Monday, March 31, 2008

Don Quixote

That Ain't My American Dream -or- Why I dislike Ron Paul

There's no need to even get started on the outspoken portion of his young, eager, conspiracy theorizing, black-helicopter sighting, self-congratulating, world of warcraft playing, blimp flying, message boarding, parannoying, minions of ignorant Paultardians (though it would be fun...ok, just one:

But in all seriousness there are very good reasons that don't rely on the easy joke and sadly equating Paul to a joke belittles the seriousness of the matter.

In a modern democratic society real justice is kept alive by the creative collaboration of two great but conflicting ideals: freedom and equality. These ideals are NOT the same. They are two opposite ideals which keep each other honest and between them make for justice.

The genius of American politics is found in the interplay of freedom and equality. One without the other fails. Ron Paul represents only one impulse: the freedom impulse which says that justice happens when people get the full rewards of their labors in which the government should not interfere with "every man his due." This is a noble idea but we should not fail to recognize the danger of its logical end: the law of human nature, the survival of the fittest.

On the other hand the impulse of equality says that justice has to do not only with just rewards but also just opportunity; equality which celebrates egalitarianism proposing a more just distribution of the nation's resources so that everybody gets a fairer share of the American dream; equality which says that a nation's righteousness has to do with how it treats its weaker and poorer citizens.

The cruel outcome of the impulse of freedom in a broken world unchecked by equality is a society where the strong get stronger and the weak get weaker, where the poor get poorer and the rich get religious. Libertarianism is the social Darwinism of political systems. In an ironic turn what begins in a noble idea of destructuring institutionalized injustice ends in increased injustice. Too much freedom ends in the loss of it; further and further disparity between the other and the majority.

Paul shouldn't call himself the constitutional candidate if he only runs on freedom. All men may be born equal but they are certainly not born into anything close to equality.

To hear Paul say in a letter to his supporters that, "We will not falter so long as there is one restriction on our persons, our property, our civil liberties," I can only respond with amazement that anyone can support such a candidate.

Thursday, Mar. 20, 2008
[Note: my input is in red]

Why Ron Paul Scares the GOP [and Me]

There used to be an organization for people who believed in a truly limited government — limited taxes, limited spending, limited interference in individual lives and limited intervention in foreign affairs. That organization was known as the Republican Party. But the only one of those beliefs that still motivates the G.O.P. establishment is limited taxes [for the wealthy]. In 2008, people who still hold all of them joined the Ron Paul Revolution.

But now the revolution is ebbing. Congressman Paul's new campaign finance report shows that he's raised nearly $35 million, including more than any other Republican candidate in the fourth quarter of 2007, and he's inspired remarkable passion among the kind of diehards who hold up campaign signs on highway overpasses and post irate comments on obscure blogs. But the presidency isn't decided on YouTube or Technorati [or the World of Warcraft]. Paul didn't win any Republican primaries, and he recently conceded that "victory in the conventional sense is not available."

Of course, nothing in Paul's world is ever done in the conventional sense, so he has refused to drop out of the race and endorse the presumptive G.O.P. nominee, Senator John McCain. Instead he argues that all Republicans should have "the right to vote for someone that stands for traditional Republican principles." And he's got a point.

The real significance of the Paul campaign is not the ubiquitous bumper stickers and lawn signs or the online fund-raising records ($6 million in one day, plus another $4 million, hilariously, on Guy Fawkes Day) but the mirror Paul held up to the modern Republican Party. When his fellow candidates denounced big government, Paul was there to remind them that President Bush and the G.O.P. Congress had shattered spending records and exploded the deficit. When they hailed freedom, Paul asked why they all supported the Patriot Act and other expansions of executive power. And when they called themselves conservatives, Paul asked what was so conservative about sending thousands of young Americans to try to transform the Middle East.

In some ways, Paul is a throwback to the frugal and isolationist wing of the old Republican Party, the fuddy-duddy GOP of Robert Taft and Calvin Coolidge. His fiscal policies evoke the idealistic Republican activists who seized control of Congress in 1994; he wants to abolish the IRS, the Departments of Homeland Security, Education and Energy, and most of the federal government. He refuses to vote for unbalanced budgets, and he has opposed spending taxpayer dollars on Congressional Medals of Honor, even for Rosa Parks or Pope John Paul II. Typically, his campaign has reported no debts, and still has more than $5 million in the bank. Meanwhile, Paul's foreign policies evoke candidate George W. Bush's call for a "humbler foreign policy" in 2000, although Paul goes much further; not only did he oppose U.S. involvement in Iraq, Kosovo and the war on drugs, he opposes U.S. involvement in the United Nations and NATO.

Under Bush's leadership, of course, the Republican Party has been anything but frugal and anything but isolationist. The congressional Republican revolutionaries seemed to lose their zeal for shrinking the federal government once they controlled it, which is one reason voters expelled them from power in 2006. And these days, it's usually Democrats who call for a humbler foreign policy. Paul's leave-us-alone libertarianism hasn't fit in with a party anxious to read our e-mail, improve our values, assert American power abroad and subsidize friendly industries at home. The party's recent mix of "national greatness" neoconservatives, evangelical theoconservatives and K Street careerists has had many goals, but leaving people alone hasn't been one of them. That's why Paul was the one getting booed at G.O.P. debates. And that's one reason why Paul's fervent followers were banned from the activist Republican website RedState.

In fairness, though, another reason RedState's directors got tired of the Paulistas was that so many of them seemed — what's the polite word? — nuts. Paul's supporters aren't all black-helicopter paranoiacs, but the black-helicopter paranoiacs sure do support Ron Paul. The controversy over a few racist articles in his old newsletters was probably overblown [as it is unknown how connected he was or if he approved them
Commentary on the Paul's newsletters:
Full newsletters can be found here:].

But he is an extremist — partly in the Barry Goldwater extremism-in-defense-of-liberty-is-no-vice sense of the word, but also in the wacky let's-relitigate-the-currency-debates-of-the-1820s sense of the word. The late William F. Buckley wanted conservatives to stand athwart history yelling stop; Paul seems to want to slam history into reverse. The guy genuinely wants to abolish the Federal Reserve and start circulating gold again.

Still, even if you set aside Paul's kookier ideas, there just doesn't seem to be a road to the White House for any candidate who opposes the war in Iraq as well as higher taxes, the war on drugs as well as higher spending, restrictions on privacy as well as restrictions on guns. That's a real "freedom agenda," a true assault on big government, and while it clearly spoke to some angry dudes with high-speed web connections and time on their hands, [a lot of time] it's just as clearly not where America stands today. Paul didn't have a lot of company on the House floor when he rose recently to complain about government overreach in the investigation of the disgraced former New York governor Eliot Spitzer, who resigned after revelations that he had been a customer of a high-end prostitution ring.

But even if Paul's ideological purity is never going to get him to the White House, it does help illuminate the impurities — and sometimes the hypocrisies — of today's Republicans, just as Ralph Nader can do for the Democrats. The G.O.P. candidates all claimed to defend taxpayers, but Paul was the only one who refused to accept a taxpayer-funded pension or taxpayer-funded junkets. The candidates all talked about shrinking big government, but Paul was the only one who included the Pentagon and NSA wiretaps and petroleum subsidies in his definition. Bush's approval ratings have been abysmal for years, but Paul was the only Republican who really campaigned for change.

And in doing so Paul illustrated what was so striking about the Republican race. The leading candidates had all strayed from Bush and current orthodoxy in the past — Rudy Giuliani on abortion and gay rights, John McCain on tax cuts, torture, health care and campaign finance, Mitt Romney on just about everything. But while Paul was getting attacked every time he called for a new direction, the rest spent the primaries minimizing and renouncing their previous departures, implicitly promising four more years of Bushism. McCain is lucky he has some time to craft a new message, because that's not where America stands today, either.

