27 May 2006

Tim Berners-Lee and Net Neutrality

The Unitarian Universalist computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee has recently started a blog. His most recent post is on the "net neutrality" issue.

As Unitarian Universalists with a committment to affirm and promote the "free and responsible search for truth and meaning," the "net neutrality" issue is important to us.

Here's a brief quote from Tim's blog:
The Internet is increasingly becoming the dominant medium binding us. The neutral communications medium is essential to our society. It is the basis of a fair competitive market economy. It is the basis of democracy, by which a community should decide what to do. It is the basis of science, by which humankind should decide what is true.

Let us protect the neutrality of the net.
... and you can read the rest of it online here.

12 May 2006

NEWS: House Injects Prayer Into Defense Bill

"House Injects Prayer Into Defense Bill" by Alan Cooperman and Ann Scott Tyson (Washington Post Staff Writers - Friday, 12 May 2006 - Page A05 - see the excerpts copied below and this link for the entire article) :

The House passed a $513 billion defense authorization bill yesterday that includes language intended to allow chaplains to pray in the name of Jesus at public military ceremonies, undercutting new Air Force and Navy guidelines on religion.


Before the bill reached the House floor, Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee added the provision on military chaplains. It says each chaplain "shall have the prerogative to pray according to the dictates of the chaplain's own conscience, except as must be limited by military necessity, with any such limitation being imposed in the least restrictive manner feasible."

Air Force and Navy rules issued in recent months allow chaplains to pray as they wish in voluntary worship services. But the rules call for nonsectarian prayers, or a moment of silence, at public meetings or ceremonies, especially when attendance is mandatory for service members of all faiths.

Focus on the Family, the Christian Coalition and other evangelical Christian groups have lobbied vigorously against the Air Force and Navy rules, urging President Bush to issue an executive order guaranteeing the right of chaplains to pray in the name of Jesus under any circumstances. Because the White House has not acted, sympathetic members of Congress stepped in.

"We felt there needed to be a clarification" of the rules "because there is political correctness creeping into the chaplains corps," said Rep. Walter B. Jones (R-N.C.). "I don't understand anyone being opposed to a chaplain having the freedom to pray to God in the way his conscience calls him to pray."

Among the provision's opponents is the chief of Navy chaplains, Rear Adm. Louis V. Iasiello, a Roman Catholic priest.

"The language ignores and negates the primary duties of the chaplain to support the religious needs of the entire crew" and "will, in the end, marginalize chaplains and degrade their use and effectiveness," Iasiello wrote in a letter to a committee member.

Book Excerpt from "Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism"

This is worth checking out ...

Across the United States, religious activists are organizing to establish an American theocracy. A frightening look inside the growing right-wing movement.

Here's a brief snippet of this book excerpt:
A few days before Bush's second inauguration, The New York Times carried a story headlined "Warning from a Student of Democracy's Collapse" about Fritz Stern, a refugee from Nazi Germany, professor emeritus of history at Columbia, and scholar of fascism. It quoted a speech he had given in Germany that drew parallels between Nazism and the American religious right. "Some people recognized the moral perils of mixing religion and politics," he was quoted saying of prewar Germany, "but many more were seduced by it. It was the pseudo-religious transfiguration of politics that largely ensured [Hitler's] success, notably in Protestant areas."

It's not surprising that Stern is alarmed. Reading his forty-five-year-old book "The Politics of Cultural Despair: A Study in the Rise of the Germanic Ideology," I shivered at its contemporary resonance. "The ideologists of the conservative revolution superimposed a vision of national redemption upon their dissatisfaction with liberal culture and with the loss of authoritative faith," he wrote in the introduction. "They posed as the true champions of nationalism, and berated the socialists for their internationalism, and the liberals for their pacifism and their indifference to national greatness."

