AF&Opourri

A lot of this compendium of noteworthy news items is my attempt to play catch-up. Having been consumed by other matters, reporting many of these stories had to be backburnered for a bit. No worries, though, these are assuredly worth your notice.

Among the news: the so-called American Taliban’s dad speaks, the Episcopal Church considers a move that could push the antigay Anglican Communion closer to a split, Canadian Catholic priests speak out against church homophobia, does the Bush Administration consider lefty bloggers terrorists?, Internet activists warn against a risky new Google product and America’s “most trusted” journalist condemns the nation’s War on (Some) Drugs (and a Plant). Follow the link below and play catch-up with me. ‘Tis good stuff, I swear.


“American Taliban” Revisited: Over the past four years, we heard a lot – most of it damning and judgmental – about John Walker Lindh, the so-called American Taliban. In his first extended public statement regarding his son, a Jan. 19 speech before the Commonwealth Club of California, Frank Lindh tells a chilling, cautionary tale of a young man who, his father insists, did not have a prayer of getting fair treatment from a system focused on fear, bigotry and vengeance.

In simple terms, this is the story of a decent and honorable young man, embarked on a spiritual quest, who became the focus of the grief and anger of an entire nation over an event in which he had no part. I refer to the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001. The reason I think this story is important is because our system broke down in the case of John Lindh. My goals today are first, just to tell you the story of John Lindh. Second, to ask you to reflect, based on the fact of John’s case, on the importance and the fragility of the rights we enjoy under our Constitution. And my third point is to suggest that the so-called war on terrorism lacks a hearts and minds component.

Do check it out; this is necessary reading for those who expect the US government to treat suspects humanely and fairly.

Another Gay Bishop?: The Episcopal Church USA may be courting denominational difficulties again. Its parent denomination, the worldwide Anglican Communion, sits on the brink of schism because the American church elected its first non-celibate, openly gay bishop in 2004, a move that has many anti-GLBT Anglican dioceses spitting mad. Now, two more openly gay clerics are among five candidates being considered for the position of bishop of the Diocese of California: the Very Rev. Robert Taylor, dean of St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral on Capitol Hill, and the Rev. Bonnie Perry, rector of All Saints’ Church in Chicago. Though both appear to be extremely qualified for the post, the mere fact of their consideration is causing consternation to the foes of equality within the denomination.

“If California elects a non-celibate homosexual, it will set off a firestorm: It is an action that would show contempt for what it is like to be part of a global religious family,” Cynthia Brust, communications director with the American Anglican Council, told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. The AAC opposes the consecration of gay bishops, in accordance with the Windsor Report, a document issued by Anglican leaders that urged a moratorium on gay marriage rites and electing non-hetereosexual bishops.

The election for the new bishop will take place May 6. The bishop-elect is to be confirmed at the denomination’s national convention in June. May the church choose the best candidate without respect to his or her sexual orientation or denominational politics.

Oh, Canada!: Let’s hear it for the brave Quebec priests standing against the Roman Catholic Church’s anti-GLBT reforms.

From the Advocate:

In the strongest internal opposition yet to the Catholic Church’s official stance on homosexuality, 19 Canadian priests publicly criticized the Vatican’s new ban on gay clergy. In their open letter published in the Montreal newspaper La Presse this weekend, the priests also condemned the Church’s view that being gay is a “disorder,” and requested a new dialogue on the issue among clergy in Quebec, reports The Gazette in Montreal.

“There is no reason for the ban on homosexual men from entering the priesthood,” Raymond Gravel, a priest from Joliette who signed the letter, told The Gazette. He said that the Vatican’s invocation of “natural law” to support its antigay position was not legitimate, because the Church has been wrong on issues related to “the mysteries of life” before, as it is now.

The priest added that the Church was contributing to homophobia with its views, and that he and his fellow signatories could no longer stay silent about it.

Viva courage!

The open letter responds to the recent Vatican directive forbidding gays from entering the priesthood and the anti-marriage equality position announced by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops. So far, the Vatican and the Conference have been publicly silent on the matter.

