Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Where is the Iraq war headed next?

...Bush’s closest advisers have long been aware of the religious nature of his policy commitments. In recent interviews, one former senior official, who served in Bush’s first term, spoke extensively about the connection between the President’s religious faith and his view of the war in Iraq. After the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the former official said, he was told that Bush felt that “God put me here” to deal with the war on terror. The President’s belief was fortified by the Republican sweep in the 2002 congressional elections; Bush saw the victory as a purposeful message from God that “he’s the man,” the former official said. Publicly, Bush depicted his reĆ«lection as a referendum on the war; privately, he spoke of it as another manifestation of divine purpose....

How the Pilgrims Made Progress
Behind the Pilgrims' bad harvest in 1621: a lack of property rights.

The textbooks don't explain why the Pilgrims had only a meager harvest in 1621, so we will. For their first two years in Plymouth, the settlers conducted an experiment in communalism. It wasn't until 1623 that they divided the land into private plots and could look forward to the kind of bounty that many of us enjoyed yesterday. In his "History of Plimoth Plantation," the colony's governor, William Bradford, wrote about how the settlers studied human nature and laid the foundation for true Thanksgiving:...

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Cafe Hayek roundup
Citgo Petroleum Corp., a subsidiary of Venezuela's state-owned oil company, will supply oil at 40 percent below market prices.

It will be distributed by two nonprofit organizations, Citizens Energy Corp. and the Massachusetts Energy Consumers Alliance.

The agreement gives President Hugo Chavez's government standing as a provider of heating assistance to poor U.S. residents at a time when U.S. oil companies have been reluctant to do so and Congress has failed to expand aid in response to rising oil prices....

...Yes, the people of Venezuela are lucky to have him. He's selling oil at a 40% discount to people in a country whose per-capita income is over SIX TIMES that of Venezuela's. That's a man who really knows how to take care of the little guy.

...I write, rather, to point out that that part of the "race to the bottom" argument that says that globalization forces western governments to reduce welfare-state activities (such as taxpayer-funded health care) is inconsistent with the argument that Wal-Mart and other U.S. employers are able to pay lower wages because the government provides workers with Medicaid and other welfare-state benefits.

If this argument were true -- that is, if it were true that taxpayers subsidize Wal-Mart's and other American employers' hiring of workers, thus keeping wage rates lower than otherwise -- then welfare-state measures such as Medicaid would attract employers. Countries with the most generous welfare-state benefits would be magnets for employers. Governments would then compete amongst themselves to offer ever-greater welfare-state benefits....

...Wal-Mart's critics also paint the company as a parasite on taxpayers, because 5 percent of its workers are on Medicaid. Actually that's a typical level for large retail firms, and the national average for all firms is 4 percent. Moreover, it's ironic that Wal-Mart's enemies, who are mainly progressives, should even raise this issue. In the 1990s progressives argued loudly for the reform that allowed poor Americans to keep Medicaid benefits even if they had a job. Now that this policy is helping workers at Wal-Mart, progressives shouldn't blame the company. Besides, many progressives favor a national health system. In other words, they attack Wal-Mart for having 5 percent of its workers receive health care courtesy of taxpayers when the policy that they support would increase that share to 100 percent....

Miami police take new tack against terror
MIAMI --Miami police announced Monday they will stage random shows of force at hotels, banks and other public places to keep terrorists guessing and remind people to be vigilant.

Deputy Police Chief Frank Fernandez said officers might, for example, surround a bank building, check the IDs of everyone going in and out and hand out leaflets about terror threats.

"This is an in-your-face type of strategy....

Monday, November 28, 2005

Allawi: Iraq Abuses As Bad As Under Saddam
Iraq's Former Interim Prime Minister Claims Rights Abuses Now As Bad As They Were Under Saddam

BAGHDAD, Iraq Nov 27, 2005 — Iraq's former interim prime minister complained Sunday that human rights abuses by some in the new government are as bad now as they were under Saddam Hussein.

Ayad Allawi, a secular Shiite Muslim, told the London newspaper The Observer that fellow Shiites are responsible for death squads and secret torture centers and said brutality by elements of Iraqi security forces rivals that of Saddam's secret police.

"People are remembering the days of Saddam. These were the precise reasons that we fought Saddam and now we are seeing the same thing," the newspaper quoted Allawi as saying....

I say I'm a pacifist because I'm a violent son of a bitch. I'm a Texan. I can feel it in every bone I've got. And I hate the language of pacifism because it's too passive....
-- Stanley Hauerwas

Friday, November 25, 2005

The State acquires power... and because of its insatiable lust for power it is incapable of giving up any of it. The State never abdicates.
-- Frank Chodorov

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Key Bush Intelligence Briefing Kept From Hill Panel
Ten days after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, President Bush was told in a highly classified briefing that the U.S. intelligence community had no evidence linking the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein to the attacks and that there was scant credible evidence that Iraq had any significant collaborative ties with Al Qaeda, according to government records and current and former officials with firsthand knowledge of the matter.

The information was provided to Bush on September 21, 2001 during the "President's Daily Brief," a 30- to 45-minute early-morning national security briefing. Information for PDBs has routinely been derived from electronic intercepts, human agents, and reports from foreign intelligence services, as well as more mundane sources such as news reports and public statements by foreign leaders.

One of the more intriguing things that Bush was told during the briefing was that the few credible reports of contacts between Iraq and Al Qaeda involved attempts by Saddam Hussein to monitor the terrorist group. Saddam viewed Al Qaeda as well as other theocratic radical Islamist organizations as a potential threat to his secular regime. At one point, analysts believed, Saddam considered infiltrating the ranks of Al Qaeda with Iraqi nationals or even Iraqi intelligence operatives to learn more about its inner workings, according to records and sources. ...

Monday, November 21, 2005

Murtha Is Right
..."Fearful" – that about sums up the Pelosi Democrats, who stanched all debate until a rising tide of public outrage forced their hand. These, after all, are the same Democrats who voted for the war and supported an administration – the Clinton administration – that was responsible for an equally unjustified, albeit far less bloody, war of aggression in the Balkans. There, too, we invaded a country that had never been any threat to us, without UN authorization, moved by the same sort of arrogance that prompted then-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright to complain to Gen. Colin Powell:

"What's the point of having this superb military you're always talking about if we can't use it?"

And it's not as if any of these characters have any moral objections to our decade-long assault on the people of Iraq. Not many lifted so much as an eyebrow when Madame Albright, asked by Leslie Stahl if the death of half a million children – killed by sanctions – was "worth it," answered:

"I think this is a very hard choice, but the price – we think the price is worth it."

