Wednesday, April 13, 2005
Tuesday, April 12, 2005
"The Fellowship" is a loosely defined, sometimes denied, group of evangelical Christians who hold positions of power around the world. Its membership runs the gamut from our own Senator Brownback to Yoweri Museveni, the President of Uganda . Began in 1942 by a Methodist minister from Seattle, it has an annual operating budget of at least $10 million and in addition to the C Street Center also owns a mansion known as "The Cedars" in Arlington VA.
The Fellowship has been described in many way by different people. According to David Coe, the organization's current president:
...the group's mission is to create a worldwide "family of friends" by spreading the words of Jesus to those in power. He believes that people of every religion--including Muslims, Jews and Hindus--are swayed by Jesus. If he can change leaders' hearts, he said, then the benefits will flow naturally to the oppressed and underprivileged.The Fellowship has played a background role in a few high profile success. A LA Times article describes:
Democratic Republic of Congo President Kabila and Rwandan President Kagame privately met for about an hour in the living room on the first floor of Cedars. It was the first time the two warring leaders had met face to face.
"It was an important meeting," said Richard Sezibera, Rwanda's ambassador to the U.S. In the months that followed, members of the Fellowship reached out to both leaders, visiting them in Africa. The two men finally signed a peace accord in July in a deal brokered by the president of South Africa--a move that could be an important step toward peace.
In addition to bringing together leaders here in the United States, members of The Fellowship have brought their theology with them on officially sanctioned congressional trips. The same LA times article explains:
In January, Reps. Frank R. Wolf (R-Va.), Tony P. Hall (D-Ohio) and Joseph R. Pitts (R-Pa.) traveled to Afghanistan and Pakistan on a fact-finding congressional trip, meeting with the leaders of both Muslim countries. But the men, all members of the Fellowship, discussed more than U.S. policy.
"The first thing we did when we met with [Afghan] President [Hamid] Karzai and President [Pervez] Musharraf was to say, 'We're here officially representing the Congress; we'll report back to the speaker, our leaders, our committees, our government. But we're here also because we're best friends.... We're members of the same prayer group,' " Pitts recalled...
"We meet every week together around the teachings of Jesus and we pray together," he said. "We told them about the National Prayer Breakfast and we invited them to join us."
Remember, this was a taxpayer financed trip and the first thing the Representatives did when visiting the foreign presidents was to talk about Jesus?
The Fellowship has also invited some controversial figures to the States. The LA times article continues:
Among them are former Salvadoran Gen. Carlos Eugenio Vides Casanova, who in July was found liable by a civil jury in Florida for the torture of thousands of civilians in the 1980s. He was invited to the 1984 prayer breakfast, along with Gen. Gustavo Alvarez Martinez, then the head of the Honduran armed forces. Alvarez, later linked to the CIA and a secret death squad, became an evangelical missionary before he was assassinated in 1989.Not exactly people who would seem to uphold the tenets of the Christian faith. I wish someone would ask Brownback why he accepts charity from an organization that sponsors war criminals.
As you can tell from my citations, there are not many articles about the organization. The breakthrough article was written by Lisa Getter of the LA times in September of 2002. The other article of merit is Jeffrey Sharlet's piece in Harper's Magazine. It is especially interesting because he lived with a group of young men who took care of The Cedars and experienced the group dynamic first hand.
While it appears creepy, The Fellowship may be harmless. I don' t know enough, and it seams no one knows enough, to determine whether it crosses the church-state boundary. Therein lies the problem. The secrecy surrounding the organization is troubling. All of the congressmen who live at the C Street Center should have to answer questions about their involvement in The Fellowship. If it is innocuous then they should have nothing to hide.
Monday, April 11, 2005
Science Advisor == Wingnut Ph.D
Thanks to a tip from Plutonium Page over at DailyKos I looked into Senator Brownback's science advisor, a Dr. David Prentice. He has a Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the University of Kansas and was a Professor of Life Sciences at Indiana State University. Pretty impressive credentials.
These days, Dr. Prentice is a Senior Fellow for Life Sciences at the Family Research Council. It is a sad day in America when I automatically assume that anything with "family" as a prominent part of their name is a wingnut organization, but in this case it is true.
