Friday, December 29, 2006

Be careful what you celebrate.

That is all I have to say about the Saddam execution.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

"Gerald Ford...He's Making Us Proud Again"

Gerald Ford passed away last night. I was genuinely sad. Gerald Ford is one of the most interesting presidents we've had, and (with the probable exception of George W. Bush) he is the only one who was never elected to the office of President or even Vice President. He was appointed by Nixon to take the place of Spiro Agnew who resigned in disgrace, and then took Nixon's place when he resigned in disgrace a short time later.

He was the longest living president, and the last member of the Warren Commission to die. He, as I recall, is one of two presidents who have filed a UFO sighting report.

He was a genuine, unassuming man who I did respect and admire as a human being.

You might not know this, but yours truly grew up in a Republican household. My father was a poor Republican to the day he died, His father hated the Kennedys and told me over and over again that a vote for a Democrat was a vote for a War.

My mother was from a family of wealthy Republicans, who'd gotten that way honestly through hard work and rising above their Dust Bowl poverty. My maternal grandmother was a major player in local Republican party politics.

I remember as a kid having a "Nixon, Now More Than Ever" bumper sticker pinned to the back of my coat and I stayed up all night watching the election returns that brought Nixon his re-election landslide with Grandpa drinking his scotch amd Grandma smoking her Kent 100's, also drinking a scotch. I was elated over Nixon's win, because I knew elation won approval from my grandparents. I remember watching the Watergate hearings with less elation, but a growing sense that something really important was happening. That something was really wrong. If John Lennnon thought it was important enough to go and watch the hearings, then something was really going on, I thought.

I remember Nixon's resignation. I remember Chevy Chase's hilarious Gerald Ford impersonations on Saturday Night Live. I remember Ford getting the Republican nomination. I remember making fun of Jimmy Carter right along with the rest of my family.

And here is how we get to the picture.

That, believe it or not, is a picture of my bedroom in Junior High. My grandmother had given me this gigantic Ford poster and you can see the Ford bumper sticker on my headboard. Honest to God, the campaign slogan on the poster was "Ford, He's Making Us Proud Again." His bumper sticker was a simple red with the words "President Ford" on it--as though we needed to be reminded he was the President.

I never joined the Teen-age Republicans, but I remember walking in the rain, at my Grandmother's request, carrying Ford posters like a sandwich board and handing out leaflets trying to get him elected.

But, most of all, I remember Gerald Ford giving Richard Nixon a full Presidential Pardon. Nixon, who didn't feel he needed pardoning because, as he famously declared, "When the President does it, it isn't illegal." I remember trying to convince my friend Joe to run as vice-president on my ticket for the leadership of the Methodist Youth Fellowship. I remember joking that if I did anything wrong he could pardon me. That was the first time I remember making a joke about Republicans instead of Democrats.

For me, that the pardoning of Nixon was the moment when I began to stop being a Republican just because I was born into a Republican family. When I began to question what I believed and what I was told. And when I began to realize that there was something terribly wrong with my country if it could produce the Watergate Era and have it wiped away by a man who'd never been elected to office simply with the stroke of a pen and saying "Our long national nightmare is over."

I've been hearing all day today pundits saying that Ford was proven right in his decision to promote national healing rather than continuing to investigate and prosecute Nixon. That he really had, in fact, made us proud again.

I'm of a different opinion. Perhaps if he had not pardoned Nixon we might have actually had the era of accountability we've been promised by every Presidential candidate since. Perhaps we wouldn't have had the Iran Contra fiasco. Perhaps we wouldn't have propped up dictators in our national interest, like Saddam Hussein. Perhaps we wouldn't have traded arms for hostages. Perhaps we would now have a culture that understands that wrongful acts bring certain consequences. Perhaps we would have people who do not abuse power because they know with certainty that to abuse power is to lose power.

Instead, we have what we have. A nation with the most corrupt and incompetent administration in American history. An administration made up of many members of the Nixon and Ford administrations. A celebration of the lack of responsibility and the erosion of our most basic freedoms and rights. Mired in an illegal and never ending war. The most sweeping expansion of presidential powers in history.

No matter how good a man I think Gerald Ford was, I blame him personally for the events which led us to George W. Bush and the current Republican Party. Nixon's get out of jail free card cost us plenty as a nation, to our shame.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Happy Christmas...War is Over...(if you want it, and Jesus does, so why don't you?)

Tonight is Christmas Eve. I just got a phone call from my mother who told me her pastor had quoted my previous Christmas editorial about the sinister side of using the seasonal greeting to identify those who aren't "like minded" Christian Conservatives.