Now that Americans are dying, however, suddenly the price is too high. I guess it all depends on who's paying...

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Food, Education, and Health Care
...Suppose, however, that during the Great Depression, the U.S. Department of Food had been established to protect the American people against starvation and the vicissitudes of the market. Suppose that from the 1930s on, all grocery stores in the United States were government-owned and that no one had been permitted to own a private grocery store. There would, of course, be less variety and fewer choices with respect to groceries, but everyone would undoubtedly feel a sense of comfort and security over the fact that the government was in charge of the “public grocery stores.”

Now suppose I came along and said, “I believe we ought to separate food and the state. Let’s fire all the government food workers, sell off the state grocery stores, and turn the entire process over to the free market.”

What would be the reaction of most people? “We can’t do that. Food is too important an item to be left to the free market. How could we be sure that there would be enough food for everyone? What if one city didn’t receive any food and another received all of it? What if grocery stores forgot to order food one day? For that matter, what if no one opened grocery stores in our community? What about the poor? How would they eat, especially when the rich would be buying everything? You place too much faith in the free market. This program favors the rich. The burden of buying groceries falls most heavily on the poor.”..

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Iraq Begins Inquiry Into Alleged Torture
BAGHDAD, Iraq, Nov. 16 - As Iraqi investigators began searching through a secret underground prison run by police in the heart of the capital, Sunni Arab leaders today furiously denounced the Shiite-led government for supporting the torture of Sunni detainees there and called for an international inquiry.

The discovery of the prison by the American military in a raid on Sunday has galvanized Sunni Arab anger and widened the country's sectarian divide just a month before elections for a full, four-year government.

The American general charged with securing Baghdad said today that Sunni Arab leaders were supportive of the operation, which ended this afternoon. The commander, Maj. Gen. William G. Webster Jr. of the Third Infantry Division, said American officers would help scrutinize the evidence seized from the prison, and that his troops were prepared to investigate other credible complaints of secret detentions by Iraqi security forces.

The American raid forced Ibrahim al-Jaafari, the Shiite prime minister of Iraq, to announce Tuesday that the government would investigate accusations of torture at the detention center. Many of the 173 prisoners there were found in weakened, malnourished states.

A former prisoner said in a telephone interview today that he and other inmates, mostly Sunni Arabs, were regularly beaten and electrocuted, and he was left blindfolded for the duration of his stay, more than three months. The Interior Ministry acknowledged in a terse statement Tuesday that torture had occurred and that "instruments of torture" had been found.

The prison was in the basement of a bomb shelter built by Saddam Hussein's government and converted into a major operations center for the Interior Ministry after the American invasion....

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Crisis In France
How welfare state economics failed a generation

For years, France was warned that economic and social neglect of its large ethnic-minority population would produce an explosion. The surprise was that it didn't happen sooner. On Oct. 27 two teenagers were accidentally killed during a police sweep in an impoverished Paris suburb. The deaths set off a wave of violence that spread to dozens of cities and even reached briefly into neighboring Belgium and Germany. Night after night a stunned France watched on television as rioters -- mostly teenagers and young adults from Arab and African families -- injured dozens of police officers with rocks and bullets, killed at least one bystander, and torched schools, community centers, and thousands of cars.

Much as Hurricane Katrina did in the U.S. two months ago, the violence has laid bare the ugly underside of a wealthy nation. "Violence, unemployment, discrimination," says Mounir, a 21-year-old of Moroccan origin, summing up his life in the Paris suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois where he took part in the rioting. (He declined to give his last name.) Many French are frightened by the government's seeming powerlessness. "They were out defying us in terrific numbers," says one police officer. "The dialogue has completely broken down."

On Nov. 8, France's center-right government declared a state of emergency. It has clamped curfews on dozens of troubled neighborhoods and ordered the expulsion of foreigners convicted in the rioting. Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin announced a package of measures aimed at fighting discrimination and poverty, including increased spending on housing and social programs in disadvantaged areas as well as expanded job-training opportunities for young people.

But without more sweeping economic change, it won't be long before unrest flares anew. The riots in France underscore just how untenable Europe's economic model has become. For decades government policies across much of the Old World have put a higher value on social protections and job security than on growth and job creation.

"They're Humiliated"
Those policies had the laudable goal of guaranteeing everyone a decent standard of living. But instead, in today's globalized economy, they are helping to create a vast underclass of jobless youths, many from immigrant backgrounds. "These young people have no dreams. They're humiliated and excluded," says Yazid Sabeg, an Algerian-born French businessman who has called for affirmative action programs.

Economic growth won't end racism, of course. But minorities are more likely to encounter discrimination when unemployment is high and applicants are competing for scarce jobs. That's the situation now. For at least five years, economic growth across most of the Continent has been far too feeble to create jobs that could lift have-nots into the mainstream. France's economy has grown an average 1.5% annually for the past four years and is set to grow only 1.2% this year. Unemployment is nearly 10%, and among those under 25 it is nearly 22%, about twice the U.S. rate. Youth joblessness runs over 50% in the suburbs that are home to many of France's more than 5 million first- and second-generation African and Arab immigrants.

Many of the French rioters have been students who figure they probably won't find jobs. Good jobs "are reserved for certain people, and usually it's white French people," says Abdel Karim, a son of North African immigrants who lives in Clichy-sous-Bois, where the rioting began. French-born Karim, 26, finished high school but has never held a steady job. He lives on welfare and rent subsidies totaling about $980 a month.

High unemployment among immigrants and young people isn't limited to France. Joblessness in Germany's Turkish immigrant community is an estimated 25%, and 14% of British Muslims are unemployed. Youth unemployment tops 20% in Italy, Spain, and Belgium. Mix in racial discrimination, crumbling education systems, and scant representation of ethnic minorities among the political and business elite, and it's easy to see why young immigrants are alienated....

GOP memo touts new terror attack as way to reverse party's decline
Capitol Hill Blue | November 10, 2005

A confidential memo circulating among senior Republican leaders suggests that a new attack by terrorists on U.S. soil could reverse the sagging fortunes of President George W. Bush as well as the GOP and "restore his image as a leader of the American people."

The closely-guarded memo lays out a list of scenarios to bring the Republican party back from the political brink, including a devastating attack by terrorists that could “validate” the President’s war on terror and allow Bush to “unite the country” in a “time of national shock and sorrow.”

The memo says such a reversal in the President's fortunes could keep the party from losing control of Congress in the 2006 midterm elections.

GOP insiders who have seen the memo admit it’s a risky strategy and point out that such scenarios are “blue sky thinking” that often occurs in political planning sessions.