The Family Research Council is, well, I'll let them explain:
The Family Research Council (FRC) champions marriage and family as the foundation of civilization, the seedbed of virtue, and the wellspring of society. FRC shapes public debate and formulates public policy that values human life and upholds the institutions of marriage and the family. Believing that God is the author of life, liberty, and the family, FRC promotes the Judeo-Christian worldview as the basis for a just, free, and stable society.Now doesn't that sound like a rational, scientific mission? A "Judeo-Christian Worldview"? It doesn't exactly sound objective. What is a scientist trained in biochemistry doing working for the Family Research Council? It appears that he is trotted out like a mustachioed show pony every time there is debate on stem cell research to claim that although we don't know all of the possible benefits of embryonic stem cells, we certainly should not study them.
So just remember that Senator Brownback's science advisor works for an organization that is fighting to protect the "wellspring of society".
All I have to say is "Keep your hands off my seedbed!"
Sunday, April 10, 2005
Tango With Death
Brownback's support of the death penalty goes way back to his days in the House of Representatives. In 1995 he voted yes on HR 729 which made it harder for persons convicted in State Court and given the death penalty to get a hearing in Federal Court on constitutional grounds. In 1996 he voted no on an amendment to HR 2703 which was trying to strengthen the right for a person given the death penalty in state court to appeal to a federal court.
His pro-death penalty pedigree has been well established for a long time and was not generally considered something that was likely to change. Then on Sunday a San Francisco Chronicle article reveals that 'ole Sam may be moderating his tone. From the article:
"If we're trying to establish a culture of life, it's difficult to have the state sponsoring executions," he told U.S. News & World Report this month. He also suggested that taxpayer funding for abortions and capital punishment should be eliminated.Is this a part of the moderation that so many presidential hopefuls go through? Perhaps he is worried that his constituents will begin to see the hypocrisy in supporting the death penalty while giving lip service to the "culture of life."
The key here is to not let Brownback get away with a giant "flip flop." No news story about Brownback and the death penalty should be without prominent mention that he sung a different tune before becoming a presidential hopeful. Voters hate panderers almost as much as they hate hypocrites.
Friday, April 08, 2005
Smarminess in Sudan
Even on his pet project of Sudan Brownback is a hypocrite. He uses this issue just like he uses so many other issues. This morning on C-SPAN's Washington journal Senators Brownback and Corzine were taking questions from the phones. His answer on one of the questions infuriated me.
The woman caller commented that last year when the genocide in Sudan finally started receiving international exposure the Senate spent three weeks debating gay marriage. She asked Brownback where his priorities are. An excellent question which pits one side of him against the other.
Brownback started his response by saying that 18 states have voted on this issue and the reason it is being brought up is that people think it is an important issue. He then goes on to spout some of his normal drivel about how children are best raised by two, heterosexual parents. Interesting to note that he said nothing about "loving parents." Their sexuality is all that is important. Beat your kids if you want, just don't be queer.
But I digress. He finished up his answer by saying:
We know in government that if you can get the basic [family] right you can move forward on a lot of other issues. If you get the basics wrong it's like football; blocking and tackling. If you get those wrong, you can't do a whole lot else. And that is why those issues are discussed. I realize people look at different priorities in different ways, but I think a lot of people around would consider that, would consider the discussion on Terri Schiavo and this issue and debate over quality of life being sacred per se is a monumental one. That you had a case study on and discussion in this country.
Excuse me. I think the 3000 people dying every day in Sudan would consider their quality of life a bit diminished. And thanks for reducing the 180,000 deaths in the Sudan to a political football game. He is all too willing to prioritize his hate of homosexuals over the deaths of Africans.
So blocking and tackling huh? I suppose the homosexual menace is killing 3000 innocent civilians every day right here in the US. It was so urgent that is needed to be debated for three weeks, and then not do a damn thing. Thank godness we headed off the impending disaster in the U.S. with our decisive inaction.
But hey, it's not like we are the richest, most powerful nation in the world. Besides, we obviously are in an isolationist paradigm. No way we are sending troops to another country. We certainly have our own moral crusades to fight here at home. Generalismo Brownback, lead the way.
