13 September 2006

Let’s quit while we’re behind

Let’s quit while we’re behind

By Christopher Buckley

“The trouble with our times,” Paul Valéry said, “is that the future is not what it used to be.”

This glum aperçu has been much with me as we move into the home stretch of the 2006 mid-term elections and shimmy into the starting gates of the 2008 presidential campaign. With heavy heart, as a proud—indeed, staunch— Republican, I here admit, behind enemy lines, to the guilty hope that my party loses; on both occasions.

I voted for George W. Bush in 2000. In 2004, I could not bring myself to pull the same lever again. Neither could I bring myself to vote for John Kerry, who, for all his strengths, credentials, and talent, seems very much less than the sum of his parts. So, I wrote in a vote for George Herbert Walker Bush, for whom I worked as a speechwriter from 1981 to ’83. I wish he’d won.

Bob Woodward asked Bush 43 if he had consulted his father before invading Iraq. The son replied that he had consulted “a higher father.” That frisson you feel going up your spine is the realization that he meant it. And apparently the higher father said, “Go for it!” There are those of us who wish he had consulted his terrestrial one; or, if he couldn’t get him on the line, Brent Scowcroft. Or Jim Baker. Or Henry Kissinger. Or, for that matter, anyone who has read a book about the British experience in Iraq. (18,000 dead.)



Anyone who has even a passing personal acquaintance of Bush 41 knows him to be, roughly speaking, the most decent, considerate, humble, and cautious man on the planet. Also, the most loving parent on earth. What a wrench it must be for him to pick up his paper every morning and read the now-daily debate about whether his son is officially the worst president in U.S. history. (That chuckling you hear is the ghost of James Buchanan.) To paraphrase another president, I feel 41’s pain. Does 43 feel 41’s? Does he, I wonder, feel ours?

There were some of us who scratched our heads in 2000 when we first heard the phrase “compassionate conservative.” It had a cobbled-together, tautological, dare I say, Rovian aroma to it. But OK, we thought, let’s give it a chance. It sounded more fun than Gore’s “Prosperity for America’s Families.” (Bo-ring.)

Six years later, the White House uses the phrase about as much as it does “Mission Accomplished.” Six years of record deficits and profligate expansion of entitlement programs. Incompetent expansion, at that: The actual cost of the President’s Medicare drug benefit turned out, within months of being enacted, to be roughly one-third more than the stated price. Weren’t Republicans supposed to be the ones who were good at accounting? All those years on Wall Street calculating CEO compensation....

Who knew, in 2000, that “compassionate conservatism” meant bigger government, unrestricted government spending, government intrusion in personal matters, government ineptitude, and cronyism in disaster relief? Who knew, in 2000, that the only bill the president would veto, six years later, would be one on funding stem-cell research?

A more accurate term for Mr. Bush’s political philosophy might be incontinent conservatism.

On Capitol Hill, a Republican Senate and House are now distinguished by—or perhaps even synonymous with—earmarks, the K Street Project, Randy Cunningham (bandit, 12 o’clock high!), Sen. Ted Stevens’s $250-million Bridge to Nowhere, Jack Abramoff (Who? Never heard of him), and a Senate Majority Leader who declared, after conducting his own medical evaluation via videotape, that he knew every bit as much about the medical condition of Terry Schiavo as her own doctors and husband. Who knew that conservatism means barging into someone’s hospital room like Dr. Frankenstein with defibrillator paddles? In what chapter of Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom or Russell Kirk’s The Conservative Mind is that principle enunciated?

The Republican Party I grew up into—Dwight D. Eisenhower, William F. Buckley Jr., Barry Goldwater, Richard Nixon (sigh), Ronald Reagan—stood for certain things. It did not always live up to its ideals. Au contraire, as we Republicans said in the pre-Dominique de Villepin era—often, it fell flat on its face. A self-proclaimed “conservative,” Nixon kept the Great Society entitlement beast fat and happy and brought in wage and price controls. Reagan funked Social Security reform in 1983 and raised (lesser) taxes three times. He vowed to balance the budget, and drove the deficit to historic highs by failing to rein in government spending. Someone called it “Voodoo economics.” You could Google it.
There were foreign misadventures, terrible ones: Vietnam (the ’69-’75 chapters), Beirut, Iran-Contra, the Saddam Hussein tilt. But there were compensating triumphs: Eisenhower’s refusal to bail out France in Indochina in 1954, Nixon’s China opening, the Cold War victory.

Despite the failures, one had the sense that the party at least knew in its heart of hearts that these were failures, either of principle or execution. Today one has no sense, aside from a slight lowering of the swagger-mometer, that the president or the Republican Congress is in the least bit chastened by their debacles.

George Tenet’s WMD “slam-dunk,” Vice President Cheney’s “we will be greeted as liberators,” Don Rumsfeld’s avidity to promulgate a minimalist military doctrine, together with the tidy theories of a group who call themselves “neo-conservative” (not one of whom, to my knowledge, has ever worn a military uniform), have thus far: de-stabilized the Middle East; alienated the world community from the United States; empowered North Korea, Iran, and Syria; unleashed sectarian carnage in Iraq among tribes who have been cutting each others’ throats for over a thousand years; cost the lives of 2,600 Americans, and the limbs, eyes, organs, spinal cords of another 15,000—with no end in sight. But not to worry: Democracy is on the march in the Middle East. Just ask Hamas. And the neocons—bright people, all—are now clamoring, “On to Tehran!”

What have they done to my party? Where does one go to get it back?
One place comes to mind: the back benches. It’s time for a time-out. Time to hand over this sorry enchilada to Hillary and Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden and Charlie Rangel and Harry Reid, who has the gift of being able to induce sleep in 30 seconds. Or, with any luck, to Mark Warner or, what the heck, Al Gore. I’m not much into polar bears, but this heat wave has me thinking the man might be on to something.

My fellow Republicans, it is time, as Madison said in Federalist 76, to “Hand over the tiller of governance, that others may fuck things up for a change.”

(Or was it Federalist 78?)

14 June 2006

19 May 2006

Free your mind......

