Friday, March 28, 2008

The Things You See...

When You're Out Without Your Gun.

Wow. First I don't post for most of a week, and now, every time I want to stop, something else comes up that I just must share....

...here's the latest.

I happened to mention Katherine Harris and googled for a photo of her (which I didn't end up using- I'll save it though, it's a beaut!) and came across this Website...

...this is the kind of thing you have to keep reading just to see if it's a joke...and the kind of thing that makes your blood run cold when you find out...it isn't.

Here is a sample of the latest entry from Rev. Paul T. Hipple:

Since the Earth is not cooling, we can conclude that God the Steward is clearly not concerned in the slightest, and God feels that secular climatologists, led by Al Gore, are acting in an unnecessarily alarming way, which will destroy our Way of Life.

After looking just a bit further, you begin to feel a vague sense of relief...this is satire after all...but then you go all cold again...because it's so close to the truth that you almost CAN'T TELL.

(Cue: Twilight Zone Theme)

For Vermonters Only- Progs, Spin, and Flour- a trip through the Blogosphere

Just doing a little catching up on my blog reading today, and I notice that both Odum at GMD and Philip at VDB have must read posts up. Both, oddly enough, focus on the Progs.

I've been WAY out of town lately, so I missed the the cute little story about how City Hall Progressives have had their little fingers in the Ward 7 ballot box...that is really fun (like lemon juice poured in an open cut- that kind of fun). As Philip points out, there are good reasons to look askance at this from a political standpoint (Progs can occasionally form unholy alliances on the City Council with the GOP to block Democrats)- but even if there is nothing untoward about all this, as City Hall types maintain, there is just something ICKY about the whole thing that stinks like Katherine Harris.

Meanwhile, over at Green Mountain Daily, Odum takes to the Pollina Campaign to school about their lack of ability in the spin game. There probably is nothing wrong about Pollina's business dealings, but it LOOKS shoddy, and that maybe enough to give Governor Jim's attack dogs the edge.... Odum's nifty little piece and the resulting discussion is well worth a read. (Also, I know radio voices, it's my stock in trade, and I think Odum is a natural on VPR- check it out...)

Last but not least, Ann Zucardy has an interesting piece on her "Shortblog"- Ann's blog is one of my favorites, because it combines a certain amount of marketing for her company with a certain amount of general or personal subject matter- and it's an interesting confection (plus, the shortbread is really, really good and fun to send to people- so I don't mind that fact that her blog is, as it is meant to be, a way to market the stuff).

As a baker and a small business owner, Ann writes about the rising cost of food staples (such as flour and butter) and how they are going to herald a price increase. It's not only relevant to every one who eats bread, pizza, or anything else made with flour- but it also raises the question in the hearts of those of us who are dependent on small, entrepreneurial Vermont Businesses for our livings: how much trouble are we about to be in?

Not always fun to read about, but nice to know that a trip around the Vermont Blog-o-sphere can lead to some thought provoking material.

Thanks guys!

God Save England

I have always loved Great Britain from afar. Some of my favorite things are British: Sherlock Holmes, Sir Winston Churchill, Rumpole of the Bailey, Shakespeare, Dickens, Lewis Carrol, Wind in the Willows, James Herriot, and Parliamentary Democracy- just to name a few.

It was with a little trepidation that I found myself preparing to spend a year in England- what if, upon closer inspection, I didn't like the place as much in it's modern form and up close...?

Not to worry. I've found the United Kingdom just as likable close up as she was from a distance, perhaps even more so. This would not be a bad place to call home, in point of fact.

But there is one problem. I can't help but wonder if England has gone senile.

Out at Heathrow, the nation's largest airport, they've just finished building an entirely new terminal. Yesterday, it opened for business for the first time and...


It fizzled. According to a BBC article, severe foul ups on several levels caused multiple back ups that resulted in 34 flight cancellations and a lot of angry people sleeping on the floor of the new 4.3 billion pound terminal.

This is the type of thing that seems all too common here. Personal experiences with hidebound utility bureaucracies (websites that urge you to use the telephone, endlessly looped phone messages that send you back to the website), and repairs that have to be done over and over again because neither material or workmanship seems up to the task the first time, combine with news reports of a dental care system so slow that people are pulling their own teeth rather than waiting, the collapse of a Public Private Partnership which has left parts of London's Underground in financial shambles, and a national rail system that grinds to a halt in autumn because there are leaves on the tracks. All of the above experiences begin to leave the long term visitor wondering if it's time to put the country in a home for the aged.

Personally, I hope not. This is, in many ways, a great country and a fine place to live...but I'm going to keep hoping that they begin to find ways to get their act together....

Besides, it gives me something less personal to worry about when I'm tempted contemplate the idea of Obama and Clinton tearing each other to bits while John McCain sneaks into the back door of the White House....

Good Grief, Gordon Brown.

(London photo by S.Clem)

Monday, March 24, 2008

Reviewing Recent History: Getting The Basic Premise Wrong

A few days ago, I started watching webcasts of the PBS documentary show: Frontline. As we enter the fifth year of war in Iraq, it has been both fascinating and frustrating to review this recent history and perhaps to better understand how we have arrived here.

In addition to the opportunity to watch, or re-watch, these episodes, Frontline provides extended transcripts of the interviews conducted for the program. Consisting of material that often wound up on the cutting room floor, these interviews can provide flashes of insight to those willing to peruse them.