[Note: This post was originally written yesterday, 4-8-2005, but not posted until today as a result of an unfortunate series of computer problems.]
Wednesday, April 06, 2005
An Amendment Hangover
Tuesday, April 05, 2005
I received an e-mail that said Brownback was not actually speaking at the event, nor attending it. The e-mail said that Brownback's office led them on for weeks and then turned them down at the last minute.
Ever the intrepid net-journalist I called Brownback's DC office for clarification. Had Brownback backed out of the event at the last moment? I spoke to Brownback's scheduler who said Brownback turned the conference down weeks ago. She said that the conference advertised using Brownback's name even before initially asking if he would attend. She further informed me that he would be in session and immediately following he would be flying back to Kansas.
So while I was salivating at the thought of ripping into Brownback for attending this conference, unfortunately it is not meant to be. Is this another sign of the GOP backing away from Crazy Delay and his Judiciary-lynching posse? Delay is the keynote speaker at the conference. Do note that Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist today moderated his voice on the judiciary:
"I believe we have a fair and independent judiciary today," said Frist, now trying to resolve a battle with Democrats over judicial nominations that threatens to tie his chamber into knots. "I respect that."Perhaps the wide-eyed and drooling maniacal face of Delay is starting to worry GOP leaders. For my part, I hope they line up behind Delay like kindergartners on the way to a bathroom break.
UPDATE 10:47pm CST
Courtesy of AmericaBlog comes news that Delay has pulled out of the conference. He is attending the Papal Funeral instead. Apparently during the same update of the site they took off Brownback's name as well. On AmericaBlog's cached copy Brownback's name is clearly visible but a check of the current site shows it has been scrubbed.
While Delay has the Papal funeral as an excuse, Brownback was apparently snubbed by Frist and not invited to come with the US delegation. Interesting considering Brownback is about as Catholic as a lay-person can get. His ties to Opus Dei are well publicized.
Monday, April 04, 2005
The Twisted Tale of Chalabi and Brownback
While Chalabi was making inroads with the US intelligence community, Brownback was sitting on the powerful Senate Foreign Relations committee. He repeatedly called Chalabi to testify to the mounting dangers of Saddam and WMDs. An article in the LA Times from April 8th 2003 illustrates how Brownback felt about Chalabi:
"I worked with him for a good five years. He is the only guy I've seen that is able to organize the Iraqi opposition and hold them together," said Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. "He's bright and tireless and he really works at holding the big principles together."
In 1998 Brownback co-sponsored The Iraqi Liberation Act which gave 3 million dollars to Chalabi's INC for the purpose of weakening Saddam's regime. While he was supporting the INC, he acknowledged they were not a perfect solution. In a January 3rd, 1999 New York Times article Brownback describes the INC by saying, "Every one of them has warts."
During the ensuing war, Brownback complained that there was not enough of an "Iraqi face" on the operation. He went on to complain how the INC was not given the respect it deserved. Shortly after Chalabi was playing a key role in the reconstruction of Iraq.
We all know what has happened to Chalabi lately. He was accused of espionage and collaboration with the Iranians. He continues to deny that he passed cryptographic secrets to Iran. Brownback has never had to answer for his role in bringing credibility to Chalabi and aiding him in his deception of the west. In a Wichita Eagle article on October 23rd 2004 Brownback claims he has not spoken to Chalabi in "months."
An excellent overview of the Chalabi - Brownback connection was written by Pitch Magazine in Kansas City. I would suggest this as a starting point. The wikipedia entry for Chalabi also gives good background information on the man and his deceptions.
Sunday, April 03, 2005
Cornerstone Policy Research and Karen Testerman
This seems pretty standard. Cornerstone is one of many rabid conservative groups that thrive off of anti-gay and anti-choice legislation. Their website contains position papers with far right ideas on everything from gays in the military to school vouchers. They lobby the NH state legislature to further their ideals.
The interesting parts came when researching Karen Testerman, the executive director of Cornerstone Policy Research. She has been involved in NH conservative politics for more than a few years. In 2003 Gov. Craig Benson nominated her to the state's Commission on the Status of Women. This set off a firestorm of protest centered around her comments made on NH public radio. According to an Associated Press article on Oct 8, 2003, she compared "gays and lesbians with 'shoplifters and drug addicts.'" Testerman was eventually denied the post in a 3-2 vote by the executive council.