In the thick of party conflict in 1800, Thomas Jefferson wrote in a private letter,

"I have sworn upon the altar of the God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man"

18 May 2006

Republicans once again push forward on Gay Marriage Ban

Ah, it's spring and you can just smell it in the air...... Rove trying to cook up another batch of divisive hate politics to get the far right to the polls come November..... gay rights are center stage once again. So what's next.... the rumblings of civil war or secession as the Fed tries to snatch away the rights of the states. And these are Republicans, the guardians of states rights. Someone wake me in 3 years when all of this is over. And, all we are talking about is "marriage" here..... shouldn't the religious doctrine of marriage be left up to the churches in this country (many of whom already ordain gay marriage). Couldn't we just end the debate.... issue anyone loving couple a simple "union" by the state (both gay and straight) and let the Priests, Rabbis, and the like worry about the marriage issue. This is political football with people's lives...... sickening.

13 May 2006

Mom's day......

For anyone who needs some Mother's Day inspiration ......

http://www.scott-o-rama.com/2006/05/13/in-honor-of-mom/

Francis Bacon

Orwell

"In a time of unversal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act."

George Orwell

09 May 2006

"Asshole"

For those that have not seen this..... it is worth a watch. "Asshole".

01 May 2006

Ohio's Notorious FlagHag

Mean Jean gets another reprimand or two or three (but who is keeping count).

Commission reprimands Schmidt

By John McCarthy, Associated Press

COLUMBUS - The Ohio Elections Commissaion on Thursday found that Republican U.S. Rep. Jean Schmidt violated campaign law by claiming on her Web site last year that she had two college degrees when she had only one.

The commission, which ruled unanimously against Schmidt, issued a public reprimand for the violation.

The commission also dismissed a complaint that Schmidt's campaign filed against her opponent in Tuesday's primary, former U.S. Rep. Bob McEwen, claiming he wasn't an Ohio resident.

It was the latest setback for Schmidt, who went to Congress last year in a special election to replace Rob Portman.

Schmidt was booed on the House floor in November for her comments criticizing Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., a decorated Marine Corps veteran who served in Vietnam and is an opponent of the Iraq war.

She said: "Cowards cut and run, Marines never do."

She obtained a bachelor's degree in political science from the University of Cincinnati in 1974.

The Web site said she also had received a bachelor's in education from Cincinnati in 1986.

A media call to the university revealed she had not done course work for the second degree.

A spokesman said Schmidt wasn't involved in the creation of her Web site and did not know its contents.

However, Commissioner William Mallory said Schmidt should have maintained control over her campaign material.

"The ultimate responsibility for whatever happens in the campaign rests with the candidate," Mallory said.

The reference to the second degree has been removed from campaign literature. Also removed were references to endorsements by the Family Research Council and U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo.

The commission found those claims to be false and in violation. The commission dismissed an allegation that U.S. Rep. Steve Chabot's endorsement of Schmidt also was false.

In dismissing the complaint against McEwen, the commission found that he was a resident of suburban Cincinnati. Schmidt's campaign had been claiming that his primary residence was in Virginia.

Designer mug shot..... oops, I did it again.....

We can dream can't we......???

Bringing "truthiness" to the Press Corps...

I am sure everyone is aware of Colbert's performance at the press club. Here are some links to it....... wow, the tension in the air is palpable. It is almost difficult to watch it is so scathing..... and his contempt for these so-called jounalists is ripe. One of my favorites was the special podium replete with eject and Gannon buttons..... and a turn down the volume. "I can't heeeearrrrr youuuuuu".....

Crooks and Liars

You Tube

Democratic Underground

Just like much of America.... those in the press have been converted into whores that are much more interested in the pursuit of their own 'perceived' fame and celebrity.

"Mr. President" is in the Pink....

If you haven't seen Pink perform the song in this video you should watch this.........

"Mr. President"

29 April 2006

Limbaughed

One of the greatest hypocrites of our time has been arrested ONCE AGAIN. Truly a sad commentary on the American people that this guy enjoys any success. He plays to peoples fears, hatreds, prejudices, and ignorance. Instead of fame, this guy should be locked up.... oh, wait a minute, he probably will be...... remember this is his second arrest on drug charges.

Rush Limbaugh Arrested on Drug Charges
The Associated Press

Rush Limbaugh was arrested Friday on prescription drug charges, law enforcement officials said.

Limbaugh turned himself in to authorities on a warrant issued by the State Attorney's Office, said Teri Barbera, a spokeswoman for the State Attorney's Office.

The conservative radio commentator came into the jail at about 4 p.m. with his attorney Roy Black and bonded out an hour later on a $3,000 bail, Barbera said.

The warrant was for fraud to conceal information to obtain prescriptions, Barbera said.

Black said his client and authorities reached a settlement on a charge of doctor shopping filed Friday by the State Attorney.

Prosecutors seized Limbaugh's records after learning that he received about 2,000 painkillers, prescribed by four doctors in six months, at a pharmacy near his Palm Beach mansion. They contend that Limbaugh engaged in "doctor shopping," or illegally deceived multiple doctors to receive overlapping prescriptions.

He has acknowledged he became addicted to pain medication, blaming it on severe back pain, and took a five-week leave from his radio show to enter a rehabilitation program in 2003.

28 April 2006

heck of a ride....

24 April 2006

By the people.....

And from the people the movement grows...... the tyranny of majority rule (both houses of Congress and the executive branch) has remained unchecked and unbalanced........ so the states are speaking out and loudly........ I sit in wonder at how ridiculous the behavior in DC....... the Repubs charged after Clinton for every nuance of impropriety and were salivating for impeachment. Now that impeachment is actually warranted our one party rule cares NOT to take notice. And, where are the DEMS in DC.....??? They should be speaking out with anger and bravery, instead of cowering in their dark little corners.... a vacuum of leadership.

Bush Impeachment - The Illinois State Legislature Is Preparing to Drop a Bombshell
By Steven Leser

Utilizing a little known rule of the US House to bring Impeachment charges.