Fascism isn't imminent in America. But its language and aesthetics are distressingly common among Christian nationalists. History professor Roger Griffin described the "mobilizing vision" of fascist movements as "the national community rising Phoenix-like after a period of encroaching decadence which all but destroyed it" (his italics). The Ten Commandments has become a potent symbol of this dreamed-for resurrection on the American right.

True, our homegrown quasi-fascists often appear so absurd as to seem harmless. Take, for example, American Veterans in Domestic Defense, the organization that took the Ten Commandments on tour. The group says it exists to "neutralize the destructiveness" of America's "domestic enemies," which include "biased liberal, socialist news media," "the ACLU," and "the conspiracy of an immoral film industry." To do this, it aims to recruit former military men. "AVIDD reminds all American Veterans that you took an oath to defend the United States against all enemies, 'both foreign and domestic,'" its Web site says. "In your military capacity, you were called upon to defend the United States against foreign enemies. AVIDD now calls upon you to continue to fulfill your oath and help us defend this nation on the political front, against equally dangerous domestic enemies."

According to Jim Cabaniss, the seventy-two-year-old Korean War veteran who founded AVIDD, the group now has thirty-three chapters across the country. It's entirely likely that some of these chapters just represent one or two men, and as of 2005, AVIDD didn't seem large enough to be much of a danger to anyone.

Still, it's worth noting that thousands of Americans nationwide have flocked to rallies at which military men don uniforms and pledge to seize the reins of power in America on behalf of Christianity. In many places, local religious leaders and politicians lend their support to AVIDD's cause. And at least some of the people at these rallies speak with seething resentment about the tyranny of Jews over America's Christian majority. "People who call themselves Jews represent maybe 2 or 3 percent of our people," Cabaniss told me after a January 2005 rally in Austin. "Christians represent a huge percent, and we don't believe that a small percentage should destroy the values of the larger percentage."

The rest of the excerpt can be read here.

NEWS: United Methodist invitation to Indigo Girls singer draws fire

This item is forwarded from the United Church of Christ News Web Site:
The choice of lesbian singer Emily Saliers of the music duo Indigo Girls as a keynote speaker at the United Methodist Women’s Assembly in Anaheim, Calif., has created controversy.

Saliers spoke May 6 at the conference along with her father, the Rev. Don E. Saliers of Candler School of Theology at Emory University in Atlanta. They addressed an estimated 8,000 women on their new co-written book entitled "A Song to Sing, A Life to Live."

Saliers' sexual orientation has been the topic of controversy for some conservatives, but event organizers instead have cited her "spiritual and theological understandings and (her) commitment to justice for women and children" as reasons for the invitation.

The Indigo Girls have devoted much of their 14 records spanning 18 years to themes of social justice and environmental awareness. The elder Saliers is the author of a dozen books and is president of the North American Academy of Liturgy and the Society for the Study of Christian Spirituality.

Some groups, however, have criticized the church for giving a prominent speaking slot to a lesbian, noting that the Methodists' constitution says the church cannot "condone the practice of homosexuality and considers this practice incompatible with Christian teaching."

"...Even if Ms. Saliers does not openly advocate for the acceptance of homosexual practice in the Assembly presentations, her public recognition as a lesbian icon puts the Women's Division in the place of endorsing the lesbian lifestyle and of offending the women of the church," said Faye Short, president of RENEW, a conservative women's organization.

The Indigo Girls won a Grammy award for "Best Contemporary Folk Recording" in 1989. Singer Amy Ray is the other half of the duo.
Someone needs to explain to me why God cares so much about our sexual orientations.

I guess the RENEW leadership and other conservative Christians know what God would want done if God had all the facts at hand.

01 May 2006

The truthiness hurts

Worth checking out ...

Colbert's smart bomb (White House Correspondents' Association Dinner video clip)

Dining on the press corps (White House Correspondents' Association Dinner video clip)

The truthiness hurts (salon.com analysis of Stephen Cobert's comments)
Stephen Colbert's brilliant performance unplugged the Bush myth machine -- and left the clueless D.C. press corps gaping