In the Frontline film, "The Dark Side", Collin Powell's former chief of Staff, Lawerence Wilkerson was interviewed. While he spoke on camera about the tense relationship between the "moderates" (like Powell) and the "hawks" (Chaney, Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz)- but one of the most prescient things Wilkenson said is found in his extended interview transcript:

Carl von Clausewitz [says]... that you must make sure you identify the nature of the conflict you're in. You must. That's absolutely essential. If you misidentify that nature, you're not ever going to get back on the right sheet of music.

But from the beginning, Wilkerson implies, mistake the nature of the conflict we were involved in against Al Qaeda. Their impulse was to see it as a new version of the Cold War against the Soviet Union- a struggle which had shaped their careers molded their personalities.

[Cheney, Rumsfeld and others bought the notion] that Al Qaeda has the capability to destroy the United States of America, its institutions, its very being, much as a 20,000-plus nuclear-tipped missile [arsenal] had the capability to had we gone to war with the Soviet Union and everyone unleashed his full panoply of weapons. This is ridiculous. This is utterly ridiculous. It begins marching you down in your decisions this road that is full of dangerous and even inept decisions, because we're not in an existential conflict with Al Qaeda. Al Qaeda doesn't even remotely have the capability to bring the United States down...[T]his is a conflict of ideas; it is not a conflict of bombs, bullets and bayonets. ...

Wilkerson describes a briefing he received from a CIA agent. If Al Qaeda was the top of a pyramid, then, at the base, are ordinary people throughout the Islamic world, who, while they do not personally advocate killing (and especially not the killing of fellow Muslims) nevertheless "went into mosques all around the world and put shekels, dinars, dollars in the second box, knowing full well that the second box was not for charity; it was not for the mosque; it was for Al Qaeda or Al Qaeda-like organizations."

How many people are dropping money in the box, wondered Wilkerson. The answer came back: Between 40 and 100 million people around the world. Those people, Wilkerson says, are:

the center of gravity of this war, and you don't get at the center of gravity by killing it or by killing others. You get at that center of gravity by proving to them your ideas: that democracy is the best form of government; freedom is the best human condition; and market economies, open, free trade is the best way to prosper in those systems of governance; and violence and killing people is antithetical to that. That's how you win that conflict. It's a conflict of ideas. You have to capture the hearts and minds of those people who are putting the shekels, dollars, dinars in that second box in mosques all over the world. You don't do that with bombs, bullets and bayonets.

This is not new, of course, this has been part of the debate (such as it has been) in the United States for a few years...but it is chilling to think back on five years of violence and death- resulting, perhaps in a weakened America, all arising from the acceptance of a false premise about the nature of the conflict in Iraq.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Eloquence is leadership

I wrote this post in response to something on Green Mountain Daily, but it occurred to me that I could post it here as well, since I'm pressed for time today.

There are those who would argue that eloquence, by itself, is mere noise. I do not agree.

There are actually few other acts that a leader in a democratic society can perform that are more important than eloquence.

Lincoln, Jefferson, Franklin Roosevelt, Martin Luther King, are all remembered, first and foremost, for their eloquence.

It is eloquence which is used to engage the people in a dialog and, ultimately, to exhort those same people to action, to inspire hope within them, or to help them change the way they see themselves and the world.

This power can be used for good, or ill. Leaving aside the examples of history's demagogues, like Hitler, who used their eloquence for great evil; we can find other, much less dramatic examples, right here at home, to show the damage that eloquence can do.

Ronald Reagan used eloquence to begin pulling down the social safety nets, government regulation of capital, and to destroy the health of the middle class, that FDR's eloquence had helped to shape.

Even more recently, George W. Bush has used what some have called "plain speaking" to propel this country into a needless war.

His words may have been false, but they were, in their own odd way, eloquent. Eloquent enough to move America to support a massive level of action in Iraq. It is hard to make the argument that Bush's words lacked substance...in fact the deaths of thousands of American soldiers and Iraqi civilians testify to just how brutally substantive they were.

I would suppose that test of true eloquence is the affect it has on those who hear it.

I can speak only for myself, but Barack Obama's speech Tuesday made me feel proud. It reminded me that we have mountainous problems in the United States...but it also reminded me that we have been working to solve those problems from the moment we banded together as a nation. It also reminded me that we have come far, very far, from where we started...and, for the first time in a long time, it made me look forward to the task of going further, of building upon what we have inherited, rather than feeling despair at what we are loosing.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

What A Speech! Obama: A More Perfect Union

I had heard that it was a strong speech. An elderly British man and I chatted about it last night- he had been impressed. A friend from Vermont, active in the Obama Campaign, to whom I expressed concerns about the Wright/Obama issue, emailed me as Obama's talk was being broadcast live: "This speech is incredible on so many levels... I hope you're getting or will get the chance to see it -- not just read it.."

Now, I've heard it for myself, complete, and in it's entirety, thanks to the magic of the internet. It got past the editorial gatekeepers of the sensationalist media, and I was able to judge it for myself. I agree completely with my friend...it was an amazing speech and it lifted my heart. Barack Obama gave the best reasons I've heard in my lifetime to justify my hope for this country, my pride in our history, and the work we have to do to move ourselves to where we would wish to be as a nation.

I urge you to watch the speech in it's entirety...I'll put up a link to the video at the end of this post, but in a world of sound bites, I'll choose a few that stood out for me:

Like other predominantly black churches across the country, Trinity embodies the black community in its entirety - the doctor and the welfare mom, the model student and the former gang-banger... The church contains in full the kindness and cruelty, the fierce intelligence and the shocking ignorance, the struggles and successes, the love and yes, the bitterness and bias that make up the black experience in America.