The Illinois General Assembly is about to rock the nation. Members of state legislatures are normally not considered as having the ability to decide issues with a massive impact to the nation as a whole. Representative Karen A. Yarbrough of Illinois' 7th District is about to shatter that perception forever. Representative Yarbrough stumbled on a little known and never utlitized rule of the US House of Representatives, Section 603 of Jefferson's Manual of the Rules of the United States House of Representatives, which allows federal impeachment proceedings to be initiated by joint resolution of a state legislature. From there, Illinois House Joint Resolution 125 (hereafter to be referred to as HJR0125) was born.

Detailing five specific charges against President Bush including one that is specified to be a felony, the complete text of HJR0125 is copied below at the end of this article. One of the interesting points is that one of the items, the one specified as a felony, that the NSA was directed by the President to spy on American citizens without warrant, is not in dispute. That fact should prove an interesting dilemma for a Republican controlled US House that clearly is not only loathe to initiate impeachment proceedings, but does not even want to thoroughly investigate any of the five items brought up by the Illinois Assembly as high crimes and/or misdemeanors. Should HJR0125 be passed by the Illinois General Assembly, the US House will be forced by House Rules to take up the issue of impeachment as a privileged bill, meaning it will take precedence over other House business.

The Illinois General Assembly joins a growing chorus of voices calling for censure or impeachment of President Bush including Democratic state committees in Vermont, Wisconsin, New Mexico, Nevada and North Carolina as well as the residents themselves of seven towns in Vermont, seventy Vermont state legislators and Congressman John Conyers. The call for impeachment is starting to grow well beyond what could be considered a fringe movement. An ABC News/Washington Post Poll Conducted April 6-9 showed that 33% of Americans currently support Impeaching President Bush, coincidentally, only a similar amount supported impeaching Nixon at the start of the Watergate investigation. If and when Illinois HJR0125 hits the capitol and the individual charges are publicly investigated, that number is likely to grow rapidly. Combined with the very real likelihood that Rove is about to be indicted in the LeakGate investigation, and Bush is in real trouble beyond his plummeting poll numbers. His cronies in the Republican dominated congress will probably save him from the embarassment of an impeachment conviction, for now, but his Presidency will be all but finished.

Waking up from the damage that is done....

On Waking Up Sleepless in the Middle of the Night
By John Brown

Sunday 23 April 2006

TO: The President

FROM: A former American diplomat

SUBJECT: Waking up in the middle of the night

Mr. President: Do you ever wake up in the middle of the night? Do you? Do you ever wake up sleepless in the middle of the night?

What have you done in Iraq? Do you ever realize, in the middle of the night, what you've done? Do you?

1. You've caused over 2,370 American soldiers to die in an impoverished land that never attacked us. Was that the right answer to 9/11 or the "threat" from Iraq? Do you ever ask yourself that question?

2. Because of your Iraq invasion, thousands of U.S. enlisted personnel are maimed, physically and mentally, for life. What can you tell these victims of your war? That you're honored by their duty towards you, our "mission-accomplished" commander-in-chief?

3. Your decision to go to war has led to the death of tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis. Do you have any remorse for this, Mr. President? Or was it that, for you, Iraqis only really deserved to serve as props in "shock and awe" - your name for your made-for-TV porno/violence program at the beginning of the war, produced and distributed directly into our living rooms by the mainstream media? (Thank you, Fox News.)

4. Will you ever, ever accept responsibility for making torture all-American at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, and elsewhere? And the Statue of Liberty - why, tell us why, did you allow it to be replaced by that image of an abused, hooded, helpless prisoner on a box? Aren't you the least bit concerned at how America is seen by the rest of the world because of your war - as a brutal aggressor nation, dismissive of the opinions of mankind?

5. What about your mercenaries ("Pentagon contractors") that our tax dollars pay for? Who are they? What are they doing in their multi-thousands in Iraq, and to the Iraqis? Do you know? Or don't you care to know?

6. You said you wanted to "rebuild" Iraq - but isn't it true that all you've really done is construct a Roman-Empire-style camp, a "Green Zone" for Iraqi collaborators (whom you now mistrust) and U.S. personnel in the heart of Baghdad that is an invitation to insurgent mortars? Haven't you - tell the truth - destroyed in Iraq more than you have built? Haven't you?

7. You say Iraqis now live in a land of "freedom" - but what kind of freedom? How can it ever be like the Four Freedoms of Franklin Delano Roosevelt - freedom of expression and worship, joined with freedom from want and freedom from fear? As electricity fails and bombs terrify citizens in Baghdad, where is the freedom you promised Iraqis, Mr. President?

8. Your occupation of Iraq has led to a bloody sectarian conflict. Why do you and your ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad now blame the Iraqis for their problems? Don't you share responsibility for the desperate situation they are in?

9. Your trillion-dollar binge of destruction in the cradle of civilization - who will pay for it? The widows of our soldiers? Our young people, already too debt-burdened paying for their educations? Or their baby-boomer parents who may see their pensions evaporate to support your war?

10. Why can't you truthfully tell us, Mr. President, the reasons you led America into war? Was it for the WMD, for regime change, for the oil, for grand neocon visions, to avenge your father, to win elections at home? What were your real intentions? Are you afraid to tell us? Or is the truth that, deep down, you never really knew?

11. And, Mr. President, as you contemplate another war, this time against Iran, won't you ever wake up in the middle of the night, and stop more madness before it is too late?

--------

John Brown, who writes regularly for Tomdispatch and Tompaine.com, is a former diplomat who resigned from the State Department over the planned war in Iraq, compiles the Public Diplomacy Press Review, available free upon request at the site.

Conspiracy??? Only time will tell us.....

DOCUMENTARY: 9/11 LOOSE CHANGE
Whether you accept the official 9/11 explanation or not, Loose Change is a fascinating look at unexplained issues surrounding 9/11 that you won't see on "the news."

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-8260059923762628848

The "decider"

Wonderfully amusing if you have not yet heard it....

http://decider.cf.huffingtonpost.com/

20 April 2006

Just the numbers, please...

