Feb 282005
 

Our Godless Constitution

by BROOKE ALLEN

[from the February 21, 2005 issue]

It is hard to believe that George Bush has ever read the works of George Orwell, but he seems, somehow, to have grasped a few Orwellian precepts. The lesson the President has learned best–and certainly the one that has been the most useful to him–is the axiom that if you repeat a lie often enough, people will believe it. One of his Administration’s current favorites is the whopper about America having been founded on Christian principles. Our nation was founded not on Christian principles but on Enlightenment ones. God only entered the picture as a very minor player, and Jesus Christ was conspicuously absent.

Our Constitution makes no mention whatever of God. The omission was too obvious to have been anything but deliberate, in spite of Alexander Hamilton’s flippant responses when asked about it: According to one account, he said that the new nation was not in need of “foreign aid”; according to another, he simply said “we forgot.” But as Hamilton’s biographer Ron Chernow points out, Hamilton never forgot anything important.

In the eighty-five essays that make up The Federalist, God is mentioned only twice (both times by Madison, who uses the word, as Gore Vidal has remarked, in the “only Heaven knows” sense). In the Declaration of Independence, He gets two brief nods: a reference to “the Laws of Nature and Nature’s God,” and the famous line about men being “endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights.” More blatant official references to a deity date from long after the founding period: “In God We Trust” did not appear on our coinage until the Civil War, and “under God” was introduced into the Pledge of Allegiance during the McCarthy hysteria in 1954 [see Elisabeth Sifton, “The Battle Over the Pledge,” April 5, 2004]. …

The Founding Fathers were not religious men, and they fought hard to erect, in Thomas Jefferson’s words, “a wall of separation between church and state.” John Adams opined that if they were not restrained by legal measures, Puritans–the fundamentalists of their day–would “whip and crop, and pillory and roast.” …

If we define a Christian as a person who believes in the divinity of Jesus Christ, then it is safe to say that some of the key Founding Fathers were not Christians at all. Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and Tom Paine were deists–that is, they believed in one Supreme Being but rejected revelation and all the supernatural elements of the Christian Church; the word of the Creator, they believed, could best be read in Nature. John Adams was a professed liberal Unitarian, but he, too, in his private correspondence seems more deist than Christian.

George Washington and James Madison also leaned toward deism, although neither took much interest in religious matters. Madison believed that “religious bondage shackles and debilitates the mind and unfits it for every noble enterprize.”

[read the whole article — it’s worth your time]

 Posted by at 3:59 pm on Mon 02/28/05
Feb 282005
 

Letters

“Who defines your values?” is the heading on a Campus Progress advertisement in last week’s Daily Lobo. The villains in this ad are Ann Coulter, Bill O’Reilly and James Dobson, who are cast as “the face of today’s conservative movement.”

I am more conservative than any of these people, and I can tell you they don’t speak for me. Besides, Campus Progress didn’t even have the presence of mind to define “conservative.”

According to Clyde Prestowitz, a former member of the Reagan administration, conservatism in the United States means support for small government, balanced budgets, fiscal prudence and great skepticism about overseas adventures.

Coulter appears to wholeheartedly support Bush’s war on Iraq, so she can’t be a conservative. I know nothing about O’Reilly, so I won’t comment on him. Based on what I have seen of Dobson and his Focus on the Family group, he doesn’t qualify either. Coulter and Dobson seem to be naive middle-of-the-roaders who go along with the Republican Party no matter what it does.

Whether one accepts this definition, if it is applied to President Bush, he is certainly not a conservative. Based on his record, it should be patently obvious to anyone he is the opposite of conservative.

Steven Dapra
UNM community member

Dapra clearly has no clue who Coulter or Dobson are. “Naive middle-of-the-roaders”? Ha — just like Atilla the Hun.

I’m continually amazed by Conservatives who disown Bush and his ilk. Sorry — from Duhbya on down, they call themselves conservatives.

I feel some sympathy for those conservatives who feel their philosophy and party have been hijacked. Ironically, those with the power within the Conservative Movement call you RINOs — Republicans In Name Only — and are working to exclude you completely. It’s much better to be in opposition to this gang than to try to explain how they’re not really what they say they are — surprise! they lie constantly. But who put them in power? Not the Liberals. If you don’t want to be tarred with the same brush, you blew your chance to take the power from BushCo last fall. Now you’re going to have to endure the shame of being ‘a conservative just like Bush.’ mjh

Update: Printed in the Lobo Letters on 3/1/05 under the wrong headline and with some very curious edits.