And this helps explain, perhaps, my relationship with Reverend Wright. As imperfect as he may be, he has been like family to me. He strengthened my faith, officiated my wedding, and baptized my children. Not once in my conversations with him have I heard him talk about any ethnic group in derogatory terms, or treat whites with whom he interacted with anything but courtesy and respect. He contains within him the contradictions - the good and the bad - of the community that he has served diligently for so many years.

I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community.

I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother - a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world, but a woman who... on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe.

These people are part of me. And they are part of America...

Barack Obama spoke of the kind of politics we have been practicing in this country:

We can play Reverend Wright's sermons on every channel, every day and talk about them from now until the election, and make the only question in this campaign whether or not the American people think that I somehow believe or sympathize with his most offensive words. We can pounce on some gaffe by a Hillary supporter as evidence that she's playing the race card, or we can speculate on whether white men will all flock to John McCain in the general election regardless of his policies.

We can do that.

But if we do, I can tell you that in the next election, we'll be talking about some other distraction. And then another one. And then another one. And nothing will change.

And he spoke about the way politics could (and I believe must) be practiced in this country:

Or, at this moment, in this election, we can come together and say, "Not this time."

This time we want to talk about the crumbling schools that are stealing the future of black children and white children and Asian children and Hispanic children and Native American children.

This time we want to reject the cynicism that tells us that these kids can't learn; that those kids who don't look like us are somebody else's problem. The children of America are not those kids, they are our kids, and we will not let them fall behind in a 21st century economy. Not this time.

This time we want to talk about how the lines in the Emergency Room are filled with whites and blacks and Hispanics who do not have health care; who don't have the power on their own to overcome the special interests in Washington, but who can take them on if we do it together.

This time we want to talk about the shuttered mills that once provided a decent life for men and women of every race, and the homes for sale that once belonged to Americans from every religion, every region, every walk of life.

This time we want to talk about the fact that the real problem is not that someone who doesn't look like you might take your job; it's that the corporation you work for will ship it overseas for nothing more than a profit.

This time we want to talk about the men and women of every color and creed who serve together, and fight together, and bleed together under the same proud flag. We want to talk about how to bring them home from a war that never should have been authorized and never should have been waged, and we want to talk about how we'll show our patriotism by caring for them, and their families, and giving them the benefits they have earned.

I would not be running for President if I didn't believe with all my heart that this is what the vast majority of Americans want for this country. This union may never be perfect, but generation after generation has shown that it can always be perfected.

Senator Obama spoke about the anger of Black Americans trapped by a past they did not make.

And he spoke of the Anger of White Americans are are tired of being blamed for an evil which they have not personally committed.

Their experience is the immigrant experience - as far as they're concerned, no one's handed them anything, they've built it from scratch. They've worked hard all their lives, many times only to see their jobs shipped overseas or their pension dumped after a lifetime of labor. They are anxious about their futures, and feel their dreams slipping away; in an era of stagnant wages and global competition, opportunity comes to be seen as a zero sum game, in which your dreams come at my expense.

He spoke of the anger on all sides of those who know that they are not reaping the just rewards of their hard work and he spoke of the dangers of allowing our anger at other Americans to keep us from joining together, as Americans, to overcome our shared problems.

"The path to a more perfect union," Barack Obama said, "requires all Americans to realize that your dreams do not have to come at the expense of my dreams; that investing in the health, welfare, and education of black and brown and white children will ultimately help all of America prosper."

Our arrival at a better America will not be simple, nor will it be quick, but it can come. He said:

It is not enough to give health care to the sick, or jobs to the jobless, or education to our children.

But it is where we start. It is where our union grows stronger. And as so many generations have come to realize over the course of the two-hundred and twenty one years since a band of patriots signed that document in Philadelphia, that is where the perfection begins.

It is a great speech, and, for me personally, those are exactly the words that I, and I believe the nation, needs to hear. Not just as damage control for the Wright episode, but because we stand at a juncture in history where, with hard work, and with - to borrow Lincoln's phrase- a dedication to the unfinished work which our ancestors have thus far so nobly advanced, we can continue our forward journey.

Great rhetoric is not not enough, but it is where we start.

I hope you'll watch or read the speech.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Put That Fire Out: Barack Obama and Rev. Jeremiah Wright

I love my grandmother's politics. She is one of the last of a vanishing breed- a White Southern Evangelical Christian who, nevertheless, has stayed passionately true to her New Deal roots and the Democratic party. This, despite having watched her family and her friends become seduced by the empty promises of Reagan, and conned by the false promises of Bush for an easy victory in a war we didn't need to fight.

So, when she told me that she was probably not going to bother vote for President this year...I was alarmed. This, I thought, is not good. Why not, I asked?

And it was then that I heard for the first time about the Barack Obama/Jeremiah Wright controversy.

"It's been all over the news, " she said, "his preacher's been on the news shouting out: 'We don't say God Bless America- We say GOD DAMN AMERICA!'

"Now," my grandmother went on, "Obama says he didn't hear this, he didn't know, and he wasn't there when that preacher said that. But Alex? How can a man be your pastor for twenty years, and you not know what he thinks? How can you be friends with the man, the man preforms your wedding, baptizes your children, and you don't know what he thinks? It's just not possible."

"I can't vote for somebody like that, I can't vote for somebody who hates this country," my grandmother said. "And I can't much stand Hillary either. So I think I'm just going to stay home this year."

Our talk drifted to other subjects, but this stayed with me. Here in secular Europe, it was easy for me to miss the story...but I'm sure that CNN and FOX are having a field day with it at home.