I like to keep track of what the war is costing the working taxpayer. We roughly have about 185,000,000 taxpayers. If you currently take what the war has cost to date.... it has cost each taxpayer $1800.00 thus far (or on loan so you have to add the future interest costs on the debt which continue to compound and accumulate). And, it is, of course, still rising as the war rages on indefinitely and expensively.

A staggering number if taken in real terms per taxpayer. What could you (or our country) have done with an extra $1800.00 to pump into our own economy. An aside, what if we had reasoned to take that $330,000,000,000.00 (or much less) and invested it in R&D and infrastructure to gain energy independence as other countries are doing. Not only would we have created jobs but our future would hold great promise.

Instead, we are still inexorably tied to the pump and imports.

The next time Bush goes to war (or any other president) maybe we should look at the big picture and see if we can actually afford it.

The day's rumination.

27 March 2006

Ruminating about some possible bumper stickers this morning:

"Bush/Cheney - in it's last throes"

"Bush Cheney - we're hear to listen"

"Bush/Cheney - No worries, we can't run again!"

"Bush/Cheney - the damage is done, we think!"

"Bush/Cheney - vote republican, we have only one way to go and that's up"

"Attack Globally, Overreact Locally"

Or lastly.... "Blame God, he told me to it"

17 March 2006

Humpty-Dumpty and all the Kings Men

Our war of choice, that we were told would substantially "pay for itself," has become one heavy burden to bear. Now running at $9.8 billion a month. Meanwhile here on the homefront..... life, as we have come to know it, is falling apart without a social parachute. Who would have ever thought that our reality would have been rewritten so quickly and to such an extreme. In six short years, we have been redefined as a militaristic nation and begun to dismantle our way of life at home via unaffordable health care, crippling debt, an accelerating decline of the middle class, a deteriorating civic infrastructure, the list is long. Is this reversible?

Interesting too that we seem to not be able to afford our hurricane relief..... and the Gulf Coast is still a MESS from what my friends who live there are telling me.

This week, Congress just approved another $78 billion for war costs..... making our outlay to date a whooping $337 billion, folks, and it ain't even close to over yet. And, that is on TOP of the Pentagon's already hefty budget of $440 billion just proposed by Bush. Yes, we cannot afford to fund schools properly, or Health Care, or........

BTW, we only approved $20 billion for hurricane relief. Our President certainly does have a gross set of priorities.

Lastly, Bush has decided to completely cut off any further funding for rebuilding Iraq (again, remember that we were told by Bush & Co that Iraq's oil money would pay for the rebuilding..... another policy that proved deadly wrong). So, as their country lay in ruins and on the verge of civil war (if not already engaged)...... I am sure that much needed stability is not a possibility when the promised resources to rebuild their country have evaporated. We've repeatedly been told that "you break it you buy it"...... unfortunately, the Bush neo-cons underestimated what it would take to put humpty-dumpty back together again. It looks like we cannot afford the fix so we are going to leave the Middle East in a state of disaster and probably Iraq will be engaged in a civil war, overrun by sectarian violence, immersed in right-wing ideology, strong alliances between Iran and Iraqi Shiites, and a veritable breeding ground for terrorism and Islamic extremism. Military experts pin one of the top reasons for the violence in Iraq on the fact that rebuilding has not occurred.

It appears that our ability to get this situation under control is turning out to be a cycle of repeated and increasingly dangerous mistakes and failures.

05 March 2006

Twilight's Last Gleaming

Twilight's Last Gleaming... By John Cory

Who are these people? These people who line their pockets with the lives of our loved ones? These gray men who lurk in shadows and kill the sunshine of democracy? These people who wear morality like a cheap suit pilfered from the collection plate of decency? Who are these people who have turned America into their own personal ATM machine? These are the people of the lie - Republicans.

Who are these people? These people who sit in spineless silence unable to speak in defense of America? These people who mime the words of our founders, afraid to act with independence? Who utter the words "We concede," instead of "We the People?" These are the people who lie down - Democrats.

Newspapers no longer serve the public, only their corporate masters. They have wedged themselves firmly between the cheeks of power, a tissue to sanitize the bullshit. The media has finally achieved the ultimate self-delusion; broadcasting sitcom politics, and talking points of the throne, it has become the court jester with tinkling bells and curly pointed shoes: useless, untrustworthy, and fused in falsehoods and facades.

This is twilight's last gleaming. Attention must be paid. Democracy is dying.

Bush and Company wants us to be afraid. Republicans sell us fear as they sell out America.

Democrats wait in the wings, picking up their pieces of silver to keep mum. Both political parties capitalize on all the fear.

Democrats think we will become so fearful of Republicans that we will have no other choice but to elect them. That is their incentive. Low profile, quiet acquiescence, and they think their silence will be rewarded.

This is not the time for silence. According to recent polls from Zogby, Fox News, Gallup and CNN, 72% of our troops believe the war in Iraq is a failure and we should withdraw. 64% of the public disapproves of Bush's handling of Iraq. 69% of Americans are against the Dubai Port deal. 52% do not find Bush "honest and trustworthy."

And yet Democrats can find no voice, no fight, no issue to unify them to protect "we the people." Major print and media outlets can find no reason to investigate Republican scandals, bribery and lies, no reason to question an administration that started a war with a lie and failed its own citizens when Katrina hit, by lying about what they did or did not know. Katrina, like 9/11, left the boy king wide-eyed and unprepared. Leader of the free world? Most Americans think not.

When it comes time for voting, here is what I will remember: the silence.

If there is a voice for America, let them speak now. Let them speak for the poor women who not only will find abortion illegal, but will not be allowed birth control and contraceptives. Let them speak for the old and infirm who will not be able to have healthcare and cost-effective drug prescriptions. Let them speak for true family values of providing for our veterans and protecting our troops with proper body armor and ending a false war so no more loved ones have to die for a lie.

But most of all, let them now speak up for the one precious gift that is America - Freedom. Freedom of speech - Freedom to dissent - Freedom from illegal domestic spying. Freedom, sweet freedom for which our fathers, brothers, and sisters have fought and died for over the past 230 years!

