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January 16, 2005
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I keep saying that I’m trying to get back into some kind of reliable blogging rhythm, and then I lose it again. So I won’t say it again (but I am…). This week was spent juggling work schedules so that someone would always be home while the furnace guys were here. Downside: hours to make up at work. Upside: HEAT! HEAT for the first time since the beginning of November! The 1940s gravity furnace went to meet its maker, and was replaced by a Trane that blows so hot and fast it heats the house in minutes. The ancient flues with their 60+ years of gunk and build-up were replaced with sleek new ones that conduct so much air the cats are skulking in wide arcs around the registers, casting alarmed looks over their shoulders. One of the dogs was so startled by the long-forgotten sensation of warmth that – passing one vent – he skidded to a stop and stared into it for a long moment, trying to figure out what had changed. And me, I no longer have to type in gloves with the fingertips cut off!

  • Thursday the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America released its Report and Recommendations from the Task Force for Studies on Sexuality, addressing whether or not the church should bless same-sex relationships and whether people in such relationships should be allowed to serve the church as lay professionals or ordained ministers. A summary press release is here; the release was covered by the New York Times, the Toledo Blade (a paper near my “home town”) and elsewhere (kind of interesting to compare the angles of the various headlines).

    The report summarizes the opinions generated by a congregational study guide on the church and homosexuality, Journey Together Faithfully. That was not actually a “guide” so much as a list of diverse points of view; it went out of its way to avoid taking a stand of any kind. Not surprisingly, the final report does, too. The report does, however, offer one little glimmer of enlightenment in the suggestion that IF a congregation chooses to call a gay or lesbian pastor, the regional synod/bishop can choose NOT to censure them. Bishop Lohrman of the Northwest Ohio Synod, quoted in the Blade story, suggests that this policy risks “developing contrasting synods with contrasting policies” and Emily Eastwood, from Lutherans Concerned worried that it would “ghettoize” gay and lesbian ministers. I can see both points of view, but I can also see that this small concession – if we can even call it that – is a way to let independent communities get the ball slowly rolling. This recommendation might very well be rejected at the national assembly this summer (take a look at those summary percentages in Part 6 of the report, representing what the report authors euphemistically refer to as a “diversity of opinion”), but it is a small advance.

  • In view of Armstrong Williams revelations, the media is trying to make a new story out of the old story of Jerome Armstrong and Markos Moulitsas being paid as consultants for the Dean campaign. Both disclosed their activities — Kos on his web site, and Armstrong closed down his blog while he was being paid. But this should not even be a story: as desperately as the right and their left-wing apologists want to point to Armstrong and Moulitsas as “proof” that the left has its paid shills, too, the fact is that these guys are bloggers, not journalists, and neither of them were paid by the government with taxpayer money. There’s simply no comparison — although I’m sure we can all look forward to someone trying to make one on some Sunday morning round table… You can track the slings and arrows through several Daily Kos items, if you’re interested.
  • In the NYT magazine, Roger Lowenstein looks at the history, mechanics, and projections of social security and finds… no crisis.
  • How is this even legal? Bush is going to make the Social Security Administration use trust fund money to help him hype the crisis and promote privatization.
  • Just when you think the president can’t possibly exhibit more arrogance, he outdoes himself:

    President Bush said the public’s decision to reelect him was a ratification of his approach toward Iraq and that there was no reason to hold any administration officials accountable for mistakes or misjudgments in prewar planning or managing the violent aftermath.

    “We had an accountability moment, and that’s called the 2004 elections,” Bush said in an interview with The Washington Post. “The American people listened to different assessments made about what was taking place in Iraq, and they looked at the two candidates, and chose me.”

    Oh, and he regrets his tough talk. “I don’t know if you’d call that a confession, a regret, something.” Hmm, I was thinking “a mistake,” maybe?

  • Geez, look what I missed while I was buried in the books. In Joyce Marcel’s Alternet story about the president’s prevarications, she mentions the press “buzz” about his “new debrillator.” Huh? I googled, and hit on these two stories: one working hypothesis about the president’s mysterious debate bulge is that it is a portable defibrillator.
  • Finally, Sen. Ted Kennedy has some inspiring words for progressives, from his address last week to the National Press Club:

    I categorically reject the deceptive and dangerous claim that the outcome last November was somehow a sweeping, or a modest, or even a miniature mandate for reactionary measures like privatizing Social Security, redistributing the tax burden in the wrong direction, or packing the federal courts with reactionary judges. Those proposals were barely mentioned – or voted on – in an election dominated by memories of 9/11, fear of terrorism, the quagmire in Iraq, and relentlessly negative attacks on our Presidential candidate.

    In an election so close, defeat has a thousand causes – and it is too easy to blame it on particular issues or tactics, or on the larger debate about values. In truth, we do not shrink from that debate.

    There’s no doubt we must do a better job of looking within ourselves and speaking out for the principles we believe in, and for the values that are the foundation of our actions. Americans need to hear more, not less, about those values. We were remiss in not talking more directly about them – about the fundamental ideals that guide our progressive policies. In the words of Martin Luther King, “we must accept finite disappointment, but we must never lose infinite hope.”

    Unlike the Republican Party, we believe our values unite us as Americans, instead of dividing us. If the White House’s idea of bipartisanship is that we have to buy whatever partisan ideas they send us, we’re not interested.

    In fact, our values are still our greatest strength. Despite resistance, setbacks, and periods of backlash over the years, our values have moved us closer to the ideal with which America began – that all people are created equal. And when Democrats say “all,” we mean “all.”

    We have an Administration that falsely hypes almost every issue as a crisis. They did it on Iraq, and they are doing it now on Social Security. They exploit the politics of fear and division, while ours is a politics of hope and unity.

    In the face of their tactics, we cannot move our party or our nation forward under pale colors and timid voices. We cannot become Republican clones. If we do, we will lose again, and deserve to lose. As I have said on other occasions, the last thing this country needs is two Republican parties.

    Today, I propose a progressive vision for America, a vision that Democrats must fight for in the months and years ahead – a vision rooted in our basic values of opportunity, fairness, tolerance, and respect for each other.

    These founding beliefs are still the essence of the American dream today.

    That dream is the North Star of the Democratic Party – the compass that guides our policies and sets our course to freedom and opportunity, to fairness and justice – not just for the few, not just for some, but for all.

    The whole address is worth reading.

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