“The President’s popularity was at an all-time high following the 9/11 attacks,” admits one aide. “Americans band together at a time of crisis.”

Other Republicans, however, worry that such a scenario carries high risk, pointing out that an attack might suggest the President has not done enough to protect the country.

“We also have to face the fact that many Americans no longer trust the President,” says a longtime GOP strategist. “That makes it harder for him to become a rallying point.”

The memo outlines other scenarios, including:

--Capture of Osama bin Laden (or proof that he is dead);

--A drastic turnaround in the economy;

--A "successful resolution" of the Iraq war.

GOP memos no longer talk of “victory” in Iraq but use the term “successful resolution.”...

Monday, November 14, 2005

Group Counters Christian Zionist Influence on U.S. Policy Toward Israel
The strongest opposition in the United States to President Bush’s “roadmap for peace” in Israel comes, ironically, from some of his strongest supporters--the religious right.

Charles Kimball, author of When Religion Becomes Evil, said he first heard it when Bush unveiled the plan, and he heard it again last week, channel surfing to a TV sermon by San Antonio pastor John Hagee.

“If you work for peace, you could be working for the Antichrist,” Kimball summarized the message. While conceding that Hagee probably is sincere in his views, Kimball said he believes they are misguided and dangerous, because they spill over into political advocacy.

“I wonder what happened to the Sermon on the Mount and ‘Blessed are the peacemakers,’” ...

CIA allegedly hid evidence of detainee torture
WASHINGTON (AFX) - CIA interrogators apparently tried to cover up the death of an Iraqi 'ghost detainee' who died while being interrogated at Abu Ghraib prison, Time magazine reported today, after obtaining hundreds of pages of documents, including an autopsy report, about the case.

The death of secret detainee Manadel al-Jamadi was ruled a homicide in a Defense Department autopsy, Time reported, adding that documents it recently obtained included photographs of his battered body, which had been kept on ice to keep it from decomposing, apparently to conceal the circumstances of his death.

The details about his death emerge as US officials continue to debate congressional legislation to ban torture of foreign detainees by US troops overseas, and efforts by the George W. Bush administration to obtain an exemption for the CIA from any future torture ban. ...

Saturday, November 12, 2005

It's Getting Really Weird Out There
In many charismatic ministries today, basic Christian morality has been hijacked.

How would you feel if your pastor announced from the pulpit that he had uncovered a “new revelation” in the Bible? His discovery: That a church leader can have more than one wife.

Hopefully, you and everyone in the building would run, not walk, out of that church and never come back until the pastor had been replaced. But I am afraid too many of us gullible charismatics might stay in the pews—and eventually give the guy a standing ovation plus a $10,000 love offering.

National Christian leaders didn't want to get involved in what they viewed as a local problem.

That’s how strange it is getting out there. Something has gone terribly wrong in our movement. Everywhere I turn I find that leaders of so-called Spirit-filled churches are making bizarre choices that compromise basic Christian integrity. Some examples:

* At one charismatic megachurch, staff pastors successfully convinced all their wives and female staff members to get breast implants. (I wonder: Was this discussed at a staff meeting?)

* A church in California (known for its revival meetings and prophetic ministry) recently imploded after members learned that several men in the church had been having homosexual affairs with the pastor, who was married.

* A leader with an international following (who wears the label of “apostle”) recently informed his leaders that men of God who reach his level of anointing are allowed to have more than one sexual partner. Then his own son offered his wife to his father out of a sense of spiritual obligation.

We can all say together: “Eeeuuuwww!”...

Where Are Evangelicals Against Torture?
...While there has been no specific statement on the most recent developments, the liberal Protestant National Council of churches has had pretty consistent denunciations of torture over the past few years, including a condemnation of the Abu Ghraib abuses last year.

The Council on American Islamic Relations was part of a coalition that earlier this year condemned torture and "cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment."

At least two coalitions of rabbis have issued declarations that torture is repugnant, not surprising given Jewish experiences at the hands of the Nazis.

For an unequivocal condemnation of torture, it's hard to beat the late John Paul II, who said in his encyclical "Veritatis Splendor" that it can never be justified, no matter what the reason. The pope placed it on the moral level of abortion and euthanasia. U.S. bishops have followed that lead. Who does that leave? Evangelical Christians. I've done a couple of Google searches, plus a search of the excellent Christianity Today Web log, and I can't find one statement by any evangelical leader or organization condemning the use of harsh techniques by American forces. Where are the voices -- so otherwise outspoken on policy matters -- from the National Association of Evangelicals, from the Family Research Council, from the Southern Baptist Convention?

It gets worse. One thing that did turn up in Christianity Today was a portion of an article last year by Tony Carnes that found evangelical complicity among both administration and military personnel justifying the kind of treatment uncovered at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo.

Carnes wrote: "(E)vangelicals were significantly involved in drafting policy memos that created the permissive climate in which the abuse of prisoners occurred. Asking not to be named, Christians who serve in federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies told Christianity Today that aggressive interrogation of suspected terrorists was no-holds-barred."

I write as a Christian to say that this is beyond scandalous. It is willing participation in evil by Christians, otherwise known as sin. It is a return to the Dark Ages, to the Inquisition. It's a short step from "no-holds-barred" to the auto da fe, the "act of faith" in which the rebellious were burned at the stake.

You would think that after evangelical fervor for "The Passion of the Christ" last year, they would have learned something about what torture looks like. Apparently when it's done to Christ by Romans, it's one thing, but another when done by Americans to Muslims.

Perhaps evangelicals should ask Jesus his views on that, and when they get an answer, let them push it on their close friends in the administration with as much zeal as they've used in the push for a Supreme Court nominee. Dick Cheney certainly needs a Sunday school lesson from someone.

Che Kolasinski
84-year-old Marie Kolasinski could be California's angriest revolutionary

Don't let her fluffy white hair, compact size and disarming smile fool you. Marie Kolasinski isn't your typical granny. The 84-year-old Costa Mesan could be California's angriest revolutionary.

Leader of a Christian-anarchist-capitalist commune called the Piecemakers, Kolasinski is a cross between Andrew Dice Clay, a Golden Girl and Timothy McVeigh. Or maybe just an angrier Ayn Rand. She mixes anti-government sentiments with biblical passages and, if upset, shamelessly punctuates her remarks with profanities such as "fuck" and "asshole." Columbine, 9/11, hurricanes, fires and the Oklahoma City bombing? These, she says, are examples of "God's wrath toward a godless country. Either repent and come unto God or perish."

Kolasinski isn't an idle, elderly woman knitting sweaters and spewing philosophy in an empty room. Her politics recently got her arrested for blocking a court-ordered health inspection of her Costa Mesa restaurant following complaints of unsanitary conditions.