Hunter S. Thompson warned, "Big dark coming soon." Big dark is here.

Our Constitution hangs by a thread. Make no mistake, this is twilight's last gleaming. It's time to defend America, not sell it down the river of corporate greed. It is time to stand up, not slink away to fight another day, because there are no more days. The monarchs of mendacity under George Bush are dismantling democracy at every opportunity.

Democrats, you want my vote? Earn it! Get up off your ass and take a stand! Take back America. Stop whimpering. Throw out your Republican-lite Bush lickspittles and suit up for battle. We the people will support you if you speak up for the America we live in and want to preserve. You cannot claim victory simply because you kept the GOP from burying the Constitution while you let them drive it underground.

This is twilight's last gleaming. Who will speak up for America?


John Cory is a Vietnam veteran. He received the Purple Heart and Bronze Star with V device, 1969 - 1970.

25 January 2006

Imagineering moves forward.

Well, I guess it is pretty much official. Disney just bought Pixar which makes Mr. Jobs the largest shareholder at Disney and secures him (at a minimum) a seat on the board and most likely a very active role in shaping Disney's future. This is big news for Disney and Apple and the continued expansion and access to digital media. Personally, I see some pretty bright things on the horizon for all three since Mr. Jobs will now have complete control of two and partial control of the third. It is a great fit. Eisner being replaced by Iger made this dream team deal possible.

Remember, once again recently, Apple broke the digital media barrier with the video iPod and began selling digital video on the iTunes store. Groundbreaking because it also enhanced the market of the shows aired contrary to studio expectation. And, Disney was the first to sign up through their media outlets such as NBC.

I was pretty excited to see this move. This is truly visionary and what, imho, has made this country great..... independent thinkers that are willing to create outside the box. It is about seeing the possibilities!

10 January 2006

Cult of Character

The Character Training Institue is just one of many movements in this country to restore 'character' thru theology. Their drumbeat resonates... they want it like it was in the "good ole days". Curious, how good for a few can be so horrific for the many. Do we need to teach our children better values and responsibility. No doubt. But when you read this and look to what they are trying to teach, it will frighten you. It is completely evangelical-based, narrow, regressive, and most importantly, repressive.

It is interesting how some look at history in a quaint, revisionist way. From the beginning of civilization and history, there were those that tried to turn back the clock and find the "good old days." Roman Emperor Augustus sought strict moral reform which only really hurt those that had no power or money which was 99 percent of the populace. He reversed the clock and exercised strict edicts which divided and persecuted his people. Meanwhile, the wealthy houses of Rome did whatever they liked without fear of retribution. Or, during the middle ages when non-believers or free thinkers were burned at the stake and again most lived in poverty or were excluded from society. The same can be said for the Renaissance through the Enlightment and even into the industrial revolution.

In current historical terms, it is sad to see us look so fondly on our twentieth century history. Most of our country lived in what we, now, would consider to be some form of poverty until after WWII. Women had no rights, jobs, or voice in society, so were bound to their husbands. If they were abused or there was infidelity, for instance, they had no alternative but to stay with their abuser. Women were, in essence, property. Divorce was usually not an option. Since women have found their justifiable independence, divorce rates have climbed. So where does the moral compass sit upon this issue?

Blacks were enslaved in a cast system in this country for 100's of years and not until the 1960's did they find their place at the table. To this day, they are still climbing out from under centuries of deep prejudice and hate. Most recently, dignity and respect is being demanded from diverse groups from every quadrant of our society independent of race, heritage, nationality, origin, gender, or sexual orientation. We are just learning to understand the wonder and importance of difference and diversity in this world. The basic human right to be different.

We have seen many horrors on this planet as put forth by narrow theological interpretation and cultural prejudice. Let's hope we never again see the "good ole days". The list is long and varied, but all lead to the same common thread: fear of change, that desire to not understand what may be different, and the false exploitation of difference as reason to persecute or hate.

Difference is not a threat, but one of the amazing things that God bestowed upon the human race. After all, if we were all exactly the same what would be the point. This is the greatest challenge facing our world as we embark on a new century. The diversity and difference inherent in each and every one of us must be embraced and allowed to be realized. When you truly open your heart to diversity, you realize it is not a threat but leads to a greater understanding of not only the world around you but to yourself. That understanding is true morality, it opens your mind in ever increasing ways, and through it you learn the path to equality. No matter your theological affiliation, "character" is about love, kindness, charity, integrity, honesty and deeds. Sound familiar? Some would also equate those words to morality. Our lives should not be about rote and hypocritical rules that strictly define but offer no real guidance. This world is certainly complex but the rules by which we live it can be fairly simple.

Cult of Character
By Silja J.A. Talvi
In These Times

Monday 09 January 2006

How the 'secular' Character Training Institute is working to build evangelist Bill Gothard's vision of a First-Century Kingdom of God-one city, one state, one school board, one police force and one mind at a time.
From the outside the bland, unmarked exterior of the Character Training Institute's headquarters blends remarkably well into its immediate surroundings. This is a section of Oklahoma City that hasn't yet benefited from the nearby, upscale urban development intended to draw both tourism and business to the area. Both the downtown Greyhound Station and the county jail are situated a few blocks from here, which explains the number of forlorn, transient men and women wandering down West Main Street. For the

most part these folks seem to have more immediate priorities than paying attention to the dozens of foreign-looking visitors entering and exiting the 10-story Character Training Institute (CTI), which also serves as the headquarters of the International Association of Character Cities (IACC).

But one elderly woman wearing mismatched clothing and a weathered plastic visor ambles across the street to get a closer look. She leans against the wall and tries to peer inside, but the heavy double doors, darkened windows and drawn shades make it nearly impossible to do so.

"What's going on in there?" she asks a young man with a military-style haircut walking toward the door. He takes a polite moment to explain that this is a very important "Building Cities of Character" conference, sponsored by the IACC. Many people, he adds, have come from all over the world to be here. And with that, he disappears into the building. The woman tries, one last and unsuccessful time, to see what's going on inside.