Find this article at:,8599,1724358,00.html

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Saturday, March 29, 2008

She's Baaaack!

"Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt." - Abraham Lincoln

Oklahoma House Rep. Sally Kern made an Easter Sunday appearance on Oklahoma City's KFOR-TV's "Flash Point" to face off with an openly gay pastor, elaborating on her recent leaked speech and defending her views.

A spirited theological and political debate ensued between Rep. Kern, host Kevin Ogle, panelists Burns Hargis and Mike Turpen, and Dr. Scott Jones of Oklahoma City's Cathedral of Hope. Rep. Kern clearly further hurts her "cause." However, I'm not sure how Dr. Jones thought he would be able to successfully defend a position that needs hours not minutes to even begin to convey. He was never really successful in getting past their grid and needed seriously to reframe their arguments. But that would be like carving stone with a spoon, so I guess props for trying. Also I will add that both sides, Kern included, kept the argument civil.

Part 1

Part 2

Friday, March 28, 2008

"There Are Some Really Good People Out There..."

...Us. We...Normal People." - Michael Savage
Not them. Not the other. Not the stranger, the outcast, the sinner. Not the least of these. Or as Savage calls them, the "vermin."

On the February 26 broadcast of his nationally syndicated radio show, after playing an audio clip of the beginning of singer Melissa Etheridge's acceptance speech at the Academy Awards in which she thanked her wife and four children, Michael Savage said: "I don't like a woman married to a woman raising children. It makes me want to puke. ... I want to vomit when I hear it. I think it's child abuse."
"27God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God." [1 Cor. 1]
Fear of 'the other' has rational roots in our physical nature. Ancient tribes seeking to survive needed to define and protect their religious, national, and cultural identity. The Israelites, for example, had been slaves in Egypt; they had wandered in the desert, subject to attacks from other tribes, starvation, and infectious diseases. They needed cohesiveness, separateness, and order in every aspect of their lives. Failure to form a tight-knit community could threaten their long-term survival.

Furthermore, connecting this example to the issue at hand, concern of productivity and separateness was made even more pertinent due to the exile of the Israelites at the time of their formulation. Since procreation was so vital to ancient Israel's survival, regulations that governed sexual relations in the biblical world were primarily intended to further biological productivity in all biblical periods, in view of the scarcity of population, demands created by the agricultural life-style, and the high mortality rate of women and children.

All of that to say, we are NOT there anymore. But even for ancient Israel, the command in the Torah was still one of love - love of God and love of the neighbor, love of the stranger. A perspective of justice with concern for the stranger is at the heart of the Torah, and God's judgment came when Israel strayed from this ethic. For the Christian the Torah is personified in Jesus, and there is no doubt that Jesus abolished the idea of the other and separateness under his banner. The poor and the outcast are closer to the Kingdom of God than the rich, the popular, the self-righteous, the Pharisee.

The message continues to be in every generation that certain people can be taken as less than full human beings. The same folks that have a fear or hatred of homosexuals are afraid of the angry black man, afraid of the immigrant, afraid of the Muslim, they're just afraid.
18There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. 19We love because he first loved us. 20If anyone says, "I love God," yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. 21And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother. [1 John 4]
That anyone calling themselves Christians ever got co-opted with right-wing hatemongerers like Savage or any of these other personalities is beyond me. There is no way to advocate the kinds of things they do and understand the gospel. The gospel that says,
"7Let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. 13We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God. 16And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. 17In this way, love is made complete among us.

The Savage Nation reaches more than 8 to 10 million listeners each week, according to Talkers Magazine, making it the third most-listened-to talk radio show in the nation, behind only The Rush Limbaugh Show and The Sean Hannity Show. Savage declares himself to be "To the right of Rush and to the left of God."


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Thursday, March 27, 2008

Bad News for Hilldog

New polls show Hillary at her lowest point. Obama on top nationally and McCain behind Obama. She appears to be only left with what is being called the "Tonya Harding" option. (Barry, watch your knees!) Though this new video could give her some war-torn street cred.

Two New York Times Opinion Columnists decry the end...

The Long Defeat

"Hillary Clinton may not realize it yet, but she’s just endured one of the worst weeks of her campaign... [full story]

..For three more months, Clinton is likely to hurt Obama even more against McCain, without hurting him against herself. And all this is happening so she can preserve that 5 percent chance.

When you step back and think about it, she is amazing. She possesses the audacity of hopelessness.

Why does she go on like this? Does Clinton privately believe that Obama is so incompetent that only she can deliver the policies they both support? Is she simply selfish, and willing to put her party through agony for the sake of her slender chance? Are leading Democrats so narcissistic that they would create bitter stagnation even if they were granted one-party rule?

The better answer is that Clinton’s long rear-guard action is the logical extension of her relentlessly political life.

For nearly 20 years, she has been encased in the apparatus of political celebrity. Look at her schedule as first lady and ever since. Think of the thousands of staged events, the tens of thousands of times she has pretended to be delighted to see someone she doesn’t know, the hundreds of thousands times she has recited empty clichés and exhortatory banalities, the millions of photos she has posed for in which she is supposed to appear empathetic or tough, the billions of politically opportune half-truths that have bounced around her head.

No wonder the Clinton campaign feels impersonal. It’s like a machine for the production of politics. It plows ahead from event to event following its own iron logic. The only question is whether Clinton herself can step outside the apparatus long enough to turn it off and withdraw voluntarily or whether she will force the rest of her party to intervene and jam the gears.

If she does the former, she would surprise everybody with a display of self-sacrifice. Her campaign would cruise along at a lower register until North Carolina, then use that as an occasion to withdraw. If she does not, she would soldier on doggedly, taking down as many allies as necessary." [full story]

Hillary or Nobody?

Published: March 26, 2008

"Even some Clinton loyalists are wondering aloud if the win-at-all-costs strategy of Hillary and Bill — which continued Tuesday when Hillary tried to drag Rev. Wright back into the spotlight — is designed to rough up Obama so badly and leave the party so riven that Obama will lose in November to John McCain.

If McCain only served one term, Hillary would have one last shot. On Election Day in 2012, she’d be 65.

Some top Democrats are increasingly worried that the Clintons’ divide-and-conquer strategy is nihilistic: Hillary or no democrat."
[full story]

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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

'Cruel & Usual Punishment'

I'm not having fun anymore.

During this primary season I've watched misleading stories with misleading headlines, stories that had no business being headlines, stories about seemingly nothing at all, arguments for the sake of arguments, reporting without any attention to context, outright lies, news about words found in people's cat's fur and skateboarding dogs, presidential celebrity genealogical ties, far too many youtube videos and insignificant blogs like my own. In other words, I've witnessed from the media 'pushers', the complete absence of journalistic integrity (whatever that means) and very little actual reporting.

Here are some fun examples from watchdogs, Media Matters:

CNN's Lou Dobbs thinks by receiving endorsement from Hispanic Gov. Richardson, Obama must want to harbor illegals. Genius.

Fox News wants to contemplate the finer points of candidate beards and how that speaks to ethnic voters. You can't make this stuff up.

Had enough racism? Try blatant sexism (oh and unapologetic bias).

People just expect Republicans to pander to crazy pastors and agents of intolerance, so its not really news:

This one is fun. Even Fox News finds Fox News ridiculous:

And apparently I'm not the only one getting angry:

One man went one step further in the wake of all of this media driven depression. He faced the monster, looked it straight in the eye and found out that you should NEVER look it straight in the eye! It will turn your soul to stone!