Bushies Tag Bloggers as “Terrorists”?: Not a surprise, but once again it appears that the exercise of First Amendment rights is something guaranteed only to those that agree with Bush Administration actions and policies.

The blog Patriot Daily opines that the game should put bloggers from the US and abroad on notice:

Homeland Security completed its “Cyber Storm” wargame to test how our government “would respond to devastating attacks over the Internet from anti-globalization activists, underground hackers and bloggers.” Given that homeland security ran the “wargame,” one may infer that the nature of the attacks by bloggers must be national security related. And, given that the major national security fear of our government is terrorists, then it looks like bloggers have made our government’s hit list of potential terrorists. But, what is the nature of this “terrorist crime” that was the subject of these wargames?

“Participants confirmed parts of the worldwide simulation challenged government officials and industry executives to respond to deliberate misinformation campaigns and activist calls by Internet bloggers, online diarists whose “Web logs” include political rantings and musings about current events.”

There are other indications that the Bush administration deems bloggers well within the reach of any definition of terrorist, if for no other reason than the crime of dissent and criticism. There are also indicators that relevant parties would be somewhat prepared to assist in the nabbing of terrorist bloggers…

Yeah, I’m worried, but will I shut up?

No way in hell.

(Tip o’ the baseball cap to My Left Wing for the pointer.)

Beware the New Google Desktop: The Electronic Frontier Foundation is alerting ‘Netizens about the new Google Desktop software. According to EFF, the product increases risks to consumer privacy because of a new “Search Across Computers” feature that stores on Google servers copies of users’ Word documents, PDFs, spreadsheets and other text-based documents on Google’s own servers and allows them to be searched, ahem, across any of a user’s computers. That may be a convenience, but it may also make one vulnerable to government subpoenas and hackers.

“Coming on the heels of serious consumer concern about government snooping into Google’s search logs, it’s shocking that Google expects its users to now trust it with the contents of their personal computers,” said EFF Staff Attorney Kevin Bankston. “If you use the Search Across Computers feature and don’t configure Google Desktop very carefully – and most people won’t – Google will have copies of your tax returns, love letters, business records, financial and medical files, and whatever other text-based documents the Desktop software can index. The government could then demand these personal files with only a subpoena rather than the search warrant it would need to seize the same things from your home or business, and in many cases you wouldn’t even be notified in time to challenge it. Other litigants – your spouse, your business partners or rivals, whoever – could also try to cut out the middleman (you) and subpoena Google for your files.”

Consider yourself warned.

Cronkite Slams War on (Some) Drugs (and a Plant): God, I love Walter Cronkite. The veteran journalist known as America’s most trusted man is speaking out in very clear terms against what he calls the US’s “failed” War on Drugs.

On Feb. 23, Cronkite sent out a written appeal to more than 100,000 people urging US officials to end its drug war and calling on Americans to support the work of the Drug Policy Alliance.

“Today, our nation is fighting two wars: one abroad and one at home,” Cronkite wrote. “While the war in Iraq is in the headlines, the other war is still being fought on our own streets. Its causalities are the wasted lives of our own citizens. I am speaking of the war on drugs.” …

“And what is the impact of this policy? It surely hasn’t made our streets safer. Instead, we have locked up literally millions of people – disproportionately people of color – who have caused little or no harm to others, wasting resources that could be used for counter-terrorism, reducing violent crime, or catching white-collar criminals.

“With police wielding unprecedented powers to invade privacy, tap phones and conduct searches seemingly at random, our civil liberties are in a very precarious condition,” he added. “Hundreds of billions of dollars have been spent on this effort – with no one held accountable for its failure. …

“Please help the Drug Policy Alliance tell the truth about the war on drugs, and get our nation on the path toward a sensible drug policy.”

The Drug Policy Alliance advocates a host of actions, including legalizing medical marijuana, restoring constitutional protections against unreasonable searches and seizures, redirecting most government drug-control resources from criminal justice and interdiction to public health and education, repealing mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenses and ending incarceration for simple drug possession, decriminalizing recreational marijuana use (but not for distributing it to kids) and ending racially discriminatory drug policies and enforcement measures.

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