And, before I had a chance to start catching up, I found myself wondering- could I vote for Barack Obama after this? If this were true, that Barack Obama's paster of twenty years could think this way, what inferences would I be justified in drawing about the candidate himself?

The subject of patriotism has always been tricky for those of us who stand anywhere from the center to the left.

On the one hand we feel contempt for the shallow, meaningless displays of patriotism adopted by right-wing charlatans: the cheap "made in China" American Flag lapel pin sported by Bush leaps to mind.

Even more, we truly despise the kind of "patriotism" that is used to cover up, excuse, or rationalize the acts of Abu Ghraib or Guantanamo. These are not the acts of patriots, but of thugs, killers, and villains.

But on the other hand, many of us are still proud of the history of the United States. We know that our country has held out the hope that all of mankind is created equal, and that people have a right to a free and open Government. We look back with pride on our nation's struggles to rid itself of the evils of slavery, we know that we have been constantly redefining and enlarging the definition of what it means to be a participating citizen of our Republic. We can look back with honor at our fight, alongside our gallant allies, against fascism. We can marvel at our ability to overcome those voices who clamored for "America First" and "Isolationism" to engage with the world and to push back, over the course of several decades, the long shadow of the iron curtain- and to do so in a way that did NOT bring about global conflagration.

I'm proud of all of that. I'm proud to be a citizen of a nation that has produced Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, Eleanor Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower, and Martin Luther King Junior.

Our country has engaged in great wrongs, both past and present, but our nation has also consistently worked to redress those same wrongs...and I have no doubt that, if we continue to cherish what we have been at our best, we will continue to find ways to atone for what we have done at our worst.

If we give up on that ideal, however, then we will have nothing left to fight for- there will be no standards to which we can hold ourselves and our leaders accountable.

Reverend Wright seems to have given up on that ideal. He seems to be one of those on the left who seeks to blame America for every evil, both foreign and domestic. While I can share the anger of the Reverend at many of the evils that he points out, I cannot share in his condemnation of the country.

America was, after all, the first nation on the earth to consciously set itself against such evils- evils which have been perpetrated by every society on earth. It is no wonder that we have not been completely successful, this country, is, in many ways, a miracle simply in the fact that it has held together- the fact that it has won so much justice for it's citizens, in spite of history's trends, is all but beyond belief.

Those are my feelings and they run very deep.

But what of Obama? Does he share the opinions of his pastor? If not, then how could he remain in this man's church and not be culpable?

I don't have an answer, and I must admit, my support for Obama is not as strong today as it was before I heard the Reverend Wright's comments.

But, if there is one thing I know, it is "NEVER TRUST A SOUND BITE". The ethics of today's partisan and sensation seeking media will never allow it to give up a good controversy in search of a more complicated and nuanced truth.

So, it pays to dig a little deeper. Fortunately, the tools are at hand...a quick trip to You-Tube showed me another side of Pastor Wright. Here is a man who is shepherd to a flock which is sorely pressed by the world. The African American community suffers from economic destitution, from violence, from drugs, from disease, and yes, from prejudice...anyone who would deny that is just plain foolish (or worse).

Any leader of the African-American community is going to have to work hard to create an feeling of esprit de corps within that community. Because their problems are largely separate, their solutions and their rhetoric will have to be largely separate, too. Wright is preaching to his people that they are going to have to work hard, stay healthy, and stick together... I can at least follow him that far, and have no problem that Obama would follow as well.

I find it ironic to watch the clip of Sean Hannity castigating Jeremiah Wright on FOX: "This is on the website today....commitment to the black community, commitment to the black family, commitment to the black work ethic..." Here, by repeating the world black, Hannity is hinting that it is racist for Wright to be exhorting the black community to make these values their own.

Yet, the very next time someone brings up the poverty and destitution of the black community- exposed by Hurricane Katrina, for example- you'll hear the same old conservative song about how a community needs family values, thrift, and industry if they are to thrive. (Thereby implying that, since the African American community doesn't seem to possess these values, the rest of America has no obligation to help.) So, I give up, Mister Conservative, IS Wright supposed to help instill these virtues in his people or not?

Going back to You-Tube, we see another picture of Paster Wright. This time, he is telling his congregation about a free AIDS testing clinic at the Church. He is warning them of the dangers posed to the black community by AIDS, and he is showing, by example, how easy it is to be tested.

This doesn't look much like Church in my neighborhood, I have to admit, but I can respect it all the same. This is an involved and passionate Christianity, with a leader who is truly caring for his flock and leading by example. I can easily see how a political leader like Obama who wants to make things better in this country might take great inspiration from moments like this...

This video is long, four minutes and thirty seven seconds...exactly four minutes and seven seconds too long for a controversial sound bite.

Does it absolve Wright for his Anti-American comments? No. Does it go a long way to explaining why some, like Obama, might continue to attend his church despite disagreeing with what the Reverend says about our nation? Perhaps.

I've been so far unable to hear or read the context of the "God Damn America" sermon- but it can be noted that, if we go beyond the "God Damn" sound bite, we can hear that Wright is in some measure "damning" America for using the same violent tactics as Al Qaedia...he might be, in fact, urging his flock to do the Christian thing and turn the other cheek.

Still, this is a sentiment that could have been expressed in HUNDREDS of different ways...all of them would have been better...

...as one commenter on MyDD wrote: "Once you hear Reverend Wright, it makes it much more understandable as to why Michelle Obama has never been proud of this nation..."

I am still just as outraged at Wright's anti-American rhetoric as I was when I first heard it. I am still, like my grandmother, confused and angry about this. I'm sure that is true for many American voters.

Unlike my grandmother, however, I have yet to make the decision to stay home in November.