"The Sin of Witchcraft"

Inside the institute, Arizona state treasurer David Petersen takes to the conference podium to tell how his state's Family Services Committee passed "Character Education Legislation."

"All schools now have it implemented," he says proudly. "We're fighting for the soul of this nation." Petersen is not being hyperbolic. He attributes his passion for "character" to a personal meeting with evangelist Bill Gothard.

Gothard, the 74-year-old, unmarried man at the head of the Oak-Brook, Illinois-based Institute in Basic Life Principles (IBLP)-which brings in an estimated profit of at least $63 million annually-has been in the evangelism business since 1964. Originally named the Institute in Basic Youth Conflicts, IBLP changed its name in 1990. All totaled, IBLP boasts that at least 2.5 million people have attended the organization's seminars and ministries in the United States and other countries, including Russia, Mongolia, Romania and Taiwan.

Although legally and fiscally independent, the CTI is for all intents and purposes a "secular" front group for Gothard's IBLP. In the last decade, the CTI has quietly gained entry into hundreds of elementary, middle and high schools, state and city offices, corporations, police departments and jails.

Though he never uses the term, Gothard's ideology fits into the framework of the burgeoning "Christian Reconstructionist" movement, which aims to rebuild society according to biblical mandates. Within the Christian Reconstructionist worldview, modern-day chaos is directly attributable to the division of church and state and the consequent degradation of individual character.

For Gothard, the solution is restoring the United States-and then the rest of the world-to something that he calls "The Sevenfold Power of First-Century Churches and Homes."

The concept of obeying God-granted authority runs through virtually all IBLP-published materials. "The key to understanding authority is identifying four areas of God-ordained jurisdiction: parents, government, church leaders, and employers," reads an introductory passage to Basic Life Principles Seminar. "When a decision is to be made, we must ask, 'Whose jurisdiction is this under?' God gives direction, protection, and provision through human authorities. If we rebel against them, we expose ourselves to the destruction of evil principalities. ... This is why 'rebellion is the sin of witchcraft.' "

According to Gothard's interpretation, first century Roman Centurions were admirable figures of authority who followed their orders without question-the prototypes for the kinds of police officers that CTI instructor Ray Nash, the sheriff of Dorchester County, South Carolina, wants to create in his state and elsewhere.

Nash has conducted "Police Dynamics" training for numerous U.S. and international police departments.

"Really, what Police Dynamics is, in a nutshell, is biblical wisdom that's been packaged into a law enforcement message," Nash told Rev. Mark Creech in a November 2004 article for Alan Keyes' RenewAmerica Web site.
Character Cities Conference

"Leaders around the world are increasingly concerned by the decline in society's standards," CTI founder Thomas A. Hill writes in his introduction to the brochure inviting people to the IACC conference. "As you reflect on the past, you may ask yourself, 'Where did the good old days go?' and 'How did we get to this point?' The answer is rooted in a growing lack of personal character."

Anyone wanting to explore such questions and willing to fork over $360 for this annual three-day conference would be buzzed in through the double doors into an oddly serene and well-ordered environment.

Decorated in a faux-Victorian style, the lobby is spotless and dust-free, complete with displays of fake flowers in vases, rows of couches and psalm-quilted pillows. Low-level classical and hymnal music is piped in, but there are no television sets, radios or wall clocks to be seen. A busy group of young, unadorned women in ankle-length tan skirts, flats and dark polo shirts-and their adolescent male counterparts in pressed shirts and slacks-seem to make sure that everything runs on schedule. It doesn't take long to notice that the female roles are rigidly secretarial and/or service-oriented.

When they arrive at the lobby desk, registrants are handed their Character First! plastic binders. The cover announces "a new paradigm for personal growth," while the introductory letter from IACC Director Steven Menzel thanks attendees for their "commitment and determination to revitalize your community based upon the timeless attributes of character."

Over the course of the next three days, attendees will come to learn that absolutely everything bad happening in our society-from crime to divorce, from drug use to school shootings-can be explained by lack of character.
Instilling character

The CTI was founded in 1996 by Kimray Oil and Gas tycoon Thomas A. Hill. A tax exempt, nonprofit educational organization, the institute's mission is to instill 49 "Character Qualities" into four major civil institutions: family, business, education and law enforcement. In 1998 the CTI spread its wings and established the IACC, which aimed to make local governments "commit to develop character."

The Character Cities concept has caught on quickly: 160 cities ranging from Compton, California, to Hamburg, New York, 31 counties, and seven states-Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Georgia, Ohio, Oklahoma and South Carolina-have now passed "character" resolutions and proclamations based on CTI's teachings and materials.

Nor has the CTI's influence been limited by American borders. Forty-seven international cities have already declared themselves Cities of Character, and at least one-third of the approximately 100 people attending the IACC conference arrived from foreign countries, including Romania, Mexico, Guatemala, Peru, Argentina, the Philippines and Sri Lanka.

Many have gone so far as to brand their localities with Character First! symbols, plaques, flags, pins, posters, brochures, books, mouse pads and calendars.

Understandably, the Character Training Institute tries to obfuscate the links between its work and Gothard's reconstructionist Christian vision.

"This is not religion, these are character traits," says John Thomas, vice president for global infrastructure services for Perot Systems Corporation, during one of three successive business-oriented presentations at the IACC conference.

Speakers emphatically and repeatedly stress that Character First! training has nothing to do with promulgating religion. Instead, attendees are told, the training promotes great character and, as a side benefit, drives up corporate profit margins. The Character First! DVD is chock-full of tales of incredible savings to businesses: Kimray's Hill, for instance, talks of workers' compensation dropping from $24,000 per month to a mere $2,000 to $4,000, while Todd Anderson, the vice president of C.P. Morgan, a home construction firm, brags about a tenfold increase in profitability attributable directly to CTI training.

The list of Character First! seminar attendees already reads like a who's who of top corporations and government institutions: McDonald's, Burger King, Aflac, Costco, Coca Cola, the Correctional Corporation of America, the Better Business Bureau, Tyson Foods, the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Bureau of Prisons, the Arkansas Prison System and the U.S. District Attorney's office are all mentioned, in addition to more than a dozen school districts (including Denver, Memphis and Ft. Lauderdale), and eight healthcare companies and hospitals.