But her ambitions go beyond Costa Mesa. She's got a plan to destroy not just the federal government but also democracy itself. She calls for massive, "active disobedience" to build what she says is a "theocracy."

We know all this because Kolasinski has published an "If I were president" wish list. Here's a sampling:

*** To become a cop, lawyer or judge, a person would first have to spend "three months or more" in jail "to understand how awesome is his job."

*** No more taxpayer-funded inaugural parties for incoming presidents.

*** The U.S. must apologize to the world for its "arrogance."

*** No more pampering of the handicapped with choice parking spaces -- "walking is one form of therapy."

*** No more welfare programs.

*** Open national borders because "it isn't the Mexicans or the Asians screwing up the country but the offspring of the Caucasians who founded this country -- white-skinned, empty-headed with an evil heart."

*** Only one religion allowed -- "all others would have to leave the country."

*** A ban on aid to Israel.

*** No more "foolish" government AIDS research.

*** All government agencies would be taken over by private businesses or churches -- "to hell with the state."

But Kolasinski fires her angriest shots at government employees, whom she calls "roaches," "pests," "bastards," "monsters," "freeloaders," "rapists," "snoopy henchmen," "arrogant jackasses" and "Martian reptiles" enforcing "Gestapo rules." She is "appalled at the bold audacity of the roaches' encroachment on our right to freedom . . . Trust me, unless we put a stop to this bullshit, they will be in our houses next, telling us when we can eat, what we can eat and when we can go to the bathroom." She darkly warns government workers to fear retaliation "like Oklahoma [City], for instance."

"It is time we rid ourselves of all the government as we know it and start over," she says....

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

US Army Admits Use of White Phosphorus as Weapon
..."WP [i.e., white phosphorus rounds] proved to be an effective and versatile munition. We used it for screening missions at two breeches and, later in the fight, as a potent psychological weapon against the insurgents in trench lines and spider holes when we could not get effects on them with HE. We fired 'shake and bake' missions at the insurgents, using WP to flush them out and HE to take them out."...

...there is no way you can use white phosphorus like that without forming a deadly chemical cloud that kills everything within a tenth of a mile in all directions from where it hits. Obviously, the effect of such deadly clouds weren't just psychological in nature....

The real windfall
...since the CEO and CFO signed these documents and that under Sarbannes-Oxley they are subject to severe criminal and civil penalties if these figures are in any way false, I assume that they are substantially correct. They reinforce the research that contends that oil companies make 10 cents per gallon on gasoline while Federal, State and Local Government make a combined total of 45 cents.

“Windfall” Profits Tax on Oil Would Slow Flow
...Despite the industry’s above-average risk exposure, Big Oil is not extraordinarily profitable. According to Business Week and Oil Daily, average industry earnings were 7.7 cents per dollar of sales in the second quarter of 2005, also a time of relatively high gas prices. During that same quarter, by comparison, banks earned 19.6 cents; pharmaceuticals 18.6; software and related services 17; semiconductors 14.6; household and personal products 11.3; insurance 10.7; telecommunications 9.6; food, beverage and tobacco 9.4; and real estate 8.9. The corresponding figure for U.S. industry as a whole was 7.9 cents per dollar of sales.

Oil company revenues may be running at record levels, but so is the cost of the industry’s most important input, crude oil, selling on global commodity markets nowadays for about $60 a barrel. Only a few years ago, during Asia’s economic crisis, it was going for $9.40 a barrel....

Inherit the Windfall
The defense of oil profits we'll probably never see

...We would like to thank you for giving us the opportunity to address this august body, but, frankly, being summoned for a Grand Inquisition and threatened with the confiscation of our so-called windfall profits is not our idea of fun.

Yes, we all made record profits this past quarter. We are proud of this achievement and, indeed, in the future hope to surpass it. Our survival and success depends on producing value for our investors, most of whom are ordinary, middle-class Americans—your constituents, as a matter of fact—who invest in our stocks through their pension funds or 401K accounts.

Our aggregate profits are so large because we have huge sales. But our profit margins—the more relevant measure—are below the overall Standards and Poor industry average. Exxon Mobil, the most profitable company among us, posted $100 billion in sales last quarter —the first American company to hit that mark ever. But its profits were $10 billion—hardly a margin that suggests the "price gouging" that some of you have accused us of.

In fact, the oil industry's margins are well below those of Gannett, the largest newspaper corporation—and no doubt far, far below those of Fox News, whose pandering populist anchor, Bill O'Reilly, maximizes his company's profits by questioning our right to maximize ours. If you really want a reliable revenue stream, why not tax windbags instead of windfalls? ...

Earthly Powers: religion and politics in Europe from the French revolution to the Great War

If Christianity had a mission in the 19th century, it was to restrain the leviathan of the nation state. This book tells the story of its failure. Across Europe, churches were expropriated, corrupted and exploited by more powerful civic structures, and ended the century weaker and smaller than they began it. The stage was set for the horrors of the next hundred years, the godless age par excellence.

Michael Burleigh has another, more complex story to tell. What the churches had to combat between 1789 and 1918 was not just unbelief, but something more insidious, designated here as "political" or "secular" religion. All the great ideologies of the modern world - republicanism, nationalism, socialism - first made their appearance in the guise of religious or quasi-religious cults. Their adherents fabricated rituals, devised catechisms and proclaimed creeds. Their rhetoric was one of martyrdom and redemption, election and damnation. "Thou shall not fornicate," ran the sixth Italian "patriotic" commandment, "unless it be to harm the enemies of Italy." The religious impulse was not quashed, but deflected on to more worldly objects.

The Bible has a language for all this. The prophets rail incessantly at those unfaithful Israelites who bend the knee before Moloch and Baal; Christ proclaims a kingdom "not of this world". A few astute thinkers recognised in the biblical prohi-bition of idolatry an indictment of modern nationalism, with its apotheosis of worldly power, its fusion of God and Caesar. Yet the churches as institutions remained supine in the face of this visibly pagan trend. Earthly Powers explains why.

The Catholic Church, to which Burleigh is clearly partial, was best placed to combat the new religion of nationalism. It was, after all, a supranational corporation, a successor to the Roman empire, laying claim to a universal and timeless truth. Despite their reputation as grim reactionaries, the 19th-century popes had a better appreciation of the moral limits of state power than most liberals. Article 39 of Pius IX's much-derided 1864 Syllabus of Errors denounces the doctrine that "the State, as being the origin and source of all rights, is endowed with a certain right not circumscribed by any limits". His successor, Leo XIII, spoke presciently of the "idolatry of the State". During the First World War, the Vatican remained scrupulously neutral, striving where it could to hasten the end of what it regarded as "the collective suicide of a great Christian civilisation"....