Senator Barack Obama is on probation with me...I am not going to dismiss him out of hand, he strikes me as worthy of more than that. But I will be very interested to listen to him for the duration of the primary fight and the campaign. I will not vote for a man (or woman) who does not share my vision of America, and who does not support my hopes for America.

I do not see the United States in the starkly negative terms of Reverend Wright. I do not see her as a rotten power structure that must be kicked over, attacked, and Damned. We have made mistakes, we need to recover from those mistakes. We have made promises...GOOD PROMISES both to our own people and to the world. We need to keep those promises.

As a nation, we are on a journey, and we are family...all of us, black, red, yellow, and white...anyone who doesn't share that vision of America, for whatever reason, cannot win my vote.

I had, and still have, high hopes for Barack Obama...but he MUST put this fire out.


After finishing this, I wrote to a couple of Obama supporters I know. Neil of What's the Point? sent me back a link to an interesting article in the Washington Post.

It's definitely worth the read, and reminds us of the divides that separate us as Americans. It is here.
Here's a quote from the article:
"Things that might mean one thing in the church take on a new meaning when you don't see the full sermon, or understand the full context," said Dwight Howard, a theologian and a longtime Trinity member.

Said Cone: "There are moments for [Wright] when the anger, when the rage about what's happened to poor black people in the ghetto is so tough, so deeply painful, that he says things most whites would find off the charts and unpatriotic. But you don't preach in sound bites."

another quote that stood out:

If he were racist, Wright's friends ask, why would he arrange bus trips for predominantly white congregations to visit Trinity each Sunday? If he were racist, why would he have steadfastly maintained Trinity's relationship with the United Church of Christ, a denomination with only a handful of black churches?

"He's been a wonderful friend to white pastors, and he's gifted the organization financially," said UCC President John H. Thomas. "That charge is false."

So, as usual, the truth would appear to be, both from what I'm reading and what I'm seeing for myself on the You-Tube footage, more nuanced than the Headline Sound Bites make it out to be. Learning more is helping me settle down again.

But, of course, that's what scares me. The American people as a whole CAN learn- but we do NOT learn fast. If you doubt we can learn, look at Bush's approval ratings and attitudes toward Iraq. But it took us at least two years too long to absorb the truth that Saddam, while evil, had nothing to do with 9/11, that there were no WMDs, and that victory would be neither quick nor painless- and that Bush's "Mission Accomplished" speech only marked the end of the beginning rather than the beginning of the end.

I fear that, while Obama will probably regain traction as more people hear more of the story, this may be another issue on which our learning curve is just too long.

At present, I'm waiting to see Obama's speech. I've heard, both from friends here in England, and email correspondents at home, that it is good. I'm hoping that it will be effective.

Speaking of Obama and Wright

Speaking of the Barack Obama and Jeremiah Wright flap, here is a fun little opinion piece by Debra Saunders in the San Fransisco Chronicle about why Right-Wingers who attend glass churches shouldn't through stones:

Conservatives ought to be careful before they insist that Barack Obama further renounce his former pastor, Jeremiah Wright. This vicious guilt-by-association political game cuts both ways.

The left has used this game to marginalize conservatives. In 1993, the Rev. Eugene Lumpkin was fired from the San Francisco Human Rights Commission because he said he believed the Bible told him that "the homosexual lifestyle is an abomination against God." This year, critics called on GOP nominee John McCain to denounce supporter Pastor John Hagee, who called the Catholic Church "the great whore."

The rest of the piece can be found at: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2008/03/17/ED47VLAPA.DTL

Friday, March 14, 2008

Reviewing Recent History: Frontline Onliine

We don't have a TV in England (it's expensive, about $300 US just to by the government license that allows you to have a TV for a year). Fortunately the web has gotten to the point where it can provide information and entertainment on almost the same level.

Lately, I've been catching up on years of "Frontline", the PBS documentary show. One of beauties of "Frontline" springs simply from it's depth of focus. Unlike other news magazine shows, which spend a hour on four or five stories (not to mention the commercial breaks), "Frontline" devotes a full hour to one story.

This myopic focus allows them to trace a complex story thread, step by step, in a way that the viewer can follow and understand.

In addition, Frontline posts volumes of additional information and interviews on line...making it possible to delve deeply into the story- or sometimes beyond the narrative being focused on and into a separate but parallel lines of inquiry.

After broadcast, the shows are posted on line, where they can continue to be watched and used, rather than fading into the ether that is "yesterday's news".

This is probably the most important service the PBS program provides. Because it is often by going back and reading "yesterday's news" that we are able to get a clear grip on what is happening in our world today.

It is important to read "today's news" of course, but when we go back two, three, four years- we are often able to see in disparate events, which seem somewhat random at the time, a pattern which we did not fully recognize as it was unfolding.

I've been spending my last few evenings watching Frontline's reports about the War in Iraq- and I highly recommend them to anyone who can carve out a little time over the next few weeks
- instead of turning on "American Idol" or whatever is on tonight, pull up a chair next to your computer and spend an hour- the picture will be a lot smaller, but the sound is good, and you'll find yourself rivited by TV that feeds you mind rather than sucks it dry.

The shows that I've seen so far are here:

If you get a chance, to watch them, or watch them again, I'd love a discussion....come back and comment.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Who YOU Calling a HYPOCRITE, You HYPOCRITE? The Fall of Elliot Spitzer. Unwitting Right-Wing Hypocrisy.

Okay- if you want the big picture on Elliot Spitzer, go some place else. I really don't have a dog in this fight- I'm not from New York, I got other things on my mind, yada, yada.

