Clintons grind up and kill the most promising young leader since Kennedy, and if they do it not on the strength of their arguments, but by the kind of politics we have seen them deploy, the backlash will be deep and severe and long. As it should be.

He has a million little donors. He has brought many, many Republicans and Independents to the brink of re-thinking their relationship with the Democratic party. And he has won the majority of primaries and caucuses and has a majority of the delegates and popular vote. This has been a staggering achievement - one that has already made campaign history. If the Clintons, after having already enjoyed presidential power for eight long years, destroy this movement in order to preserve their own grip on privilege and influence in Democratic circles, it will be more than old-fashioned politics. It will be a generational moment - as formative as 1968. Killing it will be remembered for a very, very long time. And everyone will remember who did it - and why.

St. Andrew's Episcopal Gospel Choir, Cincinnati, OH

While at the spring conference at Duncan Center last weekend, I stopped in the bookstore to check out the CD's.  I've got 1,300+ songs on my ipod. It's not like I don't have enough music to listen to.
But one CD caught my eye and I bought it. It's called, My House Must be Filled" and was done by a African American Episcopal Church in Cincinnati, St. Andrew's.
Wow! What a choir!  I have many black gospel choirs on my ipod, including all of the major mass choirs.  But this choir is the absolute best.
The soloists are fantastic and the choir is so good. They also provide beautifully done enunciation.
The sing the spirituals in the style Dr. Judy taught us about at the Absolam Jones celebration a couple of weeks ago.  The songs that are meant to be lamentations are sung in that manner and the ones that are praise are rocking and rolling.
I have never given every song on an entire rating, the ipod rating of 5. But truly, every song was supurb.
One song number 13,  "I don't feel No Ways Tired,"  touched my heart.  While the choir sings in the background, the rector is reading the Baptismal Sacrament from the Prayer Book and gives a sermon on carrying that Sacrament out into the world.
If my readers who aren't in Florida want to purchase one, it is available on the Washington National Cathedral website.  It's the particular CD isn't listed, just email them or call and they will he happy to sell you a copy. 

Episcopal Diocese of SE Florida Spring Conference

Top: The Rt. Rev. Michael Curry,  Episcopal Bishop of the Diocese of North Carolina
Bottom:  Bill Wrenn, Missioner for Stewardship & Evangelism, Diocese of NC
Our diocesean spring conference was held at Duncan Center Feb 29th & March 1, 2008.
The topic for this year's conference was "Creating a Spirit of Generosity."
It was great seeing old friends again and learning new ways at looking at the way churches 
do things. We were challenged to think outside of the box and become open to new ideas; 
ideas that seem strange to us who are set in our ways "because we've always done it that way."
Bill Wren talked some about the importance of a congregation being aware of their local social responsibilities.  He said, "We are a mission with the church. 
What is the reality ourside our church doors?  What are the changes taking place in our community?  What is my church going to do about it?"
Bishop Curry preached Friday afternoon and again on Saturday morning.  What a preacher!
And what a kind, good hearted bishop he is! 
Here are a few of the things Bishop Curry said that I jotted down:
"The best evangelism done is the witness of our love.:
"Read Hebrew 10.  Fear is dealt with by faith."
"The thing to remember is to keep the main thing the main thing."
And last, but not least, "Shepards don't make sheep.  Sheep make sheep."
Bishop Curry was well, to put it mildly, enthusiastic.  Many in attendance had never seen clergy
get so excited about the gospel that he shouts and runs the aisle. Bishop Curry did. He was wonderful and touched all of us.
It was a great conference and I'm glad I went. 

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Easter 2008 Comes Early

Several folks have made comments about Easter being so early this year. Sombebody sent me this and I think it's worth sharing.
I've been doing some research, realizing how early Easter is this year. As you may have heard, Easter is always the 1st Sunday after the 1st full moon after the Spring Equinox (which is March 20). This dating of Easter is based on the lunar calendar that Hebrew people used to identify Passover, which is why it moves around on our Roman calendar. Found out a couple of things you might be interested in! Based on the above, Easter can actually be one day earlier (March 22) but that is pretty rare. This year is the earliest Easter any of us will ever see the rest of our lives! And only the most elderly of our population have ever seen it this early (95 years old or above!). And none of us have ever, or will ever, see it a day earlier!
Here are the facts: 
1)The next time Easter will be this early (March 23) will be the year 2228 (220 years from now). The last time it was this early was 1913 (so if you're 95 or older, you are the only ones that were around for that!). 
2) The next time it will be a day earlier, March 22, will be in the year 2285 (277 years from now). The last time it was on March 22 was 1818. So, no one alive today has or will ever see it any earlier than this year! 

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Taking the Gay Lesbian Experience into the Church

From Ben Smith over at Politico, which is really a great blog   

February 28, 2008 Read More: Barack Obama

Selling gay rights

Obama's rally in Beaumont today was the highest-energy of this Texas swing, with a crowd that was about three-quarters black cheering at almost every turn.

An interesting moment came when he was asked a question about LGBT rights and delivered an answer that seemed to suit the questioner, listing the various attributes — race, gender, etc. — that shouldn't trigger discrimination, to successive cheers. When he came to saying that gays and lesbians deserve equality, though, the crowd fell silent.

So he took a different tack:

"Now I’m a Christian, and I praise Jesus every Sunday," he said, to a sudden wave of noisy applause and cheers.

"I hear people saying things that I don’t think are very Christian with respect to people who are gay and lesbian," he said, and the crowd seemed to come along with him this time.

The moment reminded me of a conversation I had recently with a senior figure in the national gay rights movement, who noted that Obama's deference to some black Christian discomfort with homosexuality — his refusal to dump the "ex-gay" gospel singer Donnie McClurkin from a tour — angered some gays and lesbians; but conversely, that his ability to sell gay rights in the black church is unique and appealing.