A Washington Post columnist watched political pundits on tv and blogs for 24 hours straight, lost sense of humor, will to live, and the strength to kill himself. [Washington Post]

'Cruel and Usual Punishment'

One man with more courage than brains sacrifices himself on the altar of punditry, and, in so doing, fails to redeem us all

By Gene Weingarten
Sunday, March 23, 2008; Page W12
THE CRUDDIEST MOMENT OF THE CRAPPIEST DAY OF MY LIFE ON EARTH happened as I found myself watching five televisions simultaneously, each containing a different political pundit opining on the same subject. When I looked down toward my computer screen to see what the bloggers were saying about it, I noticed that a button on my shirt had come undone...

...Surely this neurotic impulse to hear and be heard means something, good or bad, about our national character. Doesn't the world need one individual with the courage and audacity to expose himself to it all -- punditry in newspapers, punditry on TV, punditry on the radio, punditry on the Web -- for 24 hours straight?

No? Well, too late.

(story continued)

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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Since the last one was heavy

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Monday, March 24, 2008

4,000 Lives & $5000 per second: Free from what?

Iraq War Numbers:

  • 4,000 US soldiers lives lost (30,000 US soldiers seriously wounded)

  • nearly 1 million Iraqi lives lost (civilians & soldiers)

  • 3 trillion dollars spent ($12 billion per month / $5k per second)

  • 40% increase in debt to foreign countries


    Iraqis Displaced Inside Iraq, by Iraq War, as of May 2007 - 2,255,000

    Iraqi Refugees in Syria & Jordan - 2.1 million to 2.25 million

    Iraqi Unemployment Rate - 27 to 60%, where curfew not in effect

    Consumer Price Inflation in 2006 - 50%

    Iraqi Children Suffering from Chronic Malnutrition - 28% in June 2007 (Per, July 30, 2007)

    Percent of professionals who have left Iraq since 2003 - 40%

    Iraqi Physicians Before 2003 Invasion - 34,000

    Iraqi Physicians Who Have Left Iraq Since 2005 Invasion - 12,000

    Iraqi Physicians Murdered Since 2003 Invasion - 2,000

    Average Daily Hours Iraqi Homes Have Electricity - 1 to 2 hours, per Ryan Crocker, U.S. Ambassador to Iraq (Per Los Angeles Times, July 27, 2007)

    Average Daily Hours Iraqi Homes Have Electricity - 10.9 in May 2007

    Average Daily Hours Baghdad Homes Have Electricity - 5.6 in May 2007

    Pre-War Daily Hours Baghdad Homes Have Electricity - 16 to 24

    Number of Iraqi Homes Connected to Sewer Systems - 37%

    Iraqis without access to adequate water supplies - 70% (Per, July 30, 2007)

    Water Treatment Plants Rehabilitated - 22%

'Iraq, $5,000 Per Second?'

Published: March 23, 2008
(c) New York Times

The Iraq war is now going better than expected, for a change. Most critics of the war, myself included, blew it: we didn’t anticipate the improvements in security that are partly the result of last year’s “surge.”

The improvement is real but fragile and limited. Here’s what it amounts to: We’ve cut our casualty rates to the unacceptable levels that plagued us back in 2005, and we still don’t have any exit plan for years to come — all for a bill that is accumulating at the rate of almost $5,000 every second!

More important, while casualties in Baghdad are down, we’re beginning to take losses in Florida and California. The United States seems to have slipped into recession; Americans are losing their homes, jobs and health insurance; banks are struggling — and the Iraq war appears to have aggravated all these domestic woes.

“The present economic mess is very much related to the Iraq war,” says Joseph Stiglitz, the Nobel Prize-winning economist. “It was at least partially responsible for soaring oil prices. ...Moreover, money spent on Iraq did not stimulate the economy as much as the same dollars spent at home would have done. To cover up these weaknesses in the American economy, the Fed let forth a flood of liquidity; that, together with lax regulations, led to a housing bubble and a consumption boom.”

Not everyone agrees that the connection between Iraq and our economic hardships is so strong. Robert Hormats, vice chairman of Goldman Sachs International and author of a book on how America pays for wars, argues that the Iraq war is a negative for the economy but still only a minor factor in the present crisis.

“Is it a significant cause of the present downturn?” Mr. Hormats asked. “I’d say no, but could the money have been better utilized to strengthen our economy? The answer is yes.”

For all the disagreement, there appears to be at least a modest connection between spending in Iraq and the economic difficulties at home. So as we debate whether to bring our troops home, one central question should be whether Iraq is really the best place to invest $411 million every day in present spending alone.

I’ve argued that staying in Iraq indefinitely undermines our national security by empowering jihadis — just as we now know that our military presence in Saudi Arabia in the 1990s was, in fact, counterproductive by empowering Al Qaeda in its early days. On the other hand, supporters of the war argue that a withdrawal from Iraq would signal weakness and leave a vacuum that extremists would fill, and those are legitimate concerns.

But if you believe that staying in Iraq does more good than harm, you must answer the next question: Is that presence so valuable that it is worth undermining our economy?

Granted, the cost estimates are squishy and controversial, partly because the $12.5 billion a month that we’re now paying for Iraq is only a down payment. We’ll still be making disability payments to Iraq war veterans 50 years from now.

Professor Stiglitz calculates in a new book, written with Linda Bilmes of Harvard University, that the total costs, including the long-term bills we’re incurring, amount to about $25 billion a month. That’s $330 a month for a family of four.

A Congressional study by the Joint Economic Committee found that the sums spent on the Iraq war each day could enroll an additional 58,000 children in Head Start or give Pell Grants to 153,000 students to attend college. Or if we’re sure we want to invest in security, then a day’s Iraq spending would finance another 11,000 border patrol agents or 9,000 police officers.

Imagine the possibilities. We could hire more police and border patrol agents, expand Head Start and rehabilitate America’s image in the world by underwriting a global drive to slash maternal mortality, eradicate malaria and deworm every child in Africa.

All that would consume less than one month’s spending on the Iraq war.

Moreover, the Bush administration has financed this war in a way that undermines our national security — by borrowing. Forty percent of the increased debt will be held by China and other foreign countries.

“This is the first major war in American history where all the additional cost was paid for by borrowing,” Mr. Hormats notes. If the war backers believe that the Iraq war is so essential, then they should be willing to pay for it partly with taxes rather than charging it.

One way or another, now or later, we’ll have to pay the bill. Professor Stiglitz calc

ulates that the eventual total cost of the war will be about $3 trillion. For a family of five like mine, that amounts to a bill of almost $50,000.

I don’t feel that I’m getting my money’s worth.

Excellent film documenting Iraq war management and timeline:

"No End In Sight" ....Netflix it.

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Friday, March 21, 2008

Giving Rev. Wright his deserved context

What if our preachers' sermons were picked apart and broadcast on the news in 10 second sound-bites? What if our conversations on the phones, over dinner, in private were made into sound-bites without context? Would anyone take the time to try and understand us? No. I've been to Black churches and have heard the style of rhetoric, the heavy handed liberation theology, the waxing prophetic. That's a part of the history and worldview that exists.

Martin Luther King Jr. himself, said in his speech at Riverside Church that "the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today [is] my own government." And no one raises objection to "America's Saint" now, much less questions his patriotism, though I'm sure it was cut out and abused as a sound-bite in his time. To be clear, I'm not justifying everything Dr. Wright said in his sermons. Some things need to be objected to. However, in many African American churches in America the prophetic tradition of preaching is alive and well and this needs to be understood by the listener. Dr. Wright's oratory seeks to speak truth to power when justice isn't upheld by those in power. Seen in the proper light, most Christians could actually stand to embrace much of his sermon. After all Christians owe allegiance to God before country. Furthermore, his church puts words into action and has an amazing track record for serving its community (one that many white churches long abandoned).