At the conference, attendees are told that the IACC exists "to support government and community leaders who want to develop character in themselves and encourage it in their families and communities."

Oklahoma City-and the state of Oklahoma in general-seems to have truly taken this to heart. Here, even the local county jail's elevators feature Character First! posters in Plexiglass displays, and juvenile detainees study character concepts with the jail chaplains. Each employee receives a Character Bulletin with his or her paycheck, explains Chaplain Argyle Dick. "We hire for character, and we fire, most of the time, for lack of character. ... We are always looking for new ways to saturate even more of our employees with character."

The Character Council of Central Oklahoma has even entered into a "covenant" with the regional career tech programs, covering 12 campuses. "That's our plan for getting character qualities into the hearts and minds of all students," explains Dr. Earlene Smith, the Education Committee chairman for the council.

Other examples abound throughout the conference: McDonough, Georgia, flies a City of Character flag outside of city hall; Owasso, Oklahoma, police squad cars sport a "City of Character" emblem on each vehicle; and the Character Council of Florida has ensured that all elementary schools will incorporate CTI training by 2006, and expand from there to higher grades.
Sign of the eagle

On the surface it does not appear as though Gothard is at all involved in the "secular" character training that the CTI provides to countless schools, city councils, state agencies, corporations and law enforcement agencies across the world. Hundreds of cities have also passed their own character resolutions, modeled on the IACC's materials. None of the CTI/IACC materials mention Gothard's name, but the more obvious attempts to hide the connections end there.

CTI founder Thomas Hill is also the board chairman for the IBLP-alongside other influential board members, such as Rep. Sam Johnson (R-Texas).

There's also an omnipresent eagle symbol, identically illustrated for both organizations, with different acronyms encircling the image of the bird taking flight. Each group also uses the exact same 49 Character Qualities-CTI's Character Qualities delete all the references to Jesus Christ. Several of Gothard's books (and other Christian books, including Bill Burtness' The Third Alternative: Christian Self-Government) are for sale in the back of the CTI/IACC bookstore.

Then there are the shoutouts that Phil Heimlich, a conservative pro-lifer and former Cincinnati city council member, gives to both Hill and Gothard at the IACC's "Building Cities" conference. One of the longest presentations at the conference is delivered by George Mattix, the international director for the IBLP's missionary efforts. He describes the extent of their successes in bringing IBLP teachings to children and teens in at least 30 countries, under the initial pretense of teaching English and character training.
Obedience, not willfulness

By the first day of the IACC conference, the main meeting room resembled a mini-U.N., complete with simultaneous translation for each of the non-English-speaking attendees.

The Philippines has one of the strong-est international delegations here, led by attorney Francis Tolentino, the former mayor of Tagaytay. (His brother now holds the same office.) Tagaytay became a City of Character back in 2000 and, with Tolentino's assistance, the first nationwide Character Conference was held in the Philippines in 2002, with conference materials provided by the IACC.

Tagaytay not only has an official "character oath," but an "official jingle, so that the character program will always be inculcated in the minds of the people." Tagaytay police officers wear a City of Character badge, says Tolentino, and the city now requires character training before a marriage license will be granted. Mayor Sally Lee of Sorsogon City speaks of similar initiatives in her city, where her "goal and objective [is] to really push through this kind of program."

Most of the domestic or international attendees seem familiar with the concepts espoused; indeed, the vast majority represent city and character councils, state or local agencies, school districts or businesses that have already bought into ongoing trainings and supplementary materials.

It's hard to ignore how much money there is to be made in this enterprise. To give a few examples: the Character First! resource disk set runs $40 per month, and the framed character posters cost $89 per month. The actual display cases for the monthly character qualities run from $435 (aluminum) to $685 (oak or cherry). For law enforcement, Sheriff Nash's "Police Dynamics" character concept-based DVD sets run $595 for each series.

But for those of us who aren't yet in the loop-or convinced yet that we need to buy into the whole package-the conference organizers make sure to drive "character" as close to home as possible. Each presenter is introduced by name, and then by how many years he has been married, and by the number of children and grandchildren he has. (There are only a handful of female presenters; each is introduced in similar fashion.) All presenters are given a certificate at the end of his or her presentation, and a CTI official announces which one of the 49 Character Qualities best describes that person's accomplishments. During some of the presentations, the word "character" is repeated anywhere from four to six times a minute.

As if that weren't enough, attendees are told constantly to refer to the laminated, pocket-sized list of the 49 Character Qualities that are essential for true success in life.

"Obedience: Quickly and cheerfully carrying out the direction of those who are responsible for me," reads one of the 49 Character Qualities. "Justice: Taking personal responsibility to uphold what is pure, right and true," reads another.

Each of the 49 Character Qualities is not only contrasted with its opposite ("Willfulness," for instance, as the opposite of "Obedience"); they are also paired with colorful animal figures and simplistic descriptions of how those animals represent these concepts. A mother wood duck and her ducklings represent "Obedience;" and "Justice" takes the form of a bull African elephant. Oklahoma City proclaimed September 25 a "ZOOrific Day of Character," with billboards and advertisements throughout the city encouraging parents to bring their children to the city zoo to learn about how various animals illustrate character traits.

The animal imagery isn't just reserved for the children's material; gigantic posters of the animals are plastered throughout the CTI headquarters, adjacent to posters featuring historical figures, such as Louisa May Alcott and Martin Luther King Jr., who, like the animals, are lauded for having displayed true character. (Little Women author Alcott, the poster explains, wrote to end her "monetary problems," but never lost sight of her primary responsibility to take care of her extended family.)

It's Not Really about the Animals

Chuck Coker is an authorized Character First! trainer. He is one of the first to start muddying the "secular" concept by mentioning that he engages in missionary work in the IBLP Moscow orphanage, among other locations. But Larry Rhoads, the executive director of Character First!, quickly brings the focus back to both business and the family. One story moves the audience to wild applause: He describes how he realized how important it was not to leave his dirty socks inside out before leaving them for his wife to wash, something he had apparently been doing for their entire married life. The true measure of character, as it's repeated in mantra-like fashion, is what you do when no one is watching.