But it will keep coming up...so here is just a short glimpse at a small slice of a little tiny piece of the public reaction to the scandal.

So I've got this right-wing Republican Pen Pal...you know the type, you've probably got an Uncle or a Brother in Law just like him. Let's call him- Uncle Frank. He's the one who sends you those emails that Obama is a radical Muslim, or that Hillary spits on veterans. He is the one who still hates Bill Clinton and who thinks that George W. Bush's election showed the will of God.

Well, naturally, Uncle Frank is having fun with the Elliot Spitzer scandal....and why shouldn't he? Elliot Spitzer has proved himself to be a "sanctimonious rat bastard" (in the words of a more liberal friend)--- and partisan Republicans have every right to glory in every moment of this...

No, I'm not mad at the Republicans, but at Spitzer- it is he, after all, who has done a great deal to discredit the fight against corporate America...but when Wall Street starts popping Champaign Corks over the fall of a cause and a politician, then you know it does not bode well for Main Street.

So anyway-- I get this email from my Radical Right Wing Pen Pal--- forwarded through the slimy, greasy subterranean Right Wing email underground- and, sure enough, it's from the production department at some so-called "News Radio" station (which means that they carry wall-to-wall Limbaugh all day- interspersed with a little Beck- you know, with call letters like "WNZI" or something like that- "WNZI: All Nazi, All the Time.")

It's here, but I don't recommend it for the humor. (just click on these pictures to make them larger, you'll get all you need.)

It's a comedy bit cooked up by the vultures at the station's production department...Lampooning Spitzer for hiring prostitutes...

And right they are...it's illegal, it's immoral, and it's a rotten thing to do to your wife on the day before Valentine's Day. They should be outraged...

...and then, I checked out the link at the top of the page "Politically Incorrect" - and when I got there, what did I find, but a bunch of half naked babes under the heading:


And I thought- Wow!

Just imagine, conservative old Uncle Frank sits down to a day's trading- laughs his ass off over this half-baked Spitzer lampoon- and then full of moral self-satisfaction that he is a Republican and therefore far above the squalid doings of Democrats-- clicks the Wet On the Net link and spends the next six minutes wondering if he dare do odd things under his desk.

I wonder if Aunt Frank would appreciate that?

And I know, KNOW beyond the shadow of a doubt that Uncle Frank will NEVER, EVER understand the deep irony behind his visit to this sanctimonious, rat bastard little right-wing website.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

She Just Lost Me: Time to Bid Fairwell to Hillary Clinton

The are a lot of issues at stake in this campaign. But to me, the most important tactical issue is - will we emerge with a strong, forceful Democratic Party that is capable of engaging mainstream Americans and helping move this country toward the change we so desperately need?

It is important because, without a strong party, we have no hope of bringing about that change.

It's more important to me, frankly, than the personality issues of WHO wins the Democratic Nomination. I'd like it to be Barack Obama, but up until now, I would have been willing to do my part- phone calls, emails, donations- for whoever won the nomination...including Hillary Clinton.

As of today, this is no longer true.

What triggered this switch? Nothing big, not even a headline...rather, just a little tiny blurb inside an AP News Story about Geraldine Ferraro's Obama gaff.

The quote, buried in the story:
Clinton described Sen. John McCain, the Republican presidential nominee-in-waiting, as a tough adversary on national security but stopped short of saying McCain is better qualified than Obama to be commander in chief.

"I don't want to use those words. I think that voters will have to make that decision," she said

What the hell is she doing: "I don't want to use those words"?



(It would be fine if she added "BUT NOT BETTER THAN ME!" After all, if she doesn't truly believe she is the best person for the job, why is she running?)

John McCain, after all, despite his deserved reputation as a hero, has been recognized by George W. Bush as the heir to America's failed Iraq War. No matter how much valor a man may have, if he is not leading his troops to better ground on which to fight, but risks them by holding a weak position, then his is not a good commander.

I would also respect Hillary's opinion if she said, flat out: "I think Barack Obama is too inexperienced to lead this country at this time. I honestly believe that we'd be better off with an experienced Republican, than with this young, very young man." I would not agree with her, but I would respect her for stating, without equivocation, that she personally thought Obama so dangerous that she needed to put the needs of country ahead of party.

But she has done none of these things. Instead, she has slithered and slid, making sideways glancing allegations, and crafty underhanded remarks.

The remark I read today is not a new trend. Visit GMD or many other left of center blogs, do a search on Hillary, and you'll see her pilloried in myriads of ways. Like you, I've heard it before. But today's little quote was the straw that broke this donkey's back.

Many who are further to the left of me will think it down right quaint that, only now, am I crying "Foul!" But,despite my personal preference for Obama, I've tried to force myself to be objective, but from here on in, I cannot give continue to give Hillary Clinton the benefit of the doubt.

I am under no illusions that my lack of willingness to help Hillary win will cause her to lose a moment of sleep....but if many other Democrats start to feel the way then she might start realizing that, even if she does win the nomination, she will loose the race.

This county needs new leadership. This party needs to focus on providing that leadership.

This party needs to say good-bye to Hillary Clinton...alas for history, she is not the one.

No aliemente los largartos! When Tourists Attack.

Always remember---

Keep your hands inside the ride at all times!

It's not nice to fool with mother nature.

She doesn't like it.

Read the full story on this near death experience here:


Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Trucks, Trains, and Tractors: The Rising Cost of Deisel

All I can say is that the next President really better know what he, or she, is doing.