I think Sen. Obama did the right, but harder thing by embracing the complexity and not sacrificing the man on his way to the top. He rightly recognized the limitations and unjustified aspects that hold communities like Wright's back but also stood up for the legacy that has promoted justice and continues to do so. I think you'll be able to see that in the full sermon context below. Also after the sermon notes, I included two links from NPR. One is a discussion on the controversy from African American professors of theology (well worth the listen), and the second a straight talk discussion "barbershop style."

March 21, 2008
Posted: 10:09 AM ET

As this whole sordid episode regarding the sermons of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright has played out over the last week, I wanted to understand what he ACTUALLY said in this speech. I’ve been saying all week on CNN that context is important, and I just wanted to know what the heck is going on.

I have now actually listened to the sermon Rev. Wright gave after September 11 titled, “The Day of Jerusalem’s Fall.” It was delivered on Sept. 16, 2001.

One of the most controversial statements in this sermon was when he mentioned “chickens coming home to roost.” He was actually quoting Edward Peck, former U.S. Ambassador to Iraq and deputy director of President Reagan’s terrorism task force, who was speaking on FOX News. That’s what he told the congregation.

He was quoting Peck as saying that America’s foreign policy has put the nation in peril:

“We took this country by terror away from the Sioux, the Apache, Arikara, the Comanche, the Arapaho, the Navajo. Terrorism.

“We took Africans away from their country to build our way of ease and kept them enslaved and living in fear. Terrorism.

“We bombed Grenada and killed innocent civilians, babies, non-military personnel.

“We bombed the black civilian community of Panama with stealth bombers and killed unarmed teenage and toddlers, pregnant mothers and hard working fathers.

“We bombed Qaddafi’s home, and killed his child. Blessed are they who bash your children’s head against the rock.

“We bombed Iraq. We killed unarmed civilians trying to make a living. We bombed a plant in Sudan to pay back for the attack on our embassy, killed hundreds of hard working people, mothers and fathers who left home to go that day not knowing that they’d never get back home.

“We bombed Hiroshima. We bombed Nagasaki, and we nuked far more than the thousands in New York and the Pentagon and we never batted an eye.

“Kids playing in the playground. Mothers picking up children after school. Civilians, not soldiers, people just trying to make it day by day.

“We have supported state terrorism against the Palestinians and black South Africans, and now we are indignant because the stuff that we have done overseas is now brought right back into our own front yards. America’s chickens are coming home to roost.

“Violence begets violence. Hatred begets hatred. And terrorism begets terrorism. A white ambassador said that y’all, not a black militant. Not a reverend who preaches about racism. An ambassador whose eyes are wide open and who is trying to get us to wake up and move away from this dangerous precipice upon which we are now poised. The ambassador said the people we have wounded don’t have the military capability we have. But they do have individuals who are willing to die and take thousands with them. And we need to come to grips with that.”

He went on to describe seeing the photos of the aftermath of 9/11 because he was in Newark, N.J., when the planes struck. After turning on the TV and seeing the second plane slam into one of the twin towers, he spoke passionately about what if you never got a chance to say hello to your family again.

“What is the state of your family?” he asked.

And then he told his congregation that he loved them and asked the church to tell each other they loved themselves.

His sermon thesis:

1. This is a time for self-examination of ourselves and our families.

2. This is a time for social transformation (then he went on to say they won’t put me on PBS or national cable for what I’m about to say. Talk about prophetic!)

“We have got to change the way we have been doing things as a society,” he said.

Wright then said we can’t stop messing over people and thinking they can’t touch us. He said we may need to declare war on racism, injustice, and greed, instead of war on other countries.

“Maybe we need to declare war on AIDS. In five minutes the Congress found $40 billion to rebuild New York and the families that died in sudden death, do you think we can find the money to make medicine available for people who are dying a slow death? Maybe we need to declare war on the nation’s healthcare system that leaves the nation’s poor with no health coverage? Maybe we need to declare war on the mishandled educational system and provide quality education for everybody, every citizen, based on their ability to learn, not their ability to pay. This is a time for social transformation.”

3. This is time to tell God thank you for all that he has provided and that he gave him and others another chance to do His will.

By the way, nowhere in this sermon did he said “God damn America.” I’m not sure which sermon that came from.

This doesn’t explain anything away, nor does it absolve Wright of using the N-word, but what it does do is add an accurate perspective to this conversation.

The point that I have always made as a journalist is that our job is to seek the truth, and not the partial truth.

I am also listening to the other sermons delivered by Rev. Wright that have been the subject of controversy.

And let me be clear: Where I believe he was wrong and not justified in what he said based upon the facts, I will say so. But where the facts support his argument, that will also be said.

So stay tuned.

- Roland S. Martin, CNN Contributor

If y
ou want to hear the full sermon yourself, click HERE


Religious Scholars Discuss Liberation Theology

Barack Obama's pastor Jeremiah Wright is part of a religious tradition known as Black Liberation Theology. Two religious scholars discuss its foundation and contemporary meaning.

Guys in the Shop Discuss Obama, Kilpatrick

Barbershop regulars Jimi Izrael, Ruben Navarrette and Arsalan Iftikhar are joined this week by professor Lester Spence. The guys weigh in on Sen. Barack Obama's historic speech on race.

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Thursday, March 20, 2008

"He spoke to Americans as though they were adults."

FYI...The following post will be unapologetically elitist and should be taken with a grain of salt:

"He spoke to Americans as though they were adults" quipped Jon Stewart on The Daily Show following Obama's "More Perfect Union" speech Tuesday.

Sadly, they're not. This is why I salute our forefathers for establishing our representative democracy and not a "pure" democracy. This is why the "superdelegate" structure is not offensive to me. To be completely honest, I don't give a damn what the "Budweiser class" thinks if they're unwilling to invest in learning about the issues that they are so quickly to espouse an opinion on. The polls say that the president people would "most like to have a beer with" are the ones that usually win. Their ignorant ADD "insights" are the reason for eight years of Dubya in the first place. Hell, I'll grab a beer with whomever is voting for the leader of the free world based on this genius logic as long as it keeps them away from the polls that day.

You can disagree with Obama on any of his policies. You can certainly not vote for him and you don't even have to like him. However, the bottom line for me is that Obama's speech is not one that you can objectively disagree with and come out on the right side. It's just not. You can't be an intelligent person with half a brain, or heart for that matter, and not find it honest, compelling and most of all, truthful. The problem is the audience, not the speaker. This is a test for America, not Obama, and it appears it's a test we won't pass.

The article below says it best,
“So here the problem is, Jeremiah Wright is conducive to a 10-second sound bite and the speech is not,” he said. “This is the problem. The Wright thing is perfect for our short attention spans, and this requires a little bit of attention. [The speech] takes some sitting down and settling in and not a lot of folks are willing to do that.”

"More than a dozen interviews [in PA] found voters unmoved by Obama’s plea to move beyond racial divisions of the past. Despite baring himself with extraordinarily personal reflections on one of the most toxic issues of the day."

Here's an open letter from me to not just the uneducated among the people of Pennsylvania, but to blue-collar workers, rednecks, and Larry the Cable Guy fan club gold members everywhere: Turn off Dr. Phil, put down the Bud or bud, read a book that isn't "My Pet Goat", go back and get your high school diploma, actually read the damn speech and then come back to the political table. Until you spend more time studying American history and the candidates policies than you do assembling your NCAA tourney bracket, shut the hell up and for all our sakes, DON'T VOTE.