It's perhaps for this reason that Dr. Joseph Ahne, another certified CTI trainer, decides to be upfront about everything on the last day of the conference, over a breakfast of pancakes and syrup eaten under poster-sized animals.

"They don't tell you this here, but it's all biblically based," Dr. Ahne says. "They use the animals to illustrate the points that are all from the Bible. You see, it's about becoming like Christ. Through teaching the character, we're teaching people how to be like Christ. We could all use that."

A former Methodist preacher, Dr. Ahne says that he has devoted his life to spreading the teachings of the IBLP and the IACC, which he translates into Korean. Every year, Ahne leaves his home in Chicago and spends five months in Korea, where he has a staff of six full-time employees. Ahne says that they have already reached 18,000 Koreans with a combination of character-based trainings. He explains that he has brought teenage boys to the United States for further education at the IBLP's ALERT training ranch in Big Sandy, Texas-as well as sending teenage girls to the IACC in Oklahoma City for their own form of service training. Home-schooling, he adds, is one of the biggest emphases of IBLP worldwide because the organization prefers that young people never get exposed to the pernicious influences in the public school system.

"We use this," he says, pointing to the Character First! binder in the middle of the table, "because we can't take religion into schools and government. But it's all based on the same thing."

Gothard's Vision

Each of the 49 Character Qualities in CTI's secular materials have their exact counterpart in IBLP materials. In books like Gothard's Power of Kingdom Living and The Sevenfold Power of First-Century Churches and Homes, they are typically referred to as "The Laws of the Kingdom."

The IBLP's "blue book," formally titled The Power for True Success, is carried around by many of the IACC officials. It explains the imperative for learning the 49 character qualities this way: "Character reveals the Lord Jesus Christ, since He is the full personification of all good character qualities." It continues, "understanding character explains why things happen to us, because all things work together for good to conform us to the character of Christ."

This book is now in the hands of most of the 1,200-strong Cincinnati police force, courtesy of a life insurance salesman and CTI cheerleader named Mike Daly who, along with Phil Heimlich, helped turn Cincinnati into a City of Character. The two worked hand-in-hand to implement the CTI training into nearly all facets of government and secondary education. During one of his trainings, Daly gifted curious officers with the religious books while telling them to become "apostles for character."

In the blue book and other IBLP materials, the 49 character qualities take on a more strident and extremist tone. "Obedience" is defined as the "freedom to be creative under the protection of divinely appointed authorities. All legitimate authority comes from God. He is the One who sets up rulers and takes them down. ... God ordained government to carry out his will in matters of justice."

"Those who violate God's laws are like citizens who commit crimes," Gothard explains in Sevenfold Power. "They are still citizens, but they lose certain rights and privileges that they otherwise would have enjoyed."

Apparently, sometimes the sinners and the criminals are one and the same. In recent years, IBLP has expanded into highly controversial religious juvenile boot camps and, most recently, into a partnership with the private prison company, the Corrections Corporation of America, which has announced its intent to bring the teachings to all of the prisons it owns.

To take but one example, the workbook materials distributed to the prisoners in the CCA-run Grants, New Mexico, women's prison include a breakdown of "basic life principles," including "Moral Purity," "Yielding Rights" and "Proper Submission."

"Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord," reads one of the biblical selections. Emphasis is placed on "courting" rather than "dating;" on women obeying their husbands; avoiding the "addiction" of all forms of music except for those written and/or approved by the IBLP; preserving marriage at all costs; and on the need for Christians to respect, obey and submit to church and government. These institutions and their rulers, as the workbooks explain, exist because of God's will.

Again, here is the fundamental premise: what the IBLP hopes will come of these myriad efforts on secular and religious fronts is a patriarchal, hierarchical Christian government that truly has no place for dissent, for disbelievers, or for those whose character qualities fall short of expectations. Government, from this viewpoint, is akin to the right hand of God: Nothing or no one should stand between the two entities, or question their right to rule over our lives.

"God ordained government to carry out His will in matters of justice. Rulers are to praise those who do well and punish those who do evil," reads the IBLP's Power for True Success. "Because civil authorities derive their power from God, they will be judged if they violate the Laws of God." Church leaders, fathers and husbands, and even business leaders, are given nearly the same power in this conception of a well-ordered society: "Employees are to obey employers with wholehearted service."

As Bill Burtness writes in a book sold in both the CTI's bookstore and through the IBLP, The Third Alternative: Christian Self-Government, civil government is "an institution ordained and given by God ... [and] Christians are the stewards of civil government as an aspect of their stewardship of society."

It is worth noting that the IBLP is just one organization whose ideals fit within the broader Christian Reconstruction movement. But Gothard and the IBLP, unlike many of their fellow organizations, do not appear to be looking for Christian allies in their quest. On the secular front, they alone seem to have accomplished more toward their end goal than most of their Christian Reconstructionist contemporaries, and the profit-making aspects of this large-scale venture cannot be underestimated.

The strategy, in this sense, has proved to be ingenious. After all, who wants to argue with "character"? What kind of person would object to such an innocuous-sounding concept? Couldn't we all benefit from having a bit more ethical character in the way that we conduct our day-to day-lives? Of course we could! And that's precisely the reaction that both the IACC and the IBLP have bet on.

IBLP's master plan appears to be well underway. That is, until inquiring minds finally begin to ask where, exactly, all of this is headed. What, pray tell, lies behind the smiling bears, elephants and zebras so ready and eager to deliver their character traits to you, your children and your community?

If they could talk, they might be able to tell you that all's not well in the peaceable kingdom, no matter how innocent it might look at first glance.

Silja J.A. Talvi is a senior editor at In These Times, an investigative journalist and essayist with credits in many dozens of publications nationwide, including The Nation, Salon and the Christian Science Monitor. She is at work on a book about women in prison.