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Ambassador de Sade
Bush rewarded one of his loyalists with the ambassadorship to Italy -- despite his past as the founder of an cult-like teen rehab

Among our president's appointments of GOP activists to important posts, we've done worse than Melvin Sembler, the Ambassador to Italy who couldn't speak Italian. Unlike the FEMA chief, who had real responsibilities, Sembler sometimes found himself a fifth wheel around his own embassy. As the Washington Monthly has reported, the scandal that claimed Scooter Libby's job last month may have sprung from secret Rome meetings between neocons, an Iran-Contra figure and an Italian intelligence boss who later pushed phony WMD documents -- all behind Sembler's back.

But where Melvin Sembler, 74, demands attention is as an object lesson in how cruelty can be redeemed by the transformative power of political donations. For 16 years, Sembler, with his wife Betty, directed the leading juvenile rehab business in America, STRAIGHT, Inc., before seeing it dismantled by a breathtaking array of institutional abuse claims by mid-1993. Just one of many survivors is Samantha Monroe, now a travel agent in Pennsylvania, who told The Montel Williams show this year about overcoming beatings, rape by a counselor, forced hunger, and the confinement to a janitor's closet in "humble pants" -- which contained weeks of her own urine, feces and menstrual blood. During this "timeout," she gnawed her cheek and spat blood at her overseers. "I refused to let them take my mind," she says of the program. The abuse took years to overcome.

"It sticks inside you," she told Williams, "it eats at your soul." She told AlterNet that she was committed at 12, in 1980, for nothing more than being caught with a mini-bar-sized liquor bottle, handed out by a classmate whose mother was a flight attendant. Samantha's mother suspected more, and a STRAIGHT expert reassured her fears. The small blonde junior high-schooler was tricked into being taken to the warehouse-like STRAIGHT building. Her mother, told by counselors that her daughter was a liar, was encouraged to trick the girl for her own good.

Overcome by dread in the lobby, Samantha tried to run but was hauled into the back by older girls. Inside, as was standard operating procedure, she began the atonement process that cost over $12,000 a year: all-day re-education rituals in which flapping the arms ("motivating") and chanting signaled submission to "staying straight." She was coerced, she says, into confessing to being a "druggie whore" who went down on truckers for drugs. "You're forced to confess crimes you never committed." (Some survivors call it extortion.)...

Kyoto to 'reduce Europe's growth'
Meeting Kyoto Protocol targets on greenhouse gas emissions will reduce European economic growth significantly.

That is the finding of a new study from the International Council for Capital Formation, a market-based think tank.

It projects that by 2010, Spain's growth will have fallen by 3%, and that Italy's will shrink by 2%.

These are bigger figures than previous studies have found, and their release comes as world leaders struggle to find a successor to the Kyoto treaty.

In recent weeks, British Prime Minister Tony Blair has become the latest leader to suggest that constructing a "child-of-Kyoto" agreement involving firm targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions will be tricky.

"No country will want to sacrifice its economy in order to meet this challenge," he told a London conference last week, commenting further that talk of frameworks and targets "...makes people nervous". ...

U.S. Used Chemical Weapons In Iraq
Veteran admits: Bodies melted away before us.

White phosphorous used on the civilian populace: This is how the US "took" Fallujah. New napalm formula also used.

In soldier slang they call it Willy Pete. The technical name is white phosphorus. In theory its purpose is to illumine enemy positions in the dark. In practice, it was used as a chemical weapon in the rebel stronghold of Fallujah. And it was used not only against enemy combatants and guerrillas, but again innocent civilians. The Americans are responsible for a massacre using unconventional weapons, the identical charge for which Saddam Hussein stands accused. An investigation by RAI News 24, the all-news Italian satellite television channel, has pulled the veil from one of the most carefully concealed mysteries from the front in the entire US military campaign in Iraq.

A US veteran of the Iraq war told RAI New correspondent Sigfrido Ranucci this: I received the order use caution because we had used white phosphorus on Fallujah. In military slag it is called 'Willy Pete'. Phosphorus burns the human body on contact--it even melts it right down to the bone.

RAI News 24's investigative story, Fallujah, The Concealed Massacre, will be broadcast tomorrow on RAI-3 and will contain not only eye-witness accounts by US military personnel but those from Fallujah residents. A rain of fire descended on the city. People who were exposed to those multicolored substance began to burn. We found people with bizarre wounds-their bodies burned but their clothes intact, relates Mohamad Tareq al-Deraji, a biologist and Fallujah resident.

I gathered accounts of the use of phosphorus and napalm from a few Fallujah refugees whom I met before being kidnapped, says Manifesto reporter Giuliana Sgrena, who was kidnapped in Fallujah last February, in a recorded interview. I wanted to get the story out, but my kidnappers would not permit it.

RAI News 24 will broadcast video and photographs taken in the Iraqi city during and after the November 2004 bombardment which prove that the US military, contrary to statements in a December 9 communiquƩ from the US Department of State, did not use phosphorus to illuminate enemy positions (which would have been legitimate) but instend dropped white phosphorus indiscriminately and in massive quantities on the city's neighborhoods....

Monday, November 07, 2005

Can the C.I.A. legally kill a prisoner?

At the end of a secluded cul-de-sac, in a fast-growing Virginia suburb favored by employees of the Central Intelligence Agency, is a handsome replica of an old-fashioned farmhouse, with a white-railed front porch. The large back yard has a swimming pool, which, on a recent October afternoon, was neatly covered. In the driveway were two cars, a late-model truck, and an all-terrain vehicle. The sole discordant note was struck by a faded American flag on the porch; instead of fluttering in the autumn breeze, it was folded on a heap of old Christmas ornaments.

The house belongs to Mark Swanner, a forty-six-year-old C.I.A. officer who has performed interrogations and polygraph tests for the agency, which has employed him at least since the nineteen-nineties. (He is not a covert operative.) Two years ago, at Abu Ghraib prison, outside Baghdad, an Iraqi prisoner in Swanner’s custody, Manadel al-Jamadi, died during an interrogation. His head had been covered with a plastic bag, and he was shackled in a crucifixion-like pose that inhibited his ability to breathe; according to forensic pathologists who have examined the case, he asphyxiated....

...The autopsy, performed by military pathologists five days later, classified Jamadi’s death as a homicide, saying that the cause of death was “compromised respiration” and “blunt force injuries” to Jamadi’s head and torso. But it appears that the pathologists who performed the autopsy were unaware that Jamadi had been shackled to a high window. When a description of Jamadi’s position was shared with two of the country’s most prominent medical examiners—both of whom volunteered to review the autopsy report free, at the request of a lawyer representing one of the SEALs—their conclusion was different. Miles, independently, concurred.