It warmed my heart. Earlier, while listening to Air America, they were playing the John Lennon song Happy Xmas, War is Over and I got very nostalgic for the ghosts of Christmas past. This was a Christmas song I listened to over and over again every year when I was in high school. And I was still in high school when John Lennon was shot just 17 days before Christmas. They played that song an awful lot that year.

How many times have you heard it this year? Or last year? Or since 2003? I honestly don't think I can remember hearing it once besides last night on Air America.

Dig it out of your record collections, call into radio stations and request it. This Christmas song by one of the greatest peace activists to come out of popular culture is more important this year than ever...especially since this is the year, at midnight on December 31st, that all of the FBI documents on John Lennon will be declassified.

And the message of that song is as true now as it was in Viet Nam...the war in Iraq, the war in Afghanistan, the War on Terror, the War on Christmas, the War on Liberalism, the War on everything that isn't strongly in favor of George Bush being a war president won't be over if we don't want it, and if we don't say we want it as loudly as we can.

There is often an argument between Christians which holiday is more important, Easter or Christmas. Easter couldn't have happened without the birth of Christ, but the birth of Christ has no meaning without Easter.

I had a look at my editorial from last Easter, and am reprinting it here...updated for the holiday. Think of it as my Christmas card to you.


If I were to meet Judge Roy Moore, who said his Christianity had moved him to donate a graven stone image of the Ten Commandments to the foyer of the Alabama Courthouse in which he was the sitting Chief Justice of the State Supreme Court...I'd ask him why he didn't instead donate a stone memorial to the commandment Jesus gave, just before he was taken by the Romans?

Jesus told his disciples, "I have a new commandment for you...that you should love one another."

Wouldn't that be a world changing thing to have inscribed above every courthouse in the nation? Or, for that matter, above the front doors of every school, church, and town hall in the land? Emblazened on every drinking fountain, every fountain pen, every bumpersticker, on every lapel pin, every coin, every dollar bill, and every prison gate in America?

"I command you to love one another" --signed, Jesus.

God gave Moses Ten Commandments. Jesus gave us one.

And so, I'm trying to fulfill that commandment.

At least through Christmas.

George Bush, I love you. John Ashcroft, I love you. Judge Roy Moore, I love you. Donald Rumsfeld, I love you. Dick Cheney, I love you. Zacharias Moussaui, I love you. Mohammad Atta, I love you. Osama bin Laden, I love you. Saddam Hussein, I love you.

And I love each of you, too.

Merry Christmas, and God bless us--everyone.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Does Virgil Goode Represent the America that Represents FREEDOM?

I live in Virignia, home of the Evangelical Theocratic Elite power players. Just up the road from me is Liberty University.

One of our recently re-elected theocrats, Virgil Goode, says he got a flood of emails from constituents complaining that newly elected Minnesota Representative Keith Ellison would use the Koran, not the Bible, when being sworn into Congress next month. Ellison is a Muslim, so their thinking his taking an oath on the Bible would be more appropriate than a book the new congressman actually regards as holy only speaks to the state of mental accumen among Goode's loyal voting base here in the Old Dominion.

In response to the complaints, Goode sent out a letter. He appears to have accidentally sent it to some people who were not, as they say down here, "like minded." One such person was John Cruickshank, of Charlottesville. He turned the letter over the the C-Ville Weekly who promptly published it. I reproduce it here:

Congress of the United States
House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515-4605

December 7, 2006

Mr. John Cruickshank
7—— S—————————— Dr.
Earlysville, VA 22936

Dear Mr. Cruickshank:

Thank you for your recent communication. When I raise my hand to take the oath on Swearing In Day, I will have the Bible in my other hand. I do not subscribe to using the Koran in any way. The Muslim Representative from Minnesota was elected by the voters of that district and if American citizens don’t wake up and adopt the Virgil Goode position on immigration there will likely be many more Muslims elected to office and demanding the use of the Koran. We need to stop illegal immigration totally and reduce legal immigration and end the diversity visas policy pushed hard by President Clinton and allowing many persons from the Middle East to come to this country. I fear that in the next century we will have many more Muslims in the United States if we do not adopt the strict immigration policies that I believe are necessary to preserve the values and beliefs traditional to the United States of America and to prevent our resources from being swamped.

The Ten Commandments and “In God We Trust” are on the wall in my office. A Muslim student came by the office and asked why I did not have anything on my wall about the Koran. My response was clear, “As long as I have the honor of representing the citizens of the 5th District of Virginia in the United States House of Representatives, The Koran is not going to be on the wall of my office.” Thank you again for your email and thoughts.

Sincerely yours,
Virgil H. Goode, Jr.
70 East Court Street
Suite 215
Rocky Mount, Virginia 24151

When questioned about the letter, Goode replied "I wrote the letter. I think it speaks for itself."

