Bush, Rove, Cheney – We’ll Never Pay

Karl Rove has flown the coop!  I don’t understand how we can pretend to be a nation of laws when this guy is allowed to ignore a subpoena:

Karl Rove was scheduled to testify before the House Judiciary Committee yesterday. He didn’t show. Not only that, the Committee was told that Rove had left the country on a “long scheduled” trip.

In this video clip, Rep. Linda Sanchez explains that Rove never told them about any trip.

Word is impeachment is back on the table.  If handled correctly, it could provide fodder for the general election.  And any move that forces McCain to defend Bush when Obama is left with an opening to attack, is a great move.

But I could care less about impeachment.  When do the criminal trials start?  And will they ever pay for their crimes?

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The Catholic “Cracker” Controversy

There’s been a lot of noise going back and forth over this story, and I wanted to make sure a few essential points make it out into the narrative.

I’ll state these three points right up front.  One, is that symbolic violence absolutely constitutes a hate crime.  Second, that the case at hand involved an honest mistake.  Third, that we need to tear down the veil of religious privilege and open religion up to criticism.

The first point comes from one of the fellows who certainly helped inflame tensions (Pharyngula):

Those are just kooks, you might say, but here is the considered, measured response of the local diocese:

“We don’t know 100% what Mr. Cooks motivation was,” said Susan Fani a spokesperson with the local Catholic diocese. “However, if anything were to qualify as a hate crime, to us this seems like this might be it.”

We just expect the University to take this seriously,” she added “To send a message to not just Mr. Cook but the whole community that this kind of really complete sacrilege will not be tolerated.”

Wait, what? Holding a cracker hostage is now a hate crime? The murder of Matthew Shephard was a hate crime. The murder of James Byrd Jr. was a hate crime. This is a goddamned cracker. Can you possibly diminish the abuse of real human beings any further?

Actually, if someone literally held a communion wafer hostage, after that wafer was viewed by believers as being the body of Christ, yes that would be a hate crime.  Imagine if that was done with a Torah taken from the Ark.  Or a copy of the Koran.  An intentional act of violence against a religious symbol that is meant to threaten a specified group of people would be a hate crime.  Smashing an idol or painting swastikas on a wall is no different than urinating on a Eucharist wafer.

However, that is not at all what happened here (Majikthise):

For the record, the student, Webster Cook, didn’t even steal the wafer, it was given to him. Cook is Catholic and is entitled to receive communion.

He says he didn’t intend to desecrate the wafer. He just wanted to show it to his non-Catholic friend, whom he had invited to church, before consuming it. It was an unorthodox move, but hardly a hate crime.

Not the wisest move in the book, but one that you would think would merit sympathy from members of the Church.  Wanting to share aspects of your life with friends is part and parcel of being human, and when your religious practice is a part of that, its perfectly natural to want to share it.  (Its also just as normal for the friend to be curious).  While by no means a Christian myself, I have been to church on two occasions, and was invited to a midnight mass (which I never did make).  Given this, the Church could have taken the opportunity to gently chide with a “You shouldn’t do that”, and use it as an opportunity to invite people to learn more about Catholicism.  I can understand this would be hard to do, they believe the communion wafer is the body of Christ, and it must be disconcerting to imagine it being handled inappropriately.  As hard as it is, sometimes meeting a situation like this head on with rhetorical force just creates backlash, when instead the response ought to spur sympathy and interest.  This could have been handled deftly and with skill.

Which leads me to my final point.  I hadn’t even heard of Religious Privilege until I read this (Pandagon, Manda Marcotte).  But its there, this idea that we ought not criticize believers, and anyone outside the traditional mono-theistic traditions ought to just be quiet and limit their social criticism to those who abuse their power, while ignoring the structural problems.  Which leads to the problem of hate speech vs free speech in a really unique way (Pandagon, Jesse Taylor):

The problem that I have with the Catholic League isn’t that they’re offended.  To people who believe in the transubstantion of the Eucharist, declaring it “just a cracker” is offensive.  But the majority of the world thinks that the Eucharist is just a cracker.

Calling it a cracker, while offensive to some, is the right of all.  Religion shouldn’t be off limits to critique.

Which brings us back to PZ Myers over at Pharyngula:

That’s right. Crazy Christian fanatics right here in our own country have been threatening to kill a young man over a cracker. This is insane. These people are demented fuckwits.

He’s right, they are.  And his colorful “threat” at the end of his post is hyperbole (Majikthise):

PZ was joking about desecrating the Eucharist. In his view, the sheer absurdity of death threats over a cracker called for an equally outrageous rhetorical response. Along the lines of: Oh, yeah, I’ll desecrate ten crackers Live! on the Internets!!!, what are you going to do about it?

It’s called hyperbole, a tactic often used in the these “jokes” the kids enjoy nowadays. Bill Donohue is from an era when any harsh word against the church was punishable heresy. Somewhere there’s an Inquisition missing its Inquisitor.