Jim Wallis's take from the Sojourners blog:

"It has simmered throughout this campaign, and now race has exploded into the center of the media debate about the presidential race. Just when a black political leader is calling us all to a new level of responsibility, hope, and unity, the old and divisive rhetoric of race from both blacks and whites is rearing its ugly head to bring down the best chance we have had for years of finally moving forward.

And that is indeed the real issue here. A black man is closer to possibly becoming president than ever before in U.S. history. And this black man is not even running as "a black man," but as a new kind of political leader who believes the country is ready for a new kind of politics. But a new kind of politics and a new face for political leadership is deeply threatening to all the forces that represent the old kind of politics in the U.S. And all the rising focus on race in this election campaign has one purpose and one purpose alone—to stop Barack Obama from becoming president of the United States.

Barack Obama should win or lose his party's nomination or the presidency based on the positions he takes regarding the great issues of our time and his capacity to lead the country and the U.S.'s role in the world. He must not win or lose because of the old politics of race in the U.S. That would be a tragedy for all of us."

here's the original article that inspired this rant:

Obama racial issues may extend to Pa.
By: Carrie Budoff Brown
March 20, 2008 12:00 PM EST

PHILADELPHIA — Stephanie Gill, a bartender in a white working-class neighborhood, noticed the shift immediately.

A week ago, her customers at Rauchut’s Tavern in Tacony didn’t have much to say about Barack Obama. But when she returned to work Wednesday, a day after the Illinois senator attempted to quell the furor over his pastor’s racially incendiary remarks, the reaction inside the corner bar was raw and unapologetic.

“People are not happy with Obama,” Gill said. “It’s the race stuff.”

Obama has always been a tough sell in largely white Northeast Philadelphia and in the city's blue-collar river wards, a collection of white ethnic enclaves where customers at the local watering hole are often born and raised in the neighborhood that supports it.

And his speech Tuesday, although widely praised by the pundit caste and Obama supporters, has only seemed to widen the gulf with the Budweiser class here.

More than a dozen interviews Wednesday found voters unmoved by Obama’s plea to move beyond racial divisions of the past. Despite baring himself with extraordinarily personal reflections on one of the most toxic issues of the day, a highly unusual move for a politician running for national office, the debate inside taverns and beauty shops here had barely moved beyond outrage aimed at the Rev. Jeremiah Wright and Obama’s refusal to “disown” his longtime pastor.

story continued / click link below:

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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Moving a nation: Obama's Lincoln moment

Never before has a candidate for national office spoken so frankly about race in America. For days pundits have pondered whether Sen. Obama could weather the controversy over Rev. Jeremiah Wright's racially polarizing comments. The question at this juncture is not whether the candidate will rise to the occasion, but rather, whether America will.

March 19, 2008 / LA Times
Author: Tim Rutten

One hundred and fifty years ago this June, a lanky Illinois lawyer turned politician gave a speech that changed the way Americans talked about the great racial issues of their day.

The lawyer was Abraham Lincoln, and the speech was the famous "House Divided" address with which he accepted the Republican Party's nomination as a candidate for the U.S. Senate. Lincoln lost to Stephen Douglas, but the address changed the national conversation on slavery and, two years later, Lincoln was on his way from Springfield to the White House.

America's political story is studded with such addresses -- historical signposts that divide that which went before from all that followed on an issue of crucial national importance. Franklin Roosevelt's "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself" speech fundamentally changed Americans' expectations of their government in times of social and economic crisis. John F. Kennedy's address on Catholicism and politics to the Greater Houston Ministerial Assn. in 1960 forever altered the way we think about religion and public office.

Sen. Barack Obama, another lanky lawyer from Illinois, planted one of those rhetorical markers in the political landscape Tuesday, when he delivered his "More Perfect Union" speech in Philadelphia, near Independence Hall. The address was meant to dampen the firestorm of criticism that has attached itself to the senator's campaign since video clips of race-baiting remarks by his Chicago church's former pastor began circulating last week.

But instead of offering a simple exercise in damage control, Obama chose to place his discussion of the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright's incendiary comments in a wider consideration of race in America -- and the results were, like those Kennedy achieved in Houston, historic.

Just as every seasoned political hand in 1960 knew that, sooner or later, Kennedy would have to tackle the question of his Catholicism head-on, it's been clear for some time that Obama would have to speak explicitly to the question of race in this campaign. Still, polished orator that he may be, no one could have predicted an address of quite this depth and scope.

"That was the most sophisticated speech on race and politics I've ever heard," said CNN's Bill Schneider, the only network pundit who actually has taught American political history at elite universities.

It was all the more remarkable because, while Kennedy presided over what may have been the greatest speech-writing team in electoral history, Obama -- like Lincoln -- wrote his address himself, completing the final draft Monday night.

Obama did what he had to do, unequivocally repudiating Wright's extreme rhetoric. But what was truly radical about his analysis was his implicit demand that black and white Americans accept the imperfection of each other's views on race. Embedded in such acceptance is the seed of that "more perfect union" toward which this country -- unquestionably great but itself imperfect -- must strive.

It was a concept that Obama subtly invoked near the beginning of the speech by pointing to the fact that although the Constitution "was stained by the original sin of slavery," the "answer to the slavery question was already embedded within our Constitution -- a Constitution that had at its very core the ideal of equal citizenship under the law; a Constitution that promised its people liberty and justice, and a union that could be and should be perfected over time."

Theologically, original sin is the source of man's fallen nature and the root of his imperfection. Obama went on to build on that concept, invoking the authority of his own mixed heritage -- son of a black immigrant father and white mother, raised by a loving white grandmother -- and refusing to reject either Wright, a man of good works as well as extreme rhetoric, or his loving grandmother, who was prone to racial stereotypes. Obama demanded that black anger make an allowance for white anxiety and that white resentment make a place for black grievance.

No candidate for national office has ever spoken so candidly or realistically about race as it is lived as a fact of life in America. As he put it Tuesday, "The profound mistake of Rev. Wright's sermons is not that he spoke about racism in our society. It's that he spoke as if our society was static; as if no progress has been made; as if this country ... is still irrevocably bound to a tragic past."

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Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Obama steps out of safety, tackles issue of race in historic speech

Sen. Barack Obama on Tuesday tried to stem damage from divisive comments delivered by his pastor, while bluntly addressing anger between blacks and whites in his most racially pointed speech. In an address at the National Constitution Center, a building steeped in the nation’s historic symbolism, Mr. Obama delivered a sweeping assessment of race in America, confronting America's legacy of racial division head on. It was the most extensive speech of his presidential campaign devoted to race and unity, a moment his advisers conceded presented one of the biggest tests of his candidacy.

Full speech:

It's worth the read, so here's the full transcript:
link to transcript:

'Mother Jones' Commentary:

"Black and More Than Black": Obama's Daring and Unique Speech on Race

LA Times Summary:,1,4641756.story

CNN Anchors' Analysis:

Excellent Criticism of News Pundits Takes:

A reaction from listeners:
"Obama's speech, throughout, asks its listeners to transcend themselves -- it asks them to choose nuance over cartoonish political controversy; it asks them to acknowledge stuff about race they don't want to acknowledge; it asks them to think big instead of small."

"I am a 29 white woman who grew up in Idaho, incredibly naive about racial difference and the legacy of racism. After college, I spent 3 years in rural Mississippi teaching at an all black high school in one of the most impoverished parts of the nation. I have lived and worked on both sides of the racial divide and have learned along the way how complicated issues of race, justice, & economic disparity intersect. Obama presents some of the most honest & difficult truths I have ever heard from a politician with candor, humility, & grace. He is not a perfect man — but he has enormous insight & wisdom. This was a courageous moment in American politics. I can’t conceive of voting for anyone else. Even if his campaign should somehow fail, I consider myself lucky to have heard this speech today & to be part of the generation that has witnessed & worked for his campaign."