 Posted by at 12:18 pm on Mon 02/28/05
Feb 262005
 

One:

ABQjournal: Bill Would Fund New Coors Rules By Andrea Schoellkopf, Journal Staff Writer

City Councilor Michael Cadigan, who represents the upper West Side, has introduced a bill that would fund a $150,000 update of the Coors Corridor Plan? adopted by the council in 1984.

The council is scheduled to consider the resolution at its March 7 meeting.

Under the resolution, the updates would establish high-quality design standards regarding development, open spaces and other public areas and increase “visual harmony” between new and existing buildings and the natural environment.

Last year, West Siders called for a revision of the plan after walls began appearing on both sides of Coors. As it turned out, the area on the west side of Coors and the area south of the La Luz neighborhood did not have view protections built into the Coors Corridor plan.

“A lot of those empty parcels are starting to fill up,” Cadigan said….

Coors “was supposed to be more of a parkway, more like Tramway,” Valles said. “… People that were involved in creating the Coors Corridor plan are nothing but disappointed with the way the city has enforced it.”

Rae Perls, president of the La Luz Landowners Association, which is southeast of Monta?o and Coors, said the other issue is whether the view from Coors is inclusive of the bosque and the city lights, or is limited to the mountain range.

“We have some major concerns about huge walls and double story buildings being built flush up to Coors and totally blocking all views,” she said. “… It’s a tragedy to those of us who live on the West Side, to see it destroyed by the greediness of developers.”

She said unless the Coors Corridor plan is updated, developers will be able to build however they want.

Two:

ABQjournal: 3 Six-Story Buildings in Project By Rory McClannahan, Journal Staff Writer

The West Side could be home to three six-story buildings in the next couple of years.

Interstate Development Co. is proposing to develop a 426,000-square-foot village center called Fountain Hills Plaza on 36 acres near the intersection of Paradise and Eagle Ranch. The development, which would be done in six phases would include retail and office space, a hotel and two condominiums. The hotel and condos are proposed to be six-story buildings, according to plans submitted to the city’s Planning Department.

The developers plan to unveil their plans and take comments at a public meeting scheduled at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Taylor Ranch Community Center.

Three:

ABQjournal: Wal-Mart Purchases 20 Acres for Store By Joshua Akers, Journal Staff Writer

There has been no announcement and no fanfare from retail giant Wal-Mart’s corporate office. But all indications are the company is coming to Rio Rancho.

The mega-retailer recently purchased just over 20 acres of commercial land from AMREP Southwest in the northwest corner of Unser and Southern Boulevard, according to documents filed at the Sandoval County clerk’s office.

The land purchase comes as the company’s building permit is under review in the city’s Development Department.

According to that plan, Wal-Mart is planning a 214,000- square-foot Supercenter for the site. …

Because the land is already zoned commercial, no public hearings are planned for the project.

 Posted by at 11:28 am on Sat 02/26/05
Feb 252005
 

Online NewsHour: President Bush Ends European Trip with Meeting With Russian President Vladimir Putin — February 24, 2005

Bush: “[D]emocracies have certain things in common; they have a rule of law, and protection of minorities, a free press, and a viable political opposition.”

Consortiumnews.com

Bush also portrayed himself as a good example of a political leader who can’t get away with hiding his mistakes.

“I live in a transparent country,” Bush said. “I live in a country where decisions made by government are wide open [!!!] and people are able to call people [like] me to account, which many out here do on a regular basis. … I’m perfectly comfortable in telling you, our country is one that safeguards human rights and human dignity.”

One Russian questioner challenged Bush on the issue of press freedom, apparently referring to pressure that Bush’s conservative supporters have brought to bear on U.S. news organizations to oust journalists who have criticized Bush.

“Why don’t you talk a lot about violation of rights of journalists in the United States, about the fact that some journalists have been fired?” the questioner asked.

Bush responded with a joke, which played to the U.S. journalists in the room.

“Do any of you all still have your jobs?” Bush joshed….