Indeed it does, sir. Indeed it does. And what it says is repugnant, hateful, and so contrary to the spirit, mission, and purpose of this nation that I can't believe you have not been pulled from your office and treated to good old conservative tar and feathers, and a trip out of Washington tied to a rail.

This is why the founding fathers put into the Constitution the Establishment Clause, and I ask you, sir, how it is that you can take an oath to defend the Constitution so seriously that you demand that oath be taken upon your holiest book, and yet refuse to apply those constitutional principles evenly, and fairly to all those whom you represent and who are protected by them?

Radical Religious Extremism and hate mongering disguised as partiotism are the tools of the enemy we are supposedly fighting against. I am ashamed of you, Virgil Goode, you are an embarrassment and a danger to all that this country stands for. If you cannot do the job to which you were elected, if you cannot fulfil your oath to protect and preserve the Constitution and the principles it was designed to ensure, you should resign and never more seek public office.

Here's a movie Virgil Goode mised in Social Studies class:
Don't Be A Sucker! Watch it and remember what America is supposed to be, and remind yourself that none of what is happening now is new...except that now it is successful.


Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Happy Prove You're Not Muslim, Jewish, or Liberal Day!

And the war rages on...not the war in Iraq, not the War on Terror, but the War on Christmas. This week, here in Roanoke, we were treated to Bill O'Reilly staging another insurgent attack on those who would occupy his holiday.

"The far left has become completely unhinged over losing the Christmas controversy. And the most hysterical item we've come across comes from the Roanoke Virginia Times. Editorial page editor Dan Radmacher, a far left ideologue, whining, saying fewer people are saying 'Happy Holidays'. Dan doesn't like that and then levels personal attacks against me and others for believing it is wrong to prevent people - to prevent people - from saying 'Merry Christmas'. Radmacher's column was disgraceful, and upon researching this loon, we found he uses personal attacks all the time. So we called his publisher, Wendy Zomparelli, but she's hiding under her desk."

Here's the thing. One of the most effective tools employed by the Nazi party in the years during which it rose to and maintained its power, was the "Hitler Greeting." If I walked up to you and greeted you with "Heil, Hitler!" and you replied with, "Hello, good morning" I knew immediately that we were ideological opposites, because in my world view as a Nazi party member, anyone who was not also a party member would be an ideological opposite.

We're not at the point yet where conservatives greet each other with "Freedom!" or some other slogan which sets them apart from the dangerous others they are seeking to rid themselves of, but if you consider the flag lapel pin a replacement for the armband and the W sticker on Republican rear windows a replacement for the swastika...along with the feeling that as a liberal you are not entitled to fly the flag or even consider yourself a get a little feeling for life in the Weimar Republic.

In fact, as I've said for years now, the rhetoric of the conservative pundits and the Nazi propaganda machine are frighteningly similar. Try this experiment. Spend one day listening to Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Neal Boortz, Michael Reagan, Michael Savage, Laura Ingraham, Ann Coulter, Sean Hannity, and Bill O'Reilly. Then take any speech from a Nazi party official or read Mein Kampf but do the following:

  • Replace "JEW" with "Muslim"
  • Replace "COMMUNIST" with "Liberal"
  • Replace "FATHERLAND" with "Homeland"
  • Replace "GERMANY" with "America"

If you do, I'm sure you'll be astonished by how familiar it all sounds. Seriously. Try it. I beg you.

Christmas, however, presents a unique opportunity for these Radical Neo-Cons to test something very like that "Hitler Greeting". All of conservative radio at this time of year is aflame with encouragement to proudly proclaim your Christianity by greeting everyone--regardless of their own faith or persuasion-- with Merry Christmas in order to antagonize all those out to prevent Christians from celebrating their holiest holiday. They also call upon the "faithful" to boycott shops that don't say "Merry Christmas" on their signs and avoid shops where you are greeted with "Happy Holidays" instead of an overt proclamation of Christian faith.

It isn't technically the same as saying don't patronize the shops of liberals, Jews or Muslims but a difference that makes no difference is no difference. It isn't about defending Christmas, it is about making life difficult for everyone who isn't exactly like you. Is that a message Jesus would want to be associated with?

I am, in fact, a Christian, and I believe that the spirit of the holiday encourages me to spread love and unity, and to respond with kindness and love of all men, as per the final commandment Jesus gave his followers before his exectution. I don't believe that I am called to identify and persecute those who are not of the same faith or political persuasion. I don't want my expression of Christmas wishes for a happy holiday season, of goodwill, and desire for peace to be a means of division, seperation, and hurtfulness. I don't think Jesus would either.