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Monday, March 17, 2008

Threat Down

#1 Threat to America...

pictured above: vicious arctic killing machine scalping unsuspecting girl

(even worse...its a German bear, likely Nazi - note how it's all white)


Sunday, March 16, 2008

When religion loses its credibility

Galileo was persecuted for revealing what we now know to be the truth regarding Earth’s place in our solar system. Today, the issue is homosexuality, and the persecution is not of one man but of millions. Will Christian leaders once again be on the wrong side of history?

By Oliver Thomas

What if Christian leaders are wrong about homosexuality? I suppose, much as a newspaper maintains its credibility by setting the record straight, church leaders would need to do the same:

Correction: Despite what you might have read, heard or been taught throughout your churchgoing life, homosexuality is, in fact, determined at birth and is not to be condemned by God's followers.

Based on a few recent headlines, we won't be seeing that admission anytime soon.

Last week, U.S. Roman Catholic bishops took the position that homosexual attractions are "disordered" and that gays should live closeted lives of chastity. At the same time, North Carolina's Baptist State Convention was preparing to investigate churches that are too gay-friendly. Even the more liberal Presbyterian Church (USA) had been planning to put a minister on trial for conducting a marriage ceremony for two women before the charges were dismissed on a technicality. All this brings me back to the question: What if we're wrong?

Religion's only real commodity, after all, is its moral authority. Lose that, and we lose our credibility. Lose credibility, and we might as well close up shop.

It's happened to Christianity before, most famously when we dug in our heels over Galileo's challenge to the biblical view that the Earth, rather than the sun, was at the center of our solar system. You know the story. Galileo was persecuted for what turned out to be incontrovertibly true. For many, especially in the scientific community, Christianity never recovered.

This time, Christianity is in danger of squandering its moral authority by continuing its pattern of discrimination against gays and lesbians in the face of mounting scientific evidence that sexual orientation has little or nothing to do with choice. To the contrary, whether sexual orientation arises as a result of the mother's hormones or the child's brain structure or DNA, it is almost certainly an accident of birth. The point is this: Without choice, there can be no moral culpability.

Answer in Scriptures

So, why are so many church leaders (not to mention Orthodox Jewish and Muslim leaders) persisting in their view that homosexuality is wrong despite a growing stream of scientific evidence that is likely to become a torrent in the coming years? The answer is found in Leviticus 18. "You shall not lie with a man as with a woman; it is an abomination."

As a former "the Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it" kind of guy, I am sympathetic with any Christian who accepts the Bible at face value. But here's the catch. Leviticus is filled with laws imposing the death penalty for everything from eating catfish to sassing your parents. If you accept one as the absolute, unequivocal word of God, you must accept them all.

For many of gay America's loudest critics, the results are unthinkable. First, no more football. At least not without gloves. Handling a pig skin is an abomination. Second, no more Saturday games even if you can get a new ball. Violating the Sabbath is a capital offense according to Leviticus. For the over-40 crowd, approaching the altar of God with a defect in your sight is taboo, but you'll have plenty of company because those menstruating or with disabilities are also barred.

The truth is that mainstream religion has moved beyond animal sacrifice, slavery and the host of primitive rituals described in Leviticus centuries ago. Selectively hanging onto these ancient proscriptions for gays and lesbians exclusively is unfair according to anybody's standard of ethics. We lawyers call it "selective enforcement," and in civil affairs it's illegal.

A better reading of Scripture starts with the book of Genesis and the grand pronouncement about the world God created and all those who dwelled in it. "And, the Lord saw that it was good." If God created us and if everything he created is good, how can a gay person be guilty of being anything more than what God created him or her to be?

Turning to the New Testament, the writings of the Apostle Paul at first lend credence to the notion that homosexuality is a sin, until you consider that Paul most likely is referring to the Roman practice of pederasty, a form of pedophilia common in the ancient world. Successful older men often took boys into their homes as concubines, lovers or sexual slaves. Today, such sexual exploitation of minors is no longer tolerated. The point is that the sort of long-term, committed, same-sex relationships that are being debated today are not addressed in the New Testament. It distorts the biblical witness to apply verses written in one historical context (i.e. sexual exploitation of children) to contemporary situations between two monogamous partners of the same sex. Sexual promiscuity is condemned by the Bible whether it's between gays or straights. Sexual fidelity is not.

What would Jesus do?

For those who have lingering doubts, dust off your Bibles and take a few hours to reacquaint yourself with the teachings of Jesus. You won't find a single reference to homosexuality. There are teachings on money, lust, revenge, divorce, fasting and a thousand other subjects, but there is nothing on homosexuality. Strange, don't you think, if being gay were such a moral threat?

On the other hand, Jesus spent a lot of time talking about how we should treat others. First, he made clear it is not our role to judge. It is God's. ("Judge not lest you be judged." Matthew 7:1) And, second, he commanded us to love other people as we love ourselves.

So, I ask you. Would you want to be discriminated against? Would you want to lose your job, housing or benefits because of something over which you had no control? Better yet, would you like it if society told you that you couldn't visit your lifelong partner in the hospital or file a claim on his behalf if he were murdered?

The suffering that gay and lesbian people have endured at the hands of religion is incalculable, but they can look expectantly to the future for vindication. Scientific facts, after all, are a stubborn thing. Even our religious beliefs must finally yield to them as the church in its battle with Galileo ultimately realized. But for religion, the future might be ominous. Watching the growing conflict between medical science and religion over homosexuality is like watching a train wreck from a distance. You can see it coming for miles and sense the inevitable conclusion, but you're powerless to stop it. The more church leaders dig in their heels, the worse it's likely to be.

Oliver "Buzz" Thomas is a Baptist minister and author of an upcoming book, 10 Things Your Minister Wants to Tell You (But Can't Because He Needs the Job).

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Saturday, March 15, 2008

Nearing the Five Year Anniversary...

Toxic world fallout from Iraq invasion
By Paul Reynolds
World affairs correspondent BBC News website

Iraqis celebrate with destroyed bust of Saddam Hussein, 26 December 2003
Bush saw the war of the "advance of freedom"

The war in Iraq was supposed to be over long before now.

It was not supposed to provoke a conflict between Sunni and Shia or stir up an al-Qaeda hornet's nest.

Nor was it supposed to alienate much of the rest of the world from US foreign policy, which post 9/11 was on the crest of a wave of sympathy.

It was intended, its proponents argued, to remove a threat to world peace and to plant the flag of freedom in a Middle East democratic desert.

The critics countered that the threat was an illusion, that the US was invading illegally and sought control over the region and Iraq's oil.

Bush doctrine

The Iraq invasion was also part of President Bush's doctrine of pre-emption and of his hopes for what he called the "advance of freedom".

Iraqi man cries after losing his brother in bomb attack, 01 February 2008
The war was not supposed to provoke several years of bloodshed
In a speech in November 2003 he declared: "Iraqi democracy will succeed - and that success will send forth the news, from Damascus to Teheran - that freedom can be the future of every nation."

His doctrine, under which a pre-emptive attack is justified even if the threat is not critical, has been another casualty of the war.

Dr Dana Allin, Senior Fellow for Transatlantic Affairs at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London, said: "All three candidates in the US presidential election will move away from it in significant ways.

"To a significant extent the experience in Iraq has discredited the doctrine of pre-emption, though it has not killed it off. But the US will not naively invade again and simply hope everything will turn out OK, as seems to have happened in Iraq."

Hopes rise again

The last chapter on Iraq of course has not been written. After the recent improvements, there are claims that it will still all work out, not unlike the Korean War, which went through its own disastrous phase.