One of those examiners, Dr. Michael Baden, who is the chief forensic pathologist for the New York State Police, told me, “What struck me was that Jamadi was alive and well when he walked into the prison. The SEALs were accused of causing head injuries before he arrived, but he had no significant head injuries—certainly no brain injuries that would have caused death.” Jamadi’s bruises, he said, were no doubt painful, but they were not life-threatening. Baden went on, “He also had injuries to his ribs. You don’t die from broken ribs. But if he had been hung up in this way and had broken ribs, that’s different.” In his judgment, “asphyxia is what he died from—as in a crucifixion.” ...

Our liberties under siege
My respect continues to increase for the conservative defenders of our most fundamental liberties. A founder of the conservative movement, Paul Weyrich -- chairman and CEO of the Free Congress Foundation -- exemplifies this force when he writes: "Because of the War on Terrorism, America may be on the verge of becoming a national security state." Mr. Weyrich continues: "That means citizens will allow the state to do almost anything it wants so long as it justifies its actions in terms of 'national security.' In effect, the Constitution and the rule of law itself go out the window, along with our liberties."

There is also Bob Barr, with whom I once joined at a conference of the American Conservative Union to criticize sections of the Patriot Act. With customary clarity, he now states: "We believe in traditional conservative values, like accountability... To date, for example, the Justice Department has failed to disclose how many U.S. citizens' homes, businesses or records have been secretly searched under the Patriot Act provisions, such as Section 213 ('the sneak and peek' provision), or even how many National Security Letter searches (without any judicial supervision) have been executed."

And Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, Maryland Republican, a descendant of a signer of the Declaration of Independence, says resoundingly: "Under this so-called Patriot Act, each of us faces the prospect that the government could treat us as guilty with very little evidence... Supporters argue Americans should have no 'sanctuaries' of privacy. The government should be allowed to investigate us and search for evidence against us anywhere with as few limitations as possible. With this permanent expansion of government powers, we will no longer have areas, such as our homes, that deserve greater privacy protections. That is not the America that I know and love." ...

The realist persuasion
...In fact, when it comes to moral issues, realism has gotten a bum rap. As the events of the post-Cold War era have reminded us, idealism-whether the left liberal variant that emphasizes humanitarian interventionism or the neoconservative version that urges using American power to promote American values-provides no escape from the moral pitfalls of statecraft. If anything, it exacerbates them.

Good intentions detached from prudential considerations can easily lead to enormous mischief, both practical and moral. In Somalia, efforts to feed the starving culminated with besieged US forces gunning down women and children. In Kosovo, protecting ethnic Albanians meant collaborating with terrorists and bombing downtown Belgrade. In Iraq, a high-minded crusade to eradicate evil and spread freedom everywhere has yielded torture and prisoner abuse, thousands of noncombatant casualties, and something akin to chaos. Given this do-gooder record of achievement, realism just might deserve a second look....

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Report Warned Bush Team About Intelligence Doubts
WASHINGTON, Nov. 5 — A top member of Al Qaeda in American custody was identified as a likely fabricator months before the Bush administration began to use his statements as the foundation for its claims that Iraq trained Al Qaeda members to use biological and chemical weapons, according to newly declassified portions of a Defense Intelligence Agency document.

The document, an intelligence report from February 2002, said it was probable that the prisoner, Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, “was intentionally misleading the debriefers’’ in making claims about Iraqi support for Al Qaeda’s work with illicit weapons.

The document provides the earliest and strongest indication of doubts voiced by American intelligence agencies about Mr. Libi’s credibility. Without mentioning him by name, President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Colin L. Powell, then secretary of state, and other administration officials repeatedly cited Mr. Libi’s information as “credible’’ evidence that Iraq was training Al 8Qaeda members in the use of explosives and illicit weapons.

Among the first and most prominent assertions was one by Mr. Bush, who said in a major speech in Cincinnati in October 2002 that “we’ve learned that Iraq has trained Al Qaeda members in bomb making and poisons and gases.’’ ...

...Mr. Libi, who was captured in Pakistan at the end of 2001, recanted his claims in January 2004. That prompted the C.I.A., a month later, to recall all intelligence reports based on his statements, a fact recorded in a footnote to the report issued by the Sept. 11 commission.

Mr. Libi was not alone among intelligence sources later determined to have been fabricating accounts. Among others, an Iraqi exile whose code name was Curveball was the primary source for what proved to be false information about Iraq and mobile biological weapons labs. And American military officials cultivated ties with Ahmad Chalabi, the head of the Iraqi National Congress, an exile group, who has been accused of feeding the Pentagon misleading information in urging war.

The report issued by the Senate intelligence committee in July 2004 questioned whether some versions of intelligence report prepared by the C.I.A. in late 2002 and early 2003 raised sufficient questions about the reliability of Mr. Libi’s claims.

But neither that report nor another issued by the Sept. 11 commission made any reference to the existence of the earlier and more skeptical 2002 report by the D.I.A., which supplies intelligence to military commanders and national security policy makers. ...

Writers jailed in 2002 for political satire
After three years at Guantanamo, Afghan writers found to be no threat to United States

PESHAWAR, Pakistan -- Badr Zaman Badr and his brother Abdurrahim Muslim Dost relish writing a good joke that jabs a corrupt politician or distills the sufferings of fellow Afghans. Badr admires the political satires in "The Canterbury Tales" and "Gulliver's Travels," and Dost wrote some wicked lampoons in the 1990s, accusing Afghan mullahs of growing rich while preaching and organizing jihad. So in 2002, when the U.S. military shackled the writers and flew them to Guantanamo among prisoners whom Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld declared "the worst of the worst" violent terrorists, the brothers found life imitating farce.

For months, grim interrogators grilled them over a satirical article Dost had written in 1998, when the Clinton administration offered a $5-million reward for Osama bin Laden. Dost responded that Afghans put up 5 million Afghanis -- equivalent to $113 -- for the arrest of President Bill Clinton.

"It was a lampoon ... of the poor Afghan economy" under the Taliban, Badr recalled. The article carefully instructed Afghans how to identify Clinton if they stumbled upon him. "It said he was clean-shaven, had light-colored eyes and he had been seen involved in a scandal with Monica Lewinsky," Badr said.

The interrogators, some flown down from Washington, didn't get the joke, he said. "Again and again, they were asking questions about this article. We had to explain that this was a satire." He paused. "It was really pathetic."