I know that Jesus said not to think he came to bring peace on Earth but to bring a sword. But he also said by our fruit shall we be known, and he knows if you are using His name to spread hate or to spread love. He knows if you seek his grace to allow you to forgive or if you are abusing his grace to justify angry retribution. And as a Christian I deeply resent the efforts of our President to use the season of giving to justify calling on Americans to do more shopping. Today in his press conference he stood there in the guise of a Christian and called upon the nation not to love one another or do more giving, but to do more shopping. I resent that the season of giving has become the season of last minute economic recovery.

What I wish for Christmas is that Christians will live as Jesus lived, that they will turn the other cheek, forgive, and prove their faith by demonstration in works. And that in so doing, that their eyes will be opened to the hypocrisy of those with political power who build their kingdoms on earth by misleading the hearts of men. But most of all, I wish and pray that the War On Christmas is not a successful war against all that is not Radical Fundamentalist Christian Ideology.


Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Bush Says He Won't Be Rushed....

"I'm not going to be rushed into making a difficult decision, a necessary decision to say to our troops: 'We're going to give you the tools necessary to succeed and a strategy to succeed,"' Bush said.

Wow. Never mind that what he said makes no sense what so ever, and don't worry about how telling it is that he frames it as a decision but only offers himself one choice...let's just assume he means what we hope he means...that he's going to give this some serious thought before taking action. Wow, I say again.

Wouldn't it have been wonderful if his thoughful consideration, determination not to rush to action, and fear of dire consquences had manifested a little 3 years ago, maybe?

How can anyone still support this man who is feeding your sons and daughters, along with billions of your tax dollars each month into a war that has no end? If you were in a car and the driver just kept saying, "We're not stopping till we get there." Would you honestly want to stay in the car if he never told you where "there" is? Would you think he was just swell if he never paid to fill the tank but kept using your swift pass at every Exxon station along the way? How about if on this magical mystery tour he shot or ran over so many people that an average of 180 people a day were killed and over hundreds of thousands injured?

Do you really think the Iraqis are better off than they were when Saddam was in power? They had lights, food, government, police, doesn't matter, you say? Saddam was a mass murderer who killed his own people, right? Did Saddam Hussein manage to kill 2.5% of his nation's population in three years time? 655,000 Iraqis - or 2.5 percent of the population - have been killed in this conflict, according to the November 2006 Johns Hopkins study. Did Saddam Hussein manage to kill 655,000 people in the entire 20 years he was in power?

And people like Sean Hannity still have the gall to ask why the liberal media refuses to report all the good things that are happening in Iraq.

Well, America, the truth is, we are in that car. We are not going to get out of that car and people aren't going to stop dying from George Bush's metaphoric road rage unless we stop paying for the gas, stop giving him bullets, and take back the wheel.

At some point, even a passenger who grumbles about a driver on a killing spree but takes no action to stop the carnage becomes at the very least an accomplice guilty of vehicular manslaughter.

So, what is it, America? Are you an accomplice or a hostage?

"Bad boy, bad boy, what you gonna do? What you gonna do when they come for you?"


Monday, December 04, 2006

Let Characters Smoke, Even If Real People Can't

I know, there is a lot of stuff I should be griping about, but I just haven't had time lately. I got sent this from my identical cousin, who is a playwright and he's all up in arms about it, so I'm posting it here to keep from having to talk to him about it.

An Important message from Theatre Communications Group:

Dear Colleagues,

TCG has been approached to support a legal case on behalf of our member theatre, Denver-based Curious Theatre Company.

This is a First Amendment/Freedom of Expression issue relating to the newly passed Colorado Clean Indoor Air Act which does not allow for the artistic portrayal of smoking. The original suit was denied, and Curious Theatre has appealed this decision. TCG plans to submit an Amicus Brief in support of Curious Theatre Company’s appeal, and has found a First Amendment lawyer who has agreed to take this on pro bono. Bruce Johnson, a member of our National Council for the American Theatre and a trustee of Seattle Repertory Theatre, will write the brief.

Other states with smoking bans, including New York and California, allow exceptions for theatrical purposes. Curious Theatre is seeking to protect the artistic intent of playwrights and theatre companies that include the portrayal of smoking as an integral part of the script.

WE NEED YOUR HELP! We need to provide the Court with a broader context, background and evidence of the use of smoking on the stage as one means of freedom of artistic expression. The issue will be covered in a future edition of American Theatre magazine. Please take a few moments and fill out the survey which we have prepared. The deadline is Friday, December 8, 2006.

This email is being sent to managing directors, artistic directors, dramaturges, literary managers and education directors at all of our member theatres – thank you, in advance, for your assistance!

Feel free to pass on the survey link:


Laurie Baskin
Director of Government & Education Programs
Theatre Communications Group
520 Eighth Avenue, 24 Floor
New York, NY 10018
(212) 609-5900 x228
(212) 609-5901 fax