In a country which has inflicted upon itself a long war in the Middle East with no certain end date or plan of victory, in a country where the credit crunch has helped to gobble up the equity of homeowners, comes a new report of trouble on the horizon: our commercial transportation infrastructure is being hit hard by the rising cost of diesel.

There is an article in today's New York Times, "Paying at the Pump", by Christopher Maag.

At first glance, it may be hard for those in the environmental left to feel sympathy for people paying higher fuel prices, but it should be kept in mind that we are not just talking about giants like Walmart- but about small Mom and Pop trucking companies, tug boat captains, the railroads, and of course farmers.

Not only are the high fuel costs likely exact high personal costs by those employed by these fuel dependent industries- driver layoffs, foreclosed property, lost farms, but the rest of us will begin to feel the pain as well, as we begin paying higher prices for needed commodities.

From the Times:

Rising fuel costs come at a difficult time for America’s transport companies, already hit by slumps in new home construction and consumer spending. Truck tonnage fell 1.5 percent in 2007, to just under 11 billion tons, said Bob Costello, chief economist of the American Trucking Association. Rising diesel costs will almost certainly lead to higher consumer prices and more bankruptcies, he said.

In the long, the very long run, it might be good that this is happening now. Such stories bring home to the American people that "The End Of Oil" does not lie in some far off future, but is a looming date which has a very real impact on our lives today.

We will need leaders who will begin the painful chore of laying the groundwork for this new world. AND we need a public who will engage, and hold their leaders accountable for the work being done.

But in the short run, we are going to need a President capable of some fancy footwork, who can help spare the American people the worst of what is probably coming and who can help put the pieces back together as quickly as possible.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Global Warming? The End of Oil? Who can Argue with God?

Terrific op-ed piece in the NYT this week by Timothy Egan: Oil's End.

The Age of Oil is at an end. Maybe not this year. Maybe not for five years. But signs of the coming collapse are evident.

Start at the White House. There, a week ago, President Bush touted tax breaks for oil companies that have just posted the largest profits in the history of American business. Yet he was dumbstruck when asked about the prospect of $4-a-gallon gasoline, a price that will force many families to choose between food and basic travel.

“Wait — what did you just say?”, the president asked after a reporter solicited his advice for Americans facing that price, which was predicted by many analysts.

“Oh, yeah?” Bush said. “That’s interesting. I hadn’t heard that.”

It's definitely worth reading, and I hope you will check it out.


That is not what prompted ME to start typing today. What inspired me to the keyboard was not the piece (good as it was), but one of the responses.

What got me was reader comment number 12:

I personally feel that ecollogy minded people are sacrificeing the living conditions of people today for the conditions of the future, which may never happen. We need to back off the csare tactics of global warming and start useing some of the energy resources that are available to us in abundance.
Even if we tried to destroy this earth we couldn’t if God is not ready for it to happen
[emphasis added]

As John Stewart might say--- wait, wait a minute, can we hear that again?

Even if we tried to destroy this earth we couldn’t if God is not ready for it to happen

Uhm...wow. I mean...wow.

I'm tempted (and obviously, I'm giving in, even though I'm covering myself with a bit of deniability by pretending that what I'm about to write is hypothetical...what I MIGHT say IF I gave in to temptation...kind of like Huckabee telling us which spot he MIGHT have run if he'd wanted to, by getting that spot front and center on the evening news.)

As I say, I'm tempted to ask this commenter:

If God is not letting anything happen against HIS will, why then won't he save your quality of life for you whether or not the bad ole greenies are lookin' over your shoulder?

I'm tempted to ask:

So, what? It's okay to jump up and down on a box of dynamite because you'll only blow up if God WANTS you to?


What kind of freakin' MORON are you, anyway?

But instead, I wonder if it's not more apt to dwell on a few verses from the Bible.

There is 1 Corinthians 15:32-34 for example.

Paul makes the point that there are some who might argue that there will be no resurection, it would make sense to say:

If the dead are not raised, LET US EAT AND DRINK, FOR TOMORROW WE DIE.

33 Do not be deceived: "Bad company corrupts good morals."

34 Become sober-minded as you ought, and stop sinning

And then, there is the Parable of the Talents from Matthew 25

14"Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his property to them. 15To one he gave five talents[a] of money, to another two talents, and to another one talent, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. 16The man who had received the five talents went at once and put his money to work and gained five more. 17So also, the one with the two talents gained two more. 18But the man who had received the one talent went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master's money.

19"After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. 20The man who had received the five talents brought the other five. 'Master,' he said, 'you entrusted me with five talents. See, I have gained five more.'

21"His master replied, 'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!'

22"The man with the two talents also came. 'Master,' he said, 'you entrusted me with two talents; see, I have gained two more.'

23"His master replied, 'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!'

24"Then the man who had received the one talent came. 'Master,' he said, 'I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. 25So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.'

26"His master replied, 'You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? 27Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.

28" 'Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents. 29For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. 30And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'

Surely, this little lesson from Jesus reminds us that we must be both CAREFUL and WISE with what He places in our trust.

It can be said that the devil can quote scripture for his own purposes, and I'm sure that is true...but many times, the devil can do everything he wants through shear ignorance and shortsightedness.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Has the American Media gone too far? Hell Yes!

I'm always the last kid on my block to see the really fun stuff. This may have something to do with the fact that I gave up watching TV back in 1992. Don't get me wrong, I like TV shows (about 3 or 4 of them) but I just got to where I couldn't stand the freakin noise anymore.

For the most part, I'm really happy with my decision. But it does mean that I miss out on great things others take for granted...like The Daily Show. Of course, if I had TV, I also have to listen to the news media that this clip is mocking.