It took the brothers three years to convince the Americans that they posed no threat to Clinton or the United States, and to get released -- a struggle that underscores the enormous odds weighing against innocent foreign Muslims caught in America's military prisons....

Friday, November 04, 2005

Former Powell aide links Cheney's office to abuse directives
Agence France-Presse

WASHINGTON Vice President Dick Cheney's office was responsible for directives that led to U.S. soldiers' abusing prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan, a former top State Department official said Thursday.

Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, former chief of staff to Colin Powell, then the secretary of state, told National Public Radio he had traced a trail of memos and directives authorizing questionable detention practices up through Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's office directly to Cheney's staff.

"The secretary of defense under cover of the vice president's office," Wilkerson said, "regardless of the president having put out this memo" - "they began to authorize procedures within the armed forces that led to what we've seen."

He said the directives contradicted a 2002 order by President George W. Bush for the U.S. military to abide by the Geneva conventions against torture.

"There was a visible audit trail from the vice president's office through the secretary of defense, down to the commanders in the field," authorizing practices that led to the abuse of detainees, Wilkerson said.

The directives were "in carefully couched terms," Wilkerson conceded, but said they had the effect of loosening the reins on U.S. troops, leading to many cases of prisoner abuse, including at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison, that were contrary to the Geneva Conventions.

"If you are a military man, you know that you just don't do these sorts of things," Wilkerson said, because troops will take advantage, or feel so pressured to obtain information that "they have to do what they have to do to get it."

He said that Powell had assigned him to investigate the matter after reports emerged in the media about U.S. troops abusing detainees in Iraq and Afghanistan. Both men had formerly served in the U.S. military.

Wilkerson also called David Addington, the vice president's lawyer, "a staunch advocate of allowing the president in his capacity as commander in chief to deviate from the Geneva Conventions."

On Monday, Cheney promoted Addington to his chief of staff to replace I. Lewis Libby, who has been indicted over the unmasking of a CIA agent.

Wilkerson also told National Public Radio that Cheney's office ran an "alternate national security staff" that spied on and undermined the president's formal National Security Council.

He said National Security Council staff stopped sending e-mails when they found out Cheney's staff members were reading their messages.

He said he believed that Cheney's staff prevented Bush from seeing a National Security Council memo arguing strongly that the United States needed many more troops for the March 2003 invasion and occupation of Iraq....

Return of the Gulag
The rationalization is always the same. For the security of the homeland, or the fatherland, or whateverland, the government needs the freedom to act with no "interference" or accountability....

...We all have our own reasons for respecting the basic, unalienable rights bestowed on humanity by the Creator. In my case, my spiritual tradition will not allow me to view humanity and human rights along national lines. My love of democracy has taught me that everyone deserves a fair trial of some kind. My God, what if someone is in there by mistake? What if someone grabbed the wrong person? And even if some of those detained are guilty, do we not still bear some responsibility to see that basic human rights are upheld?

Secret prisons, secretive interrogation methods, no accountability, no provisions made for even the most basic of human rights. We treat serial killers better than this. Is this my country, the land that I love? Is this the United States of America, the beacon of hope and freedom and the champion of individual rights?

What the hell is going on here?

DeLay aide's memo betrays the playbook
...Check out what (indicted) DeLay aide Mike Scanlon says here:

"The wackos get their information through the Christian right, Christian radio, mail, the internet and telephone trees," Scanlon wrote in the memo, which was read into the public record at a hearing of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee. "Simply put, we want to bring out the wackos to vote against something and make sure the rest of the public lets the whole thing slip past them."...

Thursday, November 03, 2005

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The number of adults in prison, jail, or on probation or parole reached almost 7 million during 2004, the Department of Justice's Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) announced today. The number has grown by more than 1.6 million adults under correctional authority control since 1995.

The nation's total correctional population was 6,996,500 in 2004, of which 4,151,125 were living in the community on probation; 1,421,911 were in a state or federal prison; 765,355 were living in the community on parole; and 713,990 were in jail, according to the BJS report on probation and parole. At year-end one in every 31 adults were under correctional supervision, which was 3.2 percent of the U.S. adult population. ...

Freedom, 'the default position'
...Q: What's the most important message of your book?

A: That rights are not guaranteed, even though the Constitution says they are. That government will labor mightily to make holes in the Constitution to avoid and evade it. And that a government that breaks its own laws in the act of prosecuting people is not your friend. It doesn't have a happy ending, this book. It's filled with horror stories!

I believe in the natural law, which is that our rights come from our humanity – they don't come from government – and our humanity comes from God. So we have the right to speak freely, to think freely, to travel and to associate -- whether or not it's written down and whether or not the government chooses to protect it, because those are natural rights that no government in a popular democracy can take away.

From that it follows that because the government has to respect those rights, the government itself can't violate them, thus it can't violate its own laws. But the government does break its own laws every day and this book is a catalogue of horror stories in which that occurs.

Q: You've described yourself as "a born-again individualist." What's that mean?

A: That means because individuals have immortal souls and the state does not, the individual is greater than the state. That means individual rights are guaranteed and can not be taken away by the legislative or executive branch, but only by a jury after an individual has been convicted of a crime. That also means to means that that government is best that governs least. That the Constitution means what it says.

But the default position is freedom. We are born in the state of freedom. Our natural yearnings and urgings are for freedom. It's natural and integral to all of us. Government is the negation of freedom. Therefore, government must be minimal, minimum, precise and certain. Not a government that thinks it can tax and regulate any aspect of our lives. ...

...Q: How did you come by these "radical" ideas?

A: After about a year and a half on the bench of trying criminal cases, I began to see that the Constitution does not mean what it says to the government. And that every single government lawyer who came before me, whether it was jaywalking or murder and everything in between, seemed to be spending all their time justifying ways around the Constitution, trying to pull the wool over my eyes, and claim that the things that the police did that were so obviously and patently illegal and unconstitutional were in fact condoned by higher courts.

I began to look at government not as the protector and preserver of the constitution, but only as advancing the careers of those in the government. Everyone who works in the government, from the president to a janitor, from the governor to a school teacher, takes the same oath: it's to preserve the Constitution and the rights guaranteed in it. It's not for victory in the courtroom. It's not for convicting the bad guys. It's for preserving the Constitution. I just did not see this in the hundreds, probably thousands of government lawyers that appeared me. It actually caused me to revisit some of the verities that I had accepted since I was a child.

Q: Such as?

A: Respect for authority. I now think all authority – I'm not talking about my bosses at Fox. I love them dearly. I'm talking about governmental authority – should be challenged, should be questioned. Because government is the negation of freedom, when it does anything, it shouldn't be presumed valid. It should be presumed invalid. It should have to justify its taking away of freedom in a constitutional context, rather than the challenger having to prove that its behavior is unconstitutional. ...