 Posted by at 9:01 pm on Fri 02/25/05
Feb 252005
 

Take a Walk on the Wild Side By JIM DOHERTY

Call it the grizzly test. Require all would-be developers to take it. If you want to drill for oil in the refuge, first you have to spend a couple of weeks roughing it there. No guns, no phones, no guides. Just you and the bears. Let them look into your heart. If they’re reassured by what they see, you pass; if they feel threatened, well, according to Ave Thayer, there are worse ways to go.

Those who survive the grizzly test earn the right to submit their drilling proposals to Congress. But who knows? Perhaps a solitary stint in the refuge is enough to make even the most avaricious developers think twice. Once they’ve discovered for themselves how magnificent the refuge is; once they’ve watched caribou lope across the tundra, listened to wolves howl, beheld the mesmerizing effects of light and shadow on limestone mountains riddled with caves and turreted with hoodoos – once, in short, they understand why so many folks consider the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge sacred ground, they might undergo a change of heart and decide to leave it the way it is. Which is to say, undisturbed.
—–
Jim Doherty is a former editor at Smithsonian magazine.
—–

Here we see the classic Liberal weakness: those we disagree with can be persuaded by the same things that persuade us (while they call us enemies and dismiss us with contempt — no interest in converting us). My bet: someone who is pro-drilling would come back from the Arctic wanting a condo on the spot; let’s build roads, drill and develop. Understand, I’m not saying Liberals and Conservatives can’t agree on defending ANWR (another Liberal weakness is the need to clarify and refine a point — the worst Conservatives despise that). It’s developers vs the rest of us, but Conservatives leave business free to do anything while fixating on social groups they can’t stand. Conservatives used to believe in “live and let live.” They’ve assumed power through “live as we do.” mjh

PS – similarly, I regret one of the arguments used for preserving Otero Mesa: a big, big aquifer. Just wait: that argument will be thrown back in our faces in support of gated communities; Otero will be surrounded by development and sucked dry. Preserve Otero because we need to preserve something.

 Posted by at 11:50 am on Fri 02/25/05
Feb 242005
 

I don’t usually cross-post among my 5 or so blogs, but I have to ask you: Do you know who Jeff Gannon is? If not, please follow the link.

mjh’s Dump Bush weBlog: Where’s the OUTRAGE over Gannon/Guckert?

Gannon is the latest evidence that we have been taken over by amoral Enron-quality corporate executives who view everything in terms of marketing and (personal) profit. Cumulatively, this really should fuel a populist uprising — take back America from the corrupt corporations that rule us! mjh

 Posted by at 11:28 am on Thu 02/24/05
Feb 242005
 

Chicago Tribune | Check your media lap dogs, Mr. President by Clarence Page

If America’s mainstream media really were as liberal as conservatives claim we are, we would be ballyhooing the fiasco of James D. Guckert, a.k.a. Jeff Gannon, with Page 1 banner headlines and hourly bulletins.

Sure, Guckert-gate may seem like a tempest in a teapot, at first. But so did the Whitewater land-development deal. Yet conservative commentators and editorialists, aided by their allies in Congress, rode that Arkansas pony until it ended far afield from a land deal with the impeachment of a president for lying about sex.

Imagine, then, how the conservative choir would sing out at this point if a Democratic White House knocked long-tenured journalists off its press room access lists so that it could give access to a fellow like Guckert, 47, who dependably asks softball questions because he reports for a partisan Web site that supports the Bush administration.

Imagine how they would question the access given by the Secret Service and the White House press office for two years to a guy who used a driver’s license that said James Guckert to get into the White House, then switched to his alter ego of Jeff Gannon. The best explanation for this that Bush’s press secretary, Scott McClellan, could give to Editor & Publisher magazine was, “People use aliases all the time in life, from journalists to actors.”

Guckert wrote under the name Jeff Gannon for Talon News, a conservative online news outlet associated with GOPUSA, a conservative Web site based in Houston and dedicated to “spreading the conservative message throughout America.” …

Of course, every administration tries to manipulate the media. Team Bush has elevated it to a high art. Before Guckert, there was the disclosure that three conservative syndicated columnists had been paid handsomely to promote administration programs–payment they had failed to disclose to their readers.