Hey, maybe it's not such a bad trade after all....

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Is there a New Divide in the Democratic Party? More than just Race and Gender in this Primary Fight.

Wow, I had a fun time with yesterday's blog entry- had a couple of people stop in and leave a comment. And I thank both readers for leaving their thoughts. It has helped me to start focusing more about what this primary race means (beyond the shear Horse Race aspect of it.) The comments are here, if you'd like to read them (or you can click the comment link at the end of yesterday's entry.)

This race is certainly about the politics of identity. To ignore that would be silly. The reaction to photos of Obama in African Dress proves that many see the Clinton Campaign as saying that America is not ready for a Black President. This primary fight is about Race.

And this primary fight is certainly about Gender. A post by Monica Guzman at Seattle PI lead me to a Washington Post Article in which some feminist leaders claim that:"There are some people who promote Barack Obama because they want anybody but a woman. Would they like a white man instead of a black man? Of course. But they'll take a black man over a woman. I never thought, in 2008, that we'd still be dealing with this."

(This has been a debate over at Green Mountain Daily for sometime- with NanukFC challenging male bias every step of the way.)

But there is another dynamic going on here. The press, in it's attempt to see around corners, has given us a lot of demographic information about the two camps. In addition to race and gender, we learn that the Obama camp is dominated by the young, the educated, the technically connected and savvy- people well able to compete in a global, and technology driven economy. Clinton, on the other hand, finds her support among those who are dependent on the "old" economy- blue collar and service workers- according to an article on CBS News, these are the people who respond to Hillary:
Clinton surely knows that as she promises to lower the costs of going to college, offering debt relief for people who graduate and go into teaching, or nursing, or law enforcement. “And I want to say something about all the other people who don’t go to college,” she adds. “You know, most people don’t go to college and graduate. And these are the people who build the buildings that we live and work in. They keep the economy going. They do most of the jobs in our society. I want to pay more attention to you.” She promises job training and community college programs.

At the same time, we've seen, recently on Green Mountain Daily, an anti-Clinton you-tube screed called: "The Clinton Hillbillies". Which lampoons Hillary as a carpet-bagging fake, and, by inference makes the point that her supporters are a bunch of beer drinking, tobacco spitting in-bread morons.

This race is dominated by the question of who will get the historic honor of being the first (X or Y) to be the first (X or Y) President in American history.

But on another level, I'm wondering if we are witnessing the Democratic party making a choice about which type of American we want to serve and help- and, if so, I'm wondering if it's possible to enlarge the tent again?

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Why Do YOU Support Hillary Clinton?

It is very hard to ignore the primary fight from across the pond. Election results are front page news here in the UK. The bookstores are just as filled with U.S. Campaign biographies as the shops back home. People find that I am an American and are desperately anxious to learn if I know anything they don't, and eager to offer their opinion- which is always anti-Bush, and often pro-Obama. It is a reminder that whoever becomes President of the Untied States casts a giant shadow on rest of the world.

I woke up today, and learned that the primary fight goes on still. To me, this is a disappointment. I pretty much made up my mind about a year ago that Barack Obama was my candidate. A friend of mine emailed me last night, and said: I'm ready for the primary to be over so that we can focus on the issue at hand. (IE- throwing the bums OUT!) I couldn't agree more. I think that John McCain is going to be hard to beat and it's time to start.

But what really surprised me, upon reflection- was the fact that Hillary Clinton pulled off two wins yesterday.

To me, Obama seems like a clear choice. To most of the people I know, or read, back in Vermont- Barack Obama seems like a clear choice, too (or, if not, then he is TOO FAR TO THE RIGHT- there is that strain of Vermonter, too). In fact, to almost everybody I interact with on any given day, Barack Obama is the clear choice and front runner.

Nobody, but NOBODY thinks nominating Hillary Clinton would be a good idea.

And yet, obviously, a lot of people I've never heard from completly disagree with me. They got up yesterday, dragged themselves to the polls and Voted for Clinton.

And that Scares me.

I'm not scared because they voted for Clinton- I think she'd make a fine president. I just think Barack Obama would make an even better one.

No, it scares me because I realized that, once again, I don't know ANYTHING about what a LOT of my fellow Americans are thinking.

I don't need to agree with them, or they with me- but I should, at least, know where they are coming from...understand why they make the decisions they do.

Because if you don't even understand your opponent's position and why they take it, you have no chance to reason them out of it (or perhaps, to be reasoned out of your own, should it prove the weaker).

For another thing, if you don't understand why your opponents make the choices they do, it is very hard to empathize with them, and to build consensus.

If you don't know what drives them, you don't know how strong they are.

And that scares me...because this has happened to me before.

The first time I realized that there were oceans of people in America that I did not even remotely understand was on election night, 2000. It had never occurred to me to worry that Bush would even come close to the Presidency! I mean, the man was a joke, right, everybody knew it.

Well, the joke was on me. I'd just as soon it didn't happen again. And this time, the lack of mutual understanding isn't just between Liberals and the Right-Wing- it is within the same political party. We need to learn to talk to each other so that we can talk the rest of the country out of voting for John McCain.

So...please, as a favor, would anybody out there like to explain to me why you are supporting Hillary?

Post Script

I found some interesting articles on this subject.

The first is from a young reporter in Seattle who writes about what the Clinton Candidacy may, or may not mean to her. It's here.

The is another article from CBS news about Ohio voters. Working Class and feeling pressed, for them, it is, once again "The Economy Stupid".

The first comment I got on this post is also illuminating about why someone in "Obama's" demographic might choose to support Hillary as well.