Who Is 'We'?
One of the beliefs that most distinguished the fascists, Nazis, and communists of the 20th century was their organic view of society. Proponents of all three ideologies thought of society as an organism – and of each of you, dear readers, as simply a cell in some part of the organism. And just as our cells have no importance outside their ability to serve our whole body, in the aforementioned three ideologies, our whole beings had no importance aside from their ability to serve the whole society. So, of what value was the individual? He was simply a tool for the ends of others, none of whom have importance either because they, also, were tools. And if society was an organism, then it made sense for the head to run things, right? Government was thought to be the head. And, of course, because there were many people within government, the true head was leader of the government – Mussolini, Hitler, and Lenin or Stalin.

Why is all this relevant to an article by "The Wartime Economist?" Because the organic view of society, though hostile to the basic principles of individual rights on which the United States of America were founded (I use "were" on purpose; "states" is plural) has crept into our language and has distorted much thinking on the issues of the day, including war. It is particularly important in discussions of war because people are more likely to fall into the trap of seeing war as a conflict between two organisms rather than what it is, a conflict between two governments that, in most cases, have dragooned their countries' resources with little or no consent from their citizens. So, for example, most people who discuss U.S. foreign policy, including, distressingly, most libertarians, talk about what "we" did when it was, in fact, not you or I, but specific government officials, who took the actions they're describing....

...Collectivism is the ugliest ideology in the world. It has been directly responsible for well over 100 million deaths in the 20th century. Let's do our part by not participating in it, even – maybe especially – in our language. The only hope we have for a peaceful world is to hold guilty people responsible for their actions and to treat the innocent people in all countries as innocent. Let's quit talking about governments whose horrific actions we detest as "we."

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Religious Right Quiet on Libby Indictment
...Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, issued a public call for Clinton to resign and for his congregation, Immanuel Baptist Church in Little Rock, Ark., to exercise church discipline as mandated by Scripture.

In one article Mohler criticized "Bill's Baptist buddies," religious-left activists that a Newsweek article said enabled Clinton's lack of personal responsibility. The article "goes far in explaining the president's twisted moral worldview," Mohler wrote. "But it also serves as an indictment of the generation of liberal Baptist leaders who served as Bill Clinton's moral advisers, and are now his enablers in a lifestyle of gross immorality."

Neither Patterson, Land nor Mohler has commented publicly on Libby, the first sitting White House staffer to be indicted in 135 years, though Land has reportedly been in recent contact with Rove discussing the president's Supreme Court nominees.

"The religious right is wrong to remain silent about the evil spirit that infects the White House, causing senior administration officials to smear a man who challenged the primary justification for the preemptive war against Iraq and to lie repeatedly about what they did," said Robert Parham of the Baptist Center for Ethics.

"The religious right demonstrates yet again that they are court prophets—prophets that do what the king wants and not what God requires," Parham said. "The biblical witness clearly identifies such prophets as false prophets. True prophets would speak forcefully to the White House about doing the right thing, instead of hiding behind legal arguments."

An Apology In Amsterdam
...But while this influx of Africans, Asians and Middle Easterners is helping to revitalize Dutch churches, the influence of some Americans has not had the same effect. I was shocked and embarrassed to learn that charismatic evangelists from the United States have earned a dubious reputation on the other side of the Atlantic.

During a one-day summit of pastors and church planters held in Amsterdam last Saturday, I discovered that several high-profile Christian speakers have worn out their welcome because of questionable financial practices and inappropriate demands.

One of Holland’s most respected charismatic pastors, Stanley Hofwijks, says some American ministers are no longer welcome in his country. Hofwijks’ 2,500-member Maranatha Ministries Church is predominantly Surinamese and is one of the largest congregations in Holland.

“These pastors come here and insist that they must take their own offerings,” Hofwijks told me. “Then they get up in the pulpit and tell the people that if they will give $1,000 each, all will be well and they will be blessed.”

Weary of what he considers financial manipulation, Hofwijks now has a new policy: If a visiting minister insists on taking his own offering, he is not welcome to preach.

Christian businessman and conference organizer Arie Templeman has many horror stories to tell about his dealings with American preachers. Their behavior outside the pulpit, he said, is as disturbing as some of their questionable public demands for donations.

Some visiting preachers insisted on pricey hotel rooms—including, on one occasion, a $10,000-a-night penthouse. Others made rude demands of hotel staff.

“Many Dutch people look up to these men because they see them on Christian television,” Templeman said. “If they knew what went on behind the scenes they would lose all respect for them.”

On one occasion an American preacher who was speaking at a Dutch conference was asked if he could come to another city and address a group of pastors. Said Templeman: “[The evangelist] asked how much he would be paid for the ministry session. When he was told he would receive $1,000, he looked down at his shoes and said: ‘One of my shoes costs more than that. I will not go.’”

Hofwijks’ biggest concern is that American arrogance is infecting some younger Dutch leaders. “They want to be like the preachers on American television,” the pastor said. “They are focused on a superstar mentality. It’s very negative for our country because they fall and many people fall with them.”...

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Southern Baptists Deny Water Donated by Beer Company to Hurricane Victims
Matthew 10:42 says, "If anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward." But Hurricane Wilma victims at one relief station in Florida reportedly had to drive three miles to get drinking water, because Southern Baptist volunteers serving hot meals refused to give away cans of water donated by Anheuser-Busch.

NBC-2 News in Fort Myers, Fla., reported that water sat all day at a feeding station Clewiston, Fla., because of the Southern Baptists' religious objections to alcohol. The water was expected to be handed out by Red Cross volunteers in other locations....

...That water donated by Anheuser-Busch comes in white cans labeled in blue "Drinking Water, Not for Sale." They carry the Anheuser-Busch eagle logo and a note they are donated by the brewer, but do not resemble the familiar Budweiser or Bud Light labels used to advertise beer on television and in sporting venues.

Southern Baptists have traditionally opposed the use of alcohol. A recent study, however, found that just more than half of Baptist ministers surveyed in North Carolina viewed the Bible as teaching that all use of alcohol is wrong and one in three said moderate use of alcohol is OK, but not becoming drunk.

GuideStone Financial Resources, which provides retirement, insurance and investment services for Baptist ministers, doesn't invest in what it calls "sin stocks," companies that are publicly recognized as being involved with alcohol, gambling, pornography and abortion.

It does, however, maintain holdings in companies such as Carnival Cruise Lines, which advertises cruises featuring gambling casinos and alcohol sales.