And remember those pre-packaged, government-sponsored video news releases featuring fake reporters so local news outlets would be tempted to run them as legitimate news stories, as some did?

We have grown accustomed to those pre-screened rent-a-crowd “Ask President Bush” town-hall-style meetings during last year’s campaign and during this year’s effort by Bush to promote his proposed Social Security changes.

But I thought the last straw was the unprecedented herding of reporters covering this year’s inaugural balls into pens from which they could only venture to interview ball guests if they were escorted by “minders” in the fashion of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.

Tell me again: What was that war about? Oh, yeah: freedom and democracy. Great. I’d like to see a little more of that back here at home.

Unfortunately, this administration and its supportive chorus are getting away with less accountability, more secretiveness, partly by demonizing the media. If they succeed in intimidating us from watchdogs into lap dogs, they will have succeeded where previous administrations from both parties failed.

Poynter Online – Romenesko

“Gannongate”? A better name for it would be “Nothinggate” – The New Yorker

Nothing is what’s likely to come of the Jeff Gannon/James Guckert flap, says Hendrik Hertzberg. “What all the memorable scandals of the past thirty years — real and fake alike, from Watergate to the Clinton impeachment — have had in common is that the opposition party controlled at least one house of Congress, which gave it the power to hold hearings and issue subpoenas. If Bush ends up having an easier time of it in his second term than any of his two-term predecessors since F.D.R., it won’t be because the scandals aren’t there. It’ll be because the tools to excavate them are under lock and key.”

Press Impostor

How is it that an administration that screened thousands of people for attendance at Bush campaign rallies repeatedly let a fake reporter into the sanctorum of the White House pressroom under a false name? Who was running that background check? How could a president who declares that national security is his prime concern be so ill served for nearly two years by his own security detail?

What is the public to make of the fact that legitimate protesters are kept far away from President George W. Bush while an illegitimate “journalist” who’s really working for a Republican propaganda mill is repeatedly allowed into the White House pressroom and regularly called upon by the president and the president’s press secretary to ask questions? …

Is it possible that an administration that is so careful about scripting events and managing information approved of Guckert being planted in the pressroom to ask softball questions and even to keep an eye on the real reporters working there? Isn’t that fair to ask, considering this is the same administration that used its taxpayer-funded, $250-million public relations apparatus to pay columnists to say nice things about its programs?

Who is Jeff Gannon?

LOBBING softball questions at White House press conferences is hardly a new phenomenon, but having them thrown by a pseudo-journalist with a sleazy background who mysteriously cleared security checks is. Add in the fact that reporter Jeff Gannon used a false name and his employer was a Web site called Talon News staffed almost exclusively by Republican activists and you have the whiff of a scandal. …

The idea that the White House might try to infiltrate the press corps with a shill is a chilling thought in this democracy, but this is the administration that has been caught paying “journalists” and generating its own prefabricated “news reports” to distribute to TV stations too naïve to recognize the attempt at propaganda. …

It’s hard to say which is worse: That the White House had no idea who it was allowing to be within shouting distance of the president — or that it knew exactly who Jeff Gannon was and why he was there.

News & Features | No sex, please: We’re liberals!

[I]f, say, a Gore or Kerry administration had brought in a gay hooker to act as a ringer at news conferences, it would have quickly exploded into the biggest story in the country. Fox News would devote hours upon hours to it. So would Rush Limbaugh. So would the Pat Robertsons and the Jerry Falwells and the James Dobsons. Needless to say, so would the Republican Party. And here’s where the difference between liberal and conservative sex scandals, and how the mainstream media handle them, becomes clearly visible. When there’s a scandal on the left, there is a built-in machine, already in place, to spew shock and outrage on a 24-hour-a-day basis, and the mainstream media naturally cover that. But when there’s a sex scandal on the right, there’s really no one to speak out. Do liberals really care that men are having sex with each other? Or that Jeff Gannon supposedly has been paid as much as $1200 for one weekend for the pleasure of his companionship? To ask these questions is to answer them: no, and no. …

But it’s not that Gannon is or was a gay hooker — it’s that he somehow got into the White House, and past the Secret Service, despite that. What did the White House know, and when did it know it?

—–
Google Search: Jeff Gannon [782 stories at this time]

 Posted by at 11:21 am on Thu 02/24/05