There is a line between religious hate crimes and the freedom to criticize religion.  Charges of heresy and being burned at the stake have been replaced (in some parts of the world) by charges of hate crime and death threats.  If we want to live in a free society, we need to find the patience and the wisdom to distinguish between critique and symbolic violence.  And we need to understand when symbolic violence, if ever, is allowable under the protection of the 1st ammendment.

What do you think?  Let’s take a look at PZ Myer’s hyperbolic joke:

So, what to do. I have an idea. Can anyone out there score me some consecrated communion wafers? There’s no way I can personally get them — my local churches have stakes prepared for me, I’m sure — but if any of you would be willing to do what it takes to get me some, or even one, and mail it to me, I’ll show you sacrilege, gladly, and with much fanfare. I won’t be tempted to hold it hostage (no, not even if I have a choice between returning the Eucharist and watching Bill Donohue kick the pope in the balls, which would apparently be a more humane act than desecrating a goddamned cracker), but will instead treat it with profound disrespect and heinous cracker abuse, all photographed and presented here on the web.

Now, let’s change it around and aim it at another religion:

So, what to do. I have an idea. Can anyone out there score me some Korans? There’s no way I can personally get them — my local mosques have stakes prepared for me, I’m sure — but if any of you would be willing to do what it takes to get me some, or even one, and mail it to me, I’ll show you sacrilege, gladly, and with much fanfare. I won’t be tempted to hold it hostage (no, not even if I have a choice between returning the Koran and watching [Imagine a Muslim who can make the media jump like Bill Donohue does] kick an Imam in the balls, which would apparently be a more humane act than desecrating a goddamned book), but will instead treat it with profound disrespect and heinous abuse, all photographed and presented here on the web.

Do you view it any differently?

Is this kind of speech allowable currently?  Should it be allowable?

Media Can’t Let Go of Hillary as VP

I guess flat out lying is ok in the opinion section of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.  That’s how Marianne Means sets up her ridiculous on its face argument that Barack Obama is a selfish little brat who needs to offer Clinton the VP to be appropriately “gracious”.

Despite their publicized gestures of making nice, too many folks on both sides of the Democratic divide aren’t buying that baloney. The principals themselves are trying to stay above all that, but they aren’t sending sufficiently strong signals about really wanting to work together in the interests of the party — and their own futures.

Translation:  They are not spending every waking minute bashing the mainstream media over the head with the fact that they are working together.

At a Manhattan fund-raiser for both politicians last week, Obama acknowledged that “with just half a wing this bird can’t fly.” Indeed, that is the risk he takes by insisting on going it alone without her as his running mate.

Picking her would solve so many problems. It raises serious doubts about his judgment that he refuses to do so, the chief question being a dangerously outsized ego.

The ego at play here does not belong to Barack.  Melanie has nothing to go on here.  As former President Carter noted, an Obama/Clinton ticket would have the weaknesses of both.  It would be a poor choice indeed, and not simply because we’d lose yet another voice in the Senate.

In fact, it is so far beyond the bounds of good politics for Obama to pick his former rival for the vp slot, that it seems more likely the manufactured vp dilemma is just an opportunity to hammer Obama about perceived character flaws.  Flaws that cannot be backed up.

In a field of politicians who have made the wrong call on the issues of Iraq, Iran, our civil rights, health care, and the economy, Barack Obama’s greatest strength is his good judgment.  His ability to make good calls stands in such stark contrast to his Republican rival that even when he does screw up he still looks amazingly impressive by comparison.

As it is, Melanie’s column is left stretching for fact-like substitutes:

He called her “Mrs. Clinton,” as though they had barely met. Women sense this disdain, and naturally don’t like it. He has had a hard time attracting the support of older, working-class white women in most states that Clinton won.

Perhaps (when they ran head to head), it wasn’t Obama’s lack of appeal so much as Clinton’s appeal to a generation of women who fought foundational battles.

But this is a toughie — no party has had a roll call with two candidates since the 1976 Republican convention, when President Gerald Ford beat Ronald Reagan by a mere 57 votes to secure the nomination. But the Obama folks are greedy. Why won’t she release her delegates now, they grouse.

Why should she? She’s earned them. Clinton delegates could strike a sour note. Obama better get used to sour notes, though, if he’s really got the stuff to be president. Last time we checked, this was still a democracy — messy, loud, and imperfect, but a democracy.

Here we get to the hell hound eaten, rotted out intestinal core of her argument.  Obama supporters are greedy little fascists, and Clinton supporters are ardent supports of Democracy and apple pie.

Bullshit.

The Hillary supporters who are still pushing for her nomination have bought into and identified with the sense of entitlement Clinton gave off like a thousand watt aura during the campaign.  Obama’s supporters (old and recent), have a mix of motivations.  First among them, for myself, is to end the infighting and move forward with the centrist establishment candidate we ended up settling on, and focus on beating the shit out of McCain in the general election.

And with that as the goal, Barack Obama would be gravely mistaken to pick Hillary Clinton ad Vice President to be.  He should be thinking about a non federal Senator/Representative who brings something valuable to the table without taking it away from the Democratic party’s power as a whole.