In addition to being rabidly anti-gay, she also has some unusual ideas about abstinence education. The fact that she supports abstinence only education should not come as a surprise. What is downright weird is her belief that holding hands leads to pre-marital sex and STDs. I kid you not. From the Concord Monitor on April 2, 2003:
A state committee advocating abstinence education is recommending that a "just say no" to sex message should be spread via community programs, according to a draft of its final report. During a meeting yesterday, the group also vowed to support programs that promote the social skills necessary to help young people avoid premarital sex.
"Holding hands is the first step," said Karen Testerman, a committee member, "you're not even supposed to do that if you can avoid it."
I couldn't make this stuff up if I tried. Wingnuttery at its best. So while you will probably never hear of the Cornerstone Research Institute again, remember the type of people who are shilling for Brownback. His new Campaign Slogan: Hands Off -- Brownback in 08.
Saturday, April 02, 2005
Brownback Seeks to Destroy Sanctity of Marriage
Brownback, a Republican with close ties to the party's social conservative base, said he hoped that in the aftermath of the Schiavo case, states would pass laws making it illegal to withhold food and hydration unless the person authorized otherwise in a living will.
But if states do not take action, Brownback said, he is open to sponsoring legislation that would require it.
Senator Brownback of 2005, meet Senator Brownback of 2003:
In response to those who are trying to destroy the legal status of marriage, a constitutional response is necessary... We must all work to protect marriage and the family, which comprises the fabric of our societyUtter hypocrisy from a politician who epitomizes the word. Apparently he only agrees with the rights of marriage when they are used in a manner that he approves.
Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS) accepted $17,000 in contributions from corporations and executives who profit from pornography... Sen. Brownback held a hearing on pornography addiction in November, 2004. After hearing testimony from experts about how porn affects the brain, Sen. Brownback said, [i]t is the crack cocaine of sexual addiction and its pervasiveness affects our families. In early 2005, Sen. Brownback praised U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales when he announced he would appeal the dismissal of federal criminal indictments against a California pornography producer, stating [t]he Justice Departments decision indicates a renewed effort to go against purveyors of pornography, whose products are so damaging to our culture, our families, and our nation.The importance of this is twofold.
1. Brownback's most ardent supporters are fundamental Christians. His comments and hearings against porn are specifically designed to play to this base. The fact that Brownback accepts funding from pornography purveyors can serve to plant seeds of doubt about Brownback's true feelings. People do not like a pandering corporate politician, and the more his ties to corporate porn are discussed the better.
2. If there is one thing the voting publics dislikes more than a pandering corporate politician it is a hypocrite. This whole affair reeks with the fresh dollar bill scent of hypocrisy. This flies in the face of the image that Brownback has of a "straight shooter" and a moral, Christian man. This is, in my opinion, the most important angle of this story. Far be it from me to condemn pornography. The discussion of morality is for a different place and time. However anyone feels about the business, the hypocrisy is what is important.
Thursday, March 31, 2005
Impetus for Anti-Sam
When I saw this, I knew I needed to act. I have put up with having a right-wing kook for a Senator. In Kansas that is a given these days. I do not want to foist that burden upon the country. In the following posts I will examine Brownback's key issues. While the average reality-based reader could easily deconstruct the information for themselves, I want to put specific emphasis on soundbite sized arguments. He is a nutjob, the trick is exposing his nutjobbedness.
"I have met with a number of social conservatives and conservative leaders in Iowa and I'm exploring the options," Brownback said. "There's a lot of interest in the topics that I've been pushing for some time."
Brownback, one of a dozen or so ambitious candidates already warming up for the next round of presidential contests more than two years away, has visited Iowa to meet with prominent Republicans and see if he can connect with voters in informal settings, according to supporters.
He also is making inroads in New Hampshire, where he will be a keynote speaker at Cornerstone Policy Research's April 16 award ceremony honoring lawmakers the family advocacy group supports.
In addition to the posts on policy issues, this blog will also serve to collect and analyze current news involving the Senator. This includes votes in congress as well as news stories in the press.