"This has to be the worst managed foreign policy of any president since the Second World War"
David Rothkopf, Carnegie Endowment
The former White House economist Lawrence Lindsey, who believes the financial cost of the Iraq war is "relatively minor in budgetary terms", still hopes for the best.

He wrote in Fortune magazine: "A stable Iraqi government selected by its own people would be a first in the Arab world. It would suggest that there is a third alternative to the current choice between repressive regimes and Islamic fundamentalism."

One of those who called in 2006, not for a withdrawal but the surge, was Washington writer Frederick Kagan. In the neo-conservative bible, the Weekly Standard, he says it has worked and credits the American commander General David Petraeus and his subordinate General Raymond Odierno:

"When General Odierno relinquished command of MNC-I [Multi-National Corps Iraq] on February 14, 2008, the civil war was over. Civilian casualties were down 60%, as were weekly attacks. AQI [al Qaeda Iraq] had been driven from its safe havens in and around Baghdad and throughout Anbar and Diyala. The situation in Iraq had been utterly transformed."

The cost

However, even if the war turns out to be "winnable", its critics dismiss any suggestion that it was "worth it".

Anti-Iraq war protesters in Washington DC, 17 March 2007
The Bush administration has faced a public opinion backlash
David Rothkopf, a former Clinton administration official and now with the Carnegie Endowment in Washington, said: "Declaring this to be a success based on recent improvements is like saying that a person badly disabled by gunshots has seen his wounds heal. The damage has been done.

"Bush's foreign policy has been a failure and it will be judged on Iraq. He will bear responsibility for an unnecessary and costly war that violated international law, alienated allies and distracted us from the core issues of terrorism, Afghanistan and stopping the spread of nuclear weapons.

"This has to be the worst managed foreign policy of any president since the Second World War. Even if in the medium term Iraq becomes comparatively peaceful, would it be worth the cost? I do not think so."

The diplomatic fallout

As for America's standing around the world, the war alienated some major American allies, France and Germany most notably. Others did send troops after the invasion - Spain and Italy among them - but then left as public opinions at home turned hostile.

Coalition aid-raid over presidential palace, Baghdad, 21 March 2003
The war's critics dismiss suggestions that it was "worth it"
On the other hand, a number of smaller countries, many of them from the former Soviet block, saw an opportunity to show their loyalty to the US and sent contingents - the Czech Republic, Poland, Georgia and others. For them, a strong and active United States bodes well for their future security.

In turn, Britain's support for the United States has led to further divisions within Europe. These had an impact in the Lisbon treaty talks about a future foreign policy for the EU, strengthening the British determination to keep it firmly in the hands of individual governments.

The invasion of Iraq also caused alarm bells to ring in Russia. There, a new mood of hostility to the West has developed and the Russians have become wary of American power.

Nor has Iraq sparked the democratic revolution in the Middle East that Mr Bush hoped for. And the Israeli/Palestinian conflict remains unresolved.

Ironically it is Iran, with which the US shares a mutual hostility, that has emerged with greater strength, to the concern of the Gulf Arab states.

The fallout continues.

Interesting video on CNN:
When interviewed Iraqi soldiers all want a democrat in office to take over, but not for the reasons you might think. They don't mention wanting the US to get out immediately and are hopeful about their democratic prospects, but just wish to see change in the mismanagement of the current situation. They are hopeful for something better.

Click the following to access the link:

Talking with Iraqi soldiers*

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Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Other Prostitution Rings

I am so over hearing about the Gov. Eliot Spitzer prostitute scandal. Is this seriously deserving of the top headline for 4 days in a row? There is other news in the world. And that news should be that the media should be indicted for whoring this story for ratings. Forget just comparing them to Spitzer, they're pimping this story more than Nancy Grace does over a missing child case. "Journalism"on the major networks takes way too many cues from the Hearst legacy. I'll be on NPR and BBC only for the next few days. Somebody let me know when its safe to go back into the water.

***UPDATE: I went back too soon...
Sirius Satellite Radio has launched what it is calling "Client 9 Radio," a special channel dedicated to covering all aspects of the Spitzer saga. Gross.
<---- muppet

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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Bush Disconnect

In a telling and witty article by Bob Geldolf in Time Magazine last month, Geldolf brings attention to President Bush's successes in Africa but in doing so shows the tragic disconnect between Bush's wisdom on Africa and his policies both at home and abroad and his understanding of himself.

Bush states things in the article like,
  • "One thing I will say: Human suffering should preempt commercial interest."
  • "Stop coming to Africa feeling guilty. Come with love and feeling confident for its future."
  • "When we see hunger we feed them. Not to spread our influence, but because they're hungry."
  • "U.S. solutions should not be imposed on African leaders."
  • "Africa has changed since I've become President. Not because of me, but because of African leaders."
  • "[Evil] people prey on the hopeless. Hopelessness breeds terrorism. That's why this trip is a mission undertaken with the deepest sense of humanity, because those other folks will just use vulnerable people for evil."
Why these thoughts never bled into his actions in the rest of the world, we may never know. Bush's legacy will not be remembered for his aid to Africa but rather for his pride, mismanagement, co-opted religious messaging, Constitutional violations, destruction of America's moral platform in the world, and all-out crimes against humanity.

Part of me wants to celebrate Bush's successes in aiding Africa more so than any other US President in the past, but I end up more distressed because it makes me unable to write him off as insane. He's not, (no more than anyone else at least). But why the leader of the free world can't see the disconnect in his actions is mind-blowing. It makes the sins of his presidency all the more tragic.

Geldof and Bush: Diary From the Road
Time Magazine - Feb. 28th 2008

I gave the President my book. He raised an eyebrow. "Who wrote this for ya, Geldof?" he said without looking up from the cover. Very dry. "Who will you get to read it for you, Mr. President?" I replied. No response.

The Most Powerful Man in the World studied the front cover. Geldof in Africa — " 'The international best seller.' You write that bit yourself?"

"That's right. It's called marketing. Something you obviously have no clue about or else I wouldn't have to be here telling people your Africa story."

It is some story. And I have always wondered why it was never told properly to the American people, who were paying for it.

Continue reading the rest of the article here.

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Tuesday, March 11, 2008


This post is going to be a collection of this month's stories of gross persecution of homosexuals. This all started this week with Sally Kern and her statements this week. Regardless of your stance on homosexuality, these positions & actions in the following media items are unacceptable and terrifying. The following stories are the end result of legislators like Kern that would move us to a fundamentalist-fascist theocracy. You see it with Ultra Orthodox Jews, with Islamo-fascist Muslims, and many theocrats in America would move us in this direction. I can't get over how disgusting this type of religious bastardization is. We're sadly almost desensitized to statements like Kern's when coming from fundamentalist pastors like Falwell, Swaggert, Dobson, or Hagee but that has to stop and it must be taken seriously because real life people are listening to them and it is bleeding into real life action. Thanks to Kern we can hear what some of the people we've elected to be our voice actually believe. Oklahoma and the rest of America regardless of your stance should send a message to Kern and others like her and remove her from office. This is unacceptable.

In your government:

[please forgive the cheesy photo slideshow attached to the video and just listen to the audio]

In a private address to supporters, Oklahoma State Representative, Sally Kern talks about how 'The Gays' are indoctrinating our children at age two, and are "the biggest threat our nation has, even more so than terrorism or Islam." Oh and also gayness is a cancer that spreads just like life-threatening toe cancer.

Kern also has advocated as a Rep in the past for an advisory board to ban books in school libraries that teach other faiths, are positive towards homosexuality, or teach evolution and the scientific method. Nice. Crazy-Ass Kern is Texas university-educated and married to a Baptist minister in OK City. Go figure. Terrorism is alive and well in Oklahoma and this time it's not in the form of an explosion at a government building but in the rhetoric of one of its own governors.

"Every thinking citizen of this country should write to Rep. Chris Benge, Speaker of the House for the Oklahoma House of Representatives asking for censure of this terrorist. Free speech is not a license to incite hate and violence, and sadly that is what this ugly oration is all about. Today, in regions all over this country where ignorant people actually accept these stupid lies as having some basis in fact, school-aged boys and girls who may appear a little more feminine or masculine than Sally thinks is appropriate are going to be terrorized by peers who listen to this crap because their parents listen to this crap. And that's just for starters. This type of terrorism is the genesis of all hate crimes from name calling to murder.

George Bush may have had one thing right. The war on terror begins at home. But instead of profiling innocent Americans simply because of their ethnic background, maybe we should start profiling elected officials who make speeches without any academic or factual merit as a means to exploit and manipulate their uneducated constituents. If Oklahoma is where the wind comes sweeping down the plain, perhaps a big gust will sweep Sally Kern out of office and to a place where she can no longer promote hate, violence and bigotry." -kirk snyder

Full Transcript & Speech:



An 19-year old Iranian who dared identify as gay nervously awaits a court ruling that he says could lead to his execution. “Mehdi” was studying English in Britain, when he says he learned his boyfriend back in Tehran had been arrested, charged with sodomy and hanged in 2006. But before the boyfriend was killed, Mehdi says, authorities forced his partner to name past lovers.

Days later, Mehdi’s family claims, Iranian police showed up at their Tehran family home with an arrest warrant. In an asylum claim submitted to Britain’s Home Office, Medhi said if he returns to Iran, he too would be executed.

Britain’s Home Office didn’t buy it. It turned him down – then Mehdi fled for Canada before British officials could deport him to Tehran. But he was stopped by border police in Germany and sent to the Netherlands.

He now sits in a Dutch detention center, where he waits for a judge to decide whether to grant him asylum, or carry out a British extradition request to send him to the U.K.

The British Home Office says it does not believe that homosexuals in Iran are routinely persecuted purely because of their sexuality.

Human rights groups say otherwise, citing that Iran's record is particularly shocking, having executed possibly thousands of gay men since the Islamic revolution. And in these cases Iranian controlled media reports fabricate official charges to reduce any public sympathy for the accused or to mask the killings.

In your backyard:

Nathan Feldman, 30, said Slavic protesters have shoved him and spit on him at gay-pride events. Feldman said he lost his job at a jewelry store after a Ukrainian co-worker discovered he was gay and lied to get him fired. That wasn't all. A vandal scrawled graffiti on a trash dumpster outside his apartment: "Nathan Feldman, Die for AIDS."

Satender Singh, 26, One punch was all it took. One punch to forever divide. One punch to kill a young man.

On a hot summer afternoon along a placid lakefront in the Sacramento suburbs, Satender Singh had come with a group of fellow Fijians to celebrate his promotion at an AT&T call center. Three married couples and Singh, a lighthearted 26-year-old, drank and hooted and danced a crazy conga line to East Indian music.

An innocent outing? Not in the eyes of the Russian family a few picnic tables away.

Andrey Vusik, 29, fresh from morning church services with his young children in tow, stared with disgust as Singh danced and hugged the other men while their wives giggled. To the Russian, Singh seemed rude and inappropriate, a gay man putting on an outrageous public display.

Angry stares led to an afternoon of traded insults. As the long day slid toward dusk, the tall Russian immigrant approached with a friend to demand an apology. Singh refused. Vusik threw a single punch.

Singh's head smacked into a concrete walkway. The joyful young man with the musical laugh died four days later of brain injuries.

Now, half a year after that angry Sunday afternoon at Lake Natoma, 15 miles east of the state Capitol, the case remains anything but resolved.

State Sen. Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) said in a newspaper opinion piece that "radical fundamentalists" have pinned a bull's-eye on the gay community. "Tragically now, the threat of violence has become reality, as manifested in this murder."

A recent Southern Poverty Law Center report said many of the region's most vocal Slavic activists are followers of an international anti-gay group called Watchmen on the Walls. Formed just a few years ago, the group has established a potent presence among Slavic evangelicals in the U.S. and abroad.

Using battle-tinged rhetoric, the Watchmen have called for evangelicals to step aggressively into the political realm to fight what they see as a gay agenda threatening the traditional family.,0,1929221.story

Larry (Lawrence King), 15, had said publicly that he was gay, classmates said, enduring harassment from a group of schoolmates, including the 14-year-old boy, Brandon, charged in his death. Larry asked Brandon to be his valentine and the following day the 14-yr-old came to school and shot Larry in the head.

“God knit Larry together and made him wonderfully complex,” the Rev. Dan Birchfield of Westminster Presbyterian Church told the crowd as he stood in front of a large photograph of the victim. “Larry was a masterpiece.”

'Why we can't wait'

Your vote this year has the power to save lives and will affect millions of homosexual people in this country. This is why the Matthew Shepard Act matters, and why a position against it as a Christian is not just debatable but unconscionable...

Hate crimes differ from conventional crime because they are not directed simply at an individual, but are meant to cause fear and intimidation in an entire group or class of people.
All violent crimes are reprehensible, but hate crimes require additional emphasis in the justice system because they target a whole group and not just the individual victim. A violent hate crime is intended to "send a message" that an individual and "their kind" will not be tolerated, many times leaving the victim and others in their group feeling isolated, vulnerable and unprotected. Our justice system should then be able to "send a message" right back that there are not "less than human" unprotected members of society.

The Supreme Court ruled that, "bias-motivated crimes are more likely to provoke retaliatory crimes, inflict distinct emotional harms on their victims, and incite community unrest." And stated that, "When the core of a person's identity is attacked, the degradation and dehumanization is especially severe, and additional emotional and physiological problems are likely to result. Society then, in turn, can suffer from the disempowerment of a group of people."

If that all seems too heady, here's the more practical component. Hate crime legislation gives federal authorities greater ability to engage in crime investigations that local authorities choose not to pursue, and allow courts to consider and present motive in cases in which it previously went unheard. It supports appeals from cases dismissed due to local bias or foul-play. There are countless cases of crimes against individuals dismissed or lessened due to bias. Take the Jena 6 story right now. Without hate crime legislation, it is often harder for victims to have recourse when justice isn't served. This is not only sensible but completely necessary and it should undoubtedly apply to sexual orientation considering that 20% of hate crimes apply to it.

The church is moving forward in many of the arenas in which it has exercised poor judgment. The Catholic church recently unveiled its list of "social" sins declaring that the individual not only sins against him/herself but also systemically against portions of society in a globalized world. Even the leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention recently stated that on Global Warming that if it didn't change its stance that it would be disregarded as "uncaring, reckless, and ill-informed johnny-come-lately's just as it had during segregation and slavery and that the poor would be the first to suffer. But despite all of this understanding of implication, nearly everyone, even progressive Christian ethics groups like Sojourners are steering clear of "the gay issue" in America. Why? Why can Christian America love anyone except for their gay neighbor (or mexican one for that matter). Why do Christians in America so hate gays? Christians have to step up on this even if they don't agree with homosexuals. The Bible, both Old and New Testaments, demands care for the "other," and declares the ramifications for those who don't. Regardless of an individual's views on the issues, the church has to be out front on human rights abuses. Are murder, violence and abuse ever acceptable toward anyone? Even more fundamental: Is Love Conditional? These shouldn't be a question the church is allowing to go unanswered. You can't play neutral on this one and come out clean.

"I join the oppressors of those I choose to ignore,
and that's not just murder,
it's suicide."

- derek webb

